Several weeks ago I had a terrific opportunity to watch the Shreveport (LA) Fire Department Search & Rescue Task Force and volunteers participate in the 4th annual Super Safety Saturday at the Sheriff’s Safety Town in Shreveport. While there was certainly plenty to keep kids of all ages engaged, the highlight of the day for me was watching kids meet the bloodhounds and other Search & Rescue dogs.
If you’ve browsed through the slideshow on my website you’ve seen the picture of three Bloodhounds. That’s Ginny, Brinklie, and Darcy; Ginny and Brinklie are “official” members of the SFD team. Darcy, who’s trained and handled by Maureen Kidd (one of the beta readers for my series) is learning SAR skills in addition to her work as a Pet Partners therapy dog, and she too spent the morning at Safety Town. All three dogs charmed everyone with their gentle demeanor. The handlers did a wonderful job introducing the dogs to children and explaining the work they do.
The department also had other dogs there and spent a lot of time discussing the differences between tracking, trailing, area search dogs, and dogs trained to detect human remains. I’m sure the information I collected will show up sometime soon in the Waterside Kennels Mystery Series!
Watching them move through the crowd, I soon discovered that Bloodhounds are incredibly strong and require a firm hand on the leash. These are trailing dogs working from a specific scent (a missing person’s shirt, for example). They can work a scent trail that is hours old, and the presence of other people in the area doesn’t affect them. The dogs trail a specific person by following the scent carried by tiny particles of skin cells cast off by that person. If the dog has been given a good scent article and starts from the point where the person was last seen (PLS for short), then a Bloodhound (or any other dog trained in trailing) is often the best resource to use.
If a scent article isn’t available, or if the PLS is unknown, search teams might bring in area search dogs. These dogs are trained to detect airborne human scents and are an excellent resource when a large area must be cleared. The area search dog will alert the handler when a “find” is made. These dogs are not “scent discriminate” so they’ll alert on every single person they find in the area. As you might imagine, that can quickly tire any dog. That’s why it’s critical that, whenever possible, searchers stay out of the area while the dog is working.
To learn more about the Shreveport Fire Department’s Search and Rescue Task Force, visit their website at http://sfdk9sar.org/wp/. My thanks to Sydney Griffin for the photographs you see here. (See her dog Sadie in the slideshow; Sadie’s training to be a Pet Partners therapy dog.)
And my sincere thanks to everyone involved for sharing their knowledge and expertise with me!