Sharon Long is with us today to talk about one of the panels she enjoyed at Bouchercon 2015, the world's largest mystery convention, about police dogs search for bodies as their job.
I was excited to go to this panel, What the Dog Knows: The Science and Wonder of the Working Cadaver Dog. I am a dog lover and cadaver dogs have always held a certain fascination for me personally. Cat Warren, cadaver-dog handler and author, talked about how dogs smell and when humans are alive we all smell differently but dead we are all the same. It was mentioned that if a body is buried deep, it might take 2-3 weeks before the smell rises to the surface for a cadaver dog to pick up the scent. In addition, a dog can even pick up the scent of a body in water as well as in a cemetery.
Durham Sherriff Brad Kirby and K9 Dreyfus gave a live demonstration. I was amazed he was able to concentrate in the packed, extremely warm, small room but he did. After Dreyfus searched and found the 2 hidden items, he was rewarded with his favorite toy and became an extremely playful dog.
Thankfully in the Raleigh area cadaver dogs are not needed on a routine basis, therefore, Dreyfus and other dogs are also trained to snuff explosives and weapons dropped by criminals. It is interesting to note that the dog knows what their job will be by whether or not they are wearing their harness. In addition, if the handler and/or Sheriff has the dog sit before searching than the dog will sit when it founds the item and the same is true with the dog laying down. Both the handler and the dog must be certified. The dog lives with the handler and it can take up to a year or more to train a dog.
This was an informative panel with both Cat and Kate, author of 14 mystery and true crime books, dismissing the saying that if a dog is searching for a long time and does not find anything, it is upset. It is just a job for the dog but there is also playtime as well.