When people are missing, often dog teams are called in to locate them. At times, Human Remains Detection dogs or cadaver dogs are utilized to recover the deceased body of a missing individual. These dog teams are often used by law enforcement to successfully prosecute cases and to provide evidence that would otherwise be overlooked. They are also used in “cold cases” to find bodies that have been missing for years and even decades. These dog teams take a special kind of dog and an even more special type of person to be successful.
Whether the death was due to a homicide, suicide or even a natural disaster, families of the victim are desperately searching for closure. These dog teams perform a daunting job in some rigorous conditions and environments to provide that closure.
The Cadaver Dog Team
This episode gives you some insight into what it takes to make a cadaver dog team, from the training of the dog to the human perspective of searching for and locating bodies.
A Special Thanks to Kathy Doty, Col. Jeff Jordan and Corey Archer for sharing their stories.
We also want to thank our episode sponsors. Be sure to visit them to learn more and show them your support.
Website – Facebook – Instagram
Website – Facebook – Instagram
Music for this episode:
“Ossuary 5 – Rest” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
“Concentration” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
Click ‘Show transcript’ below to read the transcript from this episode of A Life of Dogs.
A Life of Dogs Podcast
Episode 5: Cautious Closure
Hosts: Jason Purgason; Chris Anderson
Guests: Col. Jeff Jordan; Kathy Doty; Corey Archer
Duration: 45:24 minutes
Broadcast Date: May 19, 2019
Chris: Support for A Life of Dogs is brought to you by Royal Canin. Royal Canin offers precise, effective nutrition for dogs based on size, age, breed, and to address specific needs. To learn more about Royal Canin, visit them on the web at royalcanin.com, and by Dogtra, trusted by professionals. Dogtra ensures your training journey with durable training products equipped with patented, accurate and intuitive control to ensure the best experience. Join us and together we can make every dog exceptional. To learn more, call (888) 811-9111 or visit dogtra.com.
Jason: Thanks for joining us for Episode 5 of A Life of Dogs. Hopefully you’ve listened to the first 4 episodes and you’ve subscribed to our podcast on your favorite podcast player. If you haven’t joined us on Facebook and Instagram, be sure to do so. We’ve got some pretty cool giveaways going on and we’ve got some pretty cool content there as well. This is a pretty intriguing episode about cadaver dog teams and as such, it needs a bit of a disclaimer. So if you have a limited tolerance for gore or if you’re listening with small children, this may not be the episode for you.
Kathy: or FBI. And as we started working the case, my dog went to this bucket, a five gallon bucket out in the middle of this field, and the dog kept looking in the bucket and sitting, looking in the bucket and sitting and she wouldn’t come when I called her, so I went over there to see and there was a decapitated head in the bucket
Jason: From A Life of Dogs, I’m Jason Purgason and this is Cautious Closure. The human head in the bucket belonged to Ted Ward, a 46 year old man who was murdered in Mississippi in March of 2009. Finding a human head isn’t something most people want to experience and definitely not something most people volunteer to do. That is however the typical scene for a cadaver dog handler. In this episode, we talk with three different cadaver dog handlers, all of which are volunteers and all from different backgrounds. One, a small business owner, another a Lieutenant with a police department in Alabama, the other an educator and a Colonel with the South Carolina National Guard. We start with Colonel Jeff Jordan who handles a German shepherd named Trooper.
Newscasters: History in the making this morning as Hurricane Katrina is making landfall on the coast of Louisiana, and Dr Steve Lyons, our hurricane expert is on board now to talk about its impact this morning. Good morning, Steve.
Dr Lyons: Morning, Kim, and we’re looking at a landfall in South-eastern Louisiana….almost, not quite….
