Two of Wilson County Sheriff’s Office’s four-legged friends have recently entered a more elite certification.
Maggie and Jojo, members of the county’s K-9 Search and Rescue team, both can now add that they have received federal certification to their impressive resumes.
Sgt. Don Witherspoon said that Maggie received her certification as a Type I Urban Search and Rescue dog on Nov. 2 in Salina, Kan.
“In Salina they had setup a ‘Crisis City’ where basically it was a city that had been hit by a disaster like a tornado,” Witherspoon said.
In order to get the type of certification Maggie received, she had to test in the Crisis City in Salina and find victims hidden in the rubble throughout the faux disaster preparedness program.
Witherspoon said the feat was no easy task, as the piles of rubble where the victims were hidden were 27,000 square feet.
“Maggie had to find five hidden victims, and she located all five in under 25 minutes,” Witherspoon. “That’s super. She’s just awesome.”
Witherspoon also noted that the Type I certification Maggie received was the highest level of certification.
Additionally, Witherspoon said Jojo received a Type II Urban Search and Rescue certification on Jan. 18 in Nashville through the Nashville Fire Department Training Academy. Jojo was involved in 13 different kinds of elements such as agility, rubble search and obedience, Witherspoon said.
“There are less than 250 dogs in the United States with this certification,” Witherspoon said. “The fact that we have two dogs that are that are both a part of the Wilson County Sheriff’s Office K-9 Search and Rescue team is awesome.”
The two dogs, along with the others on the team, are crucial assets to the department, Witherspoon said, because they help officers locate missing individuals quickly.
“Situations like if a child gets lost in an isolated area or [if] an Alzheimer’s patient were to walk off, these dogs can go find these people in the wilderness or wherever they may be and help us locate them quickly,” Witherspoon said. “In disaster situations like a tornado hitting houses and businesses, these dogs can go on top of that rubble and let us know people are down there.”
Witherspoon said Melissa Riley, who is the owner and handler of Maggie and Jojo, as well as the county’s K-9 Director, is another reason the dogs have been so successful and she “does a great job at what she does.”
“To have two dogs with federal certification is awesome because it’s just amazing to get to that level. It takes a lot of work and time to get to that level and pass the certification and to just be at this level of ability,” Witherspoon said.