A SYMBOL OF HOPE
Frida was a yellow Labrador retriever, born in Mexico City.
She belonged to the Mexican Navy (SEMAR), who are based in Coyoacan, in the capital city. She was trained as a rescue dog when she was a tiny puppy.
Her trainer and handler was Petty Officer 2nd Class, Israel Arauz Salinas.
She was trained as a rescue dog, used where there were earthquakes and other disasters. She wore protective goggles and neoprene booties – as did Israel.
Her first disaster was the earthquake in Haiti in 2010. She saved 12 people.
In 2013 she was working after an explosion at Pemex Tower, where there was a gas explosion.
Her first Mexican earthquake came in 2013 with a magnitude of 7Mw (they are measured on the Moment Magnitude Scale – part of the Richter Scale).
From then on it was non-stop tireless work, including earthquakes abroad e.g., Guatemala and Ecuador in 2017. It was said, “Her bark always gives hope”.
Her big moment came with two earthquakes in the Puebla State of Mexico in September 2017. The first registered 7.1Mw on the 7th of September, and the second was 8.2Mw on the 19th of the month.
Overnight, due to her work rescuing people, she became a national hero, a “symbol of hope”. She became a social media star and a national icon. There was artwork, t-shirts, comic books – all featuring Frida. There was a large street mural of her in the Mexico City area of Roma, painted by artist Celeste Byers.
It is uncertain how many people she rescued. The national press claimed many, but the Mexican Navy said she rescued nobody in 2017, although her overall total was 12, with 43 dead bodies recovered.
In 2018 her boots (along with handler Israel’s boots) were donated to Mexico City’s ‘El Borcequi Footwear Museum’.
She retired from active duty in 2019 and was rewarded with a chew toy. Nevertheless, she continued to train other rescue dogs.
She was honoured with a statue of her in Puebla.
A second statue of her was created in the Navy compound in Coyoacan. She was present at the unveiling. The plaque underneath the statue reads, “Your life motivates us to continue giving everything to Mexico. Thank you, dear Frida.”
At her death, Mexico’s Naval Minister, Jose Rafael Ojeda said on behalf of SEMAR, “Dear Frida, although we are hurt by your departure, the Naval family promises today to honour your memory, acting under the legacy that you taught us: kindness, loyalty and love. Thank you for serving Mexico – you will always live in our hearts.”
When she died, her ashes were buried beneath this second statue. Another plaque was added – “Frida – mission accomplished with honour.”
SEMAR (Mexican Navy) have set up a canine training unit in her name.
RIP – Retriever Impresses Puebla