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Earlier this month I saw the local Humane Fund Award for Canine Excellence  recipients honored at the American Kennel Club and Cat Fanciers Association’s Meet the Breeds  event in New York. In the past, many search and rescue dogs have been honored with the ACE award, but this year I was inspired by one team in particular--Cassius and Peter Taft.
Cassius was a Milwaukee shelter dog destined for euthanasia. Fortunately someone recognized the German Shepherd’s potential and brought the special pup to train at Seattle’s Northwest K9 Academy to become a search and rescue dog.
Peter Taft came from the other side of the country--New York City. Taft is a fashion photographer and self-described “art geek.” Although he eventually became a trained paramedic, Taft never thought he was capable of search and rescue work until he met a friend’s SAR dog. Taft’s decision to become involved was solidified after 9/11. Taft then discovered Cassius at the Northwest K9 Academy and an unlikely team was born.
Since finishing their training, Cassius and Taft have traveled to Haiti after the earthquake, Sri Lanka following the 2004 tsunami, and New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, searching the rubble for survivors.
Search and rescue work may seem like something limited to professionals, but Cassius and Taft’s story  shows that any dog and any person, no matter what background, can become involved in an important mission to help others.