How a shelter dog started rescuing people
Newman’s Own gives all of its profits to charity, like the one that prepares canines and first responders for emergency missions.
In May 2013, a deadly tornado struck the town of Moore, Oklahoma. More than 300 people were injured, and many homes and buildings were destroyed. Time was of the essence as the rescue mission began, so officials called in an expert: a certified search and rescue dog from the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation.
Chief, with his handler Andrew Pitcher, navigated the unsteady terrain quickly to find people in need of help – saving lives in the process. “It was a very, very challenging environment, but Chief worked all day when he needed to. He is a tireless worker and relentless searcher, and has extraordinary victim loyalty, never straying once he’s found someone,” Pitcher says.
Chief and Andrew are part of a FEMA urban search and rescue task force based in Nebraska. They were paired together by the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation, a non-profit, non-governmental organization that recruits and trains shelter dogs for search and rescue missions. Their goal is to improve disaster response in America by offering professionally trained canines to fire departments and other emergency first responders like Pitcher.
Recruiting, caring for and training each dog costs about $20,000 per pooch, but the Search Dog Foundation provides the dogs at no cost to the recipients, thanks to donations and generous support from Newman’s Own.
“Before I met him, Chief was found abandoned in a driveway in Colorado and taken to a shelter, where the manager noticed that he couldn’t sit still and chased every ball he could find. Dogs with high energy and tenacity may not make a very good pet,” says Pitcher, “but those qualities make a good search dog. And luckily the shelter manager called the National Search Dog Foundation.”
Lucky for victims of disaster situations, yes, but also lucky for Pitcher himself. When he was in a late-night car crash a year or two ago, Chief rescued him from the wreck.
“Chief and I drove from Lincoln to Indiana for search dog certification. We were there for three days, and I had to drive through the night to get back to Lincoln. I blacked out and the car went off the road down an embankment,” recalls Pitcher.
“The first thing I remember was Chief outside the car. He was trying to get to me. I hung on to him and he pulled me up the bank, as I was having vision problems. He was fine thankfully, and I was banged up, but I was OK,” says Pitcher. “His crate busted open and he could have run away, but he came to me.”
These days, when they’re not on deployment, they’re training all the time. “We work on agility, obedience, digging through rubble piles and following directions. Training with Chief is my favorite part of any day,” Pitcher says.
“I want to thank Newman's Own because anything Newman’s Own can do to help Chief do his job is going to help save lives,” he says.
For over 30 years, Newman’s Own has helped support thousands of charitable causes and organizations, with close to half a billion dollars being donated since its founding in 1982. Every time you buy a Newman’s Own product, you start a journey toward improving someone’s life — if a search dog rescues you in a disaster someday, that someone might even be you.