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Search and rescue K9 shows familial bond with handler during Fleet Week disaster training

K9 search and rescue units play major roll in early moments of disaster
K9 search and rescue units play major roll in early moments of disaster 02:22

SAN FRANCISCO -- Emergency preparedness partners have descended upon San Francisco as Fleet Week presents a unique opportunity for disaster training.

Search and rescue canines are a critical part of San Francisco's emergency response. K9 Cassie was ready to show off her skills during these Fleet Week exercises. 

Handler Paul Sandigo of the San Francisco Fire Department knows Cassie loves her job more than anything except for her love of his family. 

"Cassie is my other half," Sandigo told CBS News Bay Area. "She's with me 24/7. She goes with me to the fire house, she goes home with me, she goes to the grocery store, to the movies with my kids. She's truly my fur partner. Normal people would have their beat partner. She's my partner."

Cassie is part of a team of highly-skilled dogs spread out across the San Francisco Fire Department used for emergency response. 

"She's able to say if we have an earthquake and a building that completely collapsed, she's able to go across the rubble much easier than we can," Sandigo explained. "She's able to find a buried victim. It doesn't matter how many floors and levels. We can go for days searching and delayering as opposed to a dog that could find within minutes."

For Cassie, it's a game of hide and seek. After a year of training, she learned to pick up the scents of people present and search for a missing scent that may be a person stuck below rubble. 

"It's a giant game of hide and seek for them like don't stop until you find your toy," Sandigo said. 

In a drill, Cassie is given the command to find a firefighter hidden in simulated rubble. 

"She's following the wind scent and that will take her to the victim," explained Sandigo. 

Seconds later, she locates the hidden firefighter and alerts Sandigo of his location. 

"So much easier than having a bunch of people do it," the found firefighter said.

Cassie's reward is a game of tug-o-war. 

"This is what she lives for. She could do this all day. She's happy. She's happy that she found her victim," said Sandigo as he played with Cassie. 

A four-legged member of the team that has become invaluable in emergencies, and a partner that has become more like family. 

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