Edelweiss, QC: November 1998
Two experienced woodsmen had gone out to survey a large piece of property, but had not returned as scheduled in the evening. Alerted at 6 a.m. by SAR Global 1 (a Wakefield volunteer SAR team), OVSARDA deployed two search dog teams to the scene.
Both teams were initially assigned to do a hasty search/sign cut from the victims' parked car. Approximately 30 minutes after starting the task, one dog indicated a track that her handler pursued. After a few minutes of tracking, the dog lifted her head and ran off into the bushes, returning a few moments later and alerting. The handler established voice contact with the victims and met up with them shortly thereafter.
The men were in good condition, and a bit embarrassed by all the attention. They had been caught be darkness in the woods and had elected to spend the night rather than wander around blindly, and were on their way out when located by the dog.
Elliot Lake, ON: August 1999
OVSARDA deployed three search dog teams to Elliot Lake on 30 July 1999, on request from North Shore SAR and the Elliot Lake Police Dept. The victim, Vinnie Yeo, had been canoeing with friends on the lake when the canoe overturned. All other occupants made it to shore safely, Vinnie did not. Dive teams had been searching the lake for 12 days already without success.
Though we arrived late in the afternoon, we decided to get the dogs out for an hour or two before dark. The first dog team was brought to the presumed Place Last Seen, as determined by a re-enactment of the accident, but there were no indications. The second team was brought to the approximate location of the canoe, as found several hours after it overturned. This dog, indicated almost immediately. A second dog was brought in and backed up the indication.
The next morning, the dogs were again put out to re-confirm the previous evening's alerts and to try to pinpoint a location in the 100' deep water. Dive teams were sent down, but could only stay down for 15 minutes at a time due to the great depth. Two dives per day were the maximum possible. On the third day, Vinnie Yeo was found in the area where the dogs had indicated, 96' below the surface.
James Bay, ON: October 1999
Two large, heavily laden canoes, on their way to a hunting camp of James Bay overturned in the frigid waters. Three people made it to shore safely, but eight others had not. OVSARDA deployed two search dog teams to Moose Factory at the request of the Moose Factory Fire and Rescue.
The intent was to search the waters of James Bay for the drowned victims from a boat but the winds and waves were too high to permit this. Instead the dogs were put on assigned to patrol the shorelines, using on-shore winds to search the waters just off shore. The teams searched for three days under extremely adverse conditions. The tidal flats were very large, in some places 10kms deep, and teams had to be constantly checking the direction of the tide to make sure they did not get caught too far out. The winds were up to 50 km/hr, with rain. The search area was comprised of approximately 80 miles of shoreline, and it had to re-searched after every high tide, as if it had never been searched before. The dogs were always wet and suffered from mild to moderate hypothermia within 30 minutes of going out into the search area.
The dogs did not locate any of the missing people, though all bodies have since been recovered. Most bodies were located within a few kilometers of the Last Known Point. However, several floated up on shorelines 15-40kms away from the site of the accident.
This search was particularly demanding as the dogs had were constantly faced with things they had not seen before. Travel was via commercial airline, helicopter, truck, train and ATV. They traveled in crates, lying on the floor, in the handlers' laps and in the laps of strangers. They were swarmed by children in the airport. Accommodations included private homes, hotels, and hunting cabins. The dogs were on their best behaviour throughout, demonstrating the quality of their training and their temperaments, and their adaptability in the face of adversity.
Aylmer, QC: November 1999
On the evening of November 19th, OVSARDA was called out to a search for a missing 22 year old female, who had stepped into the woods behind a friend's house to walk her dog. She had previously gotten lost in the same area a few days earlier but had managed to find her way home. On this day, she had been missing for 4 hours already and was known to be terrified of the dark.
OVSARDA deployed one search dog team, and one navigator, to the search site. The Aylmer police had remained out of the woods, trying to minimize the scent contamination. A scent article (a running shoe) was obtained from the house and the dog was scented on it, then told to track. The dog immediately turned and, nose to the ground, followed a path leading from the backyard approximately 75m, then turned off the trail and plunged into the woods. Initially the dog tracked off-lead but the bush was so thick that the handler frequently lost sight of her, so she was placed on lead. The team continued to track for 90 minutes, approximately 4 kms, when word was relayed that the missing person had managed to wander out of the woods, approximately 800m ahead of the tracking dog, and onto a residential street.
The woman was scratched and frightened, but otherwise unharmed. Her dog had had a wonderful time!
Quyon, QC: August 2002
On Sunday, August 18th, after an afternoon of fishing off the banks of the Ottawa River near Quyon, Quebec, a 3 year old girl disappeared while wading near a sand bar. Her father immediately went out to search for her. Both drowned. The girl's body was quickly recovered, but the father's body was still missing. On request from MRC des Collines Police Dept and SAR Global 1, OVSARDA deployed two search dog teams and one boat driver to the scene that same evening.
