Volunteers train cadaver dogs for underwater search and rescue efforts Saturday morning

Local News

MCLEAN COUNTY, Ill. (WMBD) — Not only can dogs serve as greats pets, but they can also help solve crimes and find missing victims.

Saturday morning, July 10, search-and-rescue workers from Mutual Aid Box Alarm System (MABAS) Division 41 Dive Team and the McLean County Emergency Management Agency’s Canine Operations Team teamed up to train their canine helpers.

Cadaver dogs received training to detect human remains underwater at Comlara Park in Hudson.

Divers submerged themselves underwater with a dog toy. The cadaver dogs were then taken out on a boat to sniff out the diver and play with their reward.

“So we’re, right now, teaching the dogs what they’re looking for, which is the odor of human remains, the odor of a drowning victim,” said Corporal Joan Brehm with the Canine Operations Team. “The dogs smell the divers underwater, they give us a body change of behavior, they give us a trained final response, and then we signal for the diver to surface with the dog’s reward or their toy.”

The efforts from both organizations are entirely volunteer-based.

“We’re rated one of the higher teams in Illinois because we train so much,” said Bob Wills, a training officer with MABAS Division 41 Dive Team.

Wills said this is the only volunteer division in Illinois.

“So we all have day jobs and this is basically a second job that we pay to do and that we enjoy doing,” Brehm said. “And we do it because we’re passionate about it. And our dogs are very driven for this work. They would do this all day, every day, if they could.”

One public safety diver, Joe Beck, said the job is thrilling.

“They find you, you come up with the toy, and you know, they snatch on it, you play tug of war with them and stuff like that,” he said. “Yeah, it’s fun.”

Corporal Brehm said she is passionate about finding the lost and missing, hoping to give families some closure.

“You know, if we can help bring one person back to their family member, everything’s worth it,” she said.

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