Niki Burgan and Rummy, her labrador retriever, are a common sight on local beaches. They are part of a K9 and lifeguard rescue team, trained to assist in helping people caught in rip tides and pulled to sea as well as other mishaps that happen along the coast and in the ocean.
Burgan came up with the idea for K9 lifeguard volunteers after losing her parents and sister in a small plane that crashed into the ocean near to where she lives. While her mother and sister's bodies were recovered by fishermen, her stepfather's remains were never found. It is Burgan's belief that if the dogs had been in place at the time, they might have been able to change that outcome and it's with a sense that her family is watching over her that she continues to push for more and better use of the K9 lifeguard rescue team.
Every week the lifeguards and their dogs spend hours training for real life rescues. They simulate submersions and rescues as well as other tasks that can sometimes be accomplished better by dogs than humans.
In addition to his heroic efforts, like saving jet skiers and swimmers, Rummy is also a calming force on land, helping to reunite children who get separated from their parents at the beach and he is even trained to search for victims in rubble.
Burgan has lots of plans for more than can be done with the dogs and their handlers, including trying to stem the tide of human traffickers that sneak onto our shores and while Rummy is the only dog currently certified by the National Association for Search and Rescue, Burgan wants to encourage more dogs to go through the process.
You can learn more about Burgan, Rummy and the rescue team at their website: socalh2orescueteam.org
Do you know someone who turned a tragedy into a chance to do something good for the community? Nominate them for next week's AmericanTowns Heroes.