Most of us know the police use dogs to help them sniff out drugs, explosives, and people—dead or alive. But did you know that many police departments cannot afford to keep a crew of dogs that can do it all? Some police departments may have dogs that find drugs and explosives, but are limited on search and recovery of humans who are missing or thought dead.
In order to assist families, and police, in finding missing persons and human remains, organizations such as the Indiana K-9 Search and Recovery (SAR) came into being. I chose this particular organization to talk about today, because they were instrumental in assisting me with facts on search and recovery dogs for my Indiana based series and in particular, the novel Ensconced.
Organizations such as the Indiana K-9 SAR, are non-profit organizations that work with police departments, recovery organizations and individuals to search for missing persons. SAR organizations throughout the country assist in rescue and recovery during many emergency situations such as the 9-11 attacks, tornadoes, hurricanes, and most recently the mudslides in Washington State. They also look for children and older adults who may have wandered away from their families.
Many of these organizations, and Indiana K-9 in particular, do not collect money from families or rescue organizations in payment for their services. That is why I’m donating a portion of the net sales from my novel, Ensconced, to the Indiana K-9 SAR organization to thank them for their assistance with the search scenes in which the dogs were involved.
During my research, I found the most amazing facts about how these dogs work. Of course, many of us know of the dogs trained to conduct Scent Specific Trailing. We’ve seen these pooches in the movies and on television sniffing a piece of clothing and then racing to find the missing person or escaped convict.
Then we’ve all heard of the dog who tries to find human remains. These dogs are able to distinguish between the decomposing remains of humans and animals. When a dog locates human remains, it will indicate the approximate location by stopping and either barking or lying down. These dogs learn not to dig for remains in order to preserve evidence. Then the handler rewards the dog and leaves the scene to the agency in charge of recovering the remains.
The dogs that amazed me most were the dogs who seek human remains in a water source. Water recovery dogs can detect the odor of human remainsin many depths and types of water, and find remains that were immersed for long or short periods of time. In Ensconced, the dogs looked in a reservoir for a person missing for ten years. I asked the director of Indiana K-9 if this was possible and she said yes. The hard part of the process is for the divers to find the remains once the dog scents them in the area, because the skeleton darkens and is covered by sludge from the lake bed.
Another amazing and wonderful part of this organization are the volunteers who own and handle the dogs. These are owners who have made a commitment to train their dogs for certification in search and recovery. Of course, these owners also train to become handlers. This means that they are willing to travel with their dogs to disaster sites, whether in the state of Indiana or elsewhere, to assist in the search and recovery efforts.
I was blessed to do two demonstrations at bookstores this past year with Zeus the German Shepherd and his handler Ed who were still in training. Ed told me he and his wife decided that becoming an SAR dog would help Zeus expend some of the overabundance of energy most Shepherds possess as well as give them the opportunity to do something for others.
If you want to know more about this organization or to make a donation, go to http://www.indianak9sar.org/ and look at the Donating and Volunteering page. If you don’t live in the state of Indiana, please look for your local Search and Recovery organization. You or one of your loved ones might need them one day.
Michele (M.E.) May attended Indiana University in Kokomo, Indiana, studying Social and Behavioral Sciences. Her interest in the psychology of humans sparked the curiosity to ask why they commit such heinous acts upon one another. Other interests in such areas as criminology and forensics have moved her to put her vast imagination to work writing crime fiction that is as accurate as possible. In doing so, she depicts societal struggles that pit those who understand humanity with those who are lost in a strange and dangerous world of their own making.
In creating the Circle City Mystery Series, she brings to life fictional characters who work diligently to bring justice to victims of crime in the city of Indianapolis. Michele also hopes her readers will witness through her eyes, the wonderful city she calls her hometown. Learn more about Michele at www.memay-mysteries.com.