SoCal Cadaver Dog Aids in Oso Mudslide Search and Recovery Effort

The dog was an instrumental part in the discovery of a young child’s body.

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    The only team from California to help search-and-rescue efforts at the scene of the Washington mudslide recalled the sobering task they faced. Vikki Vargas reports from Irvine for the NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on Thursday, April 17, 2014. (Published Thursday, April 17, 2014)

    A Southern California cadaver dog sent to Oso, Washington to aid in the mudslide search and recovery has returned home after being an instrumental part in the discovery of a young child’s body.

    The canine, Riggs, and her handler Su Vodrazka, joined Dr. Ken Miller, Captain Steve Dohman and Captain Kevin Fetterman as part of California Task Force number 5, the only FEMA-sponsored Search and Recovery team deployed to the Oso Mudslide from California.

    The 2-year-old lab was called to duty not to rescue, but to recover.

    "To them, they smell something, they tell me about it, they get a toy. It's as simple as that for them," Vodrazka said.

    The team was in Oso for nearly two weeks, wading through high mud and picking through piles of what were once homes.

    "Just making the conditions even that much more difficult was the Encounter a photo album, or a bike or you know something like that. Its just in the mud amidst all of this," Vodrazka said.

    The team deployed on Apr. 3 and returned Wednesday. On Apr. 10, Riggs found the remains of a small child.

    "She took off, I mean on a full run because finally she could,” Vodrazka said. “(She) spun in the air, turned around put her nose down and sat."

    In some ways, the discovery was a mission accomplished for the recovery team.

    "After 9/11 we found out how important it is to have something to bury, so I was glad to give that to somebody, to a family," Vodrazka said.

    The mudslide occurred on Mar. 22. So far, 39 victims have been recovered and as of Thursday, four people were still missing.

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