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Discussion Starter #1
This year was a bit of 'firsts' for me and my SAR dogs. We have been being deployed alot and have had the opportunity to do quite a few things that have stretched us and made us grow... One, was working two cases within a week or so of each other, both becoming drownings in major flood stage river/creeks. While my dogs have been properly trained (and set to get certifications for shoreline/boat and fast moving water) for HRD, having flood stage conditions was a stretch to say the least...

I was always up front and honest with LE and was requested to continue and give it my best shot.. The river in which one of the cases worked, was well over 20ft deeper and 100+ft wider than normal flow. It has taken 4.5mos for the waters to recede enough to safely work the areas the dogs alerted in. One particular strainer that grew in size, then reduced, then grew again over the course of the flooding, held particular odor for the dogs. I was called out 4 or 5 times and each time, there seemed to be interest, although unable to reach the area the dogs wanted to pursue (and believe me, my girl tried many times...and fell in..not cool:surprise:)..

Anyhow, this past week we went up for a final chance to see what the dogs might say and to narrow down location. Dogs still held interest in particular strainer and down stream about 75ft to another strainer. They also kept going on land, of which I narrow mindedly (hey, my job was to 'clear' the water right...:| oops) kept calling them back to 'finish' their job...my bad. At one point, I was kneeling on the large strainer (about 5ft tall and 75ft long) and my girl was with me. I was talking with the diver trying to help him direct his team in where to search.. My girl kept whining and I figured she was just trying to get me to hurry up and stop yapping...My back was to her... When I got up to go back to the bank, I noticed she mouthed something... a rib..:surprise:.. my bad again... rib is evidence and initially 'dismissed' as potentially animal..

Strainer is tore up with chain saws and a lot of manual labor (excellent work by all the deputies and SAR personnel!) Keys, sweatpants (subject was wearing sweatpants before going under), watch, boots (same brand and size) and a fingernail are found... Due to the situation of how the subject went under (trying to escape from LE) there is skepticism that items weren't planted.. LE doing due diligence and all..

I discuss happenings with another very experienced K9 handler and order comes to jumbled thoughts. I discuss these thoughts to IC and SAR leader who discusses with Sheriff etc.. Next day, skull and scapula are found 150ft from strainer, on land, with bear scat all around...so obviously dislodged and moved by said predator.. Bad handling on my part for not letting my dogs pursue their land interest...learning point for sure...

Anyhoo.. After 4.5 mos of holding all the behavioral changes and alerts in mind, unable to confirm or dismiss them and 'lock them down' for next time, I am now able to do so. Doggies did their jobs extremely well in ridiculous conditions (one area of the bank we walked had a barbed wire fence. It had about 6ft of land on the other side close to the river. The next time went back, the barbed wire fence was at the edge of the bank.. next time, it was in the water with 6ft of bank on the land side gone... That is a LOT of landslide and earth going in changing things..) and a great learning experience. Yay doggies!!!

FBI will take it from here, and hopefully bring closure for this family...
 

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If only we could somehow speak and thoroughly understand our dogs...Still an outstanding job you guys:)
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Thanks everyone! It was a great job by all involved and absolutely a "trust your dog" moment! It is so easy to get focused on griding or clearing a given area, but next time, if my dog(s) tell me to work outside my selected area (I was only dog team so not intruding on any others space) I will follow their lead..

The other drowning case was worked again today and another dog team was sent in. They had odor in same area as mine, but there is no way to move the tons of earth and boulders moved by the flooding. The subject is believed to be under the landslides/rock slides.. So while no confirmation on this case, having a separate dog team have similar interests in area (their 2nd time there, first time they had zero idea of my dogs reactions) is a good sign that another 'find' will come sooner or later.. For me, it has been a HUGE learning experience because flood stage, shoreline, and boat/water training had just begun for me.. Obviously my doggies knew better, lol.. But interpreting their body language and trying to narrow down the area in flood conditions was awesome, difficult, and alot of fun in a learning capacity - not because of why we were doing it, if ya know what I mean...

Still have loads to learn and more to develop my dogs in..
 

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Thank you for sharing these moving posts. I'm always in awe at what canine-human teams (LE, Military, SAR, etc) can and do accomplish on a regular basis. It's truly inspirational.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Thanks you guys :)

Yes, I am super proud of them and truly amazed at the ability of dogs noses..and their determination to locate the source they are trained for..

