Lima, Jan 10 (EFE).- In less than two years, puppies Atenea, Boki, and Kia, will help people in the event of an earthquake and other disasters. Alongside Owen, a Labrador capable of locating a victim buried in rubble, they will be part of the Peruvian Air Force’s (FAP) rescue dog team.
“Scientists tell us that a terrible earthquake awaits us. This is what we are preparing for, to save lives in case it happens and we are needed by our civilian population,” said the supervising technician, Ricardo Aranguren to EFE.
The FAP’s canine training department, located in Lima, houses Labradors and Golden Retrievers that perform the role of rescue dogs, as well as other breeds specialized in other functions.
Aranguren explains that rescue dogs must have certain characteristics, such as being playful, sociable and independent. They must also be obedient and have a highly developed sense of smell.
“What the dogs’ sense of smell helps us do is to enter confined areas, unsafe buildings that could probably collapse, and it can give you the exact location of a person who is still alive,” says Second Warrant Officer Daniel Barbosa.
Two-and-a-half-year-old Owen can distinguish different smells and sounds: people, garbage, food, and other animals. The dogs who finish their training are integrated into teams of five or six people, where they are faster and more efficient than the human members in performing these tasks.
Guide dog training and matching
Currently trainers hope that six Labrador puppies from the same litter, offspring of search dogs, will also be good working companions.
At one month of age, the dogs are assigned to a young man who is doing voluntary military service and who will be their guide for one year. While in their care, the dog must learn to be sociable and eliminate bad habits.
At the end of their training, dog and guide can become a canine binomial in future rescue missions. In the field, dogs run and sharpen their senses to the maximum. For this reason, the guides have to make sure that this work does not last more than 15 minutes at a time so that the dog does not get overtired.
For rescue teams, the guide is also responsible for the safety and guidance of the dog in all situations. Aranguren points out that every dog needs a guide to create a unique relationship of trust between man and dog, which facilitates the search for victims.
Preparing for El Niño
In addition to preparing for a possible earthquake, the Air Force is also concerned about what could happen after the passage of El Niño and the torrential rains that cause rivers to overflow, floods, and houses to collapse.
“Within the institution, we have trained about 300 or 400 people nationwide who can go out at any time to help, both in the north and in the south, wherever the tragedy may occur,” says Aranguren.
For now, the puppies are waiting for their time to play, but soon they will be “saving lives.” EFE