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Tag: 911

“60 Minutes” on bomb-sniffing dogs

60 Minutes looked at bomb-sniffing dogs in a report that, especially given last night’s other featured stories — on the Marathon bombing and the 9/11 Memorial — brought home not just how many lives they’ve saved in the military overseas, but how many more they might save here.

Reporter Lara Logan focused on the dogs of war, and the trainers that describe their canines as nearly infallible when it comes to detecting bombs.

But they’re not so infallible when explosive devices are planted after the dogs have made their sweeps, as apparently was the case at the Boston Marathon.

“Would an average police dog have found these bombs at the Boston Marathon …?” she asked trainer Mike Ritland.

“…Based on what I do know, yes,” Ritland said. “If dogs went through the areas where they were placed– you know, your average, certified police bomb dog should have found them. My thoughts are if these guys (the suspects) are paying close attention to these dogs, they’re waiting. And when the dogs leave, they bring it in, they hand– they infiltrate, essentially, they drop it right where it’s busy, and very soon after, it detonates.”

As the “60 Minutes” piece pointed out, since 9/11 dogs have been used more than ever because nothing is more effective in finding hidden bombs. Dogs in the employ of the military and FBI have sniffed out bombs, captured enemies, and one assisted Navy SEAL Team 6 when it took down Osama bin Laden. Much more of what they do, given the often secretive nature of their work, never becomes known.

“The best of them serve with U.S. Special Operations and they’re in a league of their own,” Logan noted. “It’s nearly impossible to get anyone to talk about them publicly because much of what they do is classified, but we were able to talk to the people who train them for this story. We took the opportunity to ask about what might have happened in Boston while getting a rare glimpse inside the secretive world of America’s most elite dogs.”

(One member of the “60 Minutes” team — in a segment not shown on the air but featured on 60minutesovertime.com – even volunteered to be chased down by a military dog in training in Texas. Producer Reuben Heyman-Kantor, in the video above, tried to outrun the dog, but was brought down quickly.)

In her interview with former Navy SEAL Ritland, who now finds and trains dogs for Special Operations and top tier units in the FBI, Logan asked, ”What can these dogs do on the streets of America?”

“The very same thing that they do for our boys overseas in that they detect explosives– they are a fantastic deterrent– they use their nose to find, you know, people as well,” Ritland said.

“Everybody knows that dogs can smell better than humans but what they don’t realize is that if you and I walk into the kitchen and there’s a pot of beef stew on the counter, you and I smell beef stew. A dog smells potatoes, carrots, beef, onion, celery, gravy, flour. They smell each and every individual component of everything that’s in that beef stew. And they can separate everyone one of those. You can’t hide anything from them. It won’t work because you can’t fool a dog’s nose.”

Ritland now trains dogs on his 20-acre ranch in rural Cooper, Texas, runs the Warrior Dog Foundation for retired war dogs, and is the author of “Trident K9 Warriors: My Tale From the Training Ground to the Battlefield with Elite Navy SEAL Canines.”

Ritland says its important — amid these days of budget cuts — to remember what lifesavers the dogs can be, both in wars and at home.

In Afghanistan, according to the report, 42 dogs have been killed in action. They’ve become so effective that the enemy is singling them out. A Taliban commander told “60 Minutes” that on his last operation they were ordered to open fire on the American dogs first, and deal with the soldiers next.

Logan visited what she said was one of only three breeders in the U.S. who produce dogs — almost always the Belgian Malinois — for top tier military units.

She also interviewed Green Beret Chris Corbin who, along with his dog Ax, almost died on their final mission in Afghanistan.

Corbin said he missed a signal from the dog while searching for mines. Ax was alerting to Corbin’s foot, but Corbin realized it too late. He lost both his lower legs. Ax was not wounded. Both returned to duty.

Ax was at Corbin’s side during the interview, and rarely took his eyes off his former partner as he described their first reunion after the blast.

“I just said something simple. ‘Hey, where’s my boy at?’ and he stopped. He froze. He looked around. And he went into a panic until he found me and he jumped on my legs. Painful. Just– I was just happy to see him. I didn’t care how much it hurt.”

“DOG, INC.” struts its stuff

“Thought Provoking?” It’s not like winning best in show at Westminster, but I’ll take the sign my book appears under at this bookstore as a compliment.

A friend sent me this photo, taken at the Barnes & Noble in Towson, which shows “DOG, INC.: The Uncanny Inside Story of Cloning Man’s Best Friend” getting some pretty decent display (at least better than the bottom shelf of the astronomy section, as was the case at an area bookstore that shall remain nameless).

