Watch CBS News

Cadaver Dogs Undergo A Lifetime Of Training To Search For Human Remains

BALTIMORE (WJZ)-- A team of cadaver dogs continues searching for a Maryland woman missing in Aruba.

The dogs will spend the entire week scouring the southeastern section of the island where Robyn Gardner was reported missing by her travel companion Gary Giordano.

Investigators are using a specialized search technique, and as Alex DeMetrick reports, it takes a lifetime of training.

The dog is named Raven, and it's a refresher day on the water. The lesson: Find the scent of human remains, pumped out into the middle of a cove off the Choptank River.

"On July the 4th this year, my young dog actually helped to recover a body that was a 129 feet in water. It sounds like it's such a hard job to do but it's not-- scent, break, surface," explained Lisa Higgins of the Bay Area Recover Canines.

And as Raven sniffs, her nose points the way, acting as a guide for the boat, until Raven signals a hit by laying down.

"It gives us enough information to know where to put the recovery efforts," Higgins said.

The recovery would be a body. Commonly called cadaver dogs, Bay Area Recovery Canines are trained to find the missing.

"We teach them what we want them to do when they actually get to it, because a lot of time we can't see it," Heather Roche of the Bay Area Recover Canines said. "We can pinpoint it. They'll either sit or bark or maybe lay down."

Penta is the youngest. Full name: Pentagon Remembered. Her older work mates searched for remains there after 9/11. They searched for bodies following Hurricane Katrina. They looked for the astronauts who died aboard the space shuttle Columbia.

To train dogs to smell human remains, you need bits and pieces of humans.

"Blood drawn for anything, all of us will ask for an extra vial, and we'll pick that out like a shirt and use that," Roche said. "And then, friends who have babies, a lot of times we can get their placentas. Everybody looks for their kids' teeth when they lose them."

Scents also come from crime scenes and medical facilities. And even though they're certified for this work, dogs must constantly renew that training, to stay fresh, no matter how old the case.

The oldest human remains found by the dogs date back nearly 1,000 years, found in an archeological dig in Mississippi.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.