“Superhero” Pocka and the special spearheads of the Vietnam People’s Army in Hatay

Considered the most important spearhead, during the 10-day and night rescue campaign of the Vietnam People’s Army (VPA) in Turkey, six service dogs named E Py, Javo, Pocka, Or To, Vat and Tom Pa, are special forces of the Vietnam People's Army on duty in Turkey.
Major Tran Quoc Huong with service dog Pocka, in Hatay (Turkey).
Major Tran Quoc Huong with service dog Pocka, in Hatay (Turkey).

“Superhero” Pocka

On the last day in Hatay, Pocka, a 7-year-old service dog, received the “privilege” of not being locked in a cage. Lying comfortably on the side of the camp, watching people pass by - that is the reward from the VPA’s service dog team for Pocka, for his outstanding achievements during nearly 10 days of searching for victims of the tragic earthquake.

Leading us to “meet” the character called the “superhero” by the whole crew, Major Tran Quoc Huong, Captain of the search and rescue dog team (the Border Guard High Command), shared that right after the earthquake in Turkey happened, the unit advised its superiors to send a force of sniffer dogs to assist. Because this is a force capable of searching for victims at a depth of more than 10 metres, it’s suitable for complicated terrain conditions.

Not long after, nine military officers and the six most experienced dogs were selected to leave for Turkey, with the whole Vietnamese army mission. Among the “four-legged warriors”, Pocka and his “colleague” E Py are the most seasoned, since they have participated in many major search and rescue missions, such as the rescue at Rao Trang hydropower plant, landslides in Quang Ninh, landslides at Phan Me coal mine waste dump (Thai Nguyen), and landslides in Mai Chau (Hoa Binh), where many bodies were found submerged in the ground.

Seeing Major Huong’s shadow, Pocka raised his head, the chain at his neck tightened with a sharp and decisive bark. The yellow-brown fur stands up, and his tail is wagging when seeing his “boss’ coming to visit. Around him, five other dogs, respectively, Epy, Javo, Or To and Tom Pa, were also excited.

On his last day in Hatay, Pocka enjoys the privilege of...not being locked in a cage. ảnh 1

On his last day in Hatay, Pocka enjoys the privilege of...not being locked in a cage.

Gently patting Pocka’s head, Major Huong explained: The reason why the 7-year-old dog is nicknamed “superhero” is because, during the recent search, Pocka found dozens of locations of victims in distress. Right on the first day of the international mission, Pocka and his teammates proved their ability. At 11 a.m., 16:45 a.m., and 6 p.m. local time, respectively, the dog team and the 1st reconnaissance team of the rescue engineering team discovered three victims' locations.

Entering the second day, Pocka continued to participate in the mission in the residential areas that collapsed after the earthquake, thereby supporting the Vietnamese force to detect three points of people in distress. On February 19, the sniffer dog continued to detect the location of the victims. By the end of February 21, thanks to the effective support of Pocka and his “teammates”, the team had searched over 31 points, discovered 15 locations and brought out 36 bodies.

“In the field, every time he detects something, the dog will bark and continuously dig for us to plant flags and mark suspicious locations,” Major Huong said.

Service dogs search for victims of the earthquake in Hatay (Turkey). ảnh 2

Service dogs search for victims of the earthquake in Hatay (Turkey).

Meanwhile, Major General Pham Van Ty, Deputy Chief of the Standing Office of the National Committee for Incident and Natural Disaster Response Search and Rescue and Deputy Director of the Rescue Department under the VPA’s General Staff, affirmed that in fact, the use of service dogs in the last campaign has been very successful and highly appreciated by the international community.

Keeping “brave warriors” healthy is a challenge

According to Major General Pham Van Ty, six service dogs are the “most important spearheads” of the VPA delegation on this occasion. Therefore, all members of the team have also tried their best to take care of them.

Because the weather in Hatay over the past few days has been continuously at minus 2-5 degrees Celsius at night, with snow appearing, the six service dogs were immediately kept warm with clothes and even socks, right from the moment of setting foot on the ground. The barns are also arranged in a special position away from the wind, nestled right behind the tents of the officers and soldiers in the delegation. At night, the “dog’s house” is also covered with thick blankets prepared in Vietnam.

The “dog's house” is also arranged in a special position away from the wind. ảnh 3

The “dog's house” is also arranged in a special position away from the wind.

Even the diet of Pocka and his teammates was quantified before the campaign began: How many nuts to eat, and how to add beef to the 4-legged “squad’s” diet, to stay healthy. Only when going to the scene, the dogs’ warm clothes and socks were removed, so as not to get stuck in the iron bars or scattered rocks.

Careful is that, but occupational accidents still happened. Squatting next to Pocka, Major Huong raised the dog's front left paw to show us the scar that had just healed.

“During a search in Hatay, Pocka had a piece of glass cut in his front leg and was bleeding profusely. The injury forced Pocka to rest for two days before continuing in the field,” Major Huong said.

Right next to him, Javo heard the story as if he understood what the person meant and started barking to say that he also had an accident similar to his "superhero" friend.

The “warrior” Pocka’s new wound healed not long ago. ảnh 4

The “warrior” Pocka’s new wound healed not long ago.

“Service dogs are always loyal, always obey orders, are not afraid of danger, and are ready to receive orders in all conditions. For us, dogs are also long-time friends. In our free time, brothers of the team are always caring and encouraging the service dogs to better complete their tasks,” said Major Tran Quoc Huong with a smile.

Mexico honours the rescue dog that died in Turkey

Also during the rescue campaign in Turkey, a dog from Mexico named Proteo, died when bravely rescuing people who were trapped. Amid Turkey's mourning scene, a solemn funeral for Proteo was held. All the Mexican rescuers and the dog's friends were present. Everyone mourned the loss of this brave dog. Not long after, Proteo was honoured as a hero by the Mexican Ministry of Defense.