A dog rescued from the Yolo County Animal Services shelter is helping search for bodies at the site of the Texas fertilizer plant explosion.
It's a long way from the Yolo County shelter to West, Texas, where Tucker, a Labrador retriever mix, has been using his keen nose to search homes near the epicenter of the explosion that demolished surrounding neighborhoods for blocks and left about 200 people injured
Authorities said Friday that the bodies of 12 people have been recovered from the explosion.
Tucker was called into work with his handler Keri Grant, a firefighter-paramedic with the McKinney, Texas, Fire Department. Tucker lives with Grant, her husband, Stuart, son, Sammy, and two Weimaraners, Duke and Missy Anne.
However, he began his road to search and rescue work this way:
A volunteer for the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation combing shelters online for possible search dog candidates in 2009 came across a listing for a five-month-old lab mix at the Yolo County animal shelter.
The volunteer was searching for labs, lab mixes, Golden Retrievers and Golden mixes.
The description of the Yolo County dog merited an in-person look, according to the foundation's website. Tucker was then confirmed as a prime candidate.
He was taken to Ojai, Ventura County, for a stay with the foundation's canine manager where Tucker blended in with other dogs.
His long legs and huge feet, and enormous ears, hinted at some hound in Tucker's mixed heritage.
"But that was ok, as long as the Lab came out when it was time to work," according to the foundation's website. "And did it ever!"
A "toy nut" the dog was determined, despite his big-footed awkwardness, to navigate any training terrain to retrieve a toy.
When the dog was seven-months-old, Tucker started his formal training in Gilroy, Santa Clara County, before being paired with Texas firefighter Grant in January 2010.
The Search Dog Foundation is a non-profit organization based in Ojai. The SDF attempts to strengthen disaster preparedness by partnering rescued dogs with firefighters to find people buried in disaster wreckage.
The dogs are provided at no cost to fire departments and other first responders.
Call The Bee's Bill Lindelof, (916) 321-1079. Follow him on Twitter @Lindelofnews.