Jeff: In New Orleans, bodies hanging out of caskets. The water had knocked…you know in New Orleans, they bury everybody above ground and that wave of water just came in and blew them and popped the caskets open and they’re hanging out. That’s then, and of course some of the very gory 3rd, 4th stage bloat stage. You know, it’s pretty bad. The smell gets pretty bad and you try to find where the wind is and you stand upwind of the person. You try not to stand around it. We basically worked in the lower 9th Ward, exactly where the levees broke. We did have few missions outside of that, in some collapsed structures outside of it. Primarily in the 9th Ward, just sweeping it up, going street to street and house to house, checking for human remains, anything that was left, cars that had been rolled and tumbled. By the time I got there, they’d already moved everything out of the streets, so we were searching these big rubble piles that were along the edge of the roads and then of course some collapsed houses and businesses and things like that
Jason: Over the years, had the opportunity to talk with and spend some time with handlers who worked after Katrina. Most of them were ‘live find’ dog handlers who were looking for people who were still alive. Basically what I was able to sort of ascertain from talking to them was that the conditions there were drastically different than what most people are accustomed to working in. A lot of them described it as overwhelming. So can you take a minute and sort of talk about what it was like to spend that month, working with a cadaver dog?
Jeff: Yeah, well everything was toxic and we would make very clear that when you have that flood and everything out of a house is just blown out. And then of course you’ve got human remains in the water. You’ve got everything you can imagine – the sewage – and everything is out there in the water. So we knew that things were very toxic. One of the biggest problems we’ve had, and I like to tell them when I teach classes, I teach cadaver dog things. It was the large odor source. Pinpointing is not as hard as the odor source. As soon as we got out of the trucks, you could smell human decay. And of course, if I could smell it, I know my dogs could smell it. It was very overwhelming. Even at the deployment where we were staging, you could smell it.
The dogs had a hard time. We had to take about a day and a half to acclimate them to all right, I know you know where it is. I know you smelled it, now let’s go pinpoint it. We had to get past the fact that it was everywhere and we had to really rely on our pinpointing skills. Of course we train that way and really had to go rely back that. We also had problems with …I like to tell this story when I was teaching that class today, that I had to put on a Tyvek suit on several occasions. OSHA had required us to wear Tyvek suits and I had deduced that I’d never trained my dog that way. I put this whole suit on gas masks, the whole nine yards taped up completely and my dog started barking at me. He couldn’t see me, he couldn’t smell me. So we had to take the mask off, pull the hood back and play with him and work and this and that because I never trained in that condition, and of course, I do it now the best I can. The water was toxic. We had to keep the dogs out of the water. We had to bring enough water for ourselves and for the dog. You had to make sure you specifically hydrated that dog. You didn’t want him getting in that water. The heat – I’m from South Carolina, but that Louisiana heat was unbearable and so we had to really keep an eye on our dogs too. We almost had to save them from themselves. You know, the odor was there and we said, look, that’s enough. You’ve been out here an hour and a half. Let’s go take a break. Let’s go swimming. Let’s be a puppy. We had to really protect our dogs from the environment as well as ourselves.
Jason: Some of the stuff that they mentioned was that it was dead humans, dead animals, dead fish, gasoline, just everything. Like you said, house blew out so everything in my house or garage is now…
Jeff: Everything in your refrigerator. Everything out of your freezer. The sewage had been… Where we were, there were septic tanks that had been blown out of the water or contaminated. You assumed everything was toxic and then you had the mold and all that other kind of thing. We had to wear masks on a lot of occasions to protect ourselves. Of course our dogs didn’t have any masks like that and the dog’s hazard was upturned roofs with the nails and all that kind of thing and we had to deal with that a good bit. We’d never trained our dog in boots. I just don’t do that. I think my dog seemed to have a lot more dexterity when they don’t have any things in their boots. And he’s just kinda like when humans walk through stickers. We don’t put our foot down on something that hurts. We’re going to back off. Dogs are the same way. So we were able to get through that pretty good, but the heat was the hardest thing for the dogs to deal with and the contamination. We had to decontaminate our dogs every day, decontaminate ourselves and our dogs with a solution. Basically, it had a bath every day and they didn’t like doing that, but of course these dogs were going back and crawling in bed with us at night so you’re going to make sure that dog was good and clean.
