A few people have asked what trailing is and how it can be used in Search & Rescue.... in short, it is the use of a K9 to locate a missing person by following the scent they leave behind. Usually a piece of clothing or other "scent article" is given to the K9 where the person was last thought to be to discriminate the scent of the missing person from all other scents. But let's hear Charlee and her handler tell us how its done in their own words.
It Was a Dark and Windy Night in September 2017 when we received a call out for a missing person. It was 02:00am and a 16-year-old girl had gone missing in the area. She was sleeping over at a friend in in the area who had woken up to notice that she was not in the room, her ruffled bed was empty and both the bedroom and house doors open.
The friend and family were extremely concerned, as she had not told anyone that she was leaving, plus she had not seemed upset or exhibiting any other abnormal symptoms. Her cell phone was off and not traceable. The local security company had been alerted and neighbors and additional family members were also requested to assist with the search of the surrounding suburb, wetlands and beaches.
Charlee's Given the Scent of the Missing Girl
Part of the standard trailing procedure is to is to ask people at the scene not to move or touch items related to the incident or person. The girl had been horse riding that afternoon and her riding gear and boots were still in the hallway where she had left them.
Charlee was harnessed up, scented on the riding gear and given the seek command. Initially she trailed into the garden, then exited the premises where she picked up the freshest scent and headed down the dark road. Charlee has her harness on with a long leash so she can work freely and let me keep up with her.
It was a black night and there are no street lights in the area. She was trailing at a brisk pace, pulling me along positively, when suddenly she turned into a secluded driveway and came across a barely visible dark shadow-like object in front of me. I couldn't tell what it was but knew Charlee had found something of interest when she sat in front of the object to let me know.
I turned on the torch and revealed the hunched-up figure of missing girl who was cold and frightened but otherwise ok.
It turned out the girl had received a distress call on her mobile late in the night and wandered outside in order to avoid waking the sleeping family. By the time the mobile ran flat she had walked far further then she meant to and as it was a really dark night, with no streetlamps. After losing her orientation she had got completely lost. She was happily reunited with her family and one proud Charlee and her handler went back to bed.
Charlee Gets her Reward
The bell rang early the next morning and Charlee was rewarded by the girl’s friend and family with all sorts of doggie treats and heaps of praise. Being a true Australian cattle dog, Charlee ignored the praise and tucked into her treats!