Human Remains Detection Class

K9 “Jessie” and yours truly, looking for human remains in the lake.

Last week, in the lovely Ohio countryside, we were, because of our generous supporters, able to help more than a few HRD (human remains detection) K9 Teams attend an amazingly complex course in finding human remains. I remember a few years ago,looking at a photo of a K9 in a boat like the one pictured above and being amazed that Dogs could actually locate human remains that were underwater.

To actually watch the Dog Teams who do this as their vocation, was absolutely amazing. The course is run by a group of FEMA K9 handlers under the name of “CFTE” which stands for “The Center for Forensic Training and Education.” It is a resource and work-intensive class that provides real-life training scenarios with full bodies, bodies who were donated by individuals who understood how important it is to train K9’s for this difficult work.

I watched as the staff guided the various K9 teams, from all over the country, people as far away as Seattle and Florida, and Massachusetts , and as I watched, I saw the similarities in their and my training. Although I was, in my previous life, looking for humans that wanted to kill me and my crew, and these K9’s were looking for dead humans, the need to understand our respective Dogs and the way they communicate is invaluable. Clues like a quick head turn, or the more obvious Scooby-doo sudden change of course, are indicators that something is of interest.

The obvious discomfort when dealing with an entire human corpse is something that both the humans and the Dogs need to overcome to accomplish their mission. This is no small thing and one of the biggest reasons that the training provided by CFTE is so important.

In the end, I came away from the week of work with a new-found respect for the serious SAR community. As in any type of vocation, there are different levels of expertise. With the CFTE folks, we were introduced to many of the “varsity” level K9 teams in the SAR world and for that, I am grateful.

Thank you to our generous supporters who help us help these amazing K9 teams and thank you to the staff at CFTE for showing us your work ethic and significant commitment to the work of finding lost humans, be they alive or not.