Wolfy dog... Yes and no.... Dogs don't lie and they cannot control their natural physiological response "alerts" when in odor. They can, however, give a trained final response that is not accurate. We, as K9 handlers, have to be extremely careful when training, or in a pressure situation where you feel you should be providing results/evidence/etc, to unintentionally provoke a final trained response. The dog keeps being sent in a given area because we (the human) believe something is there, and in frustration the dog offers a final indication. So we try very hard to keep our body neutral, thoughts and body language non specific. But again, as a whole, the dog does not know how to lie and can control what will naturally happen when in target odor. This is the job of the handler to read and interpret, catalog and file away if no final trained response occurs, and recalculate how the dog is being sent in to the area.. Sometimes wind shifts, current causes a back splash and air current, terrain causes blockage of air, or, if buried, hard ground might inhibit odor but it is traveling through the root system of a tree or small underground pockets and erupting further away then actual location of source.

 

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I'm adding my thank you also for sharing and the work that you and your dogs do. Your writing style gives a clear picture of just how much is involved in the searches and the complexities. I have learned a lot just from reading your threads.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
I got some clarification of where the skull and scapula were found (and now a bunch more bones). Initially I was told that it was found upstream on land from my dogs interest. They actually were found directly in between the two strainers behind the large bushes my dogs kept going up onto the bank and behind (again, my total bad for not following and instead being locked into the river mindset), and then back from there. Bear scat all around, so conclusions are that bear found the hang up spot of body and pulled it to land. It probably hid it during consumption because family and LE had been on that side many times in between the 2 months we awaited the water lowering to acceptable levels.

Lessons learned for me: -trust your dog..follow your dog even if outside the perview of my expectations
-in drowning of rivers, check banks every time you search because predation is always possible
-SAR is always a learning experience and new things can and will happen even to the most experienced (I was in contact
with handlers 20+ yrs of experience and this was a surprise for them due to the full spectrum of flood to finish.
 

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So was asked to run dogs to see if we could recover more bones.. Been a week and a half since known bear activity. Had about 30 acres to cover over tough terrain. Lots and lots of predatory evidence. My boy was the star today and found several bones. My girl located another area in the river where possible remains remain, but difficult to get to at this point. We were only dog team, so finding anything in 30 acres, let alone bones was cool. Proud of my doggies!
 

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Discussion Starter #18
So, had a search earlier this week for a missing hunter.. He was mobile and told his friends that 2200hrs he was leaving the fire he had made for himself (it was raining) and going to try and walk out...even though he was turned around and lost... We had no genuine PLS other than a critter cam showing a pic of him at 1630hrs the day prior. I started my girl there and she trailed him for about 4miles before we broke out of the forest/wilderness onto a dirt road where she began to head west down the road.. IC was up the road and my flankers were about done in (teenagers unused to running behind a trailing dog, lol...they did great though) and I opted to inform IC my girl was hot in odor and wanted to continue down the road. I figured I could deploy a fresh dog (my boy) as the terrain was very very rugged and my girl, while still very energetic, could use the respite and my boy who was coming unglued when he saw us could continue the trail.. We didn't know if the trails we were following were old from previous days or the freshest trail - although, my girl was exhibiting proximity alerts and I was quite convinced we were on the freshest track...

Anyhow, within 2minutes of speaking with IC of my plans to deploy down the road, the atv team which was down the road found him walking up the road towards us.. We were within 500ft of a walk up find (2 bends in the road kept us from seeing him) when I 'pulled' my girl off odor... Argh! Anyhow, hunter was in good shape, albeit cold and hungry and he was eager to tell us what he did.. It was identical to my girl.. I had just told IC that we would travel south, then suddenly turn east, then suddenly turn south again before she got the hot trail and headed west.. This is what the hunter was doing as his friends were honking a car horn and he kept thinking they were moving and so was travelling south than east etc trying to find the honking horn... Everybody searching did a phenomenal job and it is always a great day when the missing person is found in good shape... Even better when they can confirm your dogs travellings :)... So while not an actual find...it almost was :)
 

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Wow! Hard to imagine how you do all of this. Law enforcement, first responders, search and rescue, military, you all have my deepest respect.
 
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