Courage in Black and White



While flying up to San Francisco last week, I had the privilege of sitting next to not one, but two heroes.  One, Ron Wechbacker, is an adviser at Morgan Stanley in his day job, and is a rescuer during major disasters in his off time.  The other, Dawson, is one of Ron's two rescue dogs.



Ron and Dawson have worked tirelessly doing rescue work following events including, to name a few, 911, Katrina, and Rita.  Dawson is one of those amazing dogs you see out there, clambering over smoking ruins, sniffing and following scents until they find what they are looking for.   In Dawson's case, he's what's known as a "cadaver" dog.  He's looking for the fallen.  Ron's other dog, Manny, is a survivor dog, and he is looking for the living who are buried beneath rubble or mud or rocks.  Ron told me that in both cases, when the dog finds what he's looking for, he is trained to stand at that spot and bark until someone comes to investigate.  The dog's reward?  His favorite squeaky toy.

Ron and Dawson were on their way up to Sacramento to pay their respects to one of Dawson's fallen comrades.  Rescue work takes its toll on these animals - think about the stress on muscles and joints that climb over the remains of high rises... and the damage to paws from walking on hot materials or broken glass (Dawson doesn't like to wear rescue booties - it compromises his sense of balance when he's out there walking across a beam.).

After sitting next to these two guys for an hour, I was humbled, with my faith restored in mankind.

So a few thank yous:
  • To Ron, of course, who has given selflessly of his time and his heart to help so many families be reunited in life - or to have the peace of mind of knowing what has happened to their loved ones
  • To the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation, a volunteer organization who makes sure there are trained handlers and dogs ready to go where needed.  Check out their website and if you're wondering where to put some of your charitable dollars, think about them...
  • To The Guide Dogs Of America school in Sylmar, California, a wonderful organization that trains guide dogs for the blind - and who has donated several top quality dogs for rescue efforts.  Dawson, a gorgeous boy, was donated by the school to work with Ron.  If you want to donate to them, check their website, too.   I spent some time there socializing puppies before they go into training and I'm amazed at the work this organization does.
  • United Airlines, who allows rescue dogs to fly in cabin, and get where they need to go.  Southwest Airlines, their main competitor in Burbank, does not.  I don't get that at all, and I thank United for its enlightened and humane policy.
  • To Morgan Stanley, who has been so supportive of this kind of volunteer work. And remember, Sunnies, Worldwide Volunteer Week is coming up on April 14 - 22 - this can be your chance to find a cause that fills you with the kind of passion that rescue does for Ron.
  • And finally, of course, to Dawson and the other working dogs who do so much for us and ask so little in return - affection, kindness, food, and companionship.



Heroes come in all colors and all shapes.  Who knew?  Well, now I do, and so do you.


 

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