Trust the Dog

From the book Scent of The missing:

There's a story told about an experienced handler working a training scenario with a young dog who'd just begun to learn to search. The threestory warehouse where they sought a single wolunteer victim was an ideal training enviroment: full of stacked crates, landscaping tools, out-of-season holiday decorations, window cleaning equipment, discarded office furniture, and the occasional makeshift bed for a homeless person who'd snuck in. The lighting was poor. there were dark stairwells and disused elevator shafts, strange air currents and dead corners where scent hung motionless. The building challenged even experienced teams. But this dog was keen, and this handler wanted to give the building a try.


Working from the almost empty ground floor up, the two swept the entire warehouse, and the Australian Cattle dog pup hesitated in only one spot - a patch of cement strewn with moldy remains of halloween hay. He worried at the hay a little before the handler directed him away and upward to the second floor. From there they worked slowly through the still air, threading thier way between the corridors of outcast computer desks and finfing nothing. Up to the third floor, even more congested and dusty, peppered with pigeon feathers and owl droppings. They worked the room edges, the corners, and made back-and-forth sweeps across the middle of it through debris. The dog showed no interest at all. Knowing they had one planted victim, the handler reversed the search and again swept the third floor. Nothing. Second floor. Nothing still. Losing faith in the dog due to it's youth and relative inexperience, the handler began opening crates and tilting boxes over, hoping either to find the victim himself or to stir the air enough to shake loose a significant scent. The dog did not respond. In frustration, the handler took the dog back to the first floor and moved back to the flat scatter of hay, and the handler called him away from it twice, directing the dog to the edges of the elevator door.

The story goes that the dog now had enough, ignored the handler and marched past him, oblivious to further commands, trotting out of the building straight to the head trainer and plopping down in her lap. The trainer says that when the handler came out, his face flushed with anger, the dog turned away. She says the dog too looked disgusted, like "ain't HE a piece of work?"

After a few moments' debrief, the trainer asked if the dog had shown any interest in anything in the buiding at all. The handler dismissivley mantioned the hay. The trainer stood up and led the pair back into the building, where she ran her foot across the hay and revealed the grate in the floor, and beneath the grate, a ten-year-old child sat patiently in the space of an air duct, lookig upward at the three of them.

I've never heard how the story concluded - if the handler made nice to his dog at that moment, if the dog shrugged off the incident in the way good-natured canines, how the pair of them fared on later searches. But the tale in all it's versions is always cautionary, it's warning perpetual: TRUST THE DOG

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