Failed Drug-Sniffing Dog Becomes Icon In Taiwan's Earthquake Recovery

Roger was "too friendly and boisterous" for work in drug detection — but his personality was perfect for a search-and-rescue dog.

A Labrador retriever deemed too friendly to become a drug-sniffing dog has made a name for himself as a star of Taiwan’s earthquake recovery efforts.

Roger, 8, is one of four search and rescue dogs sent to sniff through the rubble of this month’s 7.4-magnitude earthquake, which left at least 16 people dead. Last week, the dog located the body of a 21-year-old woman in Hualien County, the quake’s thirteenth confirmed death, The New York Times reported.

A rescuer and rescue dog searching the Taroko National Park after an earthquake in Hualien on April 5.
A rescuer and rescue dog searching the Taroko National Park after an earthquake in Hualien on April 5.
CNA/AFP via Getty Images

Roger had a winding road to success. As a puppy, he was intended to be trained as a drug detection dog for customs, but it soon became clear he was not cut out for that kind of work, according to Taiwan’s Central News Agency. The young canine was simply “too friendly and boisterous” for the duties required, his now-handler, Lee Hsin Hung, told the Times.

The same qualities that made Roger ill-suited for drug sniffing made him a promising search-and-rescue candidate.

“The requirement for narcotic detection dogs is that they can’t be too restless and independent,” Chen Chih-san, captain of the Kaohsiung Fire Bureau’s rescue dog unit, told CNN. “But [these attributes] are what we want in rescue dogs.”

That personality is a big part of what’s made Roger a media sensation. He’s stolen the show on news segments by grabbing the microphone or tearing up a stuffed toy with gusto. Per the Times, Roger has become a talk show guest and media in Taiwan have branded him a “little hero.”

Roger has been a part of seven search and rescue missions in the past four years, but is set to retire once he reaches age 9, CNA reported, noting that the fire bureau will find an adoptive home for him.

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