In Ballwin, Missouri, at the Advanced Center of Excellence, resides a special pit bull called Sonar. Sonar is a search and rescued pit bull, and takes part in training other dogs from all over the country to serve as assistants to first responders.
“We have Missouri Task Force One. We have the FBI who trains here. A lot of our local districts and departments come here to do live burns,“ said Sara Dayley with West County EMS/Fire.
Mary Roy and her dog Sonar work for Missouri Task Force One, as a special search and rescue team. They have been deployed into many situations where finding people buried under rubble from some kind of disaster, and also train others to do so at the facility.
“I’m on the canine division, so my dog is trained to find people buried in rubble,” said Roy.
Sonar is very smart, and full of energy, however, this dog’s beginnings weren’t so auspicious, as such. It wasn’t too long ago that Sonar was in a shelter, and was having a very hard time finding a forever family. Fast forward to today, and the spunky dog is considered to be indispensable.
Sonar was picked up by the Animal Protective Association of Missouri (APA), and was rehomed with Roy specifically for the task of becoming a search and rescue dog. Proper rehoming is first and foremost to the APA, according to their executive director, Steve Kaufman.
“We really try and make very good matches so that these dogs go and stay in permanent homes,” said Kaufman.
The dogs come in as strays, and abandonment cases. The APA then finds a home that will not only suit the basic needs of the dog, but where they can be tested and trained to see if they have what it takes to do this very important job.
When Roy got Sonar, it didn’t take long to find out that he really has a knack for what he does. He seemed to take a particular liking toy he had, and using that, Roy began Sonar’s search and rescue training.
“If they have that much drive for a toy, you can teach them just about anything,” said Roy.
Now that Sonar has had his training, he’s now helping to get other dogs ready for the job. He also continues to undergo training of his own, to help sharpen his skills. This way he can be sure that what he trains the others to do is always top notch.
Talk about your rags to riches story. After spending a very long time stuck in a shelter unwanted, to playing a key role in training the rescue and rescue teams responsible for saving so many lives over the years.
“He’s a great example that the potential these dogs can have,” Kaufman said.