The Search Dog Foundation and Farmers Insurance work together to recruit rescue dogs in need into search dog programs, which teach the canines new skills and provide them with lifetime care.

By Kelli Bender
June 04, 2021
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Rescue dog becomes search and rescue dog
Dane Mehl/Search Dog Foundation
| Credit: Dane Mehl/Search Dog Foundation

Forrest believes in returning the favor.

The black Labrador retriever was rescued from Oregon last year and wasted no time trying to find a way to help others. In August, Forrest started training to become a certified search and rescue dog at the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation's Santa Paula, California, facility.

On May 28, after months of dedicated work, the rescue dog graduated from Search Dog Foundation's program — which receives support from Farmers Insurance — with four other talented pups and was paired with his lifelong first responder partner,  Tom Simons. The duo will spend the years ahead deploying to emergency sites across the country to find and save those affected by natural and manmade disasters. For now, Simons and Forrest are settling in at home and strengthening the bond between them.

Rescue dog becomes search and rescue dog
Credit: Dane Mehl/Search Dog Foundation

Search Dog Foundation (SDF) makes sweet stories like Forrest's possible by actively recruiting rescue dogs into their search dog training programs. Through these programs, dogs find care for life regardless of whether they graduate from the search dog program or not. Canines deemed unsuitable for search and rescue are given a new career that better suits their skills or are adopted out to forever homes. All the dogs that enter the SDF's search dog training programs have their healthcare covered for life.

Rescue dog becomes search and rescue dog
Credit: Dane Mehl/Search Dog Foundation

For Forrest, the rugged, dusty, noisy, and rocky work required of a search dog to successfully find and rescue people from disasters came easily. According to Farmers Insurance, which helped match the Lab with SDF, the "gentle giant" is "a very big dog who is light on his feet," and the 100-pound pooch "made fast work of training."

Rescue dog becomes search and rescue dog
Credit: Dane Mehl/Search Dog Foundation

"Forrest did very well, showing trainers every day that he loved to hunt (and to bark)! He was also introduced to building searches, where his confidence soared, and he thrives. Forrest loves to use his nose to hunt — it's one of the most rewarding things for him. Trainers also played with him on the rubble with the toy to show him that being on the uneven surface of the concrete can be fun. Forrest has become incredibly confident in finding his footing and enjoyed all the elements of training," the statement from Farmer's Insurance added.

Rescue dog becomes search and rescue dog
Credit: Dane Mehl/Search Dog Foundation

To learn more about Search Dog Foundation and how the nonprofit saves rescue dogs and then teaches these canines how to rescue others, visit the organization's website.

This story originally appeared on people.com