GREENVILLE COUNTY, S.C. (WSPA) – In 2022, South Carolina Foothills Search and Rescue had 76 calls for help.
For each and everyone, they brought their trained dogs to help get the job done.
These dogs start their training from a young age and train with young kids to elderly adults. Therefore, the dogs will know to just go find any human in need.
Dogs can easily smell humans, even from a great distance. Each person makes what is called a “scent cone” from their location.
Once the dog gets into that cone, they can now find the missing person.
Once they do, they will run back to their handler.
Hunnicutt Lindsay is the Chief of Foothills Search and Rescue and one of the handlers for the dogs.
“And then she’ll continue to run back and forth. Jumping on me until she’s brought me to the person.”
Sometimes it can take several hours for the dog to find the scent cone.
A lot of it can depend on the wind, which pushes the scent in a certain direction.
That’s when the handler will strategize to put the dog in a position to be downwind to have a better chance to catch the scent.
Whenever you go to a state or national park, you will want to one, tell someone where you are going to be. Two, you’re going to want to just stay in place so that way you can easily be found by the dogs or any of the search and rescue teams.
You want to make sure they come to you safe and sound.
If you continue to move around, that will make it harder for the dog to find the scent cone. If you stay in one place, that will bring the dog to your particular location quicker.
So how else does the weather play a factor in searches?
In South Carolina, summers are often warm and humid making it easier for smell to travel.
However, during the winter when temperatures fall below freezing, it can freeze the odor making it harder for the dog to track.
Jamie Wannemecher, with South Carolina Search and Rescue, said in difficult searches, it all comes down to training and the dog.
“So when we test a dog, we always test to see what kind of toy drive they have. That is the kind of dog that it will go and it will hunt for its toy no matter where it is, no matter what the terrain, no matter what the building, the atmosphere. It doesn’t care about anything other than finding its toy.”
So, during training, the dog will search for the missing person, and when they find them, the handler gives the dog that toy.
None of this will ever get started until these dogs are called upon by law enforcement.
Jeff Fowler, a K9 Handler for SC Search and Rescue, said they get called from multiple agencies.
“So, we’re called for multiple agencies. Foothills is contacted from multiple law enforcement agencies and emergency agencies and request our services based on their needs. At that point we contact our handlers, get our handlers out to the scene.”
Then the training kicks in, and the search is on.