A Dog Has His Day:
Recognizing the Four-Legged Heroes of Ground Zero
Fire engineer John Thomas offers Mocha some water after a rescue demonstration. Thomas and Mocha, a disaster search dog, visited the Memorial School in Union Beach, New Jersey, on September 10. (Photo: Kerry MacIntosh)
"We wanted to support an organization working at Ground Zero," says student Stephen Ponterio. "The Red Cross was getting much needed publicity, but we knew there must be others that also needed money. Then, Ms. Burneyko suggested the search dogs."
Through research, Ms. Burneyko discovered the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation (NDSDF). The NDSDF is the nation's leading canine disaster-search training organization. Over one third of the dogs at Ground Zero were NDSDF-trained.
Unanimously, the students elected the NDSDF as their cause. To raise money, the class designed and sold handmade pins resembling American flags. Students sold 250 of the pins. The profits, collected and tallied, were eagerly sent to the NDSDF.
A Special Visit
One year later, Ms. Burneyko's class received a special and personal thank you for its initiative. They were paid a visit on September 10 from John Thomas, a California-based fire engineer, and a chocolate Labrador named Mocha, one of NDSDF's recent graduates. Together they put on a demonstration showing what it takes to train, care for, and motivate a disaster search dog.
Students learned that search dogs enjoy and are motivated by play.
"Mocha behaves really well," said student Charley D'Amodio during a frisky game of tug-of-war. "But she's also feisty and strong."
"Everything's Going to the Dogs"
"Our support of NDSDF will be one way Memorial School observes the events of 9/11," says Ms. Burneyko. "We feel it recognizes and pays respect to what happened that day, yet allows students to make choices and be empowered."
The NDSDF invites more schools to become involved through their new program, "Everything's Going to the Dogs." Resources include lesson plans and other materials that consider ways of dealing with grief, expressing compassion, taking responsibility for animals, and teamwork-building skills. For more information about NDSDF, click here.