The dogs were deployed immediately and both indicated the presence of scent approximately 60' off shore. Divers from SG1 investigated and located the missing man where the dogs had indicated, at a depth of approximately 40'.
Lake Demi-Lune, QC: September 2002
On Saturday, August 31st, two men swam across Lac Demi Lune near Wakefield, Quebec. On the return swim, they got in trouble and were seen by nearby cottagers as they splashed about and sank beneath the surface. On request from MRC des Collines Police Dept and SAR Global 1, OVSARDA deployed two search dog teams and two boat drivers to conduct a water search for the missing men. The dog teams worked for several hours on August 31st, then returned early on September 1st.
The dogs indicated scent in an area approximately 75m off-shore. Divers from the Surete de Quebec Police located the first body within 8' of the dogs' indications, within minutes of beginning the search. The second body was found approximately 25' away from the first, 2 hours later. Both bodies were in over 40' of water.
St. Anthony's, N.L: March 2006
On February 25th 2006, a snowmobiler failed to return home after a trip out on the Barrens of northeast Newfoundland. The day was stormy, and there were high seas. His snowmobile was found the next day, approximately 200m from the ocean, but despite a large scale search effort, there was no sign of the missing man.
Photo Courtesy of The Northern Pen, St. Anthony's
OVSARDA deployed two dog teams to the area on March 17th, at the request of the family. For three days, these teams combed the drifting snow, the thick tuckamore bushes and the windswept plateaus of the Barrens. The snow was so deep in places that the dogs had to 'swim' through it, and fell into troughs so deep that only their ears remained visible. Winds of up to 50km/hr pulled the search vests right off the dogs' backs, and blowing ice crystals cut at the handlers' faces. When it wasn't cold and windy, it was hot - almost tropical heat and glare off the snow resulted in sunburn.
Teams traveled about the Barrens on the back of snowmobiles. In one particularly grinding day, approximately 70 kms were logged in snowmobile travel alone. Dogs and handlers were so tired they occasionally had a cat nap on the skidoos! At the end of each day, the dogs immediately fell into a deep sleep, only waking long enough to eat their well-earned dinner.
To this day, the missing snowmobiler is still missing. Outside of his snowmobile, no clue to his whereabouts has been found. OVSARDA dog teams are very proud of the work they did in Newfoundland. Under adverse conditions, dogs and handlers worked long and hard, and well. The dogs also took on the role of therapy dog with unexpected ease, providing compassion and comfort to the members of the family and tight-knit community.
A big thank you goes out to St. Anthony's. That small town has an incredibly big heart. They adopted the OVSARDA dog handlers as members of their family, took care of us and kept us safe. Thanks, bye.
Photo Courtesy of The Northern Pen, St. Anthony's
Rainbow Falls, ON: June 2008
On two separate occasions, OVSARDA deployed a cadaver dog team to Rainbow Falls Provincial Park in northern Ontario, to assist in the search for Christine Calayca. The search for Calayca remains the largest search ever conducted by the Ontario Provincial Police.
The terrain was extremely dense and difficult, but the teams performed well, and covered large areas.
No sign of Calayca has ever been found.
Ottawa River, ON: May 2009
OVSARDA deployed 2 water cadaver dogs to assist in the search for two missing boaters. The boaters' inflatable raft had been found on shore, below the Deschenes rapids. Dog teams searched from boat and from shoreline for several days. One man's body was eventually located 25kms downstream, the other was never found.
Bell Island, N.L: June 2009
On request from the family, OVSARDA deployed a cadaver dog team to Bell Island, Newfoundland, to carry out a water search for a man missing for several weeks. His boat had been found, overturned, in the waters just off Bell Island, in Conception Bay. A companion's body had been previously located near the boat. The team searched some 4 sq. kms of water over 3 days, with the dog repeatedly indicating scent in one particular area. Two weeks later, the man's body was located where the dog had indicated.
Eastmain, QC: April 2010
OVSARDA deployed 2 canine teams to this far northern Quebec community to assist in the search for a missing snowmobiler.
For four days, the teams slogged through the difficult muskeg, taiga and swamp on the shores of James Bay. While they did not locate the missing man, they were able to cover huge areas that had previously gone unsearched.
The missing man was later found deceased, outside the dogs' search areas.
Deep River, ON: April 2010
OVSARDA deployed a cadaver dog to assist in the search for a man, missing for several months from the community of Deep River. The dog team was assigned to search the shoreline of the Ottawa River, and indicated interest in the water approximately 1 kilometre downstream of town. The man's body was later recovered from the river.
Marteen River, ON: November 2010
OVSARDA coordinated a multi-organization search for a man missing for several months. Five dog teams were deployed over 2 days, and covered nearly 800 previously unsearched acres of dense northern Ontario bush. No sign of the missing man was located.