Protecting valuable canine companions

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Protecting valuable canine companions


Allen Parton, a British soldier who sustained serious head injuries and lost the use of both his legs while serving in the Gulf War in 1991, regained the will to live only after meeting a service dog named Endal. Parton faced another crisis in 2001 when he was hit by a car and thrown out of his wheelchair. Endal moved Parton, who was unconscious, to a safe place, retrieved his mobile phone, placing it beside him and then ran to a nearby hotel and barked until people came out to help. The story of Parton’s rescue became the subject of television documentaries, and Endal became a hero.

There are many stories about dogs who have saved their masters as Endal did. Nowadays, there are people who raise other animals as pets, but in the past a “pet” was always a dog. All dogs have a sense of hearing that is 2,000 times stronger than that of humans and a sense of smell that is 10,000 times more powerful than humans. Smart dogs understand about 70 words and dogs that receive special training have far more superior abilities. Two rescue dogs from Korea that were dispatched to the earthquake zone in northern Japan have finally returned home with their rescue team.

In Korea, the breeds of dogs that are trained for rescue operations are mainly German shepherds, English springer spaniels and Labrador retrievers. When they are 2 months old, dogs that meet certain physical requirements are selected for training as rescue dogs. They also undergo a sterilization operation to enable them to carry out their duties. The most important requirement is physical fitness. They must be able to run in the mountains for two hours straight, as they are often mobilized to search for missing mountain climbers in Korea. Even after undergoing training, only two or three dogs out of 10 are selected as rescue dogs. When they reach the age of 10, rescue dogs are retired from active duty and go to live with members of the public.

They say it costs around 200 million won to train a single dog. Dogs for the military, police and customs office are trained at the expense of the government, but rescue dogs for the 119 emergency response team are trained by a private company - Rescue Dog Center run by Samsung Life Insurance. The company has supplied 36 rescue dogs to the 119 rescue team since 1998. But beginning this year, the company plans to train only service dogs for the blind. It is strange that the government is neglecting to train rescue dogs that have saved so many lives.

*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

By Shim Shang-bok
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