Nikko, Riverside Fire Department‘s long-time search and rescue dog, passed away this week. His fellow firefighters offered a final salute as his flag-draped body was carried to awaiting transport on Tuesday. The Golden Retriever began his work with the department in 2006 when he was just a puppy. Nikko participated in several rescue operations, served as a therapy dog, and was a cherished friend to his brothers and sisters in uniform.
Nikko was assigned to the California Urban Search & Rescue Team, Task Force 6 and was also the family pet of handler, Tim Odebralski. Battalion Chief Thomas Jay worked side-by-side with the beloved dog during his entire decade of service to the RFD in Riverside, California.
“Nikko was laid to rest surrounded by family and friends, his lifetime handler Capt. Tim Odebralski, and members of the RFD honor guard,” Jay said in a media release. “The honor guard ceremoniously laid the American flag over Nikko’s body.”
“He spent 24 hours at the station with me if he was needed or called out to locate people,” Odebralski said in remembrance of his constant canine companion.
Nikko was once called to help search for victims in a vehicle that plunged into a river bottom. Another time, he helped search for a missing child in Sugarloaf Mountain.
Although Nikko never rescued a victim on his search and rescue calls, he was still a hero in his own right. Outside of his day job, the sweet, intelligent pup was also trained as a therapy dog.
When they weren’t practicing to rescue missing and injured victims or performing public demonstrations, Odebralski and Nikko visited sick and elderly community members.
But perhaps his biggest contribution was the emotional support he offered to the firefighters of Riverside. Nikko was always there to comfort his team after a devastating call.
A touching post from an area Facebook firefighter group reads in part:
“Nikko was an excellent search dog and a delight to work with. I always enjoyed it when Nikko was present in the station, his personality brought sunshine into a sometimes dark place. Please keep Capt. Odebralski, CATF-6 canine handlers and the RFD in your thoughts as they suffer through this.
Big bowls of kibble and lots of toy time Nikko, you will be missed.”
Thank you for your years of heroic service, Nikko!
H/T to The Press Enterprise
Featured Images via Facebook/IE Firefighter
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