Nature Wisdom

With Pat Tuholske,

Tracking the Missing Morgan and Me

I have studied the lost and missing for thirty years… how one gets lost, how one gets found, who survives, who dies. I sharpen my skills through constant education and training. My continuous study of scent theory, weather conditions, lost person behavior, clue awareness and search strategy improves the expertise of Morgan and me as a K9 team. We never stop learning.

A search and rescue K9 team can bring a calming influence and glimmer of hope to the family of the missing. The relatives of the lost soul deserve compassion and respect. I always assure the family that my dog and I will perform to the best of our ability to find their loved one.

I search to bring the lost child, hiker, or elder home. I search to bring hope in a dark time. Morgan, a black Labrador Retriever, searches because she was born to the hunt. She has the highest prey drive of any of the trailing dogs I’ve trained. She has been successful in tracking the lost and reuniting loved ones. She’s an intensely spirited dog who loves to work. I trust her. We are a good team. She has made me a better K9 handler.

Morgan and I go on daily three mile hikes. She is all muscle and speed. She makes me stay strong as I often have to sprint to keep up with her. We train with trail layers every week, record training logs, document deployments and attend K9 seminars.

A trailing dog starts at the missing person’s last known point with an article containing their scent. We follow the scent trail wherever it leads giving a picture of what could have happened. I often think “if I could see what Morgan smells.” Sometimes our track is a part of the larger search picture or sometimes it leads to the missing person.

To begin a trail, I get Morgan out of the truck and set our intention as I harness her, hook up her long lead and present the scent article from the missing person. The long lead is our communication line. I try to have a clear mind and calm emotions on a search or when taking a certification test. If I am unsure, fearful, anxious, or angry it goes down the lead to her.

I volunteer our service so that others may live. The Fianna, the ancient Irish shaman hunters are my inspiration and spiritual guides. I practice the ancient art of the Scout by fine-tuning all my senses, being aware of my surroundings and vigilant to change in the landscape.

“Two steps off the trail for whatever reason…and you can be just as lost as if someone had dumped you fifty miles from the nearest building. There’s no rationale behind losing your way, but trackers have to at least try to understand the process before attempting to find someone. Tracking one’s life is much the same. Sometimes you have to figure out why you did a thing in order to know what it was that you actually did.”
Point Last Seen by Hannah Nyala

Check out Pat Tuholske’s “Nature Chronicles” for musings on the Human-Nature relationship at pattuholske.com. See her Wild Wreaths, Wheels, Twigs and Native Herbal Remedy (aka Essiac) crafted from Ozark native plants at willowrainherbalgoods.com.