Meet Aldo, the first Pit Bull ever to become a human remains detection dog for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
In the future, in the case of a catastrophic natural disaster, or 9/11-type attack, or some other type of incident that leaves many people dead — let’s hope none of these happen — Aldo and his human handler may be called in to work. They will search through rubble, through what’s been called “morbid scenarios,” to find the bodies of the people who perished in the event.
It’s a big job for a dog with inauspicious beginnings.
Last summer, Aldo was brought into the Redlands Animal Shelter as a stray. He was young and peppy — and he just wasn’t having any luck finding a home.
Volunteers noticed how driven and focused Aldo seemed to be, they told the Redlands Daily Facts — the first news outlet to report on Aldo’s certification. They were hopeful that Sheila McKee, who trains law enforcement and search dogs with Mountain View K9 Training Inc., would notice, too — and that she might decide to train Aldo as a working dog.
A couple of months after Aldo arrived, Sheila came into the shelter to conduct some training sessions. The volunteers “brought out this dog Aldo,” Sheila tells BarkPost.
Sheila has trained and handled working dogs for more than two decades; after 9/11, she was on the scene of the Twin Towers with a search dog named Guinness. During this first session, she was indeed impressed with Aldo’s attentiveness to a toy, an indication of drive and concentration, important characteristics in search dogs.
She started evaluating him, right then and there, and liked what she saw. After one more visit, Sheila decided to take Aldo home.
She figured that even if the dog didn’t pan out as a dog with an actual job, “at the least he would get some training” and be more adoptable.
Over the course of the last year, Aldo proved himself to be cadaver dog material. He is fearless and focused and smart. He has a stable temperament. He’s eager to learn, and to work.
He “just picked it up really fast,” says Sheila. “He just loved it.”
He also proved himself a great pet, with a charmingly goofy side, who is good with Sheila’s young grandson. She says Aldo’s worst trait is that “he kind of bothers the cats a little bit.”
Sheila has now adopted Aldo, in addition to training him.
And on May 14, after meeting all the certification criteria, Aldo was certified as a FEMA Human Remains Detection canine — the only blocky-headed dog yet to achieve this status.
“The most current stats show there to be around 73 FEMA Human Remains Detection canines, mostly Labs, some German Shepherds, a few Malinois,” says Sheila. “And one Pit Bull.”
REDlands Friends Of Shelter Animals, the nonprofit associated with the shelter where Aldo first landed, posted a moving note to Facebook upon Aldo’s certification.
It congratulates their graduate, of course. It also expresses the hope that Aldo’s achievements will help pave the way for other dogs like him — who might be overlooked because they have a blocky head, or come from humble beginnings, but who have so, so much to offer.
“We are so proud of you, Aldo,” the message reads. “Thank you, Sheila and her staff for showing the world how great shelter dogs can be!”
Keep tabs on Aldo on Facebook. Check out your local shelter for lots of diamonds in the ruff!
Get in touch at [email protected]!
Featured image via Mountain View K9 Training