September 15, 2011

At this writing, it is early morning, September 11, 2011, the 10th anniversary of 9/11. For the past week TV programming has been full of stories about that historic day and it's aftermath. Millions of Americans will forever remember exactly what they were doing that morning in September, 2001 and for the rest of their lives, many will feel an ache in their heart when they recall it. Americans pulled together that day and heroes emerged from clouds of dust. One tiny little hero, special to the hearts of Ratbone members, was Ricky, a Rat Terrier Search And Rescue (SAR)dog from Washington.

Ricky, who lived with the Linker family, was not a shy dog. He jumped, ran, chewed things up and fetched until day's end, although he would not give up the ball. He could bark continuously, for what seemed like hours. But when people were trapped and dying, these were the traits that put Ricky in demand. At two years old, Ricky could climb ladders, run complex patterns on command and differentiate between the living and the dead. On June 17, 2000, Ricky attained his Basic Level certification after proving he could search through piles of concrete at a site half the size of a baseball field, finding three victims in less than 10 minutes, unfazed by bulldozers, jackhammers, cats in cages, and dirty laundry, set up as distractions. Even so, the carnage at the World Trade Center site pushed Ricky's abilities beyond anything he'd ever experienced.

At 17" and less than 18 pounds, Ricky would not let his small size deterred him from his duties at "the pile". In fact, his size, compared to most SAR dogs, worked to his advantage. Ricky was able to squeeze into holes that other dogs and robots were too large to navigate. Ricky and his trainer, Janet Linker of the Seattle Fire Department, searched the ruins for ten September days, helping to locate the bodies of several victims. "There were a few situations where we had to climb underneath metal beams, and the space just kept getting smaller and smaller," said Janet, who worked with Northwest Disaster Search Dogs.

Janet and Ricky worked closely with another SAR pair, Kent Olson and his Golden Retriever, Thunder, fellow members of NDSD, to locate several victims in the rubble, among them a firefighter and a policeman. The two dogs' abilities meshed well, Ricky could wriggle into tight spots that 64 pound Thunder could not manage, and Thunder, a more experienced dog would verify Ricky's finds. When Ricky found a body, he would signal by standing very still, looking at his handler intently with his fur standing up; Thunder would confirm the find by lying down as his signal to his partner. Rescuers then knew exactly where to dig. Both dogs' signaled a "live find" with a bark, but unfortunately they never had the chance to give that signal.

On Sep. 29 after almost two weeks, Ricky and Janet were called off the job and returned to their home in Auburn, Washington. Ricky has been retired from SAR work and now spends his time being a loving member of the Linker family. The nation owes it to Ricky to always remember the work of he and his fellow Search And Rescue dogs. These amazing dogs and their handlers deserve a place in history for all their efforts in the days following the attack on the World Trade Center.

We at Ratbone Rescues THANK Ricky and all the other rescue workers, human and canine, for all they did for America and we REMEMBER those who died that day and in the years since, in defense of America.

This article was originally written for the Ratbone Barker, newsletter for Ratbone Rescues. I'm the editor and one of the writers. Please feel free to sign up for the newsletter if you would like to read more of the articles about our delightful Rat Terriers.

1 comment:

Artistic Diva said...

That was a lovely post. I had read before that one of the SAR dogs had been a rattie, but never found any specific information about it. Thanks for enlightening me. I love ratties. They are the most intelligent, most loving and most loyal of dogs, in my opinion.

I just lost my baby boy of 13 years and am thinking about fostering instead of getting another pet. I don't know. I'll have to think about it some more.

How are you doing on the retirement front? I'm really excited for you.