A member of the Abbotsford region of the Canadian Search and Disaster Dogs Association (CASDDA) is in Mexico City until Sunday, helping to locate victims of the recent earthquake.
Jeanette Van Dijk and her canine partner Phoenix are among seven individuals and six dogs with CASSDDA who are assisting in the ongoing effort to search for survivors.
The earthquake struck the city on Sept. 19, resulting in a death toll of 186 there – and 324 nationwide – by Monday.
The team arrived safely Sunday night and, after weathering another quake Monday morning, began their work.
Four of the dispatched members are from the Edmonton region, while the other two – in addition to Van Dijk – are from Lloydminster and Edson.
The group is scheduled to return on Sunday.
Van Dijk and her canine partner Phoenix recently received international certification in two areas – wilderness and rubble searches.
They took their testing on from Sept. 15 to 17, as judged by Jaroslav Sedlak from the Czech Republic, a certified international judge sent to Canada by the IRO (International Rescue Dog Organization).
IRO tests are demanding and are assessed by judges randomly chosen by the IRO from across the world.
The testing involves a search component as well as an obedience and dexterity component.
Both the work of the dog and the handler are assessed, and it is known worldwide as being the most difficult test in K-9 search and rescue.
Van Dijk and Phoenix worked long hours each week under sometimes very harsh conditions, and acquired specific and demanding skills.
Van Dijk and Phoenix were then officially added to the dispatch list for international missions to respond in the case of major earthquakes, tsunamis and typhoons.
Their certification in wilderness search will allow them to serve their community along with other Canadian communities.
Their certification in rubble searches will allow them to assist in the search for victims trapped in collapsed structures and respond to natural disasters.
A partner to the United Nations, the IRO provides a uniform standard to countries across the world and insures that search dogs are trained and certified at the highest level.
CASDDA is the first and remains the sole Canadian organization accepted as an IRO member.
CASDDA also provides dogs and handlers free of charge for the recovery of individuals deceased in the wilderness or drowned in rivers and lakes.
Visit facebook.com/casdda or call 780-977-9239 for more information.