A group of four-legged students possessing powerful senses of smell visited the Western Carolina University campus recently as 66 dog handlers from across the eastern United States brought their canine partners to Cullowhee to take training in human remains detection.
The handlers and their dogs, commonly referred to as “cadaver dogs,” traveled to WCU from 25 states (and one team came from Canada) to take part in field exercises and listen to lectures given by WCU faculty members and outside speakers – all with the intent of improving the skills of the dogs and handlers when they are called upon to assist in searches for human remains.
The cadaver dog training at WCU was held in cooperation with the university’s forensic anthropology program and was coordinated by Paul S. Martin, a graduate of that program who has specialized in human remains detection since 2000 and who has conducted searches or consulted on cases for local, state and national agencies.
Classroom lecturers included John A. Williams, director of WCU’s forensic anthropology program, whose career experiences has included mortuary operations at the site of the World Trade Center terrorist attacks. Several guest speakers from off campus also gave presentations for the handlers, including Arpad Vass, a forensic anthropologist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee who is an expert in decomposition odor analysis.