The Rescue Team
By Suzanne Buzek
Amanda Odom didn’t think her family needed another dog. Then came Wrigley. In a little less than three years, the loving, pure-blooded black Labrador retriever has become not only a big part of the family, but something of a hero as well. Against the odds, Wrigley, who lost a leg as a puppy, has become a certified rescue dog.
“We decided that since we rescued him and he loves to fetch and he was so obedient, we wanted to have him give back,” says Odom, marketing and communications coordinator for the Xavier Leadership Center.
Wrigley entered the family’s life in dramatic fashion. Odom’s husband, C.J., was working in a veterinary clinic emergency room when five-month-old Wrigley was brought in. The dog had been hit by a car and needed to have his leg amputated. There was just one catch: His original owners couldn’t afford the procedure.
“They were just going to put him to sleep," Odom says, "but my husband couldn’t stand to see what was going to happen to that dog. Knowing that I would say 'no' to another dog, he paid for the rescue amputation for Wrigley with the condition that we took him in. He brought him home, and how could I not fall in love with a puppy?”
Odom’s compassion for Wrigley has grown into unconditional love as his place in the Odom family—Odom, CJ, and their sons, Noah and Jonah—is more than just a dog; He is a source of inspiration and help for others.
Starting in February 2008, the Odoms enrolled Wrigley in the Southwest Ohio K-9 Search and Rescue (SWOKSAR) certification classes. They attended “puppy runs” and large group practice searches. Wrigley learned quickly: It takes most dogs more than a year to complete certification; Wrigley did it in just five months.
Wrigley also got in plenty of extra practice at home with Noah, Jonah and their neighborhood friends. “We have 27 children in our neighborhood, and they all find Wrigley fascinating,” says Odom. “So just about every day when I come home from work, they’re out in the front yard hiding and having Wrigley come find them.”
Odom and C.J. are actively involved with the SWOKSAR as well. CJ is what is called a “handler” and works closely with Wrigley in finding missing people on a search, and Odom herself works at the communication controls unit as an intermediary for the various teams out on the search.
“Most searches are for when there has been a disaster and we need to find a missing person, oftentimes a child,” explains Odom. “We sincerely hope that we don’t have any searches, because that would mean something bad happened. When the wind storm hit in September, we were put on call to search a building that had collapsed, but, thankfully, no one was even in the building during the storm, so we were not needed.”
While it is hard work, the constant contact with people and seeing the engagement of Wrigley doing what he loves—searching and fetching, but for the good of others—makes it all worthwhile.
“You know how you can tell when dogs are excited because they just act so happy?” Odom asks. “That’s Wrigley when we practice at home or with a big group. I’ve fallen in love with Wrigley, and I have so much respect for him and for what he’s doing."
SWOKSAR works on an as-needed basis, and the Odom hopes Wrigley’s services won’t needed. But he’s ready, just in case.
“We work a booth at events like Dogtober Fest, or the Big Dog Festival out in West Chester, talking to children about what could happen if they were to get lost in the woods,” Odom says. “I’ve always been someone who gives back, and this is just another way that we’re able to do it.”