Ellie Cosgrove recently became certified as a Tracking/Trailing and Human Remains Detection Handler, along with her K-9 partner Remi.

KGVO met with Cosgrove this week at the Blue Mountain Trailhead to talk about a demonstration of both her and Remi’s tracking and trailing skills.

“We’re going to demo Remi and my capabilities for you.” said Cosgrove. “You’ll see us do a track, so Christine (a fellow Search and Rescue volunteer) is going to run away and hide and we’ll go follow her, and then I’ll break out K-9 Abby and we’ll do a cadaver search.”

Cosgrove said Remi has been in specialized training since she was a puppy.

“We practice a lot, and we have to train every week, and with Remi, she started when she was just eight weeks old doing scent work, and now she just turned two last week, so she’s been doing this her whole life.”

Cosgrove explained how the dogs can be trained to find cadavers (human bodies).

“We get donated parts,” she said. “People have donated placentas, knees from surgeries, hips from surgeries, and we always need more samples. You start with small scents and move up to bigger scents. You reward them every time they smell that scent so they know they have to find this. It’s a stinky process, but the dogs like doing it.”

Cosgrove said using the dogs is often the only way to find a missing person, alive or dead.

“It can be critical,” she said. “Because our dogs are dual purpose in that we can find a live person or we can find a dead person. If we suspect that something has changed overnight about a missing person’s status, then we can still find them.”

Cosgrove explained the exercise at the Blue Mountain Trailhead.

“Today is just a demo, but Remi and I got certified in tracking and trailing this past June, and then we got certified in cadaver this past September,” she said. “It’s some pretty rigorous testing. It’s an international certification and you had to show at least a year’s worth of training and the problems they give us during certification are usually pretty tough. We’re certified through the International Police Work Dog Association and the North American Police Work Dog Association.”

Cosgrove said Search and Rescue is a labor of love.

“This is all volunteer,” she said. “Anytime I’m around and I’m available and a mission happens then Remi and I will show up, and I plan on doing this for a very long time.”

Cosgrove is also a certified Emergency Medical Technician, Avalanche Rescue Technician and Swift Water Rescue Technician.

She continues to work with Remi towards a certification in avalanche rescue/recovery. Ellie is also working and training with Abby, Missoula County’s other certified SAR Trailing, Human Remains Detection, and Avalanche Rescue/Recovery K9.