If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.

April Interviews

4/1 Jennifer Chow, Mimi Lee Gets A Clue
4/8 John Gaspard
4/15 Art Taylor, The Boy Detective & The Summer of '74
4/22 Maggie Toussaint, Seas the Day
4/29 Grace Topping, Staging Wars

Saturday Guest Bloggers
4/4 Sasscer Hill
4/18 Jackie Green

WWK Bloggers:
4/11 Paula Gail Benson
4/25 Kait Carson


WWK is proud of our four Agatha nominees. Kaye George for Best Short Story--not her first time to be nominated, Connie Berry and Grace Topping for Best First Mystery Novel (wish they weren't having to compete against each other), and Annette Dashofy for Best Contemporary Novel--her fifth nomination!

Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Look for Kaye George and Margaret S. Hamilton's short stories in the new Mid-Century Murder by Darkhouse Books. Kaye's story is "Life and Death on the Road" and Margaret's story is titled "4BR/3.5BA Contemporary."

Kaye George's first novel in the Vintage Sweets mystery series, Revenge is Sweet, will be released on March 10th. Look for the interview here on March 11.

Grace Topping's second novel in Laura Bishop staging series, Staging Wars, will be released by Henery Press on April 28th. Look for the interview here on April 29th.

Don't miss Shari Randall's "The Queen of Christmas" available on at Amazon. Shari's holiday story for WWK was too long so she published it for our enjoyment. It's available for 99 cents or on Kindle Unlimited for free!

KM Rockwood's "The Society" and "To Die A Free Man; the Story of Joseph Bowers" are included in the BOULD Awards Anthology, which was released on November 19. KM won second place with a cash prize for "The Society." Congratulations, KM! Kaye George's "Meeting on the Funicular" is also in this anthology, which can be bought for 99 cents on Kindle until November 30.

Shari Randall will be writing again for St. Martin's, perhaps under a pseudonym. We look forward to reading Shari's Ice Cream Shop Mystery series debuting next year. Congratulations, Shari!


Thursday, June 18, 2015

Meeting a Cadaver Dog While I'm Still Alive

Last week our local chapter of Sisters in Crime (NEOSinC) had as our guest Ed Ripepi, the owner of Verso Casual Italian Restaurant in Parma, Ohio, and also the owner and handler of a trained cadaver and tracking dog. Jet is a Czech Shepherd. Ed went to the Czech Republic to pick him out when he was a puppy because his first cadaver and tracking dog, Remo, a white German shepherd, was getting older and ready to be retired.  He brought Jet home and turned him over to Paul Shaughnessy in Hiram, Ohio.

Paul Shaughnessy’s business, Excel K-9 Services, Inc. is based out of Hiram, but he has branches in other states, too.  He and his training staff annually travel to the Netherlands Antilles to train 25 handlers and 30 dogs to create a highly effective professional K-9 unit.  The process starts with dog selection, imprinting, and proceeding through several months of handler and dog training. The unit consists of Patrol Dog Teams, Narcotics Detection Dog Teams, Explosive Detection Dog Teams and Search and Rescue Dog and Emergency Response Teams. These teams are ready to respond to any emergency on land and seaport. He has extended his business to on-site training worldwide to meet client needs. Excel K-9 Services also trains dogs for family protection and therapy dogs, too.
Jet's favorite tug  toy, a long lead, a vest, a shorter lead

On the Monday Ed came, he brought a few items he uses with his dogs. He left his dog in his vehicle because he would be too distracting to the audience at the beginning, but later when he brought him in, we found him delightful.  He described how his dog has two different collar/vests to wear depending on whether he’s to look for a cadaver or tracking a live person. Jet knows from the collar/vest he wears, what he is supposed to do. One thing he showed us was what he used as a treat for Jet. The dog doesn’t get a food treat. Either he’s thrown a ball to chase when he finds a cadaver or a person he’s been tracking – like an Alzheimer’s patient who wandered away from home or maybe a toddler who has wandered off, or in a case recently a young girl and the child she was babysitting. He was able to track the girl to a spot in a parking lot which makes it look like she met someone there and left with them. His favorite treat is a long narrow rubbery stuffed tube with handles on both ends. He loves playing tug of war with it. He grabs hold of one end and absolutely will not let go even when Ed twirls him around in circles while raising his arm until the dog is flying around Ed with none of his feet touching the ground. He won’t let go until Ed gives him the command in Czech. All the dogs' commands are in the Czech language:  Come, stay, sit, etc.

