It wasn’t so long ago that Pearl, a black Labrador Retriever, was waiting for someone to come and rescue her from the Plumas County Animal Shelter in Quincy, Calif.
According to the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation (SDF), Pearl’s first owner “wasn’t home much, so Pearl frequently would jump the fence of their home and go looking for fun. Inevitably she would be picked up by animal control, and after paying the ‘bailout’ fee one too many times, the owner saw the hopelessness of the situation and surrendered her to the local county shelter.”
Luckily, in 2007, not too long after she was surrendered, Pearl captured the attention of a canine behaviorist who frequently visited the shelter to pick out dogs that would make good family pets for the local animal rescue.
Pearl was picked up by a volunteer canine recruiter, who cared for her until she was ready to start training at the SDF’s Sundowners training facility.
“Within five minutes I knew we had a winner,” said SDF Lead Trainer Pluis Davern, according to the website. “This dog just couldn’t sit still. All she could think about was finding and retrieving the toy. If the toy went into dense shrubs, Pearl would barrel in and find it.”
The website goes on to say that after Pearl completed her training in 2008, she was partnered with Captain Ron Horetski of the Los Angeles County Fire Department.
“Pearl is my companion, my family. She’s by my side 24/7 – at work and at home,” Horetski told the SDF. ”She’s a real sweetheart, but when we get called to a disaster and it’s ‘show time,’ she gets down to business, and always performs at 100 percent. Being in Haiti with her and having the chance to work together to bring people to safety was amazing.”
Pearl was honored last year by being named the ASPCA 2010 Dog of the Year.
According to the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation, “Ron and Pearl’s first deployment was to aid in a building collapse in La Puente, Calif., in July of 2009. Then on January 14, 2010, Ron and Pearl were deployed to Port-au-Prince with Los Angeles County Task Force 2. They searched for 16 days, combing the wreckage in search of victims still alive under acres of concrete and debris. Most recently, on March 11, 2011, Ron and Pearl were deployed to Japan with Los Angeles County Task Force 2, as one of the six Canine Disaster Search Teams trained by the Search Dog Foundation.”
According to the Los Angeles County Fire Tech Services Facebook page, the search team returned from Japan on March 19, after a nine-day deployment.
Allyn Lee and Connie Forslind, second-grade teachers from Rancho Romero School in Alamo, Calif., heard about the Search Dog Foundation’s work in Haiti and wanted to share it with the world. The two teachers wrote a story about Pearl and had their students illustrate the book.
They titled their story “A New Job for Pearl – A Homeless Dog Becomes A Hero.” So far, the book has raised $7,200 toward the recruitment, training and care of a future search dog. Their ultimate goal is to raise $10,000, which is the total amount it will cost to sponsor a search dog. Each book costs $10 plus $2.50 for shipping and handling.