By Tony Lopez


SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — The newest member of the Sacramento Fire Department’s search and rescue team has quite a tail. Meet Hank the dog who may help save victims trapped by disasters one day.

The first year of Hank’s life was rough. He bounced around between midwest animal shelters and returned twice after being adopted.

“He was too energetic, he just had this drive that was unable to fit with a family,” said Sacramento City Firefighter Vinnie Fuccela.

Hank even spent time behind bars in a Nebraska prison inmate rehabilitation program but was still too much for the inmates.

Eventually, Hank was brought to California and put through a rigorous year-long training program by the Search Dog Foundation.

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“They came about in 1996 after the Oklahoma City bombing because there was a lack of dog,” Fuccela said.

Now three-years-old, Hank has graduated to become a member of Sacramento’s elite Urban Search and Rescue team, whose members have responded to some of the nation’s worst disasters including the World Trade Center attack, Southern California mudslides, and Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.

Along with his handler Vinnie Fuccela, Hank’s job is to locate and rescue victims trapped in rubble and debris.

“He believes anybody he cant see is somebody he’s supposed to find,” Fuccela said.

The search environment is often too narrow or dangerous for the dog’s teammates to follow.

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“He’s never thought about his own peril, and that’s the beautiful thing about having a dog,” Fuccela said.

Hank is now one of six search and rescue dogs on Sacramento’s U-SAR team.

“Every day he comes with me to work, lives in the firehouse and comes home with me, and lives with my family,” Fuccela said.

Fuccela said Hank’s reward for finding someone is a chew toy. He is also fairly quiet because he is trained to only bark when he has located someone trapped who needs to be rescued.

Now Hank is waiting for his first rescue call. The dog who was once too much to handle has now been given a second chance and is ready to help others heal.

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