Ballwin, MO (KSDK) - When it comes to a training facility, the Advanced Center of Excellence in west St. Louis County is often the first choice for first responders.

"We have Missouri Task Force One. We have the FBI who trains here. A lot of our local districts and departments come here to do live burns,“ explained Sara Dayley of West County EMS/Fire.
And now it's gone to the dogs.

Mary Roy and her pit bull mix, Sonar, work for Missouri Task Force One, a search and rescue squad that's deployed in emergency situations all over the country.

"I'm on the canine division, so my dog is trained to find people buried in rubble," said Roy.

It takes more than just four legs and a tail to do this job. Sonar is smart and his energy is unlimited. Though it wasn't that long ago that he was unwanted.

"We really try and make very good matches so that these dogs go and stay in permanent homes," explained Steve Kaufman, the executive director of the Animal Protective Association of Missouri.

The APA is a nonprofit adoption center dedicated to bringing people and pets together.

Dogs come here as strays or because they're surrendered by owner and the average length of stay is only about six days. Sonar was there for six months.

PHOTOS - Pets for adoption

"So this dog had a lot of energy. He needed a special kind of owner and we knew that," Kayfman told us.

But every dog has its day and Sonar's came when Mary saw this picture in an ad.

"He has these crossed ears which are pretty silly and his tongue was hanging out and he just looked like the happiest, goofiest thing," she laughed.

The ears got him his name but it was his love of toys that got Mary's attention.

"So if they have that much drive for a toy, you can teach them just about anything," she explained.

Sonar had the job without ever having to fill out an application.

Back at the ACE, Sonar continues his rigorous training. It can take up to two years to get state and FEMA certification, it took him half that time.

"He's really good about this," said Roy. "He keeps his nose right on source and bark so that it's really obvious."

When a disaster strikes, it's Sonar who helps a family get closure.

"Seeing that dog and I had goose bumps,” said Dayley. "It's awesome that they have that as a resource in an emergency type situation.

We like to think that all dogs are special but few owners can tell a better tale than this one. The rescue dog that now comes to the rescue.

"He's a great example that the potential these dogs can have," Kaufman said.