I met Suzanne and Keb at a cemetery in Snohomish. The only marker was a solitary sign that bespoke the name of this long forgotten cemetery. Locals use it as a pseudo dog park. The grass had just been cut and the clippings had been left to dry in the sun that had yet to appear in our little corner of the Pacific Northwest.
The training session included 3 dogs and 2 handlers, one curious photographer and her sherpa husband. (If you've worked with me before, you know that Tony is a great sport and is always so helpful.)
What were the dogs looking for? Burial plots that are well over 100 years old. Pioneers that settled in the area, shaping where our towns now sit by creating commerce and communities. Their stories are unknown, their final resting places are unmarked. This happens more often that I realized, thus the need for archeology dogs.
These dogs are experts in human remains detection. That is a broad umbrella under which they work. They are versatile and can work in different scenarios, but for the purpose of this day, they were detecting the pioneer's final resting places.
The handlers worked one a time, placing flags where their dogs alerted. There was no way to know if the dogs alerted correctly or not, but their finds were marked with different color flags. The handlers will review their finds and compare with data from the time era. History meets working dogs. How cool is that?
Why is there a need for Archeology Dogs? Because there are so many small, forgotten cemeteries just like this one.
Indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest believe that your final resting place is just where your body lays. Your spirit continues it's journey....unless the final resting place is disturbed. This is very important in their culture and it's also a beautiful way to consider death. Thus, we must treat their final resting spaces with respect. But, I digress...
Many times, when new buildings are being built, it is essential to know what is under the ground. What if there is a small, forgotten cemetery buried underneath? Call in the Archeology Dogs to find out. It's a valid option. The dogs will come in and do their work, alerting their handlers to possible remains. The spot is flagged and the dogs move on.
Later, more sophisticated machinery (and more expensive) will be brought in to verify the dog's finds.
Once it's been determined whether or not there are remains on the property, plans can move forward for building, etc.
It NEVER ceases to amaze me what dogs are capable of, and I truly believe that we have only scratched the surface of their potential.
Suzanne is a kindred spirit: her love of working dogs eclipses mine. She has collected stories about her and Keb, and her sometimes human partner, James Guy Mansfield, and created a book.
A Dog's Devotion. I've read it...twice. It's worth a read.
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