AUSTIN, Texas (FOX 7 Austin) - Meet Dexter, a Texas Game Warden Human Remains K-9, and while the title may sound a little unpleasant - he's helped with dozens of search and rescue efforts.
“It's a big benefit to our department because as far as wardens and the local counties go, they're out there day and night when things like this, drownings happen,” his handler Kryssie Thompson said. “And when they're struggling that's when we come in. We can shrink that time in and hopefully locate the body or victims.”
Thompson says Dexter helped search for the most recent body recovered in the Austin area, out on Lake LBJ. July 14th the Texas Game Wardens found a 44-year-old boat operator named Jesse Estes who was reported missing two days prior.
“He will work that odor and as his handler it's my job to read him and be able to relay, based on Dexter's actions and behavior changes where I think that victim may be,” Thompson said. “His breathing as far as his intensity in searching, when you see him get into that prescribed odor he will work a lot harder, his mouth will close and you can audibly hear him sniffing more pinpointing exactly where that odor is coming from.”
Thompson says he won't bark, but he will scratch the boat.
“His final response to me is he'll sit down at it. Because we're on the water he's not able to sit down right where it's coming from so he'll sit in front of me and that's what he did on LBJ,” Thompson said. “He's done that with other drownings and other cases.”
Thompson tells us on average Dexter responds to least 37 human remains deployments each year.
“The deepest Dexter has detected odor was about 40 feet. And that was around Dallas. He's a very independent dog, and he will work without me there,” Thompson said.
Thompson says Dexter went through months of intense training, and in order to stay in tip top shape she has him on a clean diet.
“They have to be acclimated to any type of weather like today it's hot it's sunny the deck on the boat is hot so it's my job as a handler to have him used to situations like this so he doesn't shut down so he can still perform his job,” Thompson said.
She says, “so when he's at home he's hanging out in the backyard but there's not much interaction between him and I like playing tug o’ war or fetch or anything I might do with my other personal dogs because this scenario needs to be the funnest thing he does. That's what's gonna keep him going every day.”
Thompson says their department has 11 K9s, which consist of narcotics dogs, search and rescue dogs, black powder dogs, wildlife detection dogs, article dogs and an additional human remains detection dog.