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Rescue Dogs Saving Lives for a Game of Tug-of-War

On the night of April 7, 2020, search and rescue dog Luka and his handler Adam Leckonby were scouting out a ravine in Rotterdam, New York in search of a 12-year-old boy and 14-year-old girl. The kids had lost their way on an adventure walk five hours earlier that day and it was getting urgent with cold and rainy weather. 

Through the dark, wet conditions, Luka, a 4 ½-year-old Belgian Malinois, eagerly sniffed out the right way to go and led Leckonby right to where the two kids had taken shelter under some fallen vegetation. The kids were cold and shaken, but safe and unharmed. As a reward for a job well done, Luka got to play a good game of tug-of-war with the children he’d just found.


Search & Rescue K9 Luka searching through concrete rubbleLuka on the Search


Luka is one of 80 active search dogs that the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation (SDF) has rescued from animal shelters and trained to find missing people or those buried alive in the wreckage of disasters. Founded in 1996 as a non-profit, non-governmental organization, SDF seeks out dogs with more energy than your average family household can handle and an insatiable desire to play with toys. 

READ: Why Your Dog Needs Eye Protection

The group then covers all costs to get these pups (and their future handlers) trained up and ready for action. It also provides handlers’ grants for further equipment — including Rex Specs. When these dogs get too old for work SDF ensures all retired pooches get a loving fur-ever home at the end of their service either with their handler or with another loving family.

Luka started his life as a stray in Tracy, CA where he landed in a shelter and struggled to find his fur-ever home as a result of being “too much dog” for his adoptive families. An SDF recruiter eventually scooped Luka up to get extensive training and eventually join his new partner, Leckonby in New York.

The rescue dog trainees go through eight to ten months of professional training on SDF’s 125-acre National Training Center (NTC) in Santa Paula, CA. Along with lots of love and care, the dogs receive agility and obedience training, and advanced training challenges traversing collapsed structures, vehicle wrecks, and wilderness ravines.

SDF’s K9 teams have been on the scene helping through disasters around the country including 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, among countless other hurricanes, mudslides, building collapses, and missing person searches. The teams have also helped internationally during the devastating 2015 earthquake in Nepal and 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

During the 2018 mudslide in Montecito, CA 18 SDF-trained canine disaster search teams covered approximately 30 square miles of debris-, rock-, and mud-covered ground and helped rescue folks trapped by the mud. Roxy, a shepherd mix, and her handler Cynthia Sato-Tompkins were one of the teams sent out to help.

Rex Specs For The Working Dog

Roxy originally went by Diva when her owner surrendered her to the Sacramento SPCA in March 2012. Diva’s first owner had gotten her from a friend as a stray, but they couldn’t keep up with her energy. She was great with people, but she was chasing chickens and causing trouble, so they took her to the shelter. There, she got her big break. The SPCA staff saw Roxy’s high energy and endless devotion to playing and got SDF involved. 

When Roxy got to the NTC, one of the trainers immediately noted Roxy had, “Good focus, was a natural traveler on rubble, and used her nose well.” Eight months later, Roxy graduated the canine training program and partnered with Sato-Tompkins, a firefighter/paramedic with the Los Angeles Fire Department. They passed their FEMA Advanced Certification Exam in 2013 which means they can deploy wherever they’re needed in the country. The pair has since been on three deployments including the Montecito mudslide.


Search Dog Roxy Walking to a Job
Roxy walking with her handler to a Search

SDF has found eye protection such as the Rex Specs especially helpful for their four-legged rescuers during thick brush wilderness searches and Urban Search and Rescue areas with fine airborne particulates. SDF started using Rex Specs in the kennel last year and they’ve proved invaluable during off-facility training for dogs who’ve already suffered a minor eye injury to avoid further trauma.


Learn more about SDF:

Words by Johanna Flashman

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Gear For your Dog


Lens Guide


UV Rating



Recommended Use

Red Mirror

Blocks 99% of UVA and UVB Rays.

Allows 20% of light to pass. Very similar to sunglasses.

Impact Resistant. Mirrored lenses show more scratches than clear or smoke.

Giddy up! The Red Mirror lens is great for most dogs and is very similar to the smoke lens with a bit more style.


Blocks 99% of UVA and UVB

Allows 92% of light to pass

Impact Resistant. Offers best visibility when scratched.

For Everything except protection from brightness. Great for working, hunting or adventure dogs. Blocks UV is impact resistant and often is preferred by dogs. Great training lens, and when it gets scratched the scratches are not as visible to the dog as with other lens options.

Blue Mirror

Blocks 99% of UVA and UVB

Allows 15% of light to pass. Slightly darker than smoke and red mirror.

Impact Resistant. Mirrored lenses show more scratches than clear or smoke

DM's are rolling in! The Blue Mirror lens adds a touch of flare and is one of our darker lenses for dogs who have sensitivity to light. Perfect for use in sunny areas and for those who love that blue mirror look.

Silver Mirror

Blocks 99% of UVA and UVB

Allows 13% of light to pass. Our darkest lens.

Impact Resistant. Mirrored lenses show more scratches than clear or smoke.

STYLE! Add some flavor to the daily grind with our darkest lens, allowing only 13% of visual light to pass through, making it the best option if your dog has light sensitivity.


Blocks 99% of UVA and UVB

Allows 20% of light to pass. Very similar to sunglasses.

Impact Resistant. Offers excellent visibility when scratched.

For everything! Overall the most versatile lens. Great for dogs that are rough on their equipment as it continues to offer good visibility when scratched.F

Green Mirror

Blocks 99% of UVA and UVB

Allows 15% of light to pass. Slightly darker than smoke and red mirror.

Impact Resistant. Mirrored lenses show more scratches than clear or smoke.

The Green Mirror lens adds a touch of flare and is one of our darker lenses for dogs that need some reprieve from the suns brightness.

*VLT = Visual Light Transmission

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Rex Specs

measure your dog in two steps

  1. muzzle circumference

    Measure the circumference of your dog's muzzle where you expect the goggle to land on their nose - usually around the back of their mouth.

  2. head circumference

    Measure the head circumference where you expect the goggle to land on the forehead - typically an inch or so behind the eyes.

Watch Sizing Video
Goggle Size Head Circumference Muzzle Circumference
X-Small Less than 10.5 in Less than 6 in SHOP X-Small
Small 10.5 in - 12 in 6 in - 8 in SHOP Small
Medium 12 in - 14 in 8 in - 9in SHOP Medium
Large 14 in - 17.5 in 9 in - 11.5 in SHOP Large
X-Large Greater than 17.5 in Greater than 11.5 in SHOP X-Large
Small Wide* 12 in - 15 in 6 in - 9 in SHOP Small Wide

*Designed for dogs with a wide, flat face i.e. Boston Terriers
If your dog is between sizes, select the larger size: This will insure the most functional fit and optimal field of view.

Ear Pro Fit Graphic


Measure the circumference of your dog's head at it's largest point (just in front of the ears and under the chin). If you are between sizes, please go up in size.



2 13" - 15" SHOP Size 2
3 15" - 17.5" SHOP Size 3
4 17.5" - 21" SHOP Size 4


Measure around the dog's neck as loose or tight as you would like the collar to fit.



1 12"-14" SHOP Size 1
2 14"-16.5" SHOP Size 2
3 16.5"-19.5" SHOP Size 3
4 19.5"-24" SHOP Size 4


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