'The success rate of dogs making the find is very low nationwide. One of the reasons for this is that people are not where we are looking for them," says Jan Frazee, president of Southwest Search Dogs. "I was part of a search for a woman at Bonsall Bridge in North County. At the time we were looking for her, she was in Alaska. But someone reported she was there and someone had to go look for her. Law enforcement agencies have limited budgets, and we can augment them." All members of Southwest Search Dogs are volunteers. "It takes quite a number of people to go into the tick-infested, brush-covered riverbed," says Frazee. "We can go in with dogs -- we can go in there and say there's nobody here. We successfully cleared that bridge.
Frazee, along with two other volunteers from Southwest Search Dogs, will be speaking for the San Diego chapter of Sisters in Crime on Thursday, October 6. With the help of their owners, search dogs Mandy and Aura will demonstrate their skills.
"There is a certain chemical that mimics the scent of dead people," says Frazee, describing some of the demonstrations planned for Sisters in Crime. Sisters in Crime is a group that was formed in 1986 "to promote the professional advancement of women who write mysteries."
"Some of our dogs are trained cadaver dogs. We'll put out an innocuous small dish that no one in the room can smell, but the dog will be able to find it." Also demonstrated will be a "runaway, where a person will run and hide and the dog will find them."
Jan's husband, Jim Frazee, found the body of a child who drowned in San Luis Obispo County in 2002 with the help of his dog, Cielo. Jan recalls the event: "It was the time of year when the rains come and the creeks flood and people try to drive through them." In this case, it was a couple in a pickup truck with two children. "They got out and tried to walk over to safety and the current pulled the children right out of their arms. One of the bodies was recovered right away." When authorities could not find the second child, they called Southwest Search and Rescue.
"Cielo found the correct spot where they should dig in the mud and muck to the child's body in the side of the riverbed," says Frazee.
"Law enforcement agencies need to have versatile dogs that can bite people and do short tracks. If someone robs the
7-Eleven and goes down into the canyon, [the police] know that the only person down there is the bad guy and can send the dog in. The dog is trained to bite anyone who moves. The [police dog handlers] don't want their dogs to bite lost people."
Richard Davis, who will be presenting alongside Frazee with his bloodhound, Mandy, is a retired police officer and current liaison between the police department and Southwest Search and Rescue. "Down at Mission Beach we had a missing gentleman. I scented Mandy with his shirt that was left on the beach. She went all the way down from the roller coaster to the jetty and came back. I later learned that [the man we were looking for] had been down there," says Davis. "Because of our presence on the beach, passersby were coming to help. By the time we got back to the command post, a lady came by on a bike and said, 'I think he's sitting at the pier.'"
Davis has worked with police dogs frequently in his 31 years on the force. "Several years ago I was working as a supervisor in the North Park area, and we had a subject that had barricaded himself inside a house and had attacked several people inside with a knife. [The subject] had a couch up against the door." Officer Larry Triplet was working the K-9 unit and was at the scene with Davis. "We tried to force our way in. The subject came up to the door...the guy took a swing at Larry through the opening in the door and in self-defense, Larry turned loose the leash and the dog went in and came up and got the guy from behind. By the time we could get in, the dog had dragged the guy behind the coffee table and all we could hear was, 'Get him off me, get him off me!'" According to Davis, the suspect went to jail after he was treated for bite wounds. -- Barbarella
Southwest Search Dogs Demonstration for Sisters in Crime
Thursday, October 6
Joyce Beers Community Center
1220 Cleveland Avenue
Info: 760-366-1962 or www.sincsd.org