Jason: Working in these mass casualty disaster scenes is challenging for cadaver dog teams. They work in natural disasters, homicides, cold cases, and even dealing with drowning victims. We want to spend a bit here giving you some insight into the type of work these cadaver dog teams do. We return to Kathy Doty who talks about a very unusual case that she dealt with in Mississippi in 2014.
Newscasters: It’s back to those tornadoes from yesterday, one of the hardest hit places in Mississippi, the town of Lewisville where at least 9 people were killed. It is believed a powerful EF-4 tornado touched down there. WDS reporter Travis Mack was there tonight…
Kathy: In April in Mississippi, in Lewisville, Mississippi, there was a tornado and every case you walk away from, I sit back and think about it for days and I go over and go over and I do make a report on every case and you then start thinking of things you could have done better or you could have changed, but four years ago we worked a case where the tornado was very, very, very devastating in Lewisville and a mother, a father and a seven year old child was missing. And so our task was… They did locate the mother and the father mostly intact, but you can read about it all day long, but when you see what a tornado does to a body, it’s horrific. So everybody’s looking for this little seven year old boy, and we searched for five days. You can’t say anybody’s right or wrong, but when we go out, we’re clearing an area and that’s just as important. It’s a whole team effort. So if they give me a hundred acre field or woods, we’re going to clear it the best we can and at least we can come back and say it’s 75% cleared or 55% cleared because it’s hard to clear something 100%. So for five days we look for this little boy. And the whole time it was sad because we were never given the area around the house. The mother and father were 200 acres away from the house in a huge field, and the father was another 30 acres probably away.
So, and assuming they thought the boy would be farther and actually the whole time he was within 50 foot of his house in the backyard covered up in debris and deceased. So the sad thing was it took five days to locate, which other people did when they started clearing the area. But much to my surprise, my dog, we had a little area of woods in the middle of the field divided this field with a creek and we were working it and my dog, all of a sudden, his behavior changed totally. I could tell he was in scent, but then with all the firemen out there and all the backup people and the very people that offered to help, the dog became somewhat aggressive as I would say. He got guarded. He wouldn’t move. I was confused on what the dog was doing. So I immediately got the dog, put him on a leash and put him back in my vehicle without a reward, which was one of the biggest mistakes I made. And when I went back to the area, I started looking around and that’s when I discovered the cadaver was all around us. There was a liver, there was a bladder, there was intestine hung all in the trees. Everybody else walked by there and there was a stench, but nobody noticed what it really was. And it was the dog that come out. Otherwise this person, body parts and pieces would have been left out there because really nobody else identified what it was, and if it wasn’t for the dog, it would probably never would have identified. And then on our team, we have a doctor and she is the one I heard saying, Oh my God, this is a bladder and this is human. And so that was probably the biggest eye opener I’ve had in a case. It was pretty bizarre. And so the coroner, he was overwhelmed as it was and we called him, and because we had the official people we needed there being a doctor there and some law enforcement, we pretty much spent two days GPS-ing each spot, taking a picture, putting each part in a zip lock bag and marking it. So, that’s been the one case that I would say I have worked the hardest at, and it was pretty tough, but everybody was a great team that was there and worked it out. But the biggest thing I realized afterwards is that I did not reward my dog and the dog was correct and I really, truly feel like if that dog would’ve not had that strong change of behavior, and even though he showed some aggression, not that he was gonna bite somebody or attack somebody, but just this knowing your dog and knowing that this is something totally different, but the dog was still communicating clearly. I think that would have all been overlooked.
Jason: Next we hear from Corey Archer, the police Lieutenant from Alabama as he tells us about the case of Nick Bauer, a 28 year old Georgia man who went missing during a storm at Talladega Motor Speedway in May of 2013.
Corey: Well, I was aware of the situation just because of being a race fan and saw it on TV that the guy was missing, and a day or two after the race, I was at home, got a call on my business phone and it was the family. The family just asked if we had a cadaver dog that was available and if we would be willing to help and what it would cost. So I told him to give me a few minutes and I called the Sheriff’s department down there. I had some contacts in Talladega County Sheriff’s department from working previous races at the race track. I made some contact with them and asked them if it would be okay if we came down and tried to help locate the victim that was missing. So they said, sure, come on.
