HIROSHIMA--A stray dog that escaped being euthanized years ago actively participated in rescue efforts here last week after landslides demolished homes, killing scores of residents.
Yumenosuke, a male mixed-blooded dog trained as a search and rescue dog, first helped out at the disaster-affected Yagi district of the city’s Asa-Minami Ward on Aug. 20.
Around 1:20 p.m. 4-year-old Yumenosuke stopped near a house, the first floor of which was buried in mud. Unlike many other rescue dogs, which are trained to bark when they find a survivor, Yumenosuke kept gazing at the fallen lumber.
Hiroyuki Sano, his handler, found a man’s body amid the debris.
Shortly after 7 p.m., Yumenosuke’s “colleague” Hulk, a 3-year-old golden retriever, started barking at the remains of another home.
A woman’s body was found at a spot where Hulk eagerly sniffed.
With their duty being to rescue survivors, the dogs were pulled out of the site for the day.
Yumenosuke and Hulk were dispatched by the non-profit organization Peace Winds Japan.
A PWJ staff member found Yumenosuke at the Hiroshima prefectural animal welfare center in Mihara in November 2011, when the dog was only 4 months old. The NPO was visiting the center to “recruit” a search and rescue dog.
Yumenosuke was supposed to be put down that same day, but his turn did not come since many dogs were scheduled to be destroyed.
The puppy was adopted by the NPO. But little Yumenosuke hardly seemed suited to be a rescue dog because of his cautious nature.
At first, he was trained to be accustomed with people and to “wait,” “sit” and follow other basic commands.
Gradually he learned to follow instructions and accumulated experience of searching for survivors in the mountains.
For a while he was not good at maintaining curiosity, a quality needed for the task. Also a bit timid, Yumenosuke was one step short of becoming independent.
On the other hand, Hulk, who performed well in competitions, was ready at any time to act as a search and rescue dog.
For Sano, Yumenosuke looked confident after completing his debut mission.
“An dog abandoned by people is now rescuing them,” Sano said. “It is a proof that Yumenosuke deserves to live.”
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