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Where there are help seekers, there are Peaceland Foundation rescuers.
It was on July 27th, 2021, a hot summer day with thirty-three degree Celsius, when floods filled almost everywhere in Henan.
(Henan Inundation, July 2021)
“I saw a dog. Let’s take him together.” Zhuzi shouted as he spotted a dog struggling in water when he was patrolling in Henan inundation. As a research and rescue dog trainer and emergency responder in Peaceland Foundation, Zhuzi values the life of animals equally as that of human beings.
(a Dog Rescued during Henan Inundation, July 2021)
Before joining Peaceland Foundation, Zhuzi has been working in pet adoption and charity institutions for about ten years after a short stay in an internet company. During that period, he had an opportunity to study research and rescue dog training in America and Mexico, which enabled him to conduct similar projects in China by inviting foreign training specialists. He also likes to self teach by using internet resources such as Rescues2theRescue. This website provides abundant knowledge from basic steps of selecting dogs from animal rescue stations, and then training them to rescue people missing in disasters or accidents.
Dogs rescued by humans could one day be ready to help people. Zhuzi put this idea into practice. Among his five dogs, two of them were picked up from the road, and another two named Heidou and Leo were adopted after they were abandoned by their previous owners. “Their former hosts had their difficulties,” Zhuzi expressed his understanding while reflecting about Heidou’s owner, a 50-year-old lady who bought Heidou but was unable to accompany it due to her health condition. Heidou’s overexcited behaviour affected the lady’s sleeping quality and caused her high blood pressure. But for Zhuzi, Heidou’s and Leo’s energetic spirit is a natural talent for being a rescue dog. So he adopted them and trained them by himself. The Henan flood is the first time that Zhuzi took them for real world tasks.
Off work, Zhuzi loves to be surrounded by those furry creatures and treats them as sport partners when camping, swimming or even mountain climbing. For example, in July this year, he travelled with 17 dogs (including those he temporarily looked after for others) to Yushu, one of the Tibetan autonomous prefectures in Qinghai Province. From Zhuzi’s perspective, dogs are like his relatives with unique identities. Back at home, he rented a courtyard specifically for them to live in a comfortable environment.
(Zhuzi’s dogs, July 2021)
Dog training enhances the bond between human beings and dogs. As Zhuzi pinpointed, trainers must be qualified first. But it is never only the trainer’s work. To practice searching for people, having different volunteers hiding for the training is vital. Even with qualified rescue dogs, there should be regular training, coping with different populations of volunteers. They must be made up of different ages of different sexes hiding in various places so that dogs won’t consider the task to be looking for only one person. In the end, though it’s a noble mission for human beings to find missing people in disasters, it is still “a game” for dogs in getting rewards for every successful discovery.
Good collaboration skills are another crucial factor for being qualified rescue dogs trainers. In a disaster relief operation, trainers need to work with people who investigate information like topography and weather beforehand, who connect with government support, and who manage supplies and shelter. It is the cooperation of everyone in the group to ensure the effectiveness and efficiency of verifying information and prearranging plans. When almost everyone is asking for help, without full preparations and clear assessment conducted beforehand, volunteers may be running around like a headless chicken.
The rescue operation can never be planned based on photos. Only when the team came to the site did they notice disruptive factors like rubbish with disgusting smells that affected dogs’ judgments. In the case where dogs haven’t been trained specially for searching for corpses, the rescue team can merely judge whether there were people trapped below an area by dogs’ reactions. Things can go wrong also with the equipment: sometimes the camera wasn’t able to photograph along the culvert, so even if we found out that one victim headed in that direction, it’s uncertain whether he entered it. Under this condition, rescuers can only make hypotheses of the approximate scope of the disaster, but not very precisely.
(Rescue in Henan Inundation, July 2021)
Despite things unanticipated, volunteers like Zhuzi learned the wide use of rescue dogs in floods, landslides, and the collapse of houses. No matter what disaster, dogs always can help to find the missing people. Indeed, more efforts need to be made to promote the effectiveness of rescues. For the future, Zhuzi wants to recruit more people with similar passions, interests, and persistence to continue training rescue dogs.
“Only when more people are getting involved, [dog rescue] can be done better.” Zhuzi concluded as he hoped for the involvement of more people to help those in need.
Author: Haoxing Liu
Editor: Ling Li, Tiange Li