Mischief isn't always seen as a good quality but that is exactly what made Loki the ideal candidate to become the newest four-legged member of the Rochester Fire Department.
Loki, a 2-year-old Belgian Malinois, was selected to be trained as an urban search and rescue dog after he displayed "an affinity for climbing out of dog kennels and trying to grab any toy within reach," according to a news release from the fire department. The fire department is one of the agencies that comprise the Minnesota Task Force 1 -- the state’s Urban Search and Rescue team.
"Loki has turned out to just be a phenomenal search dog and he is just a great asset for our community and we are so thankful," Rochester Fire Department Battalion Chief Holly Mulholland said. "I’m personally thankful that I was chosen to be part of that transition from rescue to rescuer."
Katelyn Croteau, the K9 coordinator for Minnesota K9 Search Specialists, said when the nonprofit is considering dogs for placement in search work or law enforcement, they look for dogs that are going to be a "handful for just a pet home." They also look for dogs that are environmentally sound as a lot will be asked of them.
"We are asking them to traverse unstable surfaces on a rubble pile, asking them to do things like climb a ladder, walk a moving platform, things like that," Croteau said, adding that the dogs also need to be able to handle loud noises.
This is the first time Minnesota K9 Search Specialists has given a dog to a department but Croteau said they are hoping to do more of this in the feature.
"It is an honor and a privilege being to help locate missing persons and loved ones and we really felt like Holly just encompassed everything we were looking for," Croteau said.
Rochester Fire Department has more than one furry employee
This is the second time this year that the department has added a dog to its ranks. When Chris Ferguson joined as the department's first full-time fire marshal he brought along with him Radar, an accelerant detection dog. It was the first time the department had an arson dog.
While Radar is food motivated, Loki is toy motivated. In training, when Loki finds a person, he is rewarded with a tug toy or a ball.
"He is trained in urban search and rescue, so think building collapse," Mulholland said. "He is trained in a variety of environments and conditions to traverse unstable, uncertain surfaces to find victims that are unseen."
Loki joined the department (and Mulholland's family) in March. In August, Loki passed the first of his certification tests which tested his agility and obedience as well as some search elements. Loki is able to climb ladders and also be lifted up and down with ropes in a harness.
Next month, the pair will head to Illinois for another certification test that focuses more fully on searching. Mulholland said she hopes to have Loki wilderness search certified in the future.
Loki is not trained to track a person or find human remains.
Last week, the pair were part of the search efforts in Edina in an effort to help locate toddler that went missing at a park. The 2 1/2-year-old girl, Iklas Abdullahi Ahmed, was found dead in water adjacent to Edina's Rosland Park. It was the first time that Loki and Mulholland worked as a professional urban search and rescue team.
On Tuesday, the Rochester Fire Department hosted a demonstration at the Regional Public Safety Training Center.
As part of the demonstration, one of department's newest recruits hid in a rubble pile the department has for training purposes. Loki was then released onto the pile to find the person. Climbing up over the debris and through large pipes, Loki quickly located the hiding firefighter and began to bark -- exactly what he was trained to do.