How does a State Police K-9 become a cadaver dog?

Published 07/31 2014 06:05PM

Updated 08/02 2014 08:19AM

Cooperstown (WSYR-TV) – The Oswego County District Attorney says the search is over for possible clues into the disappearance of Heidi Allen at a site off of Rice Road in the town of Mexico.

No human remains were found at the site, and the DA says there is no indication that any remains were ever there.

A State Police cadaver dog drew attention when it "alerted" twice at the site.

According to the DA, a handler said that conditions at the site were less than ideal for the dog.

State Police who train these dogs say there are tons of variables to take into consideration when K-9s are working.

Just because these dogs "alerted" their handlers does not mean they found a dead body. All it means is they detected human remains - that could be something as small as a drop of blood in the dirt to a body that was in the area years ago and may have been removed.

14 state police dogs trained for 20 weeks at K-9 Basic Handler School in Cooperstown.

Whether these dogs will become cadaver dogs, drug dogs or bomb-sniffing dogs, all their training starts the same way.

The dog thinks he is searching for his "toy," but what he's really searching for is narcotics, explosives, or human remains.

Chairs, bags, and cardboard boxes fill the room -- all things that might be inside someone's home -- but one of these boxes contains a powder that looks and smells just like heroin.

K-9 Diff searches the room. He comes across the box and starts barking and scratching. He's found the powder.

"We start with obedience and then basically do detection, tracking, bite work, handler protection work, all at same time," says Tech Sergeant Jason Brewer, leading the K-9 program. "They're just sensing an odor and that odor triggers something in their mind, that if I alert this odor, I get a toy and I get to play with my handler. That's with these dogs live for."

It's a game to the dogs, but finding evidence is very serious business. One handler tells us the K-9s that are the best at finding drugs are often the ones that end up as cadaver dogs, searching for bodies.

"If it's been buried a long time, you have rain or other weather conditions that can spread the odor all over the place. So the dogs may be indicating a smell here, but if it's buried 10 yeas ago, it could be 100 yards up from here, and water could have washed some of the remains down," says Sgt. Brewer.

It's the K-9 that often detects what his handler can't, but it's a true partnership, and both rely on instinct and skill to solve the most difficult crimes.

For more information on the NYS Police K-9 Unit, click here.

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