Local Organization ‘Sniffing’ Out The Missing

A group in the Southern Tier is working to find the missing.

By Caroline Goggin
Harpursville, NY (WBNG Binghamton)

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“We’re here to find people,” said director of Amigo Search and Rescue Dog Team, Kara Schaffer. “We want to get the job done as fast as possible.”

Amigo Dog Search and Rescue isn’t your normal non-profit. The team volunteers its time to assist fire and police departments across the Southern Tier in the search for missing people.

“We’re trying to give the family closure,” said team member Kevin Pier. “Until you find that person, they [the family] always think they are some place. They will continue to look for them.”

Instead of the families looking, the search team takes their four-legged friends out to suspected areas. Handlers always travel with their dogs and an additional team member. No one ever goes out alone.

For example: “You could be 300 yards out in the woods and I can’t see you,” said team member Jim MacDonald. “The dog disappears and finds you. He’ll go back to you and come back to me until he leads me right to where the victim is.”

If a victim is found, the team calls in emergency personnel right away.

Two types of dogs find the victims. The first type, air scent dogs, follows the scent particles of any human that is blowing in the air. Trailing dogs battle a different task.

“Trailing dogs are actually different than air scent dogs because they are trained to only scent off of an object of one person and only follow the scent of that person,” said dog handler Jennifer Eckhardt.

Team members describe their volunteer work as a hobby.

“I enjoy the outdoors very much,” said dog handler Patti Thompson. “I also enjoy working with dogs. This was something I could do both of, while also servicing the community.”

However, it’s a hobby with a purpose. It works to help those in the community and find lost loved ones.

“He [a victim] was hypothermic and completely unresponsive,” said Eckhardt. “But we found him and he was able to go to the hospital and make a full recovery. We saved his life and that right made her, and her training, completely worth it.”

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