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Shelter dog joins search-rescue team

LuLu didn’t just find a home; she got a job


VISTA — She was a three-time loser who was returned to lockup at the North Shelter,
most likely for the final time.

Despite her striking beauty, LuLu’s reputation as an escape artist made her future look
bleak. But the saying goes that there is someone for everyone.

For LuLu, it was Dr. Glenn Wagner who entered the doors of the shelter just before
closing June 25. He was en route to his home in Vista after a 13-hour workday in San
Diego. Wagner, 64, is the chief medical examiner for the county.

Wagner had been searching the Department of Animal Services website for the perfect
candidate to fill the position of ME Canine 2, a second cadaver search dog. When he
saw the photo of the 1-year-old German shepherd, he picked up the phone to

“We don’t know if she’ll meet your needs,” the shelter worker said. “She’s a frequent flier.
You can come up and see her.” Wagner said he had a chance to interact with LuLu, and
was able to take her with him.

When LuLu arrived at her new home, she was greeted by Wagner’s 10-year-old
Chesapeake Bay retriever, Cocoa Bean, and his wife of 35 years, Joan. While Cocoa
played in the swimming pool the next day, LuLu as a working dog preferred to
accompany Wagner as he tended to chores on his 4-acre property.

“Animals love Glenn,” Joan Wagner said. “They follow him like the Pied Piper.”

Wagner has a love of dogs that began during his childhood in Philadelphia. He was
raised with foster siblings and stray animals his mother brought home.

He worked in a veterinary hospital as a teenager and planned to become a veterinarian

until joining the Philadelphia Police Department. Advancement to detective and the
crime lab took him in another direction. He went to medical school and joined the Navy.

As director of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Washington, D.C., at the time of
his retirement in 2003, Wagner participated in historic crime-scene investigations,
including the American Airlines crash into the Pentagon on 9/11 and the recovery of
remains for both space shuttle disasters. Wagner was also part of an elite team selected
to perform an autopsy on the president of the United States in the event of an

On July 17, 2003, Wagner assumed his current role, responsible for the medicolegal
investigations of about 11,000 deaths reported to the office annually, next of kin
notifications and disposition of remains not identified, or abandoned. He also supervised
the creation of a state-of-the-art Medical Examiner and Forensic Center, which opened
six months ago at 5570 Overland Ave. in Kearny Mesa.

Recruiting a shelter dog to fill one of the most prestigious jobs for a canine was part of
his plan. “I think shelter animals deserve a chance,” he said. “My instincts proved to be

LuLu will join 5-year-old, FEMA-certified bloodhound Theila, also known as ME Canine
1, as she undergoes training for the next 18 months. Theila’s owner and trainer/handler
is Chief Medical Examiner Investigator Gretchen Geary, who heads the John/Jane Doe
Center in the new building.

“Gretchen and Theila are involved in all of our search and recovery efforts and work
regularly with Sheriff’s Search and Rescue, Border Patrol and Southwest Search Dogs,
a volunteer group,” Wagner said. “I continue to be impressed with the capabilities that
canines bring to investigations in the area of recovery of human remains, fire/arson,
narcotics, general tracking, detection of biological agents of mass destruction and
agricultural contraband.”

Wagner is also exploring the possibility of using canines as therapy dogs for his
nationally acclaimed Bereavement Center.

Lillian Cox is a freelance writer from Encinitas.

JAKE - the shelter dog who became an American search

and rescue hero ~ By Pam D'Addio, West Palm Beach Dog Rescue Examiner

Mary Flood and rescued hero dog Jake working on Sept. 22, 2001 at Ground Zero

We all watched with jaws dropped at the devastation of both 9/ll and Hurricane
Katrina and we admired those brave souls who worked tirelessly to help the
victims of the tragedies.

Among those heroes was a most remarkable dog named Jake who'd once been
an abandoned puppy with a broken leg and dislocated hip. He had landed in an
animal shelter, homeless, unloved, and falling into the 'Big Black Dog Syndrome'
wherein large black dogs face tougher odds of being adopted. His amazing
journey from rescued dog to Search and Rescue hero began when he was
adopted by Mary Flood of Oakley, Utah.

Jake was just 10 months old and ready to put the past behind him. He would
soon 'give back' to show his gratitude in a most heroic way. Mary started training
the Black Lab as a service dog almost immediately. He was smart, agile and
extremely 'play motivated', great traits for a service dog. His training involved
lots of treat and play rewards and Mary says, "he was always ready to work,
eager to play, and a master at helping himself to any unattended food items".

The glossy dog did therapy visits to senior homes and hospitals and worked with
kids at a Utah camp for burn victims. After extensive training, he and Mary
became members of the Utah Task Force 1, a federal Search and Rescue team.
Jake was one of less than 200 government-certified rescue dogs on call at all
times to respond to disasters like hurricanes, earthquakes, avalanches, people
lost in the wilderness, and terror attacks.

Jake and Mary were at Ground Zero shortly after the attacks of 9/11. They
worked desperately to find survivors using Jake's amazing sense of smell and
training to search through the hot rubble, dust, debris and smoke. Americans
saluted many human heroes but got few glimpses of incredible dogs like Jake
and the work they did.

In 2005, Jake was again immediately on scene and working in Mississippi after
Hurricane Katrina left flooded homes and rubble in its wake. "Against all odds,
he became a world class rescue dog", said Mary.

Jake also helped to train countless other dogs and their handlers for SAR

From behind cage bars in an animal shelter, Jake had risen to national notoriety
as a dog who made service to humans his life's legacy. Every dog in every
shelter has value and potential. Perhaps your next adoptee from one of our local
shelters or rescue groups will be the next Jake, or maybe just the love of your
life. Either way, it's all good! Kudos for adopting a shelter pet!


PoL Dunder (aka Moses) is a yellow lab/golden retriever mix found at an animal
shelter. He currently is certified as a NASAR Type I Area Search Dog and is
operational with a wilderness search and rescue team. He is also in training for
FEMA level disaster search with Nebraska Task Force 1.

Paul Faust with 1800Prepare, who is also "Cool Guy Paul" on the Office,
contacted us and wants to pay it forward with helping out search dogs.

Become a fan of Dunder and follow his exploits on Facebook!