May 22, 2013
Misty Volaski, firstname.lastname@example.org
Although the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation (NDSDF)is based in Ojai, only two dogs from the Ojai area have ever been selected for training.
One of them, Moxie, has been deployed to Oklahoma City after the devastating EF-4 tornado that ripped through the area Monday, leaving dozens dead and hundreds injured. Cell phone service is spotty at best, said Search Dog program manager Kate Horwick — so getting updates from Moxie’s handler, Oklahoma firefighter Brent Koeninger, and the other Search Dog teams has been difficult.
Moxie and Koeninger joined 11 other NDSDF-certified teams searching the rubble in Moore, Okla., Shawnee, Okla., and Granbury, Texas. More may be heading out soon. “They mobilized almost immediately,” said Horwick, adding that they’ve searched through schools, homes and a bowling alley, among other places. “The only reason we know about the bowling alley is that we saw one of our dogs on CNN,” Horwick said. “From what we’ve heard, right now, they feel like they’ve done about 20 percent of the search and rescue areas.”
Weather is a big factor, and things like lightning and severe storms will force teams to “take cover, to sit and wait. We kind of need everything to cooperate,” Horwick added. “We have no idea how long they might be out there. As long as it takes.”
Three-year-old Moxie, originally named Roxy, had lived with a family in Camp Pendleton until she was about a year and a half old. But, according Humane Society shelter director Jolene Hoffman, when her owner was deployed overseas, he had to surrender her to the Humane Society of Ventura County (HSVC) Ojai shelter. She was there for only a day before several locals recognized the Lab’s potential as a search dog.
“We got quite a few calls from people in the community that had seen her, telling us about this great dog,” said Horwick. “Most of our dogs come from California, but Moxie is only the second in 15 years to be recruited from the local shelter. She’s very different from most dogs we get — the majority are strays, found on the streets and are never claimed.”
Search Dog workers headed over to the Humane Society and tested Moxie, who quickly showed herself to be a perfect search dog training candidate. The Ojai shelter typically only adopts animals to approved family homes, but, said Hoffman, Moxie was different.
“She was so high energy, we knew we could not place her in the average home,” Hoffman said. The HSVC board of directors understood, and made an exception to their usual rule. “And it definitely ended up being the right one, because look where she is now!” Hoffman said. “It was a very lucky day for us,” said Horwick of the NDSDF. The Humane Society board allowed Moxie to go to NDSDF handlers in Gilroy, Calif., and go through the rigorous training required for her to earn the title of search dog.
As Moxie neared graduation, trainer Sharon Hanzelka told the NDSDF, “She’s always very excited to work, has a great attitude and wants to please you.”
Shortly after being paired with Moxie in October 2012, Koeninger said, “She has been going with me non-stop … Moxie is a sweetheart. Like the Energizer Bunny, she keeps going and going and going. I hope I can keep up!” The pair are always together, ready 24/7 to be deployed at any time through Oklahoma Task Force 1.
Visit wwww.searchdogfoundation.org for more information, and “like” the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation on Facebook for deployment updates for all NDSDF teams across the country.