I can think of no other sign I would like my book to be under — except maybe ”New York Times Bestseller.”

Alas, it’s not there yet, but it did rate the “Page 99 Test,” a website by Marshal Zeringue dedicated to the proposition that the quality of a book can be judged by turning to, and reading, its 99th page.

I lucked out in that page 99 of “DOG, INC.” contains a revelation — namely who it was that located Genelle Guzman, the last survivor found after 9/11, and held her hand until she could be freed from the mound of debris she was trapped under.

(Clue: It wasn’t the volunteer firefighters who took credit for rescuing her on CNN)

If you’re wondering what this has to do with cloning dogs, you can click the link to Marshal’s blog or, better yet, buy the book and allow your thoughts — and perhaps more — to be provoked.

The search and rescue dogs of 9-11

This tribute was put together by The Dog Files, honoring the more than 300 search and rescue dogs that responded to 9-11.

Can’t you just feel the moonshine?

Leave it to us to be in Arizona when the big news is in North Carolina.

Fearing for the safety of his “dawgs,” a rural North Carolina man called 911 to report he’d had a confrontation with Bigfoot; and the one-sided, slightly slurred conversation with the dispatcher that ensued is worthy of the 911 call Hall of Fame.

Authorities in Cleveland County released a recording of the call, made by Tim Peeler, who claimed to have sighted a 9-to-10 foot tall Bigfoot around his home near Casar.

The area, known as Carpenter’s Knob, is the site of repeated sightings of a similar creature in the 1970s, who locals eventually took to calling “Knobby.”

In the call, Peeler describes a “beast thing” whose presence got his dogs a barkin’.

Operator: What did it look like?

Peeler: It looked like a giant ape with a man’s face. But I was afraid to kill it. And it made a whistling sound. But I just wanted ya’ll to know, I have not shot one or killed one.

Operator: Okay, was there more than one or just the one?

Peeler: Just the one.

Operator: Okay.

Peeler: He was about nine, ten foot tall. With real long arms. And…I’ve had experiences with ‘em before in the deer stand. but this one, somehow, I go out there, it gets gone, I come back in the house it gets there again. And my dog’s is just raising… heck.

At one point he asks, ”Would I get in any trouble if I shot and killed this beast? This animal or whatever it is? Would I get in any trouble?”

Throughout the call, Peeler seems most concerned about his dogs.

“I got bear dawg, hog dawgs, this thing for some reason tonight is comin’ down messin with my dawgs, tryin’ to get towards my back porch.”

Cleveland County is located west of Charlotte, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, an area that’s no stranger to moonshine. We’re not saying Tim’s brewing his own, but … still. Maybe we’ll try and stop for a visit on our way back east.

Dog leads owner to man frozen to ground

effieA hunting dog on a walk with her owner in Minnesota led him to a 94-year-old neighbor who was unconscious and frozen to his driveway.

Brett Grinde and his German shorthair, Effie, were on a late afternoon walk Monday when the old hunting dog suddenly began pulling to the right, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

Grinde, a Pine County sheriff’s investigator, let Effie off the leash and she ran to a driveway 40 yards away, stopping at the body of Grinde’s neighbor, William Lepsch, who apparently had fallen while retrieving his mail.

Lepsch’s wife, Marjorie, who uses a wheelchair, had looked outside and seen her husband on the ground. She tried dialing 911, she said, but had repeatedly misdialed out of panic.

“Nobody’s around and I’m out there hollering ‘Somebody please help me!’ but there was no one,” she said. “In the meantime this dog ran up and began licking his face.”

Grinde called 911, then started CPR.  Lepsch initially regained consciousness and was taken to North Memorial Medical Center.

Update: A North Memorial nursing supervisor says Lepsch passed away Wednesday morning.

New York City’s last working 9/11 dog dies

tazTaz — the last New York City police dog called into service after 9/11 that was still on the job — has died.

The German shepherd, almost 2 years old when he  joined other K-9s searching for survivors and cadavers at the World Trade Center, died of cardiac arrest last Sunday, the police department said.

The New York Times noted his passing yesterday.

Taz, who would have been 10 years old on Oct. 31, served in the Canine Emergency Service Unit, where his duties consisted of searching for evidence, suspects and missing persons.

Dogs, the Times article notes, have served the New York Police Department since 1908, when, in what was a novel idea at the time,  five dogs were promoted to be full-fledged members of the department.

The article also notes that a Times article back then noted “the possibility that the dog unit could be laughed out of official existence.”

The department currently has around 40 dogs, mostly German shepherds and bloodhounds.

