Dogs trained in Gilroy head to Nepal to search for earthquake survivors

GILROY, Calif. (KTVU) - Six Southern California firefighters and their search dogs are headed to the disaster zone in Nepal in hopes of saving lives.

Almost all of the dogs were trained in the South Bay.

Kate Davern is a dog trainer and manager of Sundowners Kennels in Gilroy. She says six dog handlers and five of the Labradors trained in rescue and recovery at her facility a few years ago. They are part of a group based in Southern California that is headed to Nepal to search through rubble.

"They don't understand that they're being little heroes on four feet," said Davern.

The dogs' names are Riley, Pearl, Tanker, Ruby and Stetson. Riley is a rescue dog from San Jose, and they will all be using skills they learned in the Bay Area.

"You train by teaching a dog that has a lot of energy and focus to retrieve to find a specific item which is a live human and bark when they find scent," said Davern.

"A lot of these dogs are so high drive that they can't just be a pet, they need a job, they need something to do," said Seaside Firefighter and canine handler Johnny Subia.

While they trained in sunny California, Davern says the specialized dogs have a difficult task ahead of them, especially because of the rainy weather.

"And it's amazing how deep a person can be buried and they can still smell them, but the mud kind of closes off the air pockets that allows the scent to move up," said Davern.

She says the dogs can cover four to five times the amount of space people can in the same time and says handlers are trained to give the dogs breaks.

The teams trained through the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation and left Sunday.

There's no word on how long they'll be deployed.