Sally and Rocky
Sally Zaher of Ravenna, Ohio takes the word “rescue” seriously.
She’s rescued Rocky and turned him into a rescuer. This amazing dog has overcome the odds and become a lifeline to so many people.
This story starts long ago with Zaher growing up on a sheep farm working with the keen intelligence and instinctive herding nature of border collies. Her father was also on the mountain rescue team. These experiences led Zaher to train dogs in a variety of search and rescue (SAR) activities.
Rocky learning uneven footing
One of her first success stories is Pepper, a 3-year-old black lab who is FEMA-certified as a Live Find Disaster dog that searches rubble and collapsed structures for live victims. Proudly, both Zaher and Pepper were on standby to fly to Haiti to assist with the earthquake in Haiti.
Now Zaher wanted to find the perfect Border collie to continue her mission of rescue training. The first order of business was to find that perfect dog that had the right traits to make a successful SAR dog. She searched animal rescue websites and networked through her contacts until she found Rocky, a Border Collie, from Almost Home Dog Rescue of Ohio. She set up a time to “interview” with Rocky to see if he held those qualities necessary to become a SAR contender.
Rocky, almost a year old, fit the bill with his friendliness, dedication and good nerve strength. He was not fearful of loud, abrupt noises and most importantly he had what handlers refer to as high play drive, the desire to play for hours and hours on end.
Today, three months into his training, Rocky has excelled tremendously. He is on his way to becoming certified in Wilderness Area Search. He has learned to search for missing people in wilderness areas, such as someone with Alzheimer’s who may have wondered off, an inquisitive child who has lost their way or a missing hunter who has had a heart attack. He is learning the Recall and Refind skill, where he finds the victim, returns to the handler and then leads the handler back to the victim. Eventually Zaher would like to train Rocky to become certified in Cadaver search, assisting authorities in crime scenes and in Cadaver & Water rescue searching for drowning victims. Dogs with this skill can locate recently drowned bodies within 10 to 15 feet away in still water.
Rocky and Pepper
With Rocky’s determination and enthusiasm, and Zaher’s encouragement, he no doubt will achieve those accomplishments. Being a rescued dog himself, he knew he had to carry on his own tradition – rescuing others.
Update! Rocky is now certified with Kentucky Search Dog Association. Rocky accomplished two tests, both at night and in strange locations. The first, a hasty search, involved finding a victim within 30 feet of a path under a 10-minute time limit with the the handler remaining on the path. Rocky located the concealed victim in a minute and 45 seconds. The second test was on a tract of 40 acres and within one-hour time limit. The search tests search strategy and land navigation skills. Rocky found his victim in the first 5 minutes and is certified in Live Air Scent area search.
Read the letter Sally wrote us shortly after adopting Rocky.