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Working with man’s best friend

HE can’t sit still. And he loves playing in the mud.
It’s hard to take Rory seriously, because all you want to do is pet his black and white fur.
But this cheerful English Springer Spaniel is one of the four dogs responsible for finding the cause of the tahfiz fire that killed 23 people in September.
“He’s very hyperactive. Sometimes, it’s hard to control him,” says his handler, Lacey Elizabeth Stanley, letting out an exasperated sigh.
“Sometimes, when we are at the site of an operation, I would find him soaked in mud.
“He doesn’t like the hot weather, and is always looking for puddles. If he sees one, he will just go and lie there,” Stanley says.
The 36-year-old from Kuching is the first and only woman dog handler in the Fire and Rescue Department’s canine (K9) unit to date.
She has been Rory’s handler for seven years. Together, they work as a team to assist in fire investigations.
“All operations are challenging, but the recent tahfiz fire in Kuala Lumpur was particularly tough because it claimed so many lives.
“At the scene, the team conducted a thorough sweep so as not to miss anything,” she shares.
And while it can be difficult, Stanley enjoys her job, partly because she is a dog lover.
“The best thing is having good chemistry with Rory. He is a happy-go-lucky dog, and well trained. He listens to my commands,” she says.
Being the only woman in the team isn’t a problem for the mother of two.
“This unit has yet to have more women, but there is no difference in terms of training men and women firefighters.
“Women can match the men, it isn’t a problem,” she says.
Another dog handler, Christer Lasius, says it was a bit challenging when he was first paired up with a black Labrador named Tiny, whose discipline is in search and rescue for urban disasters.
“Tiny had a previous handler and he wasn’t used to me.
“But after a while, he grew very attached and loyal to me,” says the Sabahan.
Even if Lasius, 25, tried to hide from him, Tiny would ignore other people and look everywhere until he found his leader.
“I just hope Tiny knows that I really sayang (love) him,” he says.
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