Well, I called the family back and told them that we’d come out, and then the next day we went down there to the track and met with some track officials and the Talladega County Sheriff’s department deputies, and they showed us where the victim had been camping and directly behind their camp ground or camp site, there was a creek and it had been raining for a couple of days, so that creek was really rolling and that’s where we started our search at. I always worked Katcha off-leash. She worked better off-leash so we started right there at the camp site, right close to the creek running parallel with the creek, just working in the area, actually headed South with the current and we probably worked approximately half mile or so down that creek area and Katcha threw her head up and her body language got real rigid and she made a 90 degree turn towards the creek and actually jumped down into the middle of the creek and just started swimming circles. And she just swim constant circles probably for two or three minutes. So that’s when I went ahead and rewarded her and called in the divers.
Jason: So they brought the dive team in?
Jason: How deep was this creek?
Corey: In that area where she was indicating it was probably five to six foot deep. So the divers worked that area pretty good. It was cold and visibility was terrible. They said they couldn’t see anything. Actually diving. So we of course pulled Katcha out and they pulled the divers out after an hour or so. And then, later on that afternoon is when we got the call saying that they had located him and he had drowned.
Jason: Being a cadaver dog handler and finding deceased victims is tough. But as Jeff Jordan explains, sometimes the hard part is finding nothing.
Jeff: Don, Dick and Harry has got a real pretty dog and I can borrow this canine stuff and dress up like a canine guy. You get out there and you don’t find anything or what’s worse is you say something’s there and it’s not there and that’s bad, bad, bad, bad. Somebody who goes to jail that shouldn’t be going to jail or some Fire Department or some EMD guy has spent a lot of money to bring in a lot of resources out there on something that isn’t there. And that’s bad news. That’s kinda heavy. And not everybody can handle that. You want your dog to succeed. You want to find something so bad, but if it’s not there, it’s not there. I’ve seen people do it the other way, and they give yourself, and to give our canine community a bad name when they come out there and they’re not prepared or their dog is not good enough and they want to not admit it. In the canine world as you know, we’ve got a lot of strong personalities and a lot of people who think they know everything, and their way or the highway, and so you got to put your pride aside and do what’s right in everything with this.
Well, sometimes you don’t see what you’re looking for. There might have been a body there and I’ve had to do that on occasion and I’ve got sheriffs, I got US marshals and FBI all looking at me, all right, you gonna make that call, and there’s no body there and maybe there had been some human remains there, or there’s been transport or whatever it may be. Are you willing to make that call? Because you know if you do and you mess up, a lot of bad is going to happen to you or somebody. Somebody is going to spend a lot of money, a lot of time and effort if you’re not right, and so that’s pretty heavy. You have to be willing to take on that responsibility. I mean, have a really good trained dog so you trust your dog.
Kathy: So my mind frame is always very positive that we’re going to go out there and if nothing else that we’re going to clear an area, because a lot of these cold cases is information that probably has just been recently given, maybe an inmate and so you’re kind of skeptical on the area, a case I just worked about a month ago. I don’t want for somebody to bring me in and say this is the spot. I want the officials to go in and look at the area and when they come back out, for them to give me a very large area to work. I want my dog to naturally go into a spot and naturally give me a change of behavior or an indication on a specific spot.
Jason: Cadaver dog teams not only have a pretty rough job. As we heard from Kathy Doty, you have to do it in some pretty rough places as well. It seems as though people who are trying to hide bodies don’t necessarily do it in the most convenient places. Can you sort of talk about the environment you have to work in, particularly in Mississippi? I know in the summertime, I’ve done some seminars and stuff down there and a lot of training, they can be pretty rough on you.
