Frida, the Heroic Rescue Dog, Saves Lives After Mexico’s Earthquake

Photos and videos of a rescue dog named Frida have gone viral — complete with her cute-yet-necessary work uniform: doggie goggles, vest and four protective, Velco-strapped booties. She has become a four-legged symbol of hope during these dark times in Mexico.

Although, contrary to some early news reports, Frida didn’t really rescue 52 people after the devastating 7.1 earthquake struck Mexico Sept. 19, the 7-year-old yellow Labrador retriever has nonetheless become a media sensation.

What’s true is that prior to the earthquake, Frida (she’s named after the artist Frida Kahlo) had helped rescue 12 people and recover the bodies of 40 people during her career as a disaster rescue dog with the Mexican Navy’s (SEMAR) Canine Unit.

Working with 14 other dogs in the unit, she has located 12 victims of the Sept. 19 quake so far.

Frida’s first mission after the earthquake struck was to find survivors at the Enrique Rebsamen School in Mexico City. Eleven children were found alive by other emergency workers. Tragically, 19 children and six adults did not survive.

Frida suffered from exhaustion after searching the school Sept. 20, her handler, Israel Arauz Salinas, told the Los Angeles Times. After napping and drinking plenty of water with electrolytes, she was in better spirits the following day and ready to go back to work.

Frida has two colleagues in the Canine Unit, Evil and Echo, who are both one-year-old Belgian Malinois dogs. Because Frida is getting on in years, Evil and Echo enter collapsed buildings before she does. If they find someone, Frida enters and spends no longer than 20 minutes inside the building.

The disaster rescue dogs can reach areas that are inaccessible to human responders, including spaces that are less than 20 inches high. When they find a victim who’s alive, the dogs bark. Otherwise they stop and slowly approach the body. “They act afraid,” Salinas told the L.A. Times. “That indicates to us that there is a cadaver.”

Like the other dogs in the Canine Unit, Frida began training when she was just two months old. The skills the dogs show in training determine whether they will go on to detect people, narcotics or explosives.

To train dogs to find people, they are first taught to fetch toys and balls. Once they learn how to do that, their trainers run with the toy or ball in their hands. The dogs learn to associate the smell of the person with the reward of the ball, Salinas told the L.A. Times. Before they’re ready to be dispatched to disaster areas, the dogs train for about three hours a day for a year.

Just two weeks before the Sept. 19 earthquake, Frida helped locate the body of a policeman after a massive 8.1 quake struck Juchitan. She also worked in Ecuador after an earthquake there in April last year.

Before Frida won the hearts of the rest of the world, even the president of Mexico, Enrique Pena Nieto, was a fan of hers (or at least the person is charge of his official Twitter account was).

“She is @Frida, belongs to the #SEMAR_mx and has helped save 52 lives in various natural disasters at the national and international levels,” says a @PresidenciaMX tweet on Sept. 13.

HOW TO HELP

Here are some ways you can help the victims of the devastating earthquake in Mexico. Please sign and share this petition urging Donald Trump to send aid to Mexico for earthquake relief.

Photo credit: Secretaria de Marina/Facebook

133 comments

Jennifer H
Jennifer H15 days ago

Good info to share, Nicole. Some seem to think the dogs are abused into this work. The dogs can't work if they don't enjoy or are in fear. The dogs work hard but are loved for it and treated well. Check out Bretagne, a golden retriever who worked 9/11. Most SAR dogs are personal dogs as well as a SAR.

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Nicole H
Nicole H17 days ago

It SHOULD be a well known fact that both the human who works with a rescue dog, as well as the rescue dog itself, are very well cared for and trained. No rescuer will allow his dog to take unnecessary risks. After the rescue operation, the dogs are brought to their vet, and are fully examined. Once the rescuer observes that his dog is getting really tired, he stops the activity. The same is applied when they have a certain age. When they would suffer during rescue operations, they go on pension, and stay with the man they have worked together with for many years. I have seen this in a documentary, several years ago, so I am no longer in a position to tell you the number of hours they work continuously or at what age they generally are retired. But it is at a young age. They have still years and years for enjoying walking, running, playing, etc... This is also the case when they are no on a mission. A rescue dog is treated as a prince or princess. I admit they have very hard times like with earthquakes, hurricanes etc.. but this is not the year around. All the other days, they live in heaven !!

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Nicole Heindryckx
Nicole H17 days ago

Among all the misery, sadness, loss, and so much more, there is a small light : the rescue dog. I know that some "animal lovers" do not want that dogs are used to work for us. Sorry for them, they are WRONG. Dogs love to please us, and therefore do all kind of jobs we are not capable of doing. Our smelling is peanuts compared to what a dog smells. And when these rescue dogs, specially trained to find live people, or dead people, or bombs, etc... get a nice pet after they have found what they are looking for : THEY ARE HAPPY. They are NOT abused, maltreated IN NO WAY. They are our companions. And I highly appreciate all the efforts these dogs have done over so many years, for so many people. And I am also very thankful to all the people who have spent so many many hours in training their dogs. Frida saved 52 people. ONE SINGLE DOG SAVED FIFTY TWO PEOPLE... How many did you save ? and how many is Trump going to save ???

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Irene S
Irene S17 days ago

Our training here is different. I tried it a bit with my beloved dog and she loved it although searching people is really exhausting for dogs. But I myself have not the nerves and time to handle a search dog.

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Kathryn I
Kathryn I17 days ago

Petition signed! Such a caring and precious dog!!! Thank you!

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Leo Custer
Leo C18 days ago

Thank you for sharing!

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Marija M
Marija M18 days ago

Hura for Frida and all who helped.

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Janis K
Janis K18 days ago

Thanks for sharing.

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joan silaco
joan silaco18 days ago

A God send!

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Carole R
Carole R18 days ago

Wonderful pup!

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