I joined Maryland Task Force 1 (MD-TF1) as a K-9 handler in 1996. My first K-9 was Jake, a wonderful German Shepherd Dog that brought me years of joy and tons of rubble frustration! They say you make all of your mistakes on the first 􀳦 I􀳦m inclined to agree. Jake passed his Type II on two separate occasions and worked several deployments with me, ranging from two train derailments, one parking garage collapse, the Pentagon on 9-11, and a tornado in LaPlata, Maryland. After working with three other German Shepherd Dogs in an attempt to find a suitable successor, I imported a 􀳦green􀳦 Belgian Malinois from the Czech Republic who I named Daros. Within a few months Daros passed his inhouse and within a few more months his Type I and Type II. Daros is living proof that there are dogs born to do this work.

I started Search and Rescue Assist, Inc. (SARA) in 2000 because money was only sporadically available to assist K-9 teams with training, gear, and K-9 care. It cost thousands of dollars every year to maintain the health of a search dog and to travel to training sites across the county in order to fully train a disaster dog. Over the years we have helped our fellow handlers by purchasing helmets, providing money to offset travel and veterinary expenses, and most notably, in 2004, we built an advanced disaster training facility that exceeds the FEMA standards.

Sam Balsam, Founder and CEO of SARA