Trainer of Cadaver Dogs to Speak At WWU

A trainer of cadaver dogs and search and rescue dogs will speak William Woods University and demonstrate her dogs.

The event, scheduled for 6 p.m. Oct. 26 in the Library Auditorium, is free and open to the public. It is sponsored by Peggy Nickerson, assistant professor of paralegal studies, who teaches a forensic evidence class.

During the two-hour event, the trainer, Carolyn Knapp of Palmyra, Mo., will speak about cadaver dogs and all aspects of search and rescue (SAR). Knapp will be joined by her daughter, Randi Rhinehart.

They will be bringing Rhinehart’s dog, a five-year-old black lab named Diver, with them. Diver has been trained to trail live subjects and indicate the odor of cadaver on either land or in water.

Knapp has been involved with search and rescue for more than 25 years as a dog handler, ground searcher and incident command trainer. She has taught aspects of canine handling across the country and has taught ground search skills in Illinois and Missouri.

She began working with cadaver dogs in 1988 and has worked with bloodhounds, shepherds, labs, and mixed breeds in trailing, cadaver and building search aspects of SAR. Knapp has helped law enforcement in the tri-state area when a dog is needed for a criminal pursuit. She has been a part of several drowning recoveries on the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers.

Knapp has been the owner and trainer of Toughskin Hounds since 1979. She became interested in doing Search and Rescue with her dogs due to an unfortunate incident that occurred about 35 years ago in Hannibal.

Three young boys (ages about 10 to 14) were exploring in the caves that are prevalent south of Hannibal. One day, they evidently got lost while exploring the caves and a mass search for them began. One of the resources that were called in was a Missouri Highway Patrolman and his bloodhounds.

Sadly, with all the resources used, no sign of the boys was ever found. The fact that the dogs could follow a scent and assist in finding lost people, even though this search was not positive, got Knapp interested in working Search and Rescue dogs.

She has been fortunate enough to be a part of teams which have brought three young children back home safe and sound. She has also been part of teams that have found several lost or missing adults, drowning and suicide victims and many fleeing criminals.

“It is great to catch a felon or find a missing adult, but the real highlights are the little ones and being part of bringing them back to mom and dad,” said Knapp.

“Working a cadaver dog doesn’t give you the immediate gratification that making a live find does, but to be able to help the family of the deceased person to locate that body and begin to start the grieving process is so important.”

She added, “Not knowing what has happened to your friend or loved one is a miserable state of being. As cadaver dog handlers, we can assist our dogs in locating the deceased person and give the friends and family a concrete answer, even though it isn’t the one they were hoping for.”