It’s not as easy as it looks, you know, this cadaver dog thing. Sure, dogs have noses that are way more sensitive than human noses. In fact, scientists say that a dog’s nose has 300 million olfactory receptors. Which means we’ve pretty much perfected this sniffing thing. You humans have about six million. The part of our brains that analyzes smells is something like 40 times greater than yours. And our noses? Did you know that dogs can smell different scents with each nostril at the same time? That helps us determine which direction a smell is coming from.
So yeah, we are way superior to humans when it comes to sniffing out trouble.
But it takes more than that to be a certified Human Remains Detection Dog. First and foremost, it takes a really good upright . . . er . . . that is, human. Humans who have HRD dogs are caring, devoted, and dedicated. HRD dog handlers have to be willing to spend hours and hours working, both in the classroom and out on the field with us. They have to know plenty about things like first aid (both for us and them) and orienteering (that is, finding their way around). Like us, they have to know how to work over all different terrain. Sometimes, we have to search in an urban area, which means my handler has to know about laws pertaining to property, traffic safety, and all the other stuff that comes with what they like to call civilization. They have to know how to take us through buildings that sometimes aren’t very safe, too.
And you know what, all those handlers, their volunteers! They do this grueling work because they really believe they can help people. Cool!
Other times, we work in the great outdoors, and in all different types of weather, too. Our handlers, like us, need to be fit and healthy and ready to work for hours if that’s what it takes to find what we’re looking for.
And yeah, I get it, when I say “find what we’re looking for” a whole lot of people (and dogs, too, for that matter) react with a “yuck!” Sure, we’re searching for the scent of decomposed humans. And yes, you’re right, it ain’t pretty. But what we’re doing–both dogs and handlers–is helping to bring closure to situations that can be difficult and heartbreaking.
Pretty important work, huh?
Right now, I’m finishing up my certification with Greg, my handler. The lady I sometimes train with, Jazz Ramsey, is the coolest alpha in Cleveland. I hear she’s got a new puppy and puppies, well, it’s not like I haven’t been there, but let’s face it, puppies can be difficult. In fact, though Jazz will spend plenty of time with basic training for the little guy, they won’t start doing actual HRD training until he’s 18 months old. Puppies just don’t have the attention span before then.
If you ever have a chance to see us work, at a training or a workshop, do it. I promise, you’ll be amazed. Scout’s honor, paw raised!