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Memorial to a K-9 Hero

Thor, a Fair Oaks firefighters’ search-and-rescue dog, is honored.

The memorial outside the Fair Oaks District Station tells Thor’s story.

The memorial outside the Fair Oaks District Station tells Thor’s story. Photo by Bonnie Hobbs.

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From left: Wade Miller, dad Blair Miller, Michael Frey and Board of Supervisors Chair Sharon Bulova applaud after the memorial’s unveiling.

When the Fair Oaks District police and fire station renovations were dedicated June 14, part of the ceremony was for a dog named Thor and service dogs like him. A memorial to Thor now stands outside the entrance to the police station.

An all-white, German shepherd, Thor is described on the memorial as “a beloved and highly respected search-and-rescue canine for the Fair Oaks Volunteer Fire & Rescue Company.” His handler, Blair Miller of Oak Hill, called the recognition “quite an honor” and thanked Fairfax County for honoring Thor in such a special way.

Miller, also a volunteer with the Fair Oaks fire station, said that station has always been involved with Virginia Task Force One, FEMA’s urban search-and-rescue team. He learned to officially become a K-9 handler and Thor was certified by the Virginia Department of Emergency Management as a search-and-rescue K-9 at age 2.

“Thor was trained for disaster,” said Miller. “He retired at age 12, so he had a long tenure. I’d get called by the county – especially by law enforcement – to help find missing persons, suicide victims and occasionally homicide victims, looking for remains. And in areas where people had covered up a crime scene, the dog could hit on it.”

Miller and Thor also did educational work in the schools. “I taught kids what to do if they were ever lost,” he said. “And I told them the dog would come find them.”

With Virginia Task Force One, Miller and Thor deployed to the Pentagon on 9/11, at the FBI’s request, and were involved in recovering all the remains.

“And since Thor was a resource for the Virginia Department of Emergency Management and the FBI, we went on searches throughout the country,” said Miller. “He was also a member of my family.”

Thor died in 2010, at age 14; and after the memorial’s unveiling, Miller was both touched and overwhelmed that, “four years after his death, they’re still acknowledging him. It’s a testament to the fact that they still remember him and he made an impact. He was something special that they cared enough about him to erect a memorial.”

Indeed, the last line of the memorial sums it up: “Thor’s strong spirit and enormous contributions made him a pillar of the fire and rescue community.”