Harrowing hours of a delicate rescue operation later, Monday night ended on a tragic note when 54-year-old Miriam Pace was discovered dead under the rubble of her collapsed home in Ħamrun. But trying to get to her as quickly as possible – and even injuring himself in the process – is one dog who’s quickly become somewhat of a national hero.
Putting a spotlight on the brave people (and dog) who rushed to Pace’s aid on Monday, a TVM spot by Melvic Zammit last night featured Zicko, a seven-year-old German Shepherd who had one of the most important roles in the rescue operation.
It was revealed that, in the terrifying initial moments that followed the Civil Protection Department arriving on scene, it was Zicko from the K9 Unit who was first to step onto the rubble, quickly identifying the place where Miriam was stuck to his trainer Stephen Friggieri.
In his eagerness to get to Miriam Pace after he managed to locate her, Zicko tried to squeeze in through the jagged rubble… even injuring himself in the process.
Friggieri went on to explain how, while K9 Unit dogs are usually trained to stop in their tracks and simply bark to let their trainers know where they should be searching, Zicko went above and beyond and tried to get to Miriam Pace himself.
As a result, Zicko suffered some bruises and scratches, and will actually need to undergo some tests before he continue with his service.
But you won’t hear this heroic German Shepherd complaining – after all, as his trainer perfectly puts it, “at the end of the day, for a dog like him, this is all a game.”
Trained for tragic incidents like Monday’s, Zicko was brought to Malta from the Czech Republic when he was only a year and a half old, and was soon trained to hone in on peoples’ smell. It was for that reason that he needed to be first on the scene to manage to locate Miriam Pace quickly and effectively.
Zicko has already been hailed a hero online, with dozens sharing his stories and photos overnight
“Not all heroes wear capes,” one comment read. “Zicko and all at the Civil Protection are a living proof of this. Thank you for all the marvelous work you do.”
“A true hero,” another said. “I am truly sorry on behalf of dirty greedy ‘humans’ of which you had to risk your life and of the Civil Protection due to incompetent and filthy individuals.”
“No wonder you’re man’s best friend,” one woman quipped. “Hope you get on your paws soon!”
Monday’s operation saw 30 CPD members embark on a nearly eight-hour operation to try and get Miriam Pace out of the rubble as quickly as possible.
“One has to understand that sometimes, you can’t just put 10 people instead of five and expect things to go twice as fast,” CDP Deputy Director Peter Paul Coleiro explained.
“We understand that people – and relatives – would want every single person to work hard and quickly, but in reality, you could very well end up adding to the danger,” he continued.
In fact, beyond the painstaking process of having to essentially remove the large rubble one by one and by hand, the operation also made use of two hi-tech, rubble-penetrating cameras. Not to mention, of course, good old Zicko.