Friday, September 17, 2010
Scent of the Missing
I learned that most canine search-and-rescue units are made up of volunteers who may get called out in the middle of a night to travel three hours away to search for a missing child, only for the child to be found by neighbors fifteen minutes after they arrive, and still have to go to their full-time job in the morning. These people are dedicated. They search through woods and swamps, over lakes and snow, and battle not only the elements, but have to be wary for other wildlife and aggressive people/pets. They search in burned out or bombed buildings covered in debris and dust, and have to be careful of falling or getting trapped themselves.
Not everyone understands just how amazing a dog's nose is, especially one that's been trained to search for specific scents. The dogs Susannah worked with could be used to find the scent of an Alzheimer's walkaway, a lost little boy, a teenager presumed dead, or pinpoint where in a lake a man drowned. They could be given an article of clothing and search only for that scent, dismissing all others, or just search for any human scent they could find in a secluded area. The key for Susannah was to learn to read the dogs' reactions, because each one worked differently. The handlers were able to tell when their dog had a slight interest in an area (boy was here, but not recently), and interest (boy is here, here). She told a story about a teenager that had runaway, and whose brother claimed left town going East in a car. None of the dogs even thought about heading East when they were let loose on the search, and three separate times, three different dogs kept going back to a neighbor's house that the police had already cleared. After the dogs showed such intense interest in only one location, the police went back to the house and found the missing runaway.
This book is one that will teach you and help you learn about a life, a career, that not many know or think about. I have a new respect for not only search-and-rescue dogs, but for the people who dedicate themselves to the search. Perfect for any dog lover and anyone interested in broadening their horizons.