Ringo Begins Cadaver Training

Ringo Begins Cadaver Training

The Beginnings of a Cadaver Dog

A cadaver dog specializes in finding the remains of expired persons and pets. 

That’s right… They find dead things. It’s an unfortunate but necessary job, and when there’s a call for recovery efforts to begin, the team needs to know a dog is trustworthy and reliable. After all, we’re counting on them to guide us in the right direction.

There’s power in the nose.

RIngo and Ginny

I’m not a scientist, but I do know that generally speaking humans have about six million olfactory receptors in our noses while a dog on the other hand has upwards of 300 million! The additional receptors combined with the dog’s innate curiosity make their overall sense of smell thousands of times better than ours. They can smell what humans struggle to even perceive, and leaning into this superpower is what being a cadaver dog is all about.

Training consists of harnessing that power and teaching the dog to key in on a particular smell, specifically the chemicals that human bodies produce while they decompose.

One chemical that stands out and is easy to remember is “Cadaverine” which produces the notoriously unpleasant smell of death. It may be an oversimplification, but essentially Cadaver Dogs are trained to seek out cadaverine. 

Training, like all good things, is built on consistency and repetition. You have to spend time with your dog, and there’s no replacement for time spent in the field. 

Ringo’s first day at training was a field test to measure his aptitude and discernment.  Each dog has a natural disposition, so before you start training any animal rigorously you should take time to learn about their personality and character. This not only helps understand what will be required in training to keep the dog engaged, but it helps create a bond between handler and pooch. 

The day began with warm ups and some socialization exercises where the new recruits were guided around one another, but encouraged to stay focused on the handler, not the other dogs. In search and rescue situations, there are a lot of unknowns in the field. One thing that we look out for early on is any sign of aggression. It’s not a deal breaker, but it’s something that you want to get on top of extremely early and curb those tendencies. If aggressive behaviors persist through maturity, the animal won’t be functional in the field. There will never be a situation where one rescue dog bullying another will be tolerated. 

Ringo passed with flying colors. He’s been intentionally socialized well before today, and this walk was nothing new.

Next it was time for the first test, the search and rescue. 

Ringo on the hunt.

 

When there is a chance of survival the dynamics in the field can change. For example, what if the person being rescued doesn’t want to be found and is constantly on the move? Also, the starting scent is unique to that individual, meaning the training of search and rescue dogs starts with a unique scent of that individual, and the dog is taught to find the living.

Ringo just did just okay in this exercise. To say he was a little distracted is an understatement, the scent of the individual just wasn’t enough to hold his attention. Ringo was more interested in playing in the tall grass and chasing butterflies than in keeping his nose to the ground and on the scent of a dirty sock. The search was more like a walk in the park, where he got to meet a new friend at the end.

The cadaver test however was another story. 

When there’s no longer a reasonable chance of survival, efforts go from being search and rescue, to search and recovery. This is where the unique smells of decomposition become the primary target. Remembering the olfactory receptors in the dog’s nose, all 300 million of them lit up when Ringo caught his first wind of cadaverine! The moment Ringo smelled the target, I did not have time to get his working vest on him. He became excited with one goal and one goal only: To find the source of the smell that he had been introduced to. He was given a command to go find Earl, and that he did. 

It was amazing to see Ringo work at such a young age. There were three targets placed in the field, with the middle target being placed off-course on purpose. The course was set where a dog following the scent would have to have an especially keen nose to divert towards the second marker. The natural trail for the dog would be to flow from the first marker, to the third marker as a more direct route. Every single dog in the trial missed the second marker, except for Ringo.

Now to be fair, Ringo did follow the same path as the previous dogs, but the difference was he didn’t stop. After finding the first and third markers, there was another marker out there, and he could smell it. He kept his head to the ground, and came back to the second, and hardest marker in the field.  He was only 3 months old, so I am excited to see what he’s like when he matures. This came so naturally to him. His grandparents on his mother’s side which were Malinois were cadaver dogs.

It was official, Ringo is a Cadaver Dog.

Ringo on the job
Saving Mop – The Dog Who Started a Blog

Saving Mop – The Dog Who Started a Blog

The Dog Who Started A Blog…

MOP – rescued by Paducah Animal Control in April 2022.

Animals all over are being left behind, abandoned, and forgotten. This is one dog’s story.

In early fall of 2021 a Facebook post started circulating about a dog that had been seen left behind after his owner had died. It’s not clear how long the dog had been on its own but it is clear it had been for too long.

Mop Animal Rescue Blog

The neighbors coined the nickname “Mop” and shared food with him, but the mutt was clever; Mop was untouchable. Nobody could catch him… and after a while the dog became notorious for staying close, but never within reach.

 

 

The community where Mop stayed voiced growing concerns when they started noticing the dog’s long fur becoming matted in several places. They had become so large they were causing patches of fur to shed off from neglect, leaving the dog mangey, malnourished, and looking like… a dirty mop.

