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New Utah Task Force 1 K9 “trophy winner of all dogs”

Posted at 10:06 PM, Jul 20, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-21 00:06:50-04

TUTTLE, Oklahoma– Task force members travel to Oklahoma to welcome newest K9 member, Zee, to their team.

“The dog is a Heisman Trophy winner of all dogs, it is a search and rescue dog, it will find you if you're buried under rubble by a man-made disaster or natural disaster, it will find you,” said Ground Zero co-founder, Barry Switzer.

“We kind of saw a spark with Zee and I kind of grew attached to her,” said Karen Utah Task Force 1 member, Karen Stagnaro.

It was love at first sight, Karen Stagnaro knew right away, Zee would be the perfect fit for Utah Task Force 1.

“She's just kind of like, “Yeah! Let's get this job done, I can do this!’ So I love her for that,” said Stagnaro.

Zee knows all of the tricks to save lives.

The yellow lab has more than two thousand hours of preparation from Ground Zero, an emergency training center in Tuttle, Oklahoma that trains K9s in search and recovery.

“There's really a tremendous shortage of these type of dogs,” said Barry.

That's why Stagnaro traveled thousands of miles to bring Zee, to Utah.

“Their ability to track human odor is far and above none and so having this kind of resource available in the case of a disaster is invaluable,” Stagnaro said.

Something those at the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum have seen firsthand - Zee's “Passing of the Leash” ceremony happened at the same place as the 1995 Oklahoma city bombing, 168 people died, hundreds more were injured.

The co-founder of ground zero remembers that day.

“I took note of the dogs on site at that point and became interested in how amazing they were and it just moved from that point forward,” said Becky Switzer, Barry’s wife.

Zee is one of 16 dogs that have gone through Ground Zero, but is the first to go outside of Oklahoma.

“It's really critical we have these dogs with our task forces and emergency units across the country so we can find victims quickly and save their lives,” said Becky.

And getting a K9 like zee isn't easy.

“We don't just hand dogs over we have to see if the handler matches any of our dogs and it’s a two week commitment and if it doesn't work out, it doesn't work out,” said Becky.

But Stagnaro and Zee hit it off.

“She chose Karen during the course and these two are pretty impressive as a team.”

Now, they're homeward bound.

“It's exciting, it's really exciting,” said Stagnaro.

To learn more about Ground Zero, or to find out how you can donate to the cause click, HERE.