Heartwarming stories from Japan

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: With an energetic, hardwired bust, Atticus charges into the rubble, bouncing around a fallen roof. He's focused on one thing: finding a living, breathing human amid the sprawling wreckage of the tsunami. It might seem an unfair request of a German shepherd, but Atticus and more than a dozen other dogs working with U.S. and British rescue teams here are more than equal to it.

How important are these dogs to these operations?

ROB FURNISS, BRITISH CANINE SEARCH SPECIALIST: Very. There's a lot of technical gear. Obviously, the listening devices, the cameras. There's all that stuff, all that stuff for locating people. But at the end of the day, you can't beat a dog for hitting the scent of a human being.

TODD: Like most canine specialists, Rob Furnace has a tight bond with his Border Collie Byron.

FURNISS: Good boy!

TODD: The dogs are so highly trained, they're able to block out the scent of a deceased person and pick up only on someone who's alive. Their success rate is impressive. These teams pulled more than a dozen survivors safely from the rubble in Haiti, in no small part due to teammates like this German shepherd named Wracker. But keeping them sharp involves some creativity.

The team just had to do a drill with Wracker because they haven't found anyone alive in a few days. They've just had one of their own team members hide in this place, out of sight, just out of any sensory perception for Wracker. Sent Wracker in there to see if they could find that team member. That's how they keep the dogs sharp if they haven't found anyone in a few days.

You stare in amazement as they run full speed, jump, land and bounce off objects that are so jagged and uneven that most people couldn't even attempt it. But they're not invincible.

Did he give you any kind of a signal or did you just see the blood?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I just saw blood.

TODD: Tomo, a German shepherd, snagged something in his paw. A little field surgery and he's back in the game. Later on, Wracker needs more work to stitch up a wound. Never during either incident do we hear one whimper from either dog.


TODD: Traveling, sleeping, eating and playing with their handlers is part of the routine. Their communication is so instinctive that they sometimes understand each other just by making eye contact. We didn't witness them finding survivors in Japan, but the dogs serve another purpose for those who've lost everything.

ELIZABETH KREITLER, FAIRFAX CANINE SEARCH SPECIALIST: Having the dog and seeing the times that the people in Haiti or something would enjoy a little solace from the dog, that's also part of their job and helpful to everybody, to teammates and myself alike.

TODD: All of these dogs actually live with their handlers, who are heavily involved in their training. That helps solidify the bond between them and helps them get through these long deployments a long way from home. Brian Todd, CNN, Unosumai, Japan.


Anonymous said…
I read and heard, thank you.
Graham said…

Isn't it a heartwarming story?


By the way, I forgot to mention something the other day. You should check out the British Council's English for Kids section - see other useful links.