Jet waiting for the command to attack his tug of war toy.
Ed told us about the work he did with Jet to find a body in a neighborhood familiar to him since he’d lived there for a long time growing up. The safe community hadn’t had a murder in thirty years. But then a familiar man who rode his bike through the neighborhood and spoke to everyone went missing. He still lived at home with his mother for years and had some kind of mental handicap. He didn’t work, but was friendly and generally well-liked. A woman reported that a neighbor woman had told her that her husband had killed the man. Going only on this information, they started a search for him, and Ed was called to do a cadaver search. Other dogs and handlers on the team were called, too, but their dogs were tracking dogs. Cadaver dogs are trained to search out the smell of decaying human flesh. To train them coroners often give flesh or bone samples to stuff into a pipe for the dog to search and find. Ed said they are nothing you’d want to keep in your house. So while the tracking dogs were busy tracking one area, Ed moved in a grid area until Jet stopped at a compost pile in a back yard and stared at the spot. Ed called for an investigation team, and they dug up the decomposing body of the missing man. Jet’s treat? Ed threw a ball a long ways for Jet to race for and retrieve. It’s all a game for him with his reward a ball.
Jet held on even when Ed twirled him in the air in circles.

The victim had moved into the basement of the home of a man and his wife who was in a wheelchair.  I’m not sure, but maybe the victim’s mother had died. Anyway, they (probably only the man) were cashing the victim’s Social Security checks. The murderer pleaded it was self-defense since the man had attacked him, which no one believed because all the neighbors knew he wasn’t a violent person. Also, he had been shot in the back of the head.

Some other things we learned that night. Female dogs are more aggressive so most K-9 dogs are male. Also, males are better at paying attention - at least in the dog world. I found out dogs can smell 250 times better than humans, and that there are dogs who find bodies from a boat by smelling the methane gas a body releases. I also found out that to buy and train service dogs for police work, family protection or as service dogs for the blind, deaf, PTSD, or other disabilities, is very, very expensive.  We’re talking ten thousand dollars or more. I also found out that Ed Ripepi gets no money for his services. He doesn’t charge for time, mileage, dog care and training and bought the dog with no financial assistance. At least it is tax deductible, although that can’t cover the time and expense he puts into it, I’m sure. Why does he do it?  He loves dogs and helping others. Even if a person is found dead, it brings closure to a family.

We all loved the two-year old Jet, who was playful and friendly and roamed among us to get petted. It was a nice ending to a very interesting meeting. In fact, he’s such a gentle dog, that when Ed’s wife brought home their newborn baby, both Jet and Remo, the retired white shepherd, kept visiting family members away from the baby not through growling, but by getting between the baby and the visitor and gently leaning on them to push them away. They’re also both gentle with their older child.

One of our members wanted to own a cadaver or tracking dog. Would you?
Have you ever met a service dog?

Do you know anyone who has one?


Jim Jackson said...

I recently read Death Dealer by Kate Clark Flora about Maine cadaver dogs used in a New Brunswick (I think) murder. Interesting information, although the book itself was a bit repetitive.

I have known a number of service dogs for vision-impaired folks and one search and rescue dog.

~ Jim

Gloria Alden said...

Interesting, Jim. I've not heard of that book. When I was teaching, a vision-impaired person came in to visit different classrooms with her dog. Also, I've seen service dogs for those who suffer PTSD - at least I assumed that was what they were for since the several young men with the dog with the service vest, didn't look to have any obvious impairment.

