Newbie rescue dog hero in Hualien quake

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Taipei, Feb. 9 (CNA) One of the most effective members of the rescue team that sprung into action after a magnitude 6.0 earthquake struck Hualien on Tuesday night was a relative newcomer, a four-year-old Labrador that helped save lives under extreme conditions.

The dog, named Tie-hsiung, is the leader of a rescue dog team belonging to the Taichung Fire Bureau, which sent two rescue dogs and 26 people to help search for people trapped in partially collapsed buildings.

Tie-hsiung, meaning “iron hero” in Mandarin, has been working with its partner, Tuei-tuei, meaning “leg leg,” since soon after the earthquake struck on Tuesday searching for survivors.

Although it was Tie-hsiung’s first mission, it did not hesitate to plunge right into one of the collapsed structures, the Marshal Hotel, and found Chou Chih-hsuan (周志軒) and Liang Shu-wei (梁書瑋) under the hotel’s reception desk, said Tie-hsiung’s handler, Lee Chun-sheng (李俊昇).

Tie-hsiung was very excited to locate the victims, wagging its tail enthusiastically, Lee said.

Chou was found dead, but Liang was successfully pulled out alive from the rubble after being trapped for nearly 15 hours.

Tie-hsiung’s achievement inspired rescuers, said Lee, who admitted to feeling very nervous for the dog when it jumped into broken glass and ceramic items at the disaster scene during numerous patrols.

“This was the first official service for Tie-hsiung,” Lee said, although the Labrador served as an “intern” during the 2016 Tainan earthquake.

Tie-hsiung started training for rescue missions when it was two and joined the fire department in 2016. It always performed well in training, and is very outgoing, curious, and loves to eat, Lee said.

The dog has received various rescue certifications, including one from the International Rescue Dog Organisation (IRO), according to the department.

And perhaps just like any other hero, Tie-hsiung did encounter challenges during the journey but managed to hold on.

Lee said Tie-hsiung started scratching its ears and shaking its head after finishing its work on the first day and was later diagnosed to have an acute inflammation of its right ear.

But after getting treatment, Tie-hsiung returned to the rescue site in high spirits, undaunted by the cold weather or its ailment.

It did need rest like everybody else. Each mission for the dogs lasts only 20 minutes followed by a rest of 30-50 minutes so that they remain highly focused, said Chou Tsung-chi (周聰吉), a rescue dog instructor at the National Fire Agency.

Tie-hsiung began early Friday to participate in searches at the Yun Men Tsui Ti building, where five people are still thought to be trapped. No matter what happens in that search, however, it has already impressed its human colleagues by its work under extreme conditions.

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