Kathy: Well, it is, and again, each time we’d go out, here’s what I tell the…there’s some ladies that train with me and have just recently recertified or certified a new dog and they’re much younger, so I’m glad that I can go and flank them, but the conditions are really bad. We have a really high humidity. The hot,hot days, we time our dogs from the minute we take our dog out of the vehicle and let them go to the bathroom. give them water and then start an area. We try to time and watch our dogs before we go on the field. We try to train in the same type of environments to see how long our dogs are able to work in those environments and still be able to work properly that they could give us information, and in most cases we find about 45 minutes is really pushing it.
So we were going in areas that are snake infested, of course. You know we have a lot of water moccasins, lots of snakes here and the ticks and the bugs are just unbelievable. So we have to really spray down a lot and be prepared to wear the proper gear. I use GPS collars on my dogs now because a lot of areas we go in are very, very bad. The thicket is really bad. We wear leather gloves because of the thorns but we try to keep a close eye on the dogs, but there’s times in the thicket, you don’t see the dogs. So my GPS keeps me in the right direction and it also lets me know when that dog stops for too long. I have it on a 30 second, so if the dog stops for more than 30 seconds and a little alarm goes off. Could my dog be in trouble or has the dog located a source that we’re looking for? So we’re in swampy, muddy, wet, humid, hot, all the good stuff. It’s, it’s pretty tough so when we work cases, and I started doing this 10 years ago, I always, always bring two dogs so I can keep one dog in the air-conditioned vehicle and I can constantly swap them out. and the GPS, what helps me on that is I can go, depending on how far they want us to go in areas, whether 400 acres or just 20 acres, I can go to areas now with the second GPS collar on a different dog and I can cover other areas. So that GPS has been a wonderful tool for us and I think it has saved probably some of our dogs that there may be a very heavy thicket area, but you don’t realize on the other side could be a very busy road. So it shows the roads and everything. So it kinda keeps all of us safe. But our conditions are pretty horrific there. They’re pretty tough. So we have to carry a lot of water with us. We always have a medical flanker and a law enforcement flanker and then we do try to get somebody else that’s familiar with the area if possible, a fireman or somebody that will also go in the field with us.
I think that working forensic cases, people have no idea that when I go into a house that somebody had been murdered in that house or in a vehicle or a barn or shed, that our dogs can go out there and pick up the scent of body fluids, blood and that dog can give us great information there. It’s not necessarily a body there, but a body has been there. So I’ve worked cases in vehicles that have been burned and although there were no bones in there, the dogs can locate that. They can also locate a burn victim in a house that a house with them burned down. I don’t think people in general realize the importance of a dog going into the field in areas now. They don’t think about it. We are given areas when we get called out. We go to a command post and we are assigned areas to work, whether it be a house or building, storage, vehicle, fields, woods, water. We are given a specific area to work. As the dog gives us something else and tries to take some other direction we do follow, but I’m gonna say 70% of our cases, our dogs cleared the area and gave us good information.
There was no body there. There was not a body buried there, there was nothing that took place there. But I don’t think we get enough credit for that as well because that’s just as hard of work. We’re out in that field just as long in the hot sun and in the horrific conditions and so clearing areas helps you move on to another area or to somebody else that might have more information that could help us go to the correct area. So I don’t think we’re recognized a lot of times for clearing areas that they give us, and there’s nothing there. A lot of times it’s looked at as the dog was just out there running around. We hear all these comments and we hear the comments when we’re in the field with some of the flankers out, whoever they are, and it’s disheartening, but at that same time, we keep going. So I think that’s one of the things that in general, people don’t understand that – how much work it is, how much training it is. It’s not like we just have a dog that they think, well, it’s a dead body. A dog could smell anything. Heck, we could smell a dead body. Well, that’s true in a lot of cases, but it takes a lot of training. It takes months and months. It takes a lot of hours. It takes years, and just because your dog is certified, we’re not done. We still train every weekend and we still are out in all conditions, and I don’t think that that’s always recognized.
Jason: Be sure to stay with us. When we return, we talk to Jeff Jordan about one of the most unusual finds he’s had.
