This little 5-year-old boy was dropped off, alone at a public park by his parents. He wandered up to my truck and a nice family nearby. The little fella didn't know his parents' name, phone, or address. Police were unable to locate parents. He was taken to social services. Thank God he is safe . . .
Pocket and I just returned from cadaver training at Western Carolina University in North Carolina. WCU is one of only 6 universities in the country with a forensic anthropology facility, called the FOREST, dedicated to the study of human decomposition. Under the leadership of Dr. Cheryl Johnston and Paul Martin, the WCU program includes a cadaver dog program which provides dogs with unique exposure to human remains not available anywhere else.
I must admit I was a little apprehensive about going into the FOREST. But that quickly dissipated, as I focused my energy on Pocket's reaction, training and creating a positive experience for her. Pocket, like many of the dogs, did very well. She has now had an exposure that will be invaluable on real searches. Thank you WCU!!!
For those of you who have or might consider donating your body to science, the FOREST is a unique option where your body will not only help forensic anthropologists but also search dogs.
Out of respect to the donors and their families, we did not take photos of the facility. In that sense the FOREST felt at once sacred and scientific. We did take few photos outside of the FOREST where we were privileged to train under the tutelage of trainers Lisa Higgins and Brad Dennis.
Happy happy day!! K9 Scout found a missing child safe and sound today. Excellent work by Jefferson County Pubic Schools Police and school security personnel. Principal and teacher also played critical role in helping obtain hard to find scent article. Great teamwork by all!
I wanted to share this post. - Jennifer
By Sharon Murch
My daughter, Michaela Joy Garecht, has been missing for over 25 years, the victim of a witnessed stranger abduction. She was nine years old on November 19, 1988, when she and her best friend rode their scooters two blocks from home to the neighborhood market. They parked the scooters by the door while they went into the store, but when they came out one was not where they had left it. Michaela spotted it first, in the parking lot, and went to get it. As she bent over to pick it up, a man jumped out of the car parked next to it, and grabbed her from behind. Michaela screamed and her friend, Trina, turned to see the kidnapper throw Michaela into his car, and take off with her.
The police were called and responded immediately. By the time I found out what had happened, they were already looking for her, and I had no doubt with the quick response time and with the eyewitness description, she would be found quickly. But she wasn’t. Despite the efforts of the police, the media, and the huge and heartwarming outpouring of love and support by the community, she was not found quickly. She was not found at all.
After Michaela was kidnapped, I was tortured with thoughts of what she might be enduring right that minute. But I thought about those poor parents who had lost their children to illness or accident, and thought maybe I had it easier because in the very worst times I had that hope to carry me through, the hope that my daughter would come home safely. Every time a police car pulled up in front of my house I would run to the window, expecting to see Michaela sitting in the back seat. I would stand at my front door and gaze down the street where I’d watched her disappear from sight, hoping to see her little blonde head bobbing towards home.
But a year passed then two years, five years, ten, twenty, and now twenty-five. I discovered that hope is not always a brightly colored helium balloon that helps keep your spirits up. Sometimes it is dark and filled with lead, a weight that drags on you with every step you take, making you so weary you just don’t think you can go on. But you do. You have to,, because your child, who would now be an adult, your child who now would be just a little older than you were when you lost her, is still missing.
After a while, there is not much more that can be done, but you keep doing it anyway. For me, buoyed by the hope presented by other long-missing children having been found, I reach out to my daughter herself. I keep a BLOG in which I write to her, and even provide maps to help her get to embassies in other countries where she might be. I continue to talk to the media whenever asked, not because I want to, but because I continue to hope that perhaps Michaela will see it someday, somewhere.
Not many, but some people have criticized me for not being realistic, for not recognizing that after more than 25 years chances are Michaela is not alive. I do recognize that. But if I continue to knock myself silly looking for her and she is not alive, no harm is done to anyone but myself. On the other hand, if she is still alive, she may be suffering, and she needs me to keep looking for her. So that is what I do, and what I will continue to do, to look for my missing child, until the day she is found.
Pocket cut her paw on a search about 7 weeks ago, getting a nasty yeast infection which eventually healed. But with all the snow and ice this year, Pocket has kept re-injuring the paw. Amy, who owns Pocket's grandmother and is the incredibly knowledgeable owner of Leaps and Bones kindly shipped some Musher's Secret wax down south for the girls to try on their paws. It got here just in time for the last big snow. Snow balls clung to Remy, Scout and Pocket's legs and bellies, but no snow stuck in their paws. It works!
Since Pocket is young, I am also trying to get her to wear outdoor rugged boots from Ruffwear, Pocket's favorite name brand. Remy and Scout refused to wear shoes when I tried a few years ago. But Pocket is amenable to trying to make this shoe thing work. As we have gone out onto salted roads for test runs, I feel like I am walking a happy horse. Pocket loves horses, so maybe this will work . . . .
