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Agoura Hills Dog Joins Rescue Efforts in Mudslide-Ravaged Washington

“Working the devastation on both sides of the [highway] was incredible,” says local resident Sheila Malavasi.

Rica, a 2-year-old German shepherd from Agoura Hills, in Oso, Wash. Photo courtesy of  Sheila Malavasi.
Rica, a 2-year-old German shepherd from Agoura Hills, in Oso, Wash. Photo courtesy of Sheila Malavasi.

As Pres. Obama makes plans to visit Oso, Wash. – where a March 22 mudslide wiped out a town, claiming more than 30 lives with more than a dozen people still missing – one rescue worker is making her way home to Agoura Hills.

Her name is Rica, and she has four legs. She’s a 2-year-old German Shepherd and a member of the California Rescue Dog Association.

“I will never forget Highway 530,” said Agoura Hills resident (and Rica’s owner) Sheila Malavasi. “Working the devastation on both sides of the 530 was incredible.”

California Rescue Dog is a nonprofit that operates 24-hours a day to help find missing people.

With Oso so far, Malavasi wasn’t exactly first on scene. They arrived April 3. She said she couldn’t imagine what first responders saw.

“The support from the locals was overwhelming and our Cal OES (California State Office of Emergency Services) liaison was really supportive.”

Cal OES sent seven dog teams from California Rescue Dog, including Rica’s mom, a 6-year-old German Shepherd named Rixi.

Rixi’s owner, Shay Cook of Concord, said it was hard to leave when their job was done.

“My heart wanted to stay and keep helping, but I knew there were many new, fresh dog teams to continue the search,” Cook said.

Each team was assigned to a section of the slide, said Noreen McClintock of El Dorado Hills, another dog owner. 

“They took a layer down, ran the dogs through, then took another layer down,” McClintock said. “If one dog gave an indication then they would bring another dog in. If that dog indicated, then they dug by hand. The whole operation depended on the work of the dogs. And the dogs were amazing.”

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