Category Archives: special dogs and awards

Making cadaver dogs more efficient

A PhD student at the University of Huddersfield (UK) is conducting research to make cadaver and victim recovery (VR) dogs more efficient in their work.

These special dogs are probably not as well known as other working and assistance dogs, because the work they are associated with isn’t pleasant.  They are used to recover dead bodies (victims of suicide or murder), plus to find body parts and fluids that can help police track down the perpetrators of crime.  VR dogs were used to identify body parts from victims of the 7/7 bombings in London, for example.

Kip, a victim recovery dog from the South Yorkshire Police department, has been helping in the research (photo courtesy of University of Huddersfield)

Kip, a victim recovery dog from the South Yorkshire Police Department, has been helping in the research (photo courtesy of University of Huddersfield)

In her experiments using Kip, researcher Lorna Irish set out a sequence of vials containing different odours that she had prepared in the lab.  These chemicals are known to be produced from the body decomposition process.  Alongside these test chemicals were “positive controls” associated with human cadavers, such as human bone – from archaeological sources – and pork at various stages of decomposition.  Pork meat is used for training such dogs due to the ethical and legal problems associated with obtaining human material.  It is thought to be the closest analogue for human flesh for decomposition studies.  There were also “negative controls” – smelly chemicals not associated with decomposition, such as clove oil.

Kip correctly identified the odours derived from decomposition and was not distracted by the “negative control” smells.  It was a successful demonstration. In the field, VR dogs can sometimes be distracted by “false positives”, such as dead animals, or even mushrooms, explained Lorna.  If she can arrive at a greater understanding of the chemistry of odours from human cadavers, then VR dogs can be extra efficient.

“If you train a dog with a chemical that is specific to human decomposition, you can enhance its ability.  It is not about changing the way the dogs do it, but improving it,” she added.

Irish is approximately half-way through the research for her degree; she is traveling widely across the UK to observe dog training methods.

Source: University of Huddersfield media statement

 

Service dog fraud

There’s a worrying and growing trend in the United States.  It’s Service Dog Fraud – when dog owners purchase fake service dog vests and then take their dogs into public places.

Under the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act, people with service animals must be allowed access to public places.  This is the Department of Justice’s definition of a service animal:

“Service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Examples of such work or tasks include guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling a wheelchair, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications, calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack, or performing other duties. Service animals are working animals, not pets. The work or task a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person’s disability.”

Yet, the sale of fake service dog products is unregulated.  On a recent flight through Los Angeles International Airport, the volunteers in their PUPs programme told me that they regularly see fake service dogs at the airport.  They can be spotted a mile away – dogs that are clearly pets with behaviors that are not characteristic of true service dogs doing things like jumping on people or stealing food.

CBS News has covered this type of fraud, which is causing people with genuine disabilities to be questioned about their right to enter establishments with their service dog:

Canine Companions for Independence is asking dog owners to take a pledge to stop service dog fraud.  You can take this pledge by clicking here. 

I encourage you to sign the pledge and circulate it to your friends and relatives.  If you know of someone who is illegally passing their dog off as a service dog, please ask them to stop and help them to understand what problems they are causing.

See also my earlier post on the sale of fake service dog products

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, Canine Catering Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand

Comet’s Tale – book review

Comet's TaleThis book will make you want to go out and adopt a Greyhound!  Mr Wolf tells the story of Comet, a Greyhound who comes into his life as his health and well-being are seriously under threat.

The author never had any experience with Greyhounds until he is drawn to a charitable group promoting Greyhound adoption at his local supermarket.

A Greyhound who suffered abuse at the track, Comet is withdrawn around most people but decides that Mr Wolf (affectionately called “Wolfie” by his wife) is for her.  She literally sits down next to him and lets him know – take me home.

As Steven’s health deteriorates, he lives on pain killers and can barely walk or do simple household tasks.  This is when he decides that Comet has all of the qualities of a service dog and only needs training.  He looks for trainers to assist him and all scoff at the suggestion that a Greyhound could be a service dog.  So, he trains her himself.

I particularly liked the stories of Comet as she learns to pull Steven’s wheelchair through the airport.  Aided by the photo on the cover of the book (the only photo in this book, which perhaps is its only shortcoming), you can understand when Steven describes Comet’s doe eyes and the looks she would give him to communicate her very articulate thoughts!

I recommend this book for summer reading (if you are currently in the Northern Hemisphere) or curl up with it in front of the fire for winter entertainment (if you are in the Southern Hemisphere).

Happy reading!

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, Canine Catering Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand

 

 

SOF dogs and their memorial

Photo courtesy of SOF K9 Memorial Foundation

Photo courtesy of SOF K9 Memorial Foundation

Special Operations Forces (SOF) dogs are very special indeed.  These dogs serve on tours of duty in places like Iraq and Afghanistan and help to detect explosives and intervene when their handler or other soldiers are in danger.  Many SOF dogs never make it to retirement because they are killed in action.

A very special statute to honour these dogs has been placed at the Airborne and Special Operations Museum in Fayetteville, North Carolina.  Fort Bragg, which has a SOF kennel, is not far away.

SOF dog statue

When unveiled in July 2013, dog handlers from the various wars including Vietnam and WWII were in attendance.  These men have enjoyed a very special bond with their animals and often the handler adopts their dog once it has been retired from active duty.

Handlers who have lost their dog can apply to have a memorial stone placed in the surround of the statue.  There is also funding available for handlers to have memorials erected at their home base.

The SOF K9 Memorial Foundation welcomes donations to their cause from military personnel and others who want to honour the service of these remarkable dogs.

 

New team on duty at Christchurch Airport

There’s a new biosecurity dog team on duty at Christchurch Airport.  Meet Helga and handler Kimberly Sell in this article:

Helga on duty, photo by Kirk Hargreaves

Helga on duty, photo by Kirk Hargreaves

New team on airport duty – news – the-press | Stuff.co.nz.

In memory of a Schnauzer

When Dave Duffield started a software company named People Soft, he promised his beloved Miniature Schnauzer named Maddie, “If we ever make some money, I promise we will give it back to you and your kind so others can be as happy as we are today.”

Maddie's FundWell, People Soft did make money and Maddie enjoyed ten happy years with Dave and his wife, Cheryl.  They endowed Maddie’s Fund with more than US$300 million and have spent nearly US$136 million through FY2012-13 to save the lives of homeless animals.

Photo courtesy of Maddie's Fund

Photo courtesy of Maddie’s Fund

Maddie’s Fund has a simple mission:  To revolutionize the status and well-being of companion animals.

The fund supports a range of activities through grants and also organizes special pet adoption events.

Not a bad legacy for a little Schnauzer!

 

 

 

 

Hero Dogs – National Geographic June 2014

National geographic June 2014

I have just finished reading the June 2014 issue of National Geographic.  As you can see, the feature story is about the military dogs and the magazine has done a really wonderful job depicting the lives of the soldiers and their bomb detecting dogs.

Some facts:

  • at the height of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the US military had a force of approximately 2,500 working dogs
  • MWDs is the abbreviation for Military Working Dogs
  • A dog’s sense of smell is up to 100,000 times more acute than a human’s
  • The Belgian Malinois has been particularly successful in Iraq and Afthanistan because it can withstand the hot temperatures

Happy reading!