Four Feet And A Tail. Memories Of Our 9-11 Search And Rescue Dogs

*Featured Post: ‘Cowboy’ a FEMA Search And Rescue Dog Courtesy AP




Never forget their courage, perseverance, undying unconditional love that drove them on at first to find the last few survivors, then the daunting task of finding loved ones, giving some closure to shattered families.

Over three hundred dogs searched. The dogs that were primarily ‘live’ search dogs became despondent when they eventually felt, then smelled death all around them in the hell-hole called ‘the pit’.

They did more than search. They gave comfort to the first responders when human comfort wasn’t enough, and canine comfort and understanding could break through. Perhaps that was their greatest victory in that most horrifying of times. Comfort. Peace. The tranquility that washes over a stressed human when he lets the healing energy of a trained service dog tickle through their fingertips that softly brush the fur on the dog…and the positive energy that courses from one entity in the world that truly understands at that moment in time what a hurting soul is feeling.

Our last surviving dog from that day just passed away earlier this year. These heroes all are at eternal rest now, a well-deserved one. No broken buildings, smoke or human depravity there…just peace.


siriusIn memory of K-9 Sirius, the only K-9 to be lost in the disaster. His partner made it out alive.





Italian Search And Rescue Dogs, Leo, and Sarotti Save Children Trapped Beneath The Rubble of the Towns!

Area of Italy affected by huge earthquake

Do you remember when an earthquake or some other disturbance in the world would happen, and the American Red Cross and dozens if not hundreds of first responders, the National Guard, and any other resources that we had would be sent to see if they could help.

But…it seems that along with so much else…America sits and twiddles its thumbs trying to decide which bathroom is proper to use…you know,  ‘ important stuff’. But hasn’t sent any help. How tragic. Italy has been one of our close friends over the years.AAmatrace, Italia

I have cousins who live near Monte Cassino, which if you know WWII parlance, you know there was a HUGE battle between the Nazis and the Western powers. My people lived in the town of Panaccione, in the shadow of the great mountain that houses the monastery still. (My maiden name is Panaccione). Anyhow, some years ago we all met one another, and it was a fantastic family reunion.

My first concern was that their town was OK, they had suffered enough during the war…and a LinkedIn member was able to confirm that the town was fine, and not near the affected areas.Amatrace after the earthquake

How neat is that? That someone you met on LinkedIn, a world away, can check for you to make sure your extended family is OK? It makes you believe in good things again.

I know that my posts of late have had to deal with the heat injuries that have to stop with our police K-9s. But I’ve written much more about all the different K-9 helpers here and abroad that help us when times are tough, and every day, like mine do.

Here is a heart-warming story from devastation and heartache in central Italy and how K-9 search and rescue dogs have brought back two children thought lost in the quake.

The towns hit in the devastating earthquake in central Italy were small family towns. They had many homes and other buildings that date back to Medieval times. No more. They are for the most part gone, unable after hundreds of years to deal with such a horrendous quake. Little is left but the cobblestones from centuries past, and the blue tent cities that have sprung up to house the now homeless population. The Italian Government has pledged a large amount of money to help rebuild the towns. Both of which are little more than kindling now.Search and Rescue dog in Amatrace, Italy

But what is that there? It’s a big black waggling tail, and another, and another, there’s a yellow one…over 50 dogs are working the devastated towns. Looking for the living, and now more and more as time tics steadily looking for the dead.italian search and rescue dogs

Leo is a beautiful black Labrador retriever. He’s four and a half years old. He’s from the search and rescue team in Pescara. He went looking where neighbors and family members knew a family had lived with their two daughters. Sixteen hours after the quake…Leo alerted, and little Georgia was pulled gently from the wreckage….a miracle. Leo had arrived on scene just then, and within 40 seconds he found Georgia alive. It took another 9 hours of digging with bare hands to free her from what once had been her home. Here is a video of Leo at work:


Another dog, a German Shepard Dog, named Sarotti was instrumental in the rescue of a 10-year-old boy buried in the rubble.starrioti saves a child

On Sunday, the Pope declared a day of mourning, as the bodies of those found in the rubble are buried with as much devotion and love that is possible in this situation. Everyone keeps repeating…our first responders are exhausted, they’ve worked constantly since the quake started.

It would be nice if America sent some help. Money is nice, but having extra hands on the ground is invaluable.

And do you know another miracle that has come out of this tragedy? A lesson to us? Over fifty search and rescue dogs from all over Italy were used to find the alive and the dead. It’s August, and it’s hot and humid in central Italy, so far from the coast…The sites were unstable, with continual after-shocks, it was dusty and dirty….NOT ONE DOG DIED FROM HEAT-STROKE. Seems like the Italians treat their K-9 heroes with honor. Unlike some of ours.

   God bless our service dogs nationally and internationally!

Dio benedica i nostri cani di servizio a livello nazionale e internazionale!