The Dogtra Pathfinder is designed to meet Dogtra’s legendary standard for quality and performance. The Pathfinder is for serious dog trainers and owners who demand the most in working hunting and competitive environments. Track up to 21 dogs, share locations, playback data, and create customizable geo-fence alerts. With an incredibly fast 2-second update rate and powerful zoom capability, the Pathfinder track and feature provides greater live action detail and accuracy when you’re in the field. To hear more about the Dogtra Pathfinder or other great Dogtra products, visit dogtra.com
Chris: Royal Canin delivers precise nutritional solutions so your dog can perform at their very best level. To achieve a perfect balance of nutrients for each dog, they rely on an extensive network of canine experts from across the globe, including veterinarians, universities, dog professionals, and their own research development center in France. Royal Canin helps your dogs train and perform at their full potential. To learn more about Royal Canin and the nutritional solutions they have to offer your dogs, visit them online at royalcanin.com.
Jason: So what’s the strangest situation you found yourself in with a cadaver dog?
Jeff: This fella was, I guess you could call him, the village idiot and he was always calling 9-1-1 for anything – toothaches, I need a ride across town. I want to kill myself – but of course they have to follow up. They followed this day. He called in once and I’m going to kill myself. I’m gonna do it. I’m doing it this time. So they go to the guy’s house. There was a suicide note on his front door, “I’m going to the state park. I’m going to do myself in and all these other things” so they go to the state park. There’s his truck with another suicide note under the windshield wiper. “I’m going in the forest and I’m killing myself. Give my brother my truck.” So the police and the search and rescue guys go out and look for this fellow. It’s real hot; dead of summer and South Carolina was a hundred and something degrees that week. They searched for three days. They couldn’t find him. I’m not knocking police, but sometimes they’re good. They’re real good looking for bad guys. They’re not real good looking for suicide or mental cases in some cases.
So they assumed after about three days this guy was dead, and so they call us in and we get there and we are assessing the scene. It was the middle of the day. It was just too hot for the dogs. I’m not gonna risk my dog – not trying to sound rude – for a deceased person or my men, it was real hot. So we formed a little hasty search and we kind of deduced based on knowing what lost people do that or mentally ill people. This guy left so many notes he wanted to be found. He did not want to just go out in the woods and die and nobody ever find him or he would never have left all these notes. So we formed a hasty search knowing that he’s going to follow the path of least resistance. He wasn’t looking for the cops. He might be mentally ill, but he wasn’t running from the cops. He wasn’t scared. He wanted to go back there and die.
So to make a long story short, we searched for about two hours, then I look up at the top of the hill and I see a clearing and there’s a person’s body lying there and fit the description. Blue jeans, no shirt on, no shoes. As I get closer, I could see beer cans, Coors Light, pill bottles all around him and he’s kinda leaning up on the tree, covered in ants, And then of course I got that smell as I got closer, that strong urine odor of an early stage of death. And so, on my walkie-talkie – and of course you have to be careful what you say on that walkie-talkie. You don’t know who’s on the other end -there’s something interesting here. I’m going to go check it out, and I get closer to the guy and I’m kneeling down. He supposed to have a tattoo. I’m looking for it to make proper identification and then he breathes. He takes a real deep breath. That’s about the scaredest I’ve ever been. I forgot all radio protocol then. Used a lot of colourful metaphors to get people down there to help me. And I think I jumped about three yards off of that guy and he was still alive and we got a search. Then it became a recovery, a rescue. And we got the rescue guys down in there and started pumping IV and it was too thick to carry him to get a 4-wheeler and all the other Gee Whiz stuff down there.
So we had to just form a chain. It was so hot, you can only go 30 or 40 yards and pass him on and finally got him to the top of the hill and there was a helicopter waiting on him. As far as I know, he’s still living. His brother didn’t get the truck. His brother was a little mad at him. But that was the strangest case and probably the scariest thing. I never expected what I considered. He even smelled dead. He even looked dead. He breathed and gave a real deep sigh. Yeah. I used a lot of bad words that day. It scared me to death.