KB Inglee said...

Thanks for the article. Our SinC chapter has done several meeting with dogs. Very enjoyable and informative. One dog narcotics dog stopped and sniffed my shoes endlessly. Did I have drugs on me? Then I remembered I had not changed my shoes after going to feed the sheep.

KM Rockwood said...

One of the best dogs I've had was Ember, a retired guide dog. She was a black German shepherd, much like Jet. She was a bit obsessive-compulsive. The first weekend we had her, she "recovered" most of a hundred daffodil bulbs I'd planted by digging them up and piling them by the front door.

Grace Topping said...

Thanks, Gloria, for this very informative blog. It is amazing how dogs can be trained to help humans in so many ways.

Gloria Alden said...

KB, that is funny. Jet seemed to be attached to me, too, but I think it was because he smelled my dog or my cats who rub against me.

KM. That's funny, but I don't suppose you appreciated it. My last collie, would herd the chickens back into their run after I let them out to free range for a while.

Grace, you're so right about that. At a local prison, rescue dogs have been turned over to some prisoners to train in basic manners and behaviors. It makes them quite adoptable.

Kara Cerise said...

What a fascinating meeting that must have been, Gloria. Jet is beautiful!

My friend and her husband train service animals. They sometimes ask for help naming the puppies because there are rules. For instance, I think puppies from the same litter have to have names that begin with the same letter. Also, they can't have funny names like Popcorn. Once in a while a dog just doesn't have the temperament for service work.

Anonymous said...

Hi Gloria, I have met a few service dogs but no cadaver dogs. Your local Sisters in Crime have some very interesting road trips! When I visit your place and we walk through the gardens, I have been "herded" by Maggie when she wants me to stop and give her a treat! Always love to read your blog. Thanks, Laura Byrnes

Gloria Alden said...

Kara, I didn't know about the rules for naming dogs. I agree that a service dog should not have a funny dog, because they do serious work Just as people have different temperaments, so do dogs even those of the same breed. I've found collies to be gentle dogs, however one seriously bit my father for no reason as he was walking off a golf course where he'd been playing golf in the days before golf carts, or even the carts one pulls along.

Thanks, Laura. Maggie is a herding dog, especially if she thinks you might give her a treat.

Warren Bull said...

Our SIC chapter had a visit with an arson investigator and her dog. It was fascinating.

Margaret S. Hamilton said...

fascinating, Gloria, I had no idea one dog could do two different jobs: cadaver seeking and person tracking. I will put this info to good use in my current WIP. Many thanks, Margaret

Gloria Alden said...

Warren, I would have loved to have heard that. It does sound fascinating.

Margaret, I didn't know that, either, and to think he's smart enough to know what his job
is for that day by the vest he wears. I'm glad you can use that in your current WIP.

KM Rockwood said...

Gloria, one of our dogs is from the Zanesville prison program. He's very well trained and a great dog. He came with the name Vinnie. We decided to keep that name--my husband, who's from south Philadelphia, said it made him sound like one of the guys from the old neighborhood.

E. B. Davis said...

When I attended the Writers' Police Academy, I was struck by how intelligent the dogs were. Also attentive. They watched our class as if they would pounce had anyone of us made a false move. I read a mystery series by Donna Ball. The main character has a tracking dog. Each dog is trained for one specific task, but they are experts in that one thing and rarely fail. I hope you had a wonderful time with your SinC local!

Gloria Alden said...

KM, I know the rescue society charges a lot for the dogs that are trained by prisoners, but it's well worth it, I'm sure. Vinnie sounds like a member of the Mafia. :-)

E.B. they are intelligent dogs. Some dogs don't make it through their training for various reasons, but those that do are top notch dogs. It amazed me that Jet could tell what job he was on by the vest he was wearing. We all really enjoyed the meeting and our time with Jet and his owner/handler. So many questions we had.

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