That can be true in the most casual of instances, but in times of crisis the phrase can become even more real and prolific.
Dogs are quite often the unsung heroes in times of tragedy — going where humans may not be able to go and sensing what humans are unable.
There were plenty of them in Bradley County over the weekend as the Southeast K-9 Search and Rescue organization held a seminar for dog owners who want to do volunteer their time, resources and pets to the service of the public good.
There were also federal, state and local agencies represented among the 30 participants who were scheduled to attend.
Bradley Tank and Pipe offered their location, filled with plenty of items useful for simulation, for the purpose of demonstration and training.
Johnston Coca-Cola allowed owners and volunteers to use their facilities for classroom sessions.
“I think it says a lot about those companies to allow us to do this,” said David Lynders, who is the seminar’s lead trainer and instructor for the sessions.
“There may come a day when it is their building or facility that will require the services of K-9 search and rescue,” he said. “They understand the importance of what we are doing.”
He noted the examples of how K-9 search and rescue units are used in the case of collapsed buildings.
“You have pockets within the structure were people survive and they need to be gotten to in a quick fashion,” Lynders said.
“K-9s are the way to go. Nothing beats it yet. Once they are located, people can come in and dig them out.”
Lynders said once survivors are extracted from the scene, then comes the time for “the unfortunate task” of having to find the remains of those who tragedy may have taken their lives.
“We have what are called HR dogs, or human remains, that go in for that,” he said. “That process could take hours or days. It helps to give people closure by finding their loved ones that didn’t make it.”
Lynders said his purpose this weekend was to help people in selecting the appropriate dog and help develop the dog “so they become successful.”
He said he wanted to encourage people who are beginners in the process and tell them what is expected of them.
“All this is volunteer basis,” Lynders said. “I only train people who are volunteers. I don’t charge any money for this.”
He was encouraged to share his skills by Debbie Triplett, who is commander for the East Tennessee unit of Southeast K-9 Search and Rescue.
“Debbie told me not to go to the grave with this knowledge in your head,” he recalled. “She said I needed to come out and educate people so they could have success with this task.”
He said the local area here has gone from a very low level of having K-9 resources to having several dogs here “that are absolutely unparalleled and the best in the world.”
“The people in the whole Southeast should be very grateful to these volunteers who come out here and do this,” Lynders said. “This is all about the love of people.”
He noted these K-9 volunteers also give of their time and resources to help the Federal Emergency Management Agency when called upon.
“They do this and they don’t get paid,” he said. “It’s a wonderful thing all the way around.”
Lynders has come a long way — literally — in the world of specialized training for K-9s.
A native of Dublin, Ireland, Lynders said he was always around greyhounds and terriers and different breeds.
“Without me knowing it, I found myself teaching dogs how to track at a young age,” Lynders said. “I guess it’s like a child that starts painting, it just came naturally to me. It has just evolved over the years.”
He said the affection and affinity seen between police K-9s and their partners are probably amplified with rescue dogs.
“Meaning no disrespect at all, the difference is police officers are paid to do what they are doing,” Lynders said. “A lot of these people with rescue K-9s are just ordinary working class people. They spend thousands of dollars on their dog that has the right aptitude for this work. And they are doing this as volunteers.”
He said many of the volunteers raise the dogs from puppies and that increases the bond between dog and owner.
Lynders said the dog that is best attuned to the search and rescue task is much different than the police K-9 temperament.
“I look for a dog that doesn’t want to bite a human being, but has all the drives like chasing tennis ball or playing tug,” he said. “He has the athletic ability, but he doesn’t like to be aggressive toward human beings. It’s like a Formula 1 race car without the stripes.”
All of this begged the question as to how an owner who has shown so much affection to their K-9 place that beloved pet into the center of dangerous situations.
“It’s all about love,” Lynders said. “They just love and care about people. You couldn’t do it without that kind of love for humanity. That love has to be so much that you say you are willing.
“You are in a dangerous environment with them. Bad things can happen. But when you have love and the desire to donate your time to the public for the betterment of mankind, you bring a dog there and do everything to make sure he’s safe. At the end of the day, if we sat around thinking about that we wouldn’t be there.
“It’s like a police officer kisses his wife and children goodbye, he’s making a choice and his family is supporting him. If something bad happens, we all feel sadness and loss. But, we can’t quit because we go out there time after time and have great results.”
Triplett shares that thought, but as an owner.
“There has to be an absolute love of what you’re doing and these dogs are so suited, they have to have a job. They could not be in a pet-only environment,” Triplett said.
“It’s like firefighters. Your partner may be your very best buddy in the whole world. There may be a risk to your best friend walking into that building. We all know the risks. We lose dogs. It happens. God forbid it happens to us. It breaks your heart. But, it’s a disservice to stop them from doing what they want and what they are born to do.”
More information about Southeast K-9, as well as how to donate to the nonprofit volunteer organization, can be found at their website www.southeastk9 sar.org.
All funds are used for missions, training and equipment.