For those of you paying attention: Episode 3 Observations has
Saturday 6 November 1655 hrs: Rufus and I arrived at Sycamore Canyon for CARDA South night training. Trails were laid and subjects in place by 1800. A sheriff’s homicide detective attended the training and met with trailing dog handlers while the trails (and the subjects) were aging. The discussion was about how trailing dogs work, whether the handlers would be interested in working homicide cases and what sort of services we could provide. Searching for suspects is the obvious
service but we also discussed ‘scent lineups’ where scent samples would
be taken from various individuals including a suspect and the dog would
identify the sample working from an item found at the crime scene.
Top brass decided they would propose a standard including certification
requirements and training regimen.
1845 hrs: Rufus and I boarded the truck that would take us to the search area. On board were Amber (a bloodhound), her handler, Donner (a german shepherd) and his handler. It was decided that Amber and her handler would work the trail alongside Rufus and I because of the hazardous nature of the trail and because I am still considered a novice and don’t have a radio. Donner and his human were on their way to a different trail.
1850 hrs: The truck stopped and the door opened and Rufus immediately leapt out apparently happy to be anywhere as long as it wasn’t in the back of the truck.
1900 hrs: We reached the subject’s abandoned vehicle and prepared the dogs. They were then given the opportunity to sniff the driver’s seat and then the command to search.
1905 hrs: After wandering a bit and taking a couple of pit stops Rufus finally decided to start searching.
1915 hrs: It became apparent that both dogs had missed the point where the subject’s trail turned off the road. The subject’s scent may have been obscured by creosote soaked utility poles lying along the road or by the scent gap created because the trail went downhill from the road or by the fact that the subject had recently driven on the road past the turn point TWICE (yes, if conditions are favorable, there is enough scent for a dog to trail a subject even if the subject is in a moving car).
1917 hrs: Amber finally found the point where the trail headed downhill and Rufus decided to follow.
1918 hrs: I realized why someone would consider the trail hazardous. It was a narrow, nearly vertical trail with loose dirt, rocks of varying size and overgrown with brush and miscellaneous vegetation. This would be a challenging trail under the best conditions. In the pitch blackness with a hungry coonhound trying to run full speed at the end of the leash it was definitely an E ticket ride (Disneyland reference for those who have never heard that before).
1930 hrs: Amber and her handler pulled off to the side to allow Rufus and I to lead. Amber objected and continued objecting until Rufus and I pulled aside and allowed her to lead again. We switched lead several times and Amber objected each time. I commented that I wished Rufus would bay like Amber was. Amber’s human commented that she wished her dog would be quiet like Rufus.
2000 hrs: The trail flattened and widened considerably so I was able to let Rufus run a bit. Naturally he used the opportunity to stop and smell every bush, rock and pile of horse poop within 10 feet of the trail.
2020 hrs: I was half expecting to see the sun coming up when Rufus suddenly to do his pointer impersonation. About 10-15 yds off I could see a shape that might be the subject. Rufus took a stiff, hesitant step forward. Then another. After another 10 minutes he nuzzled the subject was praised and given his traditional reward, Snaussages. Amber arrived with human in tow about 5 minutes later.
2035 hrs: The truck arrived to return us to base camp. Rufus refused to enter the truck maybe because he was too tired, so I had to lift him.
2100 hrs: After discussing the evening’s events and an upcoming cadaver search test, we adjourned to Jack-in-the-Box for a much needed milk shake.
Stay tuned for the Continuing Adventures of Rufus the SAR Dog