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Hail To A Fallen Hero

As reported by TBO.com, black Labrador Retriever Marley spent a 9 year career as a search and rescue dog, with tours of duty that included crawling and sniffing through the World Trade Center ruins after 9/11, and performing her duties amidst the destruction of 8 different hurricanes. According to Marley’s owner and handler, Captain Mark Bogush, no matter how devastating and challenging the scene, Marley approached her job with a nose that never quit, and with a singular focus to find survivors.

As the 12 year old dog layed on a table at an animal hospital suffering from bloat (and what I am assuming were likely severe complications arising from that, but the TBO.com reporting did not get into details) was given a 50% chance of surviving emergency surgery. For Captain Bogush, the answer was clear, to say goodbye to his heroic companion and coworker, and let her go in peace by euthanasia, at her side, stroking her as she parted from this earth.

As a trainer of search and rescue dogs, Captain Bogush maintained that he spent years preparing himself for the possibility Marley could suffer a fatal injury in a disaster area. Still, the decision to euthanize Marley was almost too painful to bear. “It tore your heart out,” he stated. “I’m sure I was blabbering at the time. It was hard to see her through the tears.”

A friend had asked Bogush at a party if he wanted a dog because a young black Lab was damaging his friend’s house. The friend had a newborn infant and did not have the time or patience to train the likes of a destructive Labrador puppy named Marley.

After Bogush saw Marley literally dragging his friend’s wife as she tried to walk her, the fire rescue captain knew he had witnessed a trait essential for all search and rescue dogs: high energy. Captain Bogush had just joined Tampa Fire Rescue’s first urban search and rescue team. Another dog, Jessie, was already under search and rescue training by Lt. Roger Picard. Bogush did not know if Marley would develop the skills to work along with Jessie. He began her training slowly, by first taking a favorite toy and throwing it into thick brush. “If she doesn’t quit, that’s a good search dog,” Bogush stated. “She searched and searched until she found that goofy little toy. She was a lucky find.”

The next step was to have another person go and hide in possession of the toy. Shortly thereafter, Marley treated search and rescue like a game of hide-and-seek. Captain Bugush truly felt that Marley’s main motivation for searching for people amidst the World Trade Center rubble, was the idea that someone may “pop up and play with her,” Bogush mused.

Marley had been retired from search and rescue for three years at the time of her passing. Although she never found a single survivor in her career, it was her tenacity that saved firefighters precious time and energy that she is most remembered for according to Captain Bogush.

Marley will be remembered by those who loved her and had the privilege to work with her, as a pioneer, a friendly, outgoing dog who licked children’s faces in pediatric care units and, even through her retirement, a dog who still kept on sniffing for snacks or treats.

Bogush stated, “The nose was her biggest quirk. That nose never stopped working.”

I salute you Marley, and the thousands of service dogs like you, for in the short years you spend on this earth, you most certainly make it a better place!

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