“Whoever saw you with a dog, called you to search” says the trainer who accompanied the two heroic dogs
Tireless “workers”, loyal partners, tireless helpers. Under the instructions of their operator, the Pepper and Buzztwo Belgian shepherds or malinois, “swept” at least 72 hours the ruins of Turkey, contributing in their own unique way to the search and rescue of survivors, after the devastating earthquakes.
They started by road with their operator, on the morning of Monday, February 6 from Thessaloniki, a few hours after “Englades” hit the neighboring country. Immediately after their arrival, almost 27 hours later, they found themselves directly in the search field, as the needs to find survivors especially in those first hours of the disaster were enormous.
The two Belgian Malinois, Buzz and Pepper, at a young age, “flung into the battle” of rescue for the first time. The two have been trained in research and tracking people, however it was the first time they were faced with real conditions and indeed with such a natural disaster, without precedent. “Their reaction was excellent. Despite the noise of the excavators, the sirens that were constantly sounding, the wheels that were working, the people that were shouting, the two remained focused on their work 100%, as if nothing was happening around them”, says Mr. Argyris Kaunis, trainer and handler of the two dogs.
Pepper and Buzz are trained to indicate humans, under specific conditions and postures.
Buzz and Pepper’s handler, volunteered in Turkeywith the search dogs, in order to put his own little stone in the “tsunami” of help and solidarity towards the neighbor. “What it proved there, is that there are no flags in these situations, there is no ‘I’. There are only people,” describes Mr. Kaunis, describing the situation that prevailed between the rescue groups and the citizens, noting that “we were all one and did one thing, for a specific purpose.”
“Anyone who saw you with a dog invited you to search”
Describing the images he saw in the cities where he attempted, Iskenderun and Hatay, Mr. Kaunis speaks of a bombed landscape. “Actually, “bombed” is very little in what we encountered in the first hours. Anyone who saw you with a dog invited you to search. The anxiety for the survivors was enormous”, characteristically describes Mr. Kaunis.
“Like for example in the city Iskenderun where we were called to attempt following the instructions of the competent services and authorities. A doctor who was on duty on the night of the earthquake and that is why he was saved, was desperately looking for his wife and two daughters in a building that had collapsed”, he continues and adds: “But also in the city of Hatay we searched for hours in a house, where a family of 10 lived and there was information that there was an indication of life, however to no avail”.
The war scene and the needs that exist do not leave much room for complacency and delays for the rescuers. Their time is precious and every minute under the guidance of the dogs is important and can make a difference.
“You work like a robot. You don’t care what you are facing at that time. There is no margin. You have to filter the information and get the job done quickly. And of course your safety must be above all”, Mr. Kaunis points out.
Mr. Argyris Kaunis, who has at least 20 years of experience in handling and training dogs, as well as 26 years in voluntary organizations, volunteered with one of the Greek rescue missions and after consultation with the Turkish consulate in Thessaloniki.
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