During the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attack, an average of eight dogs were on duty at a time, working 12-hour shifts every day, according to the Police Department.

In a statement, Taz’s handler, Officer Scott Ryan said, “His passing is not just a loss to me, my family and fellow K-9 officers, but to the city that Taz and his K-9 comrades so proudly and courageously served.”

Officer Ryan added, “I will ride with my partner Taz for the last time, as I head to Hartsdale Pet Cemetery to bring his ashes home.”

Five clones of Trakr meet the media

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Five German shepherds cloned from the cells of an award-winning search and rescue dog were unveiled today at a press conference in Beverly Hills.

With a poster of his original police dog, Trakr, behind him, cop-turned-actor James Symington choked up in his remarks as he stood behind a podium adorned with an American and a Korean flag.

The retired Halifax, Nova Scotia, police officer took possession of the five dogs this weekend — his prize for winning the “Golden Clone Giveaway,” an essay contest sponsored by BioArts International, a California biotech company that is cloning dogs in conjunction with a Korean scientist.dsc04608-copy

Symington said that if the puppies have the same abilities as Trakr — and he’s seen some signs they might — he intends to put them to work as search and rescue dogs.

Symington and Trakr took part in the rescue operation after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City. Symington says Trakr located the last survivor pulled from the rubble of Ground Zero.

Originally, Symington was to receive a single clone of the dog.

“We were going to do one, maybe two,” said BioArts CEO Lou Hawthorne. “But we decided collectively that the world would be a better place with more Trakrs.”

Hawthorne says Symington hopes to train all five dogs in search and rescue and work with them as a team, responding to crisis areas around the world.

Trakr died in April at the age of 16.

BioArts auctioned off five other dog clonings last summer to bidders in an online auction. Hawthorne said two of those cloned dogs have been delivered, and that a third will be delivered soon. The fourth has been born, and the fifth cloning has resulted in a pregnancy.

The cloning was done at  the Sooam Biotech Research Foundation in South Korea and was led by Dr. Hwang Woo-Suk, who produced the world’s first canine clone in 2005.  The first Takr clone was born on Dec. 8 of  last year and the last arrived April 4.

Clones of Trakr to be delivered to owner today

trakrRetired police officer James Symington will receive five clones of his late search and rescue dog, Trakr, at a press conference in Los Angeles today.

BioArts International, a Northern California biotech company, will be presenting Symington with five puppies – all clones of Trakr — at a press conference.

Symington, who says his retired police dog found the last survivor of 9/11, won the “Golden Clone Giveaway” contest sponsored by BioArts International in 2008. His essay explained why Trakr was an ideal candidate for cloning.

The company’s other dog cloning clients — one of five dogs cloned for customers in connection with an online auction has been delivered –have paid an average of $144,000 to clone their canine pets. Symington will receive his puppy clones of Trakr for free.

BioArts International says it holds the sole, worldwide license for the cloning of dogs, cats and endangered species, and is partnered with Sooam Biotech Research Foundation of South Korea. Sooam was established by Hwang Woo-Suk, who led the team that produced the world’s first canine clone, Snuppy,  in 2005, but was fired the next year for falsifying research related to cloning human embryos.

“We received many very touching submissions to our contest, describing some truly amazing dogs,” says Lou Hawthorne, CEO of Bio Arts International. “But Trakr’s story blew us away. His many remarkable capabilities were proven beyond all doubt in our nation’s darkest hour – and we’re proud to have cloned him successfully.”

Trakr was credited with hundreds of arrests and recovered more than $1 million in stolen goods during his career as a police search-and-rescue dog. Symington, a Halifax, Nova Scotia police officer at the time of the Sept. 11 attacks, arrived with Trakr at Ground Zero. According to Symington, Trakr located the last human survivor to be found in the rubble.

“Once in a lifetime, a dog comes along that not only captures the hearts of all he touches but also plays a private role in history,” Symington wrote in his winning essay.

Trakr was presented with an extraordinary service to humanity award by Dr. Jane Goodall, United Nations “Messenger of Peace.”

“They’re identical – down to the smallest detail,” Symington said when meeting  the Trakr clones on Sunday. “Few dogs are born with exceptional abilities – Trakr was one of those dogs. And if these puppies have the same attributes as Trakr, I plan on putting them in to search and rescue so they can help people the way Trakr did.”

