Meet Frida, a 7-year-old golden Labrador retriever and one of 15 dogs from the Mexican Navy’s canine unit who are deployed in search-and-rescue efforts in the wake of Mexico’s recent earthquakes.
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On September 19, 2017, an earthquake struck central Mexico with a magnitude of 7.1, just 34 miles south of the city of Puebla. The quake lasted for about 20 seconds, or enough time to cause an immense amount of damage to three Mexican states including Puebla, Morelos, and the Greater Mexico City area.
The quake resulted in over 300 casualties and the collapse of over 40 buildings, many of which were schools.
Frida and her canine colleagues have been searching for survivors underneath the rubble of fallen buildings in the earthquake’s aftermath. Frida, in particular, has been gaining widespread social media attention for her service at such an old age. Frida braves the dangerous debris equipped with special goggles and dog booties to protect her paws. She has emerged as a symbol of hope and inspiration in the wake of Mexico’s devastation.
Most of Frida’s efforts were spent at a school in southern Mexico City, where so far 11 children have been rescued. Armando Segura, Captain of the Mexican Navy (SEMAR), told Reuters that Frida’s successful rescues for this most recent earthquake have not yet been tallied since she is still out searching for survivors.
The Mexican Navy recently commended Frida’s career, over the course of which she’s rescued 52 bodies — 12 of which were still living —from underneath rubble caused by natural disasters.
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Mexico’s devastation occurred on the exact day of the 32nd anniversary of the 1985 Mexico City Earthquake, which had a magnitude of 8.0 and caused about 10,000 casualties. The event was commemorated with a national earthquake drill that happened just two hours before the most recent earthquake rolled through.
The 7.1 earthquake only intensified matters in Mexico, since another earthquake with a magnitude of 8.1 had rumbled on the southern coast of Mexico less than two weeks earlier, leaving the Mexican state of Oaxaca in ruins.
Frida’s handler Israel Arauz Salinas told the Los Angeles Times that because of her age, Frida uses the help of her canine colleagues, two Belgian Malinois named Evil and Echo, who go into collapsed buildings first to detect any bodies before Frida herself enters to confirm the findings.
Reuters reports that Frida’s olfactory senses are expected to decline due to her age, therefore she only has a year left as a life-scent dog. Frida will retire and live with Arauz, who has been her handler for the past two years. “It’s a source of pride to work with Frida,” he says, “She’s a very, very special dog.”
See Frida in action in this special tweet shared by the office of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto: