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By Nancy Nais
SERIAN, Oct 29: These black leather boots with a white lining are so tiny, they looked like baby shoes.
As cute as they are, the special shoes are not for human use, but for the Fire and Rescue Department (Bomba) Malaysia canine (K9) unit.
Fastened to their furry feet with straps, these imported boots are definitely not any ordinary shoes.
But why are these dogs wearing little shoes?
Bomba K9 Sarawak in-charge Dominic Girai told Dayak Daily that these dogs are valuable members of the department, so their safety is paramount.
“Each of them plays a vital role in the fire services department. Dogs have up to 300 million receptors in their sense of smell, while humans only have six million receptors. This is why dogs have a sharper sense of smell compared to humans.
“So to help them stay safe while they are either investigating fire scene or risking their lives either at rescuing people or looking for dead bodies, service dogs are given these very important and cute boots to wear,” Dominic explained.
He added that although the dog’s paws are quite tough, they do get cut and that can be very painful which may end up keeping them off work for a few days.
Taking the example of fire investigators, these dogs are fast, accurate and agile which makes them better at investigating the cause of fires than technical equipment.
“Fire investigation dogs are specially trained to identify substances that can start fires. These four-legged friends assist with criminal investigations to determine whether a fire has been started deliberately. If they find a substance at the scene of a fire, they will use their nose, with ‘freeze’ body to point out where they found it.
“These shoes are designed to protect the dogs’ feet from any debris which has been left, including shards of glass, wood, nails or other sharp objects. Since the specially trained K9 will do anything we command and put itself in harm’s way, it is only right to make sure that when they are deployed, it has as much safety equipment as possible,” Dominic said.
Of course, Dominic assured that these dogs are never sent into an active blaze, but they will go into the scene after the following day after a fire.
Described as ‘roller skates’, these service dogs are introduced to the boots at a young age so they can get used to wearing them.
When DayakDaily watched firefighters helping to put on the little boots on their dogs, the expression of this canine was, “what an earth are you putting on me”.
But it took just a few minutes for the dogs to get used to them before walking with pride and showing them off.
The Bomba K9 unit in Malaysia started its operations in 2003, while Bomba Sarawak finally has its own unit with six dogs in 2018.
Perhaps many people are not aware of their existence, that it is one of the driving mechanisms in the department to assist in performing efficient, fast-tracking and rescue works.
The United Kingdom (UK) trained dogs are base in Serian fire station and they comprise of four English Springer Spaniels (named Wilf, Sue, Bella and Cliff), a Border Collie named Daisy, and a Labrador named Bailey.
They might look like any other dog on the street but each of them has their specific talent and they are divided into three disciplines namely fire investigation (FI), SAR cadaver (CAD) and SAR wilderness (WILD).
As they walked with the newly arrived boots and their handlers yesterday, these brave dogs surely looked like they are wearing roller skates.—DayakDaily