All this week on Today in St. Louis we're showcasing dogs with jobs. We begin with a special group of highly trained search dogs. When someone goes missing in Missouri and Illinois, their owners get a call from police and they go to work.
ST. LOUIS — Tessa and Satch are just like any young labrador retrievers. They’re full of energy and spunk and living their best life at home in Chesterfield.
They live an average dog’s life until the moment their owner, trainer Jan Meyer, gives them the command. Meyer said that’s all it takes for them to know it’s time to go to work.
Tessa and Satch are both certified search and rescue dogs.
“They’re trained to find the odor of human decomposition," explained Meyer.
Meyer is president of Gateway Search Dogs, a group that responds to law enforcement calls for help all across the bi-state.
“By nature I’m a rescuer," Meyer said.
She's trained five of her dogs to sniff out human remains.
"The dog has to have a really good work ethic and a really high drive," she explained.
On the day 5 On Your Side's Allie Corey met with Meyer and her labs, she showed us how impressive their scent is. Tessa found the training source in just a few minutes buried deep in the woods.
Four-year-old Huckleberry, who's a bloodhound, is another member of Gateway Search Dogs.
"If he could talk, he could tell you every ingredient that’s in a cake," his owner Ed Wolfe said.
Huckleberry's specialty is live scent only. So, we put Huck to the test.
Wolfe explained to Allie Corey how to leave her scent on a gauze pad.
"Rip it open. Take the gauze out. Breathe on it. Rub it behind your ears and in your hands," he said.
Allie hid in the woods and waited. Once Huckleberry was given her scent, he immediately took off on the exact path she took in the brush.
After about five minutes, he found her.
Wolfe said trailing is one of the harder search and rescue certifications because you have to keep your dog on its leash.
“As you saw, the dog went over the log, I go over the log. The dog goes under the fence, I go under the fence," he explained.
Just like Jan and her labs, Ed and his bloodhound do it for the reward.
He recalled a rescue they made of a woman with dementia.
"We found an elderly lady that had walked away. She was gone for about four hours. It was a misty rain, cold. She would have died had she not been found. Law enforcement and everybody had been searching for her and she was sitting there shaking cold,” Ed recalled.
If you’re interested in learning more about Gateway Search Dogs you can click here.