This next post is from Mike Halpin. Mike is a valued member of the New England K9 Search and Rescue team. Thanks to Mike and his dogs, we have been very successful in finding missing people in our area. We will periodically post some of Mike’s amazing stories, and we would like to mention that his dogs take some of our supplements too!
My name is Mike Halpin and I belong to a K9 Search and Rescue Team with my certified K9 Sadie. Sadie, a border collie, and I have been on the team for seven and a half years now. It took us two years to certify as a team prior to our first search. Since then, we’ve been called out on about 175 searches for missing people.
Examples of people who go missing; hunters, children, hikers, Alzheimer’s patients to name a few. Our team of eight K9s are searching for people who are out of place. This concept is hard to explain as it may leave a large question in your mind: How do they do this?
An example : Sadie and I are moving through the Vermont Technical College campus searching for someone hiding on us. Sadie will move through the students walking the sidewalks and her head snaps up and she sprints across the grass into the bushes and sprints back to let me know she’s found the missing person. She gives me a bark alert and re-finds the individual. This to Sadie is all about “the game.” Sadie finds the missing subject and she then gets to play with her frisbee. “Find – alert – re-find.”
Sadie is an air scent dog. Some search dogs are tracking dogs and search the ground, but Sadie searches the air for skin cells. That’s correct, skin cells. The human body releases 40,000 skins cells a minute. They are very light and are picked up by the moving air, and this is what Sadie finds.
We train weekly with the team and on our own. Our team is a volunteer team and we’re called out by the VT State Police and New Hampshire Fish and Game for about 35 searches per year. Sadie has been very successful at this game due to her high energy play drive as well as her prey drive. She wants to hunt and find the individual missing so she’ll get rewarded. To Sadie it’s a game, but to us it’s serious because lives are at stake. I’m very lucky to have Sadie because I know if we go through an 80 acre parcel of land without “a find” the person is not in my area. I trust my dog. My first search was seven and a half years ago and my last search was this past Sunday. Ok, story: 86 year old women with Alzheimer’s in central Vermont went missing and the emergency call went out. We were on the road in 15 minutes from the call. Upon arrival it was determined that Sadie and I would start the search because the initial K9 team was post-holing and, due to Sadie’s light weight, she could fly on top of the snow.
On our second pass in the area, Sadie picked up the scent and found our missing individual in a thicket of pine trees. She had been there an estimated four hours and was very cold with frostbite on her feet. She was very happy to see us. Sadie made a great find, she gave me an enthusiastic alert and went in for the re-find. That was a great day and there have been many since. I am part of a team that works very well together and this team is part of a larger system that the people Vermont and New Hampshire should be proud of.
Next time I’ll give you a little about how weather affects a search.
There are many stories and I haven’t even mentioned Molly yet.
To be continued……………….