 

 

Asking around, we uncovered Mop’s story quickly, for he had become rather well known amongst folk in the small neighborhood downtown. His owner had passed away several years back, a sweet lady who had named her dog December, but the people who continued to live on the property lacked respect for the home and had even less respect for December. After her passing the live-ins who stayed for a few months were said to have destroyed the place, leaving Mop for days at a time in a small pen outside without food or water. Mop’s world had been turned upside down as he went from being cherished and loved to abused, tormented, and neglected. Then sometime in the night the live-ins left town, leaving Mop behind to fend for himself.  Mop then became a ward of the streets.

 

 

At first we made a few attempts to catch Mop by hand, but that failed miserably. The neighbors were right; Mop was a keen canine and very difficult to back into a corner. He had learned the ins and outs of his domain and he wasn’t going to let anyone lock him up again.

 

 

I thought, if we can’t catch him maybe we could lure him into a trap. A “missy” trap is a perfect, no-harm contraption that could hold a dog long enough to get someone on scene.

 

 

Meredith setting the missy trap.

I needed space to set up the trap, so I chose a large, vacant lot, thinking Mop might feel safe sneaking away to enjoy a hearty snack left by yours truly. Well, let me tell you… Mop was on to me like flies on honey.  He took one look at me, looked at my trap, and looked back at me. Then he walked away. Mop was no fool. He had seen a pen one too many times. He was gone again.

After a couple weeks, my granddaughter and I were cruising the neighborhood looking for Mop when a kind old man approached and let us in on a little secret. The lot where we had set the trap, the very spot discreetly placed out of the way in the back, was the exact spot his pen had been set before the lot was “cleaned of debris.”

At that point it was obvious I wasn’t going to catch Mop with a trap, especially in that spot. He was avoiding that area like the plague, and worse, he was on to me.

By this time Christmas had come and gone. Mop survived winter on scraps of trash and pools of melted ice. Some of the neighbors who knew of his plight left food out for him, but their efforts were little rewarded. Mop was just too cautious and clever to let anyone get near him.

ACO and myself stalked Mop for weeks, eyeing him around the corner only to see him scurrying off the moment he caught our attention. It’s like the dog could feel our gaze upon him.

Then one storming, rain soaking day I got a text from animal control. He had actually tackled Mop.

We had him…

Animal control officer (James) had received a call from a resident that Mop was in her dog’s dog house. Mop was tired of being wet and was seeking shelter. Jamie figured it was another bogus sighting of Mop, but it was his job to check it out rain or shine.  Jamie texted me the address of the call but somehow, I missed the notification.  When I did respond, Jamie was rolling in the mud subduing our escape artist. This time, according to Jamie, Mop had no fight or flight left as Jamie carefully carried Mop back to the truck. Mop had finally given up.  

Jamie called me on his way back to the shelter and I insisted on seeing Mop.  Mop had the saddest eyes I have ever seen.  They were like looking into a hollow soul that did not belong anywhere or to anyone.  Jamie and I stood in the pouring rain, staring into the hollow eyes of a dog we had been chasing for months. The easy part was over. Was Mop broken? Will Mop ever really belong?

Mop wasn’t out of the woods yet. The first few days at the shelter were rough. He did not adjust well initially and remained tucked away in the corner. He was terrified of anyone who approached….everyone EXCEPT Jamie. Somehow he recognized and felt safe with the ACO, but only if there was a gated door between them. At that time, Mop was not adoptable.  He had so much fear and distrust with anyone – but there is hope.

 

Mop has been rescued.

The first time and last day I saw Mop at the shelter, a gentleman by the name of Shane came specifically to see and possibly adopt Mop.  The shelter by this time had named him Chester. The ACO and myself were a little shaken.  We were not sure it had been enough time for December/Mop/Chester to keep him from running again.  I want to share with you the recent update from Mops new owner.

“Hi, this is Shane, I adopted Chester.  I just wanted to message you and give you an update on him.  Monday will be 4 weeks and he is a totally different dog.  He has been absolutely amazing and such a blessing to me.  He is so happy and gets so excited when I come home. He is still a little shy and skittish around new people, but he seems to be getting better. He seems to be house broken and has only had 1 accident in the house.  He really likes to take walks and I’ve had him off his leash a couple of times and he stays right with me.  I just wanted to give you an update and let you know how he’s doing.  Oh, he doesn’t like baths or riding in the car. 😂”

 

And that’s why what we do, why advocating and raising awareness is so important. It is essential to have volunteers who are willing to work with rescue services, who understand the need, the calling, and like this case of a dedicated officer, are willing to work with the animals on behavior and social skills in order to make them more adoptable. To get these under-loved animals out of survival mode takes time, patience, and someone willing to work with them. I am so glad to be a participant in this happy ending.

It took Jamie Hollor (ACO) some time to get comfortable with the idea of accepting Mop’s adoption, but the gentleman who approached the shelter about adopting Mop made the decision easy for everyone. He was looking for a dog that he could give a good life to and that needed a lot of love, but I think he got the opposite.  Mop has been a blessing in his own life he did expect. Mop now has a warm, patient and loving family and for the first time in a long time, is safe.  Hope Wins..

And with a new home came a new name.

Chester.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Mop in his new home.