Among those who are traveling to Haiti to help that beleaguered nation cope with the aftermath of yesterday's earthquake are 72 members of Virginia Task Force 1 (VATF-1), the urban search and rescue (SAR) team of Fairfax County, VA, where I live. The team includes 6 SAR dogs and their human handlers.
I had the privilege of interacting with some of these incredible individuals during the fall of 2001, just after the September 11 attacks, for an article I wrote for The Washington Post. And when I say interact, I mean just that. At one point, I served as a "live find": I had to hide in a dirty plastic pipe so that one of the dogs could practice searching for and finding me (which he did in less than a minute, after which he proceeded to drag me out of the pipe). I'll never forget seeing that German Shepherd's huge head appear at the pipe opening, much less feeling him grab my coat sleeve and pull me out of the pipe to 'safety'.
It's hard to feel any kind of hope amid the horror of a natural disaster that may have left tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people dead. But when I remember the courage and competence of the human and canine members of the VATF-1--which departed this morning for Haiti--I do hope that some lives will be saved that might otherwise have been lost.