After Taiwan Quake, Failed Drug-Sniffing Dog Becomes a Star

Search and rescue dog Roger was 'too friendly' for narcotics unit
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 11, 2024 8:09 AM CDT

Numerous dogs have taken part in search and rescue operations in the aftermath of last week's massive earthquake in Taiwan but a Labrador retriever named Roger has been getting the most attention—and it's partly because of his former career. His handler, Lee Hsin Hung, tells the New York Times that Roger was trained as a drug-sniffing dog but was rejected from the program for being "too friendly and boisterous." Lee chose Roger, then a 1-year-old puppy, to join the Kaohsiung Fire Department's emergency response team.

Chen Chih-san, captain of the department's rescue dog unit, says Roger was a good dog that got along with others, but "the requirement for narcotic detection dogs is that they can't be too restless and independent," CNN reports. But those qualities, he said, are what they look for in rescue dogs. Chen says Roger has taken part in multiple search and rescue missions over the years, including a 2016 mission to search for earthquake survivors. On Saturday, Roger found a young woman's body under rubble in a national park, bringing the quake's death toll to 13, the Times reports.

Roger's antics in front of the media have also helped to make him a star. He tried to chew on a reporter's microphone in one appearance and ripped apart a soft toy while Lee praised his bravery in another. But Roger's search and rescue days are numbered, Taiwan's Central News Agency reports. Under department policy and animal welfare laws, Roger will retire and a new home will be found for him when he turns 9 later this year. Lee tells the Times that Roger is already showing his age. After Saturday's mission, "when he jumped into the car, he was a little unsteady and I had to support him," he says. (More Taiwan earthquake stories.)

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