OK, so today I asked Pocket to go to her kennel. Obediently, she turned and went to her kennel. I was so proud of her! Until I came around the corner and saw this.
Remy, Scout and Pocket helped out in this case. We were honored to work with an excellent team of police, coroners and archaeologists. Click link above to learn more.
Today the sun was shining, but my goodness, it was cold. A big thank you to Julie Boyd for helping us train in sub-20 weather. Of note was Remy's run through a drainage pipe to get to scent source. Very cool - it was a long pipe. Also of note, we were not the only folks training. Cap off to the Atherton baseball and softball teams for practicing long and hard in the cold, even as the sun went down. Hopefully their dedicated practice will pay off for them this season, when it is warmer!
K9 Pocket gets a lot of attention because she is a puppy and because . . . well because she is Pocket. Yesterday, as Remy and Scout raced across a cold, muddy field with their tails wagging, I realized KYK9 followers might like an update on them. They are having a great winter. Remy loves the snow and Scout loves being with Remy. Lots of good times playing, training, and searching.
Garland Logsdon, thank you for calling KYK9 about a search today! We joined a great group of dedicated, nice individuals who worked tirelessly in the pouring rain. The dogs worked hard in the rain on frozen, icy ground. They looked pretty miserable, soaking wet. But, it didn't stop them: Go Remy, Pocket and Scout!
K9 Pocket's response to the coldest day of the year (temperature below zero):
"Mom, I really really want to go out. I LOVE to play in the snow. I won't get cold, I promise!" . . .
"OK, since I can't play outside, then I will help you with your work."
I guess she really likes helping, as she keeps jumping up on my keyboard. I think she may be telling me I need to start writing more blog posts!
1/21/2014 I am sad to report that 2 men have been issued murder warrants in the case of Lexington man Alex Johnson, 32, who went missing a few days before Christmas. My thoughts and prayers are with his parents, his sister and his girlfriend. http://www.lex18.com/news/murder-warrant-issued-in-case-of-missing-lexington-man/
1/21/2014 Update and a note from Alex's parents. http://www.kentucky.com/2014/01/21/3044993/lexington-police-file-arrest-warrant.html
1/23/2014 - Update: 2nd Murder Suspect Arrested in Texas at Mexican Border.
Thank you LPD for your good work!!
Santa Claus is making an early stop in Louisville this Wednesday December 11. From 5 - 7 Pm, Santa will be at Chenoweth Animal Hospital and a professional photographer will take a photo of your pet(s) with Santa. Also, some wine and cheese will be available for humans. Proceeds benefit KYK9.
Wandering is hard to discuss, as it is tinged with judgment and misunderstanding, with blame often placed on parents, schools or caretakers. Even among parents of children with autism, the topic is taboo because of the misconception that good parents would never lose their child.Read More
A few weeks ago, I saw my neighbor, Matthew, who is 2 years old, running gleefully in his yard pushing a "popper" toy. The old-fashion-kind where colorful balls bounce inside a clear dome, making a popping sound. Oh, to have a popper toy!.
The next day, I heard pop, pop, pop in the kitchen. Pocket, who watches Matthew with a keen eye, had freed a hard plastic ball from its pet-safe rubber cage, creating her own popper toy. Pop, pop, pop, Pocket was gleefully chasing the ball, sliding into walls, racing from one room to another.
Every night, for weeks - pop, pop, pop. Then, tonight pop, pop, pop - crack. Oh no! Pocket broke her ball. She is beside herself, looking everywhere for her popper ball. No other toy will do. Maybe Matthew will let us borrow his!
One of my beloved former students, Jovon Dawson, 23, was brutally stabbed to death Saturday night Nov 2 in her apartment while her three children slept in the next room. Jovon was not discovered until the next morning when her six-year-old daughter found her mom lying in a large pool of blood in the kitchen. Jovon's neighbor, Michael Hayes, was arrested later that day and confessed that he went to Jovon's apartment looking for drugs, didn't find any, and killed her. Oddly, between the time of Jovon's murder and Hayes arrest, Hayes revealed that he went home and drove his wife to the hospital to have a baby.
Jovon was a vivacious, smart, funny and goal-oriented single mom who attended school, worked hard, and stayed drug free. In high school, she was a spark in the classroom and I can still see her smiling as she greeted me; "Dr. Hall, Dr. Hall, Dr. Hall." Jovon was a well-spoken, eager learner, who excelled at mock trial. She would have made one heck of a lawyer or nurse or teacher: whatever she choose, she would have done well.
No one else in my life has been murdered. I keep thinking about what happened, wondering how Jovon died. I know she was stabbed. Was she lying on the floor for hours before bleeding out? Was she scared? Was she protecting her children, fighting to the end with no fear?