Jason: It’s been a long standing belief that cadaver dogs after finding bodies become depressed. So we decided to ask Jeff Jordan about this. I’ve heard this going around the community for some time over the years, particularly amongst cadaver dog handlers. I just want your perspective or your take on it. I have my own, but I want to get yours. and that is that the cadaver dogs work in an operational environment, finding dead bodies after dead bodies, after dead bodies that the dogs become somewhat depressed, I guess, or tend to act depressed. What’s your idea or opinion on that?
Jeff: People ask me that all the time. Does your dog get sad? Absolutely not. He gets to play at the end of this thing. It’s play. He doesn’t have the kind of emotion. He may get sad if he sees me sad. We’re a team and he can kind of sense my dad doesn’t feel good about this, but as long as he gets that toy, he doesn’t care. I mean, I’m not trying to sound not sensitive, but the dog doesn’t have the same kind of emotions like we do. He gets that toy, he’s as happy as he can be. He’s ready to go to the next one. You get that dog with that proper drive. That’s all he lives for. You can’t watch TV around this nut head at night cause he’s always wanting to play. And so nah, he doesn’t sad.
Jason: Yeah, that was my experience with cadaver dogs. She wanted to go find it and she wanted it. It was just as fun for her to find a dead body as it was for a drug dog to find out a bag of weed.
Jeff: That’s how they deal with it. It’s not emotional to them. It’s just that that smell brings fun. People say, does your dog smell drugs? Like, Oh yeah, he’s a dog. He just not going to tell me about it. I never tell him to tell me about that.
Jason: He’s not a snitch.
Jeff: No, he’s not a snitch and he’s not going to tell on you.
Jason: Even though the dogs find this work to be enjoyable, it does have a profound effect on the handlers
Newscasters: Day 2 of that massive cadaver dog search at the old Florida school for boys in Okeechobee.
Kathy: None of us are heroes. I mean, that’s not what it’s about. It’s about us all being a team effort and all the people that put in long hours and times. But unbelievable over the years, there’s been a handful of different families that I guess seek me out. They didn’t call me or talk to me, but they actually sent me a thank you card and I have kept those cards because I know they were in pain and they were suffering and hurting until they found emotionally everybody was, but they took the time to reach out to me as well, and it just made my day. It just really made my day. I can remember cases I worked that I kept my cool, but on the way home, I just cried. I just could not believe, you know, that there are cruel people in the world that do these horrific acts. But those cases that really, really bothered me were young people. There was a young lady, ROTC young lady just graduated from high school and disappeared.
Jason: That high school graduate was Shambrica Brewer, an 18 year old who was murdered by Travis McCloud, an ex-boyfriend in April, 2005.
Kathy: We found her actually the very first day and the condition she was in, how she was beaten and left naked, and the position in a ditch. She was left purposely. It just broke my heart to think that somebody could do this to this young, vibrant woman. She was only 18 years old. I’ve had a lot of people ask me questions about that on death and seeing a body does not … for some reason it doesn’t bother me because I feel I try to turn it around and feel like I’m bringing closure. And the drownings- you know, the whole families are used to be on the river and everybody’s feelings and emotions are intense, and that’s one of the reasons why if I know I’m working with water, I want to bring a dog that does not bark and that’s just my choice. If you have a dog out there and send a boat down the river and the dog stops barking, everybody hears it. It’s just everybody’s feeling so emotional.
And if you have a dog that is silent, in some cases it works really, really well. In drownings, I’ve been there when they pull up the bodies and all, and those are also very sad. But I just have a good feeling because I did bring closure and we knew that there was a person in the water. But then I will say that I’ve worked other cases that, it’s not that I don’t have emotions about it but, I just felt good that we found the body but we did know then that we were looking for the rest of the body, and I sent the dog on and we did locate the body, I think within 10 minutes out in the woods. So in that case, I kept professionally. It’s just hard when you know it’s a child or a very young person. Those cases when I leave, that it hits me. I keep my emotions intact and professional while I’m on the case though when I leave it is very, very emotional.