    This is a link from Fox News how you can help the victims of the quake:

Italian Red Cross: Italy’s Red Cross has set up a general fund to support those affected by the earthquake.

*Pictures of the map of Italy and the before and after pictures of the earthquake provided courtesy The New York Times

*Pictures of the dogs working the site provided by state photographer.

Celebrate Good Times, Come ON! It’s A Celebration! National Service Dog MONTH! Woo Hoo! WOO!


Happiness is a Warm Puppy (640x512)
Team Lisa and Jet Jan.2007~April 2011


September is NATIONAL SERVICE DOG MONTH…all month! Whoo hoo! Hug your favorite service dog (after asking!) Since the advent of seeing eye dogs early in the 20th century, the need for service dogs and now therapy dogs has risen exponentially. And our dogs, God bless ’em, have risen to the task, as always. I thought I would give you all some information regarding service dogs that you might not know.

Freedom Has Four Legs and a Tail
First walk on the beach in years…Jet’s first little victory, and you know they add up…

The first service dogs were trained in Switzerland. There was an especial need after the ‘Great War’ for these dogs. Morris Frank, a young man who had lost his eyesight, traveled to Switzerland to be trained to work with his dog (much as we do today). He got his dog, he took a job promoting the seeing eye in the United States, and had much to do with them. Interestingly, Seeing Eye was first in Nashville, TN. It was deemed too hot for the dogs, so they moved the entire organization to Morristown, NJ. (Very close to where I lived as a kid!)

Morris Frank still ranks as the man having had the most seeing eye dog partners ever. He started so young, is why. His first dog was named “Blondie”. He just couldn’t see himself calling her that all day, so he changed her name to “Buddy”. He liked the name so well, he called each subsequent dog, “Buddy”, which seems a bit strange, but he said it helped him to carry on with a new dog, once his old dog had passed on. As the CEO and founder of Canine Assistants has said in her best-selling books (and to me in person) “There’s a piece of your old dog that goes on in your new one.” She’s right. There is. And it is every so comforting.

Through the years, and wars, it was seen that dogs could do much more than just seeing -eye work. They are fantastic for mobility work, which is what both of my dogs have helped me with. These dogs will wear a harness for this work. It’s common to get mistaken as a seeing eye team. I always correct them as soon as I figure out that they think I can’t see.

National Dog Day
Celebrate Good Times, Come ON! Celebrating National Service Dog Day! 2016 WOOF!

There are seizure-assistance dogs, like both of mine have been. Both my dogs could do both jobs. That’s a bit unusual, but it happens that way sometimes. A thing about the seizure assistants dogs…they are all taught to get there person to a safe place, get help, and return to stay at the side of their partner, licking their face to try to awaken them. It is a very lucky person whose dog starts to ‘predict’ their seizures.DSCN4394 - Copy (2)

Prediction of seizures is simply not taught. No dog-trainer in the world can do that. If they tell you they can. Walk away. The ability for a dog to predict a seizure depends on the closeness of the canine-human bond. The canine can tell by mannerisms, the breath, the smell of chemicals and endorphins rising from the skin…that their person is getting sick. They alert, (varies on the dog about how). Jet, my first dog would do most anything to alert me~ except the 10 piece marching band. That was his personality. Frax is much more subtle, he takes his nose and flips my hand.

Canine Assistants, where my dogs are from teaches BBT ™ , which stands for Bond Based Teaching…they center on the bond between the recipient and the dog, to bring forth the different skills each canine can do. They have better than an 87% success rate with their seizure response dogs eventually becoming seizure prediction dogs. Whether they do or not, the presence and comfort that one of their dogs imparts when a patient is has a seizure cannot be measured. Frax actually “pats” me awake, very gently, just as a human would. He’s obviously seen this behavior in a human,and adopted it as his own. They will do that. They are much smarter than you would ever imagine!

The question of the day is: what is the difference between a Therapy dog, and a Service dog? A service dog assists their person with a physical, mental or some combination of the above problem. They have full rights under US law to enter any venue with their person, right up to a recovery room or peri-operative holding area. They can go into bathrooms, restaurants, theaters, stores, libraries, on and on. The only thing you may ask a working team is what he helps you do. In my case I say “helps me walk, and monitors me for seizures”. Another person might say totally different. What you cannot ask, and what gets folks riled is: you cannot ask another person what their disability is. Illegal that. A service dog team cannot be kept from any venue, for instance a cab. The cab company faces stiff federal penalties if they decline a rider because they have a service dog.

