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Searching for victims in Taiwan, rescue dogs win hearts

Photo: Hualien city firefighters via Agence France-Presse Footage released by county firefighters on Saturday showed Roger, an eight-year-old Labrador, climbing a fallen rock on a hiking trail near Taroko National Park in Hualien.

France Media Agency to Hualien


  • Asia

A former drug-sniffing dog, thrown out of a job for being too friendly, has become the most popular asset of Taiwan's rescue teams searching for survivors of the island's worst earthquake in 25 years.< /p>

At least 13 people were killed and more than 1,140 injured by the 7.4 magnitude earthquake that struck the island on Wednesday.

Strict construction regulations, with a strengthening of seismic standards in recent years, and widespread public awareness of natural disasters have helped limit the impact of the earthquake.

But landslides around Hualien, the epicenter of the quake, blocked tunnels and roads, making it difficult for rescuers to access survivors and victims in the mountainous area.

Footage released by county firefighters on Saturday showed Roger, an eight-year-old Labrador, climbing a fallen rock on a hiking trail near Taroko National Park in Hualien.

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“You found something ? Let’s go there,” a rescuer says to Roger, who doesn’t move.

The mayor of Kaohsiung, who sent a rescue team and dogs, including Roger, said the Labrador specialized in “rescuing and searching” for survivors “in the rubble.”

“Roger must have found some clues, and his troubled look made the dog handler realize something was going on, and then they found the victim,” Mayor Chen Chi-mai said in a Facebook post titled “L 'exploit of the Quatre Pattes team'.

Six people still missing

Handler Lee Hsin-hung said Roger located a victim “just five minutes after he started” searching and praised the dog's confidence in the unfamiliar terrain.

Originally trained to be a drug-sniffing dog, Roger was stripped of the assignment because he was too friendly. He was then employed on search and rescue missions.

“He’s very agile,” Mr. Lee told reporters. “Like that time he went to the Shakadang hiking trail, it's not a rescue site we can replicate [for training], but he wasn't afraid.”< /p>

The soon-to-retire dog has won hearts in Taiwan with his playful nature, lunging at reporters' microphones during interviews and destroying the chew toy given to him after a mission.

Another search dog, Wilson, a three-year-old Jack Russell terrier, also received praise after Taiwanese media broadcast footage of him stubbornly climbing impossible-to-move rocks.

Searching the rubble from that earthquake was Wilson's first mission, which located two victims — an achievement that official Tseng Ching-lin said he was “surprised” at.

“He didn't do well on tests compared to other dogs,” he told a reporter as he carried Wilson, who was wagging his tail.

“He's very intelligent, but he likes to play and he starts running in other directions,” Mr. Tseng added, as Wilson began to bite the mic.

At least six people have yet to be found, while the number of people unable to reach emergency services has steadily declined as authorities have managed to repair roads and clear tunnels over the weekend.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116