Rescue dogs are not to be confused with Search and Rescue dogs.
Rescue dogs have been found in terrible situations by kind people and are taken to safer homes. The dogs have been rescued by the people.
SEARCH and Rescue dogs locate people (whether alive or dead). The people have been rescued (or found) by the dogs.
Search and Rescue (SAR) dogs can be trained for both scenting the air and tracking the scent on the ground, but most dogs are trained to do one or the other. The dogs that are able to do both are more highly sought after by law enforcement agencies and SAR groups.
There are different skill sets for the various kinds of SAR dogs. Here are a few:
Air Scent Dogs
The air scent dog finds people by following human scent in the air where it is most intense. They work best in areas that are not public spaces, because this type of dog is not focused on any one person. Wind patterns, street smells, and even air temperature can affect the success of this dog’s search.
Trailing and Tracking Dogs
On TV or in the movies, we see dogs sniff for human scent in the air or after sniffing an article of clothing, track the person’s scent through the likely search area. Each person has a unique odor, which leaves a trail behind as we walk through a store, or in the park, or in the gym. When we go outside, that scent can be carried by the breeze for quite a distance. Think you’re not stinky? Or that after a shower, nobody could track your scent? Ha! Your coats, your scarves, your sweaters, your shoes, all hold your particular scent, and you can be followed.
Tracking/trailing dogs also follow the trail by sniffing for skin cells that people shed naturally. When your skin flakes off, it leaves a trail on the ground (or bushes that you brush up against). Once a tracking dog knows the scent to be followed, it heads on a direct path to the target, and is often used to hunt down escaped convicts.
Bloodhounds have more scent glands than most other breeds, so they are prime candidates for tracking/trailing. Law enforcement officers (or the handler) keeps the dog on a leash, and holds a personal possession belonging to the missing person under his/her nose. The dog focuses on only that scent, despite distractions of all the surrounding aromas of other people or the environment itself. They are known to be highly successful in finding crime victims or missing persons, but with budget constraints, not all jurisdictions have them.
A disaster dog is trained to find people in wrecked buildings after natural disasters such as earthquakes or landslides. Sadly, their special abilities have been needed after terrorist attacks as well. Their noses zero in on human scent, focusing on people missing and hopefully still alive.
A cadaver dog is trained to detect only dead humans, whether above or below the ground. While many dogs can find both dead or alive people, the cadaver dog has a narrower focus. While training, the dogs are introduced to tiny pieces of dead bodies or even blood droplets.
Water Search Dog
A trained water search dog can find people in or under the water, but their focus is on the smell of body gases that naturally come from cadavers in the water. The dog handler usually waits on shore while the dog does his/her job, then divers are dispatched if a scent is detected.
Avalanche search dogs are capable of identifying human scent in or under snow after an avalanche. They have been known to find people alive, buried as much as 15 feet below the surface.
Search and Rescue dogs are highly trained and in great demand, as more jurisdictions discover their very real contribution to law enforcement and wilderness/disaster rescue. It takes years to train them to do their own specific job and while training, most live/stay with their handlers. The special bond created between handler and dog increases the success of the partnership during their missions.
There are national organizations that supervise the training and certification of SAR dogs and their handlers. Not just anyone with a German Shepherd or a Bloodhound (and other breeds as well) can join a search for a missing person or for a cadaver. It takes special training to cover a possible crime area thoroughly and efficiently, without compromising it or the evidence found there.
The dogs must pass rigorous certification tests, to make sure that they follow directions easily and are not bothered by the harshness of conditions they may face. Remember the collapse of the towers on September 11th? Conditions were unstable as well as dangerous, and the SAR dogs were challenged as seriously as the men and women responders at the site.
Both handlers and dogs are tested during the certification process.
Here are some of the skills the examiners look at for the dogs:
Could your pet do any of the above, consistently and on demand? Our Irish Setter, Hammett, is a great dog, but his nose is focused on dinner and his treats. He would have to have been trained from the time he was a puppy to behave otherwise.
For more information about the various Search and Rescue operations around the USA, check out these sites:
Photo credits: taken at the Writers Police Academy.
Most of the USA goes into a deep freeze at some point during the winter. Sadly, people have been known to die because they get stuck in their cars during blizzards. Some have frozen to death in their own homes when power was lost and the heat went off. Tragedies to be sure.
Why can’t humans survive in the severe cold? What happens to the body?
