These dogs are being trained to find missing people, including children or Alzheimer’s patients. They will also be trained to assist local police departments with searches for bodies.
“Walker County does have a high number of Alzheimer’s patients,” said Billy Click, who is heading up the program. “The dogs are doing great on finding lost people in the woods, but this was their first day looking for cadavers.”
The training program is being overseen by K Nicholas, whose now-retired dog, Fudge, assisted Click in finding several bodies of drowning victims in the Black Warrior in years past. Eventually, the dogs currently in training will be trained to go on boats and search in the water for drowning victims and submerged bodies.
On land, the training includes teaching the dogs to search for people and bodies and how to search effectively, which Nicholas says doesn’t come naturally to dogs.
“You have to teach dogs to look up and down because dogs have no idea about looking up in trees for people or down at the water for bodies,” Nicholas said.
The dogs in training currently include Click’s dog Walter; volunteer Roger Pledger’s German Shepherd, Duke; Nicholas’ German Shepherd, Nicky; her Staffordshire terrier-mix, Asher; and another volunteer’s dog, Sparky.
“I think our dog team is going to work out pretty well,” Click said. “We offer several programs for the community and this will be another thing we can offer.”
Nicholas added, “I think just the fact that Walker County is training search dogs is important. When we’re done, they will be fully trained and certified.”