Jason: So you had Katcha for a couple of years. You’re looking at possibly training another shepherd?
Jason: For cadaver. Of all the search and rescue dogs out their there trailing USAR, all the stuff that’s cool and sexy and finds people alive, what makes you want to work a cadaver dog?
Corey: Two things. First thing, there’s not many of them out there that’s doing it and doing it right and there’s a need for it. The need to provide that service is important to me, because like I said, number one, you want to be able to put closure to somebody’s situation traumatic or bad situation. You want to be able to say, hey, we’ve located your missing relative. Even though they are deceased, at least you can have the sense to know that they have been located and you can go through the grieving process and the burial process and that kind of thing.
Kathy: Because all of this is about our future, my goal is not just bring closure to families, but it’s also to help the younger generation, because when we’re not here, there’s very few people that are really young that’s interested in this so my doors are always open to anybody. You come camp out at my house and come train with us because it’s the next generation that’s going to have to bring this up for us and take over so educating them is important. Yeah, it’s hard. It’s tough seeing that first body. It’s tough to seeing that first murder case or homicide. It’s pretty tough.
Jeff: Two parts of it, and one of the fun of handling dogs is your dog did something that you’ve trained it to do, and I think anybody who’s worked a dog just gets pumped when their dog find something that you want it to find, and then you see the human remains part of it. I’m a dad, I’m a grand-dad and I’m a husband and all the above and you see someone who’s been murdered and their bodies just disposed out in the woods. It kind of gets to you a little bit. I always think about the humanity. How could someone do that to another person?
But then again, it just kind of turns out to be a business. I hate to say it, you don’t get used to it, but you kind of departmentalize it in your brain. You said, this is my job. This is what I’m doing. Now of course, children bother you, teenagers certainly but some stuff I’ve seen just doesn’t look real. It’s like something you see in a movie. I can’t believe I’m seeing this. Now my job is to find them, then I could walk off. I’m not a crime scene guy. I don’t have to stick around. Sometimes I do to help, but you departmentalize it in your brain, but I can still remember my first one. I can remember my first one and it startled me. Of course it is different than seeing a body at a funeral home. You know, they’re all fixed up and laying there and Oh, they’re so pretty and he looked so good. Well, you don’t see him like that out in the bush especially they’ve been laying out there a couple of weeks or they’ve had animals this and that, and you can’t describe the smell. That’s something that… I don’t care what anybody tells you. You don’t get used to that. I tried rubbing Vicks Vapor Rub under my nose one time. It just smelled like a dead person with Vicks Vapor Rub on me. I saw that in a movie and thought I’d try it – didn’t work. It didn’t work at all. You don’t hang around it. You just do your job and then you go back and you start thinking, you know that person there bring closure now to that family, there’s that body. I’ve helped solve this case.
In a search and rescue thing, you say we found the body for the family, and I think what if that were one of my loved ones? I would want somebody like me to go out there and find it and bring some closure. If not, they’re the fear that you can’t find a body. Where are they? You know, that poor families has got to live with that for a long, long time but that’s how I kind of get over some of the sights I’ve seen.
Kathy: Well, I always hope, especially if it’s a cold case, which seems to be more of what we get as cold cases. Some of course I want to find, I am so desperate to help bring closure to a family because this is a family somewhere out there that’s missing their child, whether it’s a drug head, whatever kind of person this may be. It’s not always just my kidnapping situation that a 17 year old females missing, but it doesn’t matter what the case is. I hope and always pray that we give 100%, that we give all we can give on that particular day. And, you know, I always hope that there’s some kind of closure for that family. To me that’s the most important thing.
Jason: Once again, thanks for joining us for Episode 5 of A Life of Dogs. We want to send a special thanks out to Kathy Doty, Corey Archer and Colonel Jeff Jordan for sharing their stories. If you liked this episode, be sure to leave us a review on iTunes, Google Play, or whichever podcast app you use. Music for this episode by Kevin MacLeod. Be sure to stay tuned to next month’s episode because we’ve got something really special coming your way.