There are sniffer dogs for missing people, drugs, explosives and even disease. But even if a conspecific is missing, the super noses can be used.
Püttlingen – Toni is fully concentrated. As soon as he has put his nose into the plastic bag with the handkerchief, he wants to go. The male Australian Shepherd is in work mode.
He quickly sets off on the long tow line with his owner Corinna Speicher. Toni has an assignment: he should find the person who this smell belongs to. But it is not a person search that Toni is now working on, but a so-called pet trailing: Because as a “sniffer hero” Toni searches for missing pets.
The animal tracking dogs from Saarland and Rhineland-Palatinate have been on the road on a voluntary basis for three years to find runaway dogs. To this end, the 30 or so members of the “Schnüffelhelden” association from Heusweiler in Saarland train at least twice a week.
Remote display reduces stress
Corinna Meiser and her American Staffordshire dog Juna are hiding in a shed about ten minutes away. A piece of cake for Toni. After the smell test, he first walks along a street, ignores all strollers and cyclists and finally branches off into a forest path. 100 meters further, it becomes so fast that its owner can hardly keep up. Then he turns onto a small beaten path, races excitedly towards a shed – until he suddenly stops and storms happily towards his mistress. For Corinna Speicher the unmistakable sign that her dog has struck gold. “I could tell from his body language that he was close to the finish line,” she says.
Unlike mantrailing – the person search – pet trailing works with a remote display. That means: The dogs do not go directly to the missing animals, but show their search results from a distance. The remote display is primarily intended as a precautionary measure and to keep the stress level for the runaway animals as low as possible.
There is not always a happy ending after hours, days or weeks. Like the poodle that ran away from its foster home when its owner was in the hospital. “The lady was 80 and the dog was all she had,” says press spokesman Giuseppe Alexandro Calabró. “To convey the message to her that her dog was gone would have been bad.” The sniffing heroes, however, were able to help quickly: the poodle was back at the foster home on the same day.
After 48 hours on the road in “wild mode”
“Super sad,” says Corinna Speicher, but was how they found a little Chihuahua frozen to death in Lebach an der Prims after a few days and how his owner, a tall, handsome man, cried terribly. “If you look at it that way – that preoccupied me a lot personally,” she says. And yet it also helps many owners if their beloved animal could at least be found dead and they knew what happened to it.
There are many reasons why dogs run away: sometimes the owners fell and dropped the leash, sometimes the dogs were frightened or panicked in unforeseen situations. And the state of emergency increases: after 48 hours, Corinna Speicher describes, many dogs fall into a “wild mode”. “Often they somehow take care of themselves, become very shy and then don’t even recognize their owner.”
Their work – which is free for the pet owners – is financed exclusively through donations. There was now also support from the Saarland Ministry of the Environment. “Without the voluntary helpers, animal welfare in Saarland would be bad,” said State Secretary Sebastian Thul (SPD). “As a dog owner, I can only guess how bad it must be to lose my four-legged companion, not to know where he is, whether he is okay.” Dpa