A yellow Labrador retriever named Frida has become a local hero in Mexico, and it’s not because she’s an adorably photogenic canine.
Frida is a 9-year-old search-and-rescue dog with the Mexican Navy Canine Unit.
“For all the work that Frida has done, the place she’s been, and the hope she gives society itself, she’s considered a hero for her notable work in all these emergencies,” Israel Arauz Salinas, Frida’s handler, said. “She is a national symbol.”
More than 300 people died when a 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck Mexico on Sept. 19, 2017. Frida was there with her human counterparts, tirelessly searching for people stuck in the rubble.
“She gives hope for life through her barks,” Salinas said of Frida.
Salinas and Frida were assigned to surveying the area of a collapsed school in Mexico City that had been in session at the time of the quake. At least 24 schoolchildren died that day.
“She moves pretty well through the rubble,” noted Salinas.
Frida, who has worked as a rescue dog for eight years, has been sent to Guatemala, Ecuador, Haiti and Juchitán, Oaxaca. She has helped locate at least 12 survivors of natural disasters.
“The work she does, the humanitarian help, the technical support that she provides the rescue team are special qualities,” Salinas said.
Frida has been trained to identify human scents that are emitted when a person may be in danger, which is different from the scent of someone that is calm, explained Salinas.
While on the job, Frida wears goggles that are designed to fit the contours of a dog’s head and boots that are made perfectly to fit her feet. Both accessories protect against the dangers that may be present on the job site.
“I think she demonstrated essential qualities for a rescue dog,” Salinas said of his first meeting with Frida. “She’s a dog that gives a lot of calm and peace and also reliable when it’s time to work.”
Her rescue work after the earthquake transformed Frida into an icon. There are murals of her painted in Mexico City and a footwear museum has an exhibit dedicated to her, featuring a set of the protective shoes that she wears.
“To me, she has become a symbol of hope for Mexico,” said Luis Ramirez, who works for the Borceguí Footwear Museum that features Frida’s shoes. “She is hope.”
Salinas said he hopes to adopt her once she retires.
“To me, she’s an extraordinary dog,” he said. “Very extraordinary.”