Mex­i­can res­cue dog Frida be­came sym­bol of earth­quake hope

Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro - - World -

MEX­ICO CITY -- Even with­out res­cu­ing any­one from the rub­ble af­ter Mex­ico's big earth­quake, a pho­to­genic yel­low Labrador re­triever named Frida has gained an in­ter­na­tional so­cial me­dia fol­low­ing.

At least 344 peo­ple died in the Sept. 19 earth­quake, in­clud­ing 205 in Mex­ico City. For days, res­cuers who tun­neled into huge mounds of de­bris and self­less vol­un­teers who threw them­selves into work around the city were lauded for their ef­forts.

But no in­di­vid­ual cap­tured the hearts of Mex­i­cans and those watch­ing the ef­forts from afar like Frida.

Clad in gog­gles and neo­prene booties, Frida with nose to the ground and clam­ber­ing over crum­bled build­ings be­came a sym­bol of hope.

“In so­cial terms, this dog func­tioned like a tran­si­tional ob­ject be­cause maybe she didn't help us in any­thing real or con­crete — mean­ing she didn't res­cue any­one — but she let us feel like there was hope and that there were things that could help us,” said Fa­tima Laborda, a psy­cho­an­a­lyst and di­rec­tor of Casa Grana, a psy­cho­log­i­cal as­sis­tance and re­search or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Laborda said Thurs­day that in trau­matic sit­u­a­tions, whether war or nat­u­ral dis­as­ter, peo­ple tend to seek refuge in some­thing real or sym­bolic as they try to re­gain con­fi­dence and a feel­ing of safety. A res­cuer lit­er­ally re­mov­ing rocks to free you is one way to feel helped, but some­one can also “feel sup­ported by merely see­ing peo­ple in the street, be­cause that way I feel the sol­i­dar­ity of ev­ery­one else and that is sym­bolic and also can give me psy­cho­log­i­cal re­lief.”

The Sept. 19 earth­quake that shook Mex­ico City and nearby states was not even Frida's first in Septem­ber. She was dis­patched to Ju­chi­tan, a town in Oax­aca state that sus­tained much dam­age in the mag­ni­tude 8.1 quake that struck south­ern Mex­ico on Sept. 7.

Over the course of a sixyear ca­reer, Frida — 8 years old, 65 pounds and trend­ing in­ter­net topic — has found 41 bod­ies and 12 peo­ple alive. She has worked quake dis­as­ters abroad as well, in­clud­ing in 2010 in Haiti and 2016 in Ecuador.

But she didn't reach celebrity sta­tus un­til Mex­ico's most re­cent dis­as­ter when the Mex­i­can navy — Frida's em­ployer — re­leased a video of her at work on its Twit­ter ac­count.

Frida's star rose just as an­other sym­bol of hope dis­si­pated. For two days eyes were glued to search ef­forts at a col­lapsed school where in­clud­ing 19 chil­dren and seven adults died. Word spread that a girl named Frida Sofia was trapped in the rub­ble. But ul­ti­mately, the navy an­nounced that she had never ex­isted.

That left Frida the res­cue dog.

Ac­tor Chris Evans, of “Cap­tain Amer­ica” fame, retweeted a video of Frida at work, adding: “What did we do to de­serve dogs?”

Groups of women who knit of­fered de­signs in­spired by Frida on Face­book, with the earn­ings go­ing to earth­quake re­lief ef­forts.

No one re­sists Frida's charms, in­clud­ing her two han­dlers. One of them, Em­manuel Her­nan­dez, a marine cor­po­ral, said Frida was iden­ti­fied early on for hav­ing qual­i­ties of a good search dog: docil­ity, a good in­stinct for hunt­ing and strong sense of smell.

Her­nan­dez tamped down ru­mors that Frida's re­tire­ment might come soon. She re­mains ca­pa­ble and ready to work, he said.

In the fu­ture, she could tran­si­tion into more of a men­tor­ing role rather than search leader, he added. Two young Bel­gian mali­nois worked with her in Ju­chi­tan.

When­ever her re­tire­ment does come, she will be put up for adop­tion to navy per­son­nel.

“If some­one asks me if I would want to take Frida, I would say yes,” Her­nan­dez said. “But we will have Frida for a long time yet.” (AP)

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