When the Kuntz family returned to their home in Oso, Washington, after Saturday's mudslide, they feared the worst for their beloved dog, Buddy. But in one of the few positive twists of the Pacific Northwest disaster, Buddy, a chocolate Labrador retriever, survived the slide and was successfully rescued and returned to his family.
"We were looking through all the rubble, and we heard the dog whining," explained Quinton Kuntz. "I just broke down crying, really happy that my dog was alright."
The Kuntz family had gone to a baseball game the day of the slide and left Buddy and their cat, who is still missing, at home. They returned to find their house crushed and some 150 feet away from its base. Linda McPherson, an aunt in the Kuntz family, lived next door and, sadly, was killed in the slide.
As rescue efforts continue in the Snohomish County mudslide, dogs have been some of the most effective rescue tools. Highly trained rescue and cadaver dogs are now on site leading their trainers and rescue workers to buried bodies.
The large scale of the mudslide’s debris field and sheer number of bodies is reportedly exhausting the rescue dogs. "I always hope I find somebody alive, and I always have that expectation that we're going to, partially because my dog feels my emotions," says Lisa Bishop of Northwest Disaster Search Dogs, who works with a border collie.
If one dog signals it has picked up a scent, another dog is brought in to refine the target point before searchers begin digging with shovels.
The official death toll stands at 16 as of Friday morning; however, nine additional bodies have yet to be confirmed. With 90 people still missing, the death toll is expected to rise significantly.