CROWN POINT | Let loose on a training ground piled with rubble, Jake, a British Labrador retriever, took just seven minutes to locate role-playing victims buried beneath sheet metal and slabs of wood.
It was all in a day's work for Jake, brought on board last month as a search-and-rescue dog with the Crown Point Fire Rescue.
Jake's arrival capped a seven-month fundraising effort by Crown Point firefighter Ryan Cusack, who'd campaigned to add a search-and-rescue dog to local ranks.
Cusack said a specially trained dog could prove invaluable to first responders in the aftermath of a fire, building collapse or other emergency.
"They're much more agile and can fit through small spaces," Cusack said.
Cusack raised $10,000, enough to buy Jake from the Tennessee kennel that breeds and trains dogs for the specialized work, and to provide him with food and medical care for the next year, Cusack said.
Ongoing fundraising will provide for the dog's future needs.
Jake lives with Cusack and his family and reports for duty with him at the fire station.
"It really helps to develop the relationship and bond between myself and Jake," Cusack said.
The dog belongs to the Crown Point fire department and will be part of missions undertaken by District 1 of Indiana Homeland Security, of which Crown Point is a member.
The need for search-and-rescue dogs has grown as new techniques emerge for handling emergency situations, Cusack said.
"If we can make it more efficient to locate victims, we can commit our rescue efforts to getting them out. It makes the process so much more efficient," he said.