"He's not only my work partner, he's my best friend." Those are the words Mike uses to describe his Search and Rescue dog Echo, where they work together in the Great Manchester Fire and Rescue Dog service in England. Mike explains that many people do not know that there are dogs working within the fire department. It just highlights all the wonderful work that they do within the individual fire departments and rescue services.
When the earthquake in Haiti hit, it was the yellow Lab's turn to be deployed to an earthquake zone. When they got off of the plane in Haiti, Mike remembers that the temperature was 100-plus degrees, but that they immediately got to work to begin searching. Although it was scorching outside, Echo took it in stride and began his job. "It was an apocalyptic scene, if you can image that," remembers Mike. "The first 24 hours were horrendous."
Mike remembers one time when Echo was searching a building and there was an aftershock. Echo was out of his sight and he feared that the building would collapse. He could hear the bell on his harness ringing. It really hit home with him how much he relied on Echo. The Lab soon emerged from the rubble.
The local children also turned to Echo for comfort during their time of need and Mike felt that the dog's presence gave them a little bit of comfort during that chaotic period. Playing, rubbing and hugging Echo gave them a little peace.
On the sixth day of deployment, Echo suffered from heat exhaustion and had to spend an entire day on a fluid drip, but the next day, he was back to his old self again, aiding the people of Haiti. The Lab was even credited with helping to rescue a young girl after she was found under the wreckage of a kindergarten.
Because of his devotion to duty, Echo was nominated for the Crufts Friends For Life competition which recognizes dogs that have truly earned the title of man's best friend through bravery, support or companionship. Although Echo did not win, Mike feels that he has won by having this valiant dog by his side. "We work together all day. I trust him 100% and I hope he trusts me 100% as well," says Mike. "It's a great partnership."