SDF-Trained Search Dog Works Tornado Wreckage Overnight

Last night, while the six Search Dog Foundation teams deployed to NEPAL were assisting in humanitarian assistance operations in that country, Brent Koeninger and his SDF-trained Search Dog Moxie were sent out to search for people buried alive in the aftermath of an F3-level tornado that hit Oklahoma City.

Moxie, a beautiful Black Lab recruited from the Ventura County Humane Society, was called into action to make sure no one had been left behind in a mobile home park after the fire department received reports of people missing. Once the mobile home park was cleared, Brent and Moxie headed out to a hotel and RV park to make sure everyone had made it out safely.

Brent Koeninger, Oklahoma City Fire:

“We were on duty when the call came in to search a mobile home park, hotel and RV park heavily damaged by the tornado. We deployed immediately, making our way across town through the flooded roads to get to the search site. Moxie searched the top floor rooms that were unstable and cluttered with debris making them hard for humans to search. After clearing the area, we moved on to the RV park.

The RV park was a huge rubble pile. I had Moxie search the outer edge, down-wind of the park, to pick up any human scent. She covered the area very well and made sure no one was left hidden in the debris.”

After training two weeks ago at SDF’s National Training Center in Santa Paula, CA with handlers from across the country, we were well prepared for the challenges of this deployment. The trainers worked us hard and kept reminding us of the number one rule: TRUST YOUR DOG.

Moxie’s laser vision

Last night, I was reminded of why this rule is so incredibly important – important enough to save a life. Just before we completed our search of the RV park, Moxie made a sharp turn into a cluster of RVs. I lost sight of her for a minute, and was about to whistle for her when she popped out of the door of one of the trailers. I started to climb inside to see what had pulled her off course when I ran into a man coming out. The man was fine – he had gone back to get some of his things.

Even though he was not a trapped victim, and Moxie didn’t get to alert, this moment proved to me that she knows her job and does it well. Even after a couple of hours of searching, Moxie was still using her nose and investigating every live human scent she came across. That’s why I trust my dog.”

Another tropical system is forming off the East Coast today, with more tornadoes expected in the Midwest this weekend. Our 20 Midwest Search Teams (nine in Oklahoma, four in Nebraska, and seven in Texas) stand ready to deploy. Seventeen of these Search Dogs were recruited from shelters, two were donated, and one was a career change from Guide Dogs of America.

MOXIE’S STORY: Moxie was surrendered to the Ventura County Humane Society in 2011 when her former owner was deployed overseas by the military. Within a day of her arrival there, SDF got word of the spunky, toy-obsessed pup. Moxie passed her Search Dog evaluation with flying colors and entered SDF’s canine boot camp. After a year of training, she was partnered with Oklahoma City firefighter Brent Koeninger in October 2012 and soon achieved Oklahoma State Certification in June 2013, making them deployable with Oklahoma Task Force 1 throughout the state and neighboring regions.

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