Among hundreds of first responders in the Oklahoma City bombing, was another kind of hero, the four-legged kind.
Two dozen K-9 teams searched for victims and survivors. One was a trainer from California and she's made it her life's work to honor the victims.
Nearly 20 years ago, Wilma Melville created a foundation to train search and rescue K-9's.
To honor the birthplace of the idea, Melville set a goal to train 168 dogs to honor each of the lives taken from the bombing.
Hours after the bombing at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, Melville and her black Labrador, Murphy, were deployed to Oklahoma City to search for survivors.
“As we stepped off the bus, each handler was completely blown away, just dismayed really at the size of the disaster,” Search Dog Foundation founder Melville said.
But it was from this tragedy the Search Dog Foundation was born. The Oklahoma City bombing revealed to Melville the desperate need for more search and rescue K-9's.
Melville made it her life's work to honor each of the lives taken in the bombing.
“It's a personal milestone for me and a wonderful achievement for the search dog foundation. And it's a gift a gift to Oklahoma, it's a gift to the nation,” she said.
In the upcoming weeks, the 168th dog will complete its training.
Several of the dogs Melville trained are now with the Oklahoma City Fire Department. Even after leaving the Search Dog Foundation training facility in southern California, these dogs still work weekly to hone their searching skills.
Search and rescue dogs are now the go-to tool to find living victims.
“There is no way to adequately search visually. The dog and his sense of smell is by far the best tool that we have,” Melville said.
Four-legged tools searching through disaster zones looking for the scent of a survivor its handler can rescue.
That 168th dog will be placed with a handler in southern California who will know how important and special the dog is to the foundation.