Cadaver dogs coming to campus for training

A group of cadaver-seeking canines are set to converge on the Western Carolina University campus.

Cadaver Dog Training Workshops consisting of Level 1 and Level 2 sessions in human remains detection are offered in cooperation with the WCU Forensic Anthropology Program. The Level 1 workshop, which is designed for cadaver dogs with a minimum of six months to a year of training, will be Monday, May 18, through Wednesday, May 20. The Level 2 session, which is for prior participants of Level 1, is Friday, May 22, through Sunday, May 24. There also will be an add-on course, a bone identification workshop, held on Wednesday, May 20, and Thursday, May 21.

A cadaver dog and handler take part in training at WCU in 2014.

A cadaver dog and handler take part in training at WCU in 2014.

Each session can accommodate up to 30 dog handlers, and all are full, said Bobby Hensley, WCU associate director of continuing education. Twenty-two states will be represented this year, with one participant coming from Croatia.

“We’ve never had anybody come from overseas,” Hensley said. “We’ve had Canadians, but never anyone from overseas.”

The workshops will allow participants to work a variety of search areas, such as grassy fields, mountainous terrain, urban environments, buildings and vehicle lineups. Level 2 participants also will have an opportunity to expose their dogs to full-body decomposition in WCU’s Forensic Osteology Research Station, also known as FOREST, as well as focus on realistic skeletal scenarios, burials, and building searches on and around the WCU campus. It also will feature instructors from around the country, including Cheryl Johnston, WCU associate professor of forensic anthropology.

“It’s a good program,” Hensley said. “For the people who are coming, they say it’s the best. That was our goal, to create the best one like it in the country. And with the facility that we have here, the decomposition facility, it’s kind of a unique thing. It’s quickly becoming the standard of what cadaver dog handlers want to be a part of.”

For information about future sessions, contact WCU’s Office of Continuing Education at 828-227-7397.