Like a Dog After a Bone: Search & Rescue Dogs Find 2000-Year-Old Remains

Aug 24, 2016

Dogs have always had a knack for finding bones. Trained dogs can sniff out explosives, drugs, victims of disasters.

On this edition of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with the owners of some canine archeologists who put their bone finding skills to good use. The founders of Samaritan Detection Dogs use trained dogs to help in some unusual ways with archaeological research, conservation work, and human remains cases.

"Generally you get them so the wind is in their face, and it's kind of amazing," says Brett Sorrells, co-founder and police officer in Washington, Iowa. "They claim, and I believe, that a dog can clear about an acre a minute."

Sorrells, along with co-founder Jim Peters and historian Michael Zahs, first took the dogs out to a cluster of burial mounds near Iowa River in Washington County. The mounds contain human remains up to 2000-years-old.

"They all zeroed in on one mound in particular, and what blew me away is that every dog looked up into a tree," says Zahs. "I thought, 'Well there must be a squirrel there,' and the dog guys said, 'No, the tree absorbs some of those human molecules, and the dog could smell it going up into the tree.'"

Later in the show, Charity talks with Iowans involved in an annual variety show that brings history to life through song. Hawkeye resident Steve Story started running the performances in 1992, and he's been doing it ever since.

"It's surprising, you'd think an organ concert in Northeast Iowa, small rural community - why are there so many people here?" says Janet Schlapkohl, Story's daughter. "But they're coming to see other people in the community who participate in these - their friends, teachers, the veterinarian are all involved in the program, singing in the choir and reenacting scenes."