In a Disaster Zone, He's Top Dog
Like the best superheroes, Cassius has a mild-mannered alter ego: He's the tail-wagging pet of New York photographer Peter Taft. And just as in the comics, he has a love interest: Gertie, a pit bull. But when there's trouble, regardless of how far away, Cassius is there. (So, of course, is Taft, also a certified paramedic who volunteers their services to rescue agencies.) Trained to locate living victims in disaster zones, Cassius arrived within days of Hurricanes Ivan and Katrina and the Haiti earthquake to locate and calm people in the rubble. Since 2004, he's served more than 1,000 hours in the field.
"It's a complicated hide-and-go-seek he's playing," explains Taft, who adopted the former shelter puppy in 2002 from a K9 training school. "He has the nose and the brain to play on the level we play it." Francisco Bermudez, an EMT, was in Haiti when Cassius sniffed out a man who had been buried for eight days. "It was a miracle," says Bermudez. "Nobody would have known he was there. Cassius is amazing." In September Cassius' work earned him an American Kennel Club Humane Fund Award for Canine Excellence. The honor hasn't changed him, says Taft. At home Cassius remains "cute and goofy-but he still has the drive."
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