From Kill List to Life Saver – This Shelter Dog’s Second Chance

This energetic Border Collie mix plays a mean game of “seek and save” in disasters all over the US

By Justyne Yuen-Lee


Credit: The Guardian

The Sacramento Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals made a call to Andrea Berquist when an energetic Border Collie mix made it to their “kill list.” Berquist, a volunteer for the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation, went to meet the pup to find out if he’d make a good search-and-rescue dog. Unfortunately, he failed every behavior test.  Berquist, however, followed her instinct to give him one last chance.  She went outside of the shelter, hid in the tall grass, and had a worker unleash the dog; he bolted straight for Berquist and covered her in kisses.

theguardian-Tony Panzica Photography

Credit: The Guardian / Tony Panzica Photography

Berquist brought him home and her son named him “Rocket Booster.”  Rocket’s working abilities were still in question, but Berquist was committed to keeping him.

Berquist brought Rocket to the foundation where he promptly failed all of the standard tests. She brought Rocket back home and intensified his training. The next time Rocket faced the challenges of the foundation, he passed!

theguardian-Denise Sanders

Credit: The Guardian

Rocket was eventually paired with firefighter, Mike Stornetta. Today, they play an important game of search and rescue where Rocket seeks victims of disaster while Mike does the rescuing. Rocket’s reward is quality time with his favorite toy: 12 inches of fire hose!


Credit: Facebook / National Disaster Search Dog Foundation

The National Disaster Search Dog Foundation is based in Santa Paula, California and operates a training facility with a simulated disaster urban landscape called “Search City.”



In December, a fire broke out and destroyed most of the foundation. It was a logistical challenge, but they kept things running while rebuilding. This fighting spirit is testimony to the dedication the foundation has to save lives. They send out canine search and rescue teams to points all over the world, including New York to meet the 911 disaster, Nepal and Japan following earthquakes, and into hurricane destruction zones in the continental United States.


Credit: The Guardian

Together the canine and human members of the foundation are saving thousands of lives. Every day that Rocket works, he proves that failure is merely a step on the continuum to success, and that the value of a single life multiplies into infinity. Cheers to dogs like Rocket!