How should one deal with a service dog? Ignore him. Pretend he isn’t there. Because he is meant to facilitate the person being able to do things the rest of folks take for granted. Always ask to pet. You might get turned down if they are working, or have had the request 400 other times that day, but you may not. I try to never turn down a young person. Sometimes it’s their first real interaction with a dog. I know my dog(s) and know that their interaction will be positive, and they will carry that first good impression with them the rest of their lives, God willing, and pass on good vibes about animals in general to the next generation. I also try to let others pat and say “Hi” (Jet always shook hands), Frax prefers a nice ear scratch. Different strokes for different folks!) If I need to refuse, I always give a card with Canine Assistants information on it, and what their dogs do. It has their website, which is much more in-depth than I can ever teach in five minutes of meeting someone. Why are Canine Assistants dogs ‘allowed’ by their partners to ‘visit’? Because of the type of training they have (BBT ™ ), the dogs like the interaction.

If you think you have come upon a seeing eye team…Do not ask to pat them. Their very lives depend on that dog being focused. Interruptions could be fatal. If that sound melodramatic, it isn’t. A young blind girl attending UT here in Knoxville, was sitting on the end row of an amphitheater type lecture hall. Her dog was beside her. Someone interacted with her dog and she got very upset and ‘blasted’ them verbally! And I understand why. What if her dog lost concentration in that venue? She could fall all the way down those many concrete steps and fatally injured herself! If you aren’t sure, leave them alone.

Frax and I had a horrifying incident not long after he had come home with me. Frax was heeling next to my pink wheelchair (“pinkie”) and suddenly a couple came towards us, bent over, started making kissy noises to Frax, and clapping for him to ‘come’! He was only 18 months old! A big BIG baby! He did what any other socialized dog would do~ he went to go say “hi!” In the process, he pulled my chair halfway over on the left, nearly spilling me onto the concrete floor! Luckily Bill, my hubby was there, he grabbed the arms of the wheelchair and muscled it back onto its wheels! Bill and I got Frax’s attention, and corrected him, praised him, and settled him down next to me, where he belonged! And the people who narrowly caused a real disaster? They kept going past us, pointing and giggling as though it was some party of novelty that Frax and I were there for their express entertainment. Luckily no one was hurt, except “pinkie”. The wheelchair was literally pulled out of joint, and some joints still don’t fit properly together because of that experience.

So, what is the difference between a Therapy Dog, and a Service Dog? Briefly, a Service Dog has all the privileges I outlined above. Therapy Dogs don’t. They have a narrow scope of practice, and it’s up to whatever facility the owner is trying to bring them into, to say yes or no for them to come in. Therapy dogs help people usually with what we would say would be mental health issues. PTSD, bipolar, anxiety, autism. There is some cross-over though. What if a person with autism also has seizures? Well, then they need a seizure response dog that will also be attuned to their autism issues. They would work with a Service Dog.

The reason that there is confusion, is because there isn’t any legislation that much governs service and therapy dogs in this country. There’s no central database, or registration. A private citizen can train their own dog. They then need to take the ASPCA’s or some other organization’s good canine citizen test’, to wit, they have proof their dog is highly trained and safe to be among human beings in the public. It doesn’t attest to their skills. The DELTA organization online goes into much more depth than I have here, about training, and private training, and should be able to answer all your questions.

Then there are all the myriad other service/therapy dogs. There are grief-councilor dogs in funeral homes (has to be requested by the family), there is councilor and support dogs for people going to court (especially child-abuse cases). There’s a dentist that has two highly trained dogs that lie across his patient’s legs while he fills a tooth or cleans teeth. They relax the patients. And the patients have to ask for them. There are the Therapy dogs that go to hospice patients. The brave dogs that go into hospitals and cheer up little children from 8 to 88! There are those that sit with the dying.

K-9’s help keep us safe. They work with our police departments in general work and crowd control, narcotic interdiction also. These are dogs you do not want to walk up to and pet unless it’s OK with the officer in charge of them, and all that. Quite a few of the retired ones will still go out to see our kids in schools. K-9 units police our airports, schools and military bases. K-9 sniffer dogs keep us safe from terrorists with bomb residue still on them. K-9 bomb sniffer dogs find bombs left in sedentary places. K-9 bomb detection units save our troops from terrorists, they ferret out IEDS.Lisa n' Frax Winter 2015

There are so many types of K-9 teams throughout the US doing such good work that I know I may miss some of you….but in my heart till I draw my last breath…each one of you has a blithe spirit about you, that is the memory of Jet…my loving Jet, my first dog. Who saved my life in so many ways I cannot tell you. It’s in Jet’s memory that I pay attention to K-9 deaths to hyperthermia. It’s in Jet’s memory that I tell you what living with a canine assistant is like~ through my life with his successor, his loving and sweet successor, Frax, who with a heart as big as those big xl feet he wears, has lifted me up from losing Jet, and showed me what moving on is like and borne valiantly and truly my sorrow and helped me to heal going forward. For all this and the love and teamanship of each of these teams we celebrate National Service Dog Month!DSCN4320

*Jet and I that first magical day that he picked me, and my world changed…

for the better! What absolute JOY on his face and mine!Happy National Service Dog Month