Source: ABC (Extract)
Posted: April 10, 2024

Roger the labrador has a special job in Taiwan’s earthquake recovery — but he wouldn’t have had it if he hadn’t failed at another.

A magnitude-7.4 earthquake hit the island’s east coast last week, killing at least 13 people and injuring more than 1,100 according to local authorities.

It was the largest earthquake on the island in 25 years.

Eight-year-old Roger is one of four dogs involved in a special search-and-rescue mission in the Hualien county.

According to Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chi-Mai, Roger found his third body on Sunday searching the Taroko Shakadang Trail, about 25km north of Hualien city.

“Certified in advanced rubble search by the International Rescue Dog Organization (IRO) and specialising in ‘rubble pile search and rescue’, Roger initially hesitated while sniffing today but eventually stopped decisively at a certain spot, lowering his head towards a pile of rubble,” Mr Chen said on social media.

He said Roger’s handler, Xin Pap, said the retriever’s puzzled demeanour showed him something was not right, leading to the discover of the victim. 

The Kaohsiung Special Search and Rescue team had rescued 181 people as of April 6.

Roger was not always a search and rescue dog — in fact there were other planned intentions for him.

According to Taiwan News agency CNA, Roger had been born into a training centre for drug-sniffing dogs.

However, Kaohsiung Fire Bureau search and rescue team leader Chen Chih-san told reporters Roger failed to make the cut because he was too playful.

He said Roger had difficulty obeying “one command, one action” — so his career was changed from drug detector to search and rescue.

“I’m not saying he was not good or that he didn’t get along with others. But the requirement for narcotic detection dogs is that they can’t be too restless and independent,” Mr Chen said.

“But [these attributes] are what we want in rescue dogs.”

Roger joined the Kaohsiung Fire Bureau five years ago and is due to retire soon.

Along with other rescue dogs Chuanji, Vance and Mina, Roger has been treated with plenty of toys and snacks for his hard work during the earthquake search and rescue.

“The lively Roger is still full of energy,” the mayor said.

“After receiving the ice cream toy, he didn’t mind messing up his appearance while enthusiastically chewing on it, bringing smiles to everyone despite their exhaustion.”