Damage to the eyes:
Your eyeballs can’t really freeze solid in ordinary outdoor activities, but you could do serious damage to them if you don’t wear goggles in extreme temperatures. Runners note: the eyes might tear a bit more, but the eyelids will blink, and deliver the salt (naturally found in tears) to coat the eyeball, effectively lowering the freezing point of the tears themselves. It is possible for the eyeball to freeze temporarily during extreme sports – like the challenging cross country Iditarod races in Alaska – but lesser symptoms (blurred vision, frostbite) can also impair a contestant’s ability to complete the course. Doctor intervention might be necessary if either of these problems occur, because otherwise, injury to the body can be permanent.
Damage to the skin/muscles:
Feet, fingers, and toes can freeze to the point of pieces falling off, or needing to be amputated. Frostnip can freeze the skin, but frostbite can freeze not just the skin, but muscles, tissues and fat beneath it. Plus, if the wind chill drops below -40F, your skin can freeze within minutes if you’re not wearing the proper gear.
I had the wrong gloves with me while on a ski trip in colder-than-we-expected temperatures years ago. True story: it only took ten minutes for my fingers to be in great pain. I knew there was a problem after five and headed to the lodge. I got first aid, and new gloves, but I stayed inside until the outside temperatures rose in the afternoon. My thumbs hurt now, just thinking about it.
Sound scary? How about this: the longer you’re exposed, the more likely it is that any damage will be permanent and/or involve amputation. I got lucky. I was minutes away from help.
Cold can kill:
Listen to the weather forecasters and government officials when they tell you to stay indoors during extremely cold weather. If you’re not dressed properly or are in a place without shelter, you might die in the wrong combination of circumstances. Every year, people in North America die from a variety of situations where exposure to the elements overtook the body’s ability to cope. In the first week of January, 2018, when temperatures dropped unexpectedly across wide swaths of North America, ten people died.
The human body maintains a core temperature of 98.6F (37 C) and when it drops, hypothermia can set in. Even a 4-5 degree drop, if accompanied by constant shivering, tiredness, and rapid breathing, can signal the onset.
We wear insulated jackets, gloves, and hats to avoid getting chilled. They trap the air around our bodies and keep in the heat. But, if the clothes get wet (say you fall through the ice while skating) the insulating effects are gone and there will be rapid body heat loss, as if you weren’t wearing that winter jacket at all. Interesting factoid: Your body type also determines how quickly you lose heat: Tall, slender people become cold much faster than shorter, heavier types.
There are levels of hypothermia. In moderate hypothermia, symptoms might include poor coordination, slurred speech, confusion, and slowed breathing. In severe hypothermia, symptoms might make it hard to tell if the person is alive or dead. They’ll lose consciousness, their breathing might become too shallow to detect, the pulse will be weak, or irregular, and pupils will be dilated. Severe hypothermia is often fatal.
How could this happen? Why would people put themselves into a situation where they might lose limbs, or even die? That forgotten bottle of milk at the store that is 20 miles away? The unexpected emergency trip to a sick relative, when you left home before the storm arrived? Braving the elements to prove something to your friends? Extreme Sports competitions? You name it. Be prepared and most of the risk for a bad ending goes away.
Dress in layers, wear a hat and gloves, wear goggles or glasses when in the snow, cover exposed skin, bring pets indoors, stock the car with water and blankets. Read “Snow Shoveling and Heart Attacks,” and “Get Ready for the Blizzard” for more prevention/survival tips.
Now that you’ve read all the bad things about getting too cold for your own good, remember that First Responders – police, firefighters, and EMS personnel – have to be out in the worst of the worst conditions. They go to work so that you can be rescued or saved from harm.
Be kind. Follow directions. Stay home if you can. Dress appropriately, no matter what activity takes you out into the cold.
For more information about the effects of severe cold on the body, see: http://www.princeton.edu/~oa/safety/hypocold.shtml
More than ever, it seems as if readers and professional writers that follow the Notebook most enjoy learning about the nuts and bolts of crime as well as the crime fighters that take care of the bad guys. It was fun to see that two of our (always taste-tested) recipes made the list this year as well.
Here are the Top Ten Fan Favorites for 2017, listed in reverse order. Click on the links to re-read the articles (or enjoy them for the first time) and let us know in the comments whether your faves made the list. Happy sleuthing, one and all. 🙂
And the most read new post of 2017?
1. “200 ways to die an unnatural death.” https://bit.ly/2jmDIeE
Take a look at “Kerrian’s Notebook, Volume 2: Fun, facts, and a few dead bodies,” just released. Download to your e-reader and enjoy! 🙂
Happy New Year, everyone!