Doug Goodman

Texas Horror Writer. Cadaver Dog Handler.

Doug's Blog

Back in Training

Posted by douggoodman on June 19, 2009 at 1:40 PM

Mojo Returns to SAR Work

Over the past few weeks, I have begun using Mojo for cadaver work again. Mojo returned to his old role enthusiastically. At his return meeting with the SAR team, he bounded out of the minivan and nearly leaped out of his collar in an attempt to jump on all the team members and play with all their dogs, etiquette be damned. Almost immediately, I walked poor Moj back to the van to cool off.


Our relationship has been baby steps since Mojo returned to cadaver work, mostly due to me. Over eighteen months has passed since I last worked Mojo - that's almost as long as my son has been alive - and I did not know how Mojo would react to the lead, the tracking harness - hell, would he even respond to my command to go find dead people?


To Mojo, being back outside doing cadaver work was the ultimate playdate. It was also a reward of sorts. Ever since Princess died, he has been comforting us in his little ways. When my daughter is sad, he sits with her on the picnic table and rests his head on her lap and lets her pet him and cry. Then he will let Andrea and I give him full rub downs. It is a hard job, I know, but somehow Mojo manages. In his way that mutt has done more to help us heal than any paid psychologist could have done for us.


So now it was time for Mojo to come out and show his stuff. The first day I took him out, he almost leaped when I gave him the command to find dead people. Five minutes later, he had uncovered the subject from underneath some lumber. Success! It was all dog treats for the pooch after that result.


I Can't Make This Any Clearer, Human!

This past weekend, however, I was reminded of some of his quirks. First of all, in typical Mojo fashion, he could not begin the search until he had marked his territory and every tree in the park he considered his personal property. Once he got that (mostly) out of his system, he was ready to start business, but I was nervous. This would be a blind test, meaning I had no idea where the scent items were laid. My only guideline was a 54-pound mutt with a missing toe on his right hind leg. It was up to Mojo to tell me where the subject was.


About five to ten minutes into the search, he found the confederate. This was a piece of random Tupperware I pulled from the kitchen pantry and tossed into the search area. It was a decoy to test whether or not he was searching for a scent or a visual object. Mojo sniffed around it, then discarded it as useless to his game. Soon after, his head cut back, and he started swimming up the scent cone. He walked up to the scent item and waited for me to reward him. I refused because he wasn't in the down position (his alert). I didn't want to give him the command. I wanted him to figure this out on his own. So he looked at me with that crazy wild-eyed gaze. He looked at me as if to say "Hey, dummy, it's right here."  When that wasn't good enough, he barked at me. High-pitched. Desperate. He wanted his treat. But that still wasn't good enough for me, so he dropped to all fours, nuzzled the tube hidden under a root, and tried to drag it out. He barked again and put his nose back on it, again saying, "I can't make this any clearer, human. Either take it or leave it, but I want my treat!" I rewarded him.

Categories: Search and Rescue, Dogs (General), Cadaver Dog Training

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