As a search dog handler, I have helped many families who have lost a loved one to a violent crime. But, until now, I have never fully grasped the extreme trauma of such a loss. I have so many questions about Jovon's death, I can only imagine the unending agony suffered by a family whose loved one is not only a victim of foul play, but who is never found. Not knowing. Not knowing. Not knowing. . . .
Tomorrow, I will get to say goodbye to Jovon at her funeral. And for that, I am lucky, for there are many families who don't get to say goodbye. Jovon will be with me always, as I search for the missing, "Dr. Hall Dr. Hall Dr. Hall: please help other families know what happened and be able to say goodbye to their loved one." A humble request for the living from the dead. I will do my best, Jovon. I will do my best.
Last week on a very hot and humid day, KYK9 assisted in a search for a missing person in Hart County, KY, which is 90 miles from Louisville. The search was in a very remote wooded area with hilly terrain. The ultimate outcome of this search was excellent and the missing person was found alive due to the excellent efforts of the Hart County Search and Rescue Squad (HCSAR). I felt honored to be part of their team for the day.
HCSAR worked seamlessly with our K9 teams. First and foremost, they requested K9 search assistance immediately, which is the best way to use K9 search teams. Upon arriving at the scene, incident command asked how many backups our K9 teams needed and we requested 2 each. K9 Scout and I were promptly assigned 2 flankers, Joe and Jason. Joe is a member of the HCSAR and Jason is a hunter and friend of the family.
Joe and Jason were by my side all day. They walked with me up steep inclines, through woods and briars and stuck to me like glue, which is hard to do. They created a safe environment for me as a K9 handler to focus on my dog. After watching each of them work, Jason quickly trusted Remy and Scout, and he made excellent observations, making us a better K9 team.
After searching 4 hours with Scout, Jason did not hesitate to head out with me again when K9 Remy unexpectedly took trail back into the woods. (Joe would have come too, but he was already helping another K9 team!). As those of you who follow KYK9‘s blog know, Remy is a unique problem solver and searches “outside of the box.” She took us down a long dirt path to a red, white and blue cow gate which served as the entrance to a small cluster of old campers and a rundown cabin. Remy took us straight to the front door of the cabin where the trail ended. When I took Remy behind the cabin, down a little rickety board walk, she gave her fear alert, stopped in her tracks, and would go no further.
Each search dog has a unique fear alert, which only manifests itself during actual searches (not training). I have seen Remy’s fear alert on multiple searches. Her body language changes, and for an 11 pound dog, she becomes incredibly difficult to move when she freezes in her tracks. A fear alert for Remy means something bad is ahead and she does not want to go any closer. Jason saw Remy’s behavior change, noting it out loud to me. Such independent affirmation is helpful both on a search itself and in the debriefing room or courtroom later. Yet, the concept of a fear alert is often looked at askance by non- K9 handlers.
As Remy gave her fear alert, Jason heard a loud crash in the woods (not a deer). Later we both heard a loud thump. I felt “creepy” in a way I have never felt before. Jason felt we were being watched. And, it turns out he was right. The missing person, Marty, had slept the night before on the front-porch of the cabin. When we came down the path late the next afternoon, Marty was on the ridgeline. When Marty was found, he said that he watched Remy, Jason and I come down the path, heard Jason yell for him, and watched Remy go to the cabin. The crash Jason heard was Marty hitting and breaking his cane on a tree trying to get our attention. Marty was about 60-80 yards from Remy when she alerted. Remy had found Marty. Thank you Jason for believing in Remy and Scout. And thanks HCSAR for using search dogs as a tool in your efforts to find a missing person.
This past week, Pocket went to her first missing person search. Pocket traveled well and was not fazed by the vehicles, people, or noise at Incident Command. And, Remy and Scout both searched very well, showing their sister how it should be done. Welcome to the search dog world, Pocket!
Last Thursday, as the intensive search for the person(s) who ambushed and murdered Bardstown Police Officer Jason Ellis entered its fifth week, the Kentucky State Police deployed "a different kind of K9" from an outside agency to help with the investigation. Master Trooper Norman Chaffins, spokesman for KSP's Elizabethtown post, explained that "different dogs have different search abilities."
This is so true, yet search dogs are often under-utilized by law enforcement because their abilities/training is not-understood. Perhaps this is why the KSP waited 5 weeks before deploying outside agency search dogs. It would have been more effective and valuable to use search dogs in the hours/days immediately following Officer Ellis' murder.
That said, I am pleased that KSP has publicly recognized the value of search dogs as unique, helpful investigative tools and is using search dogs to help bring Officer Ellis' killers to justice. Hopefully, the KSP will continue to use and more effectively deploy search dogs in other cases.