In order to clone Trakr,  Hwang’s team replaced the genes in eggs from unrelated dogs with genes from Trakr, stimulated the resulting “couplets” to develop into embryos, then transferred the embryos to dogs who served as surrogate mothers. After normal pregnancies, they gave birth to puppies that are genetically identical to Trakr, the first of which was born December 8, 2008 and the last on April 4, 2009. All were born and weaned in Seoul, South Korea, and all are in excellent health, BioArts says.

“9-11 was a terrible shock for Korean people as well as Americans,” said Dr. Hwang by email from Seoul, Korea. “These five clones of Trakr, who saved a human life at Ground Zero, are a gift not just to Mr. Symington, but to America and the world.”

(Photo: Symington, Hawthorne and clones; courtesy of BioArts International)

Dog that won cloning contest passes away

Trakr, the German Shepherd search and rescue dog whose owner won an an essay contest to have him cloned, died last week at his home. He was 16.

Trakr was credited with hundreds of arrests and recovered more than one million dollars in stolen goods while serving the police department of Halifax, Nova Scotia. After the dog retired, his owner, and police department handler, James Symington, took TrakR to the World Trade Center after 9/11 to assist in search efforts.

There, according to Symington, Trakr, in addition to finding several casualties, found the last survivor in the rubble of 9/11 — Genelle Guzman.

Afterwards, Trakr was presented with the Extraordinary Service to Humanity Award by Dr. Jane Goodall, and was featured in books and magazines dedicated to 9/11 heroes including, “Dog World” and “In the Line of Duty.”

After his 9/11 work, Trakr collapsed from smoke and chemical inhalation, burns and exhaustion. Likely a result of this exposure, the press release announcing his death says, Trakr was disabled for the past two years.

Symington, whose trip to the World Trade Center was considered an unauthorized absence by his police department, left the department and moved to California afterwards to pursue an acting career. He took Trakr with him. Symington says the police department was considering a policy to euthanize retiring K9 dogs.

Commenting on Trakr’s life, Symington said, “I am honored to have been Trakr’s partner, best friend and lifelong companion. He possessed a rare combination of uncanny intuition, pure heart, and relentless courage and has been an inspiration to so many. He’ll live in my heart forever.”

In 2008, Trakr received international attention again when BioArts International named him the “World’s Most Cloneworthy Dog.” This honor enables Trakr’s DNA to be used to clone a puppy, which Symington, now head of entertainment talent management firm Prodigy Talent Group, plans to name Prodigy.

The press release makes no mention of the status of the cloning.

Symington is not paying for the cloning of Trakr; it was awarded to him for winning a BioArts essay contest last summer.

Symington and his wife, who live in Los Angeles, have been approached by various Hollywood executives and best-selling authors to turn Trakr’s story into a book and movie, according to the press release.

They don’t call him “Buddy” for nothing

The “voice” on the phone was a dog’s — specifically, that of Buddy, an aptly named German shepherd, whose call to 911 when his owner had a seizure just may have saved his life.

Police said it’s not the first time Buddy has been there for owner Joe Stalnaker. This was the third time the dog has alerted police that his owner was having a seizure, the Associated Press reported.

On a recording of the 911 call last Wednesday, Buddy is heard whimpering and barking after the dispatcher answers and repeatedly asks if the caller needs help.

“Hello, this is 911. Hello … Can you hear me? Is there somebody there you can give the phone to?” says the dispatcher.

Police responded within minutes to the home of Stalnaker, who spent two days in a hospital and recovered from the seizure.

“It’s pretty incredible,” Scottsdale police Sgt. Mark Clark said. “Even the veteran dispatchers — they haven’t heard of anything like this.”

Clark said police are dispatched whenever 911 is called, but that Stalnaker’s address was flagged in Scottsdale’s system with a notification that a trained assistance dog could call 911 when the owner was incapacitated.

Buddy, now 18 months old, is able to press programmed buttons until a 911 operator is on the line, Clark said. He said Stalnaker’s seizures are the result of a head injury he suffered about 10 years ago during a military training exercise.

Clark said Stalnaker adopted Buddy at the age of 8 weeks from Paws With A Cause, and though that turned out to be erroneous, the Michigan-based organization that trains assistance dogs says it’s still thrilled with the attention the story has received.

“While this news story was mistakenly associated with Paws With A Cause, we have many clients nationwide who have Seizure Response Dogs that complete tasks just like Buddy did!” the organization says on its website. “Seizure Response Dogs are trained to retrieve the telephone for their partner; to push a medic-alert device that could summon assistance; or to help brace a person to regain their sitting or standing position.

“As an agency that has been training Seizure Response Dogs for many years, PAWS is thrilled with the international attention that this type of lesser-known Assistance Dog is receiving … way to go, Buddy!”