David Perks was hoping Wednesday afternoon that he and Tonto wouldn't be needed. The hope was in vain.
Perks and Tonto, members of Rocky Mountain Rescue Dogs, were mobilized Wednesday to go to Oklahoma City, where they will comb through the rubble of the bombed-out federal building, looking for survivors."I hope when we get there they've got everyone out," Perks said just before he and Tonto, a 5-year-old German shepard, board- ed a flight to Oklahoma City. Like other service dogs such as police and seeing-eye dogs, Tonto flies in the passenger cabin and not with the baggage.
Wednesday's callout is Perks' first for a disaster. He has been involved with search and rescue work for four years.
He was put on alert for the Northridge, Calif., earthquake a year ago but was not called out. The bulk of his work is finding lost children, hikers and hunters.
Perks, a Holladay resident who operates his own appliance repair business, dropped everything when he was notified through the Federal Emergency Management Agency that he and Tonto are needed.
He quickly made a plane reservation and grabbed a prepacked emergency kit that allows him to operate independently for up to 72 hours. The kit includes food for both of them, although he believes support equipment will be at the scene.
Perks said he was told to be prepared to stay on the scene for up to four days.
He and Tonto will work 12-hour shifts, with Tonto nosing through rubble for 20 to 30 minutes at a time, then resting for a few minutes. Tonto's reward for finding someone, alive or dead, besides being praised for his success, is to play with his Frisbee for a while.
Their job is to locate people, not dig them out, Perks said.