by Micah Danney
The dog rescued from a crash in October is becoming a member of the search and rescue team run by the man who took her in.
Daisy, estimated to be between three and four years old, escaped uninjured from the rollover crash that sent her 49-year-old owner to Stony Brook University Hospital in a helicopter. Firefighter Chris Padden took her in until a permanent home could be found since her owner stated he would not be able to care for her due to his injuries.
After a story about Daisy appeared on RiverheadLOCAL, the department chiefs received about a dozen names of people interested in Daisy, according to First Assistant Chief Kevin Brooks. But they decided to forego adopting her out.
"We're not in the dog adoption business because we don't have the qualifications," he said.
They turned to Denise Lucas, founder of Riverhead Move the Animal Shelter, for help. RMTAS recently amended its charter to allow it to process animal adoptions, Lucas said.
But Daisy's alertness and keen nose had gotten Padden's attention right away. At his suggestion, she was evaluated for a position on the search and rescue team he leads and met the standards. The team's 15 members voted and she was in.
"As dogs get older and they retire, and we don't start a new dog before the old dog retires, now there's a gap in service," Padden said. "She gets along with the other dogs already - wasn't even an issue, which I was shocked with. I figured there would be a little bit of, 'Hey, who are you,' but nothing with any of them."
Padden keeps the several other dogs on the team at his home, where they live as family members when they're not training. He said his three children, ages 13, 15 and 18, took to Daisy immediately and are happy she's staying with them.
"She's in a beautiful environment and I didn't want her to be traumatized and taken out of that environment after she was in an ugly car wreck," Lucas said.
Daisy will serve as a scent-specific dog, meaning she'll be trained to smell an article of clothing or other item with someone's scent on it and track only that scent. Padden said Beagles are suited for the job because of their acute sense of smell, with long floppy ears that collect the scent. The team, a separate entity from the fire department, is used to locate people who are lost due to medical conditions like dementia or other circumstances.
Lucas said the job will be a good outlet for Daisy to exercise her instincts, and to be engaged with people in a positive way.
"Dogs love to please. You've got to give them a job."
Clarification: The original version of this story created the incorrect impression that Padden's search and rescue team is part of or affiliated with the Riverhead Fire Department. It is not affiliated with the department; it is firefighter Chris Padden's private endeavor.
RiverheadLOCAL photo by Micah Danney