A team of specially-trained dogs helped search for the body of a Prince George man who went missing earlier this month while boating on Takysie Lake.
At the request of the family of Brett Smith, five dogs and their handlers from the Canadian Search and Disaster Dogs Association (CASDDA) first arrived at the lake, 265 kilometres west of Prince George, two weekends ago.
Sylvie Montier, training coordinator for the Edmonton-based organization, which also has members in B.C., admits the approach is controversial but maintains it works.
It relies on the dogs' keen sense of smell and knowledge of a lake's dynamics.
"When you have something in the water, it gets hit by the current and it slowly goes up to the surface and the dogs smell it at the surface where it comes up," Montier said Tuesday.
When a dog catches the scent, it will start barking and then jump into the water where it senses the smell is the strongest.
In the case of the search for Smith, the five dogs made more than 100 jumps, essentially creating a circle in a particular section of the lake.
The handlers used the coordinates from where the dogs went into the water to do a rough calculation and then sent down the sonar equipment, which sent back an image indicating that Smith's body was in the area.
The RCMP were given the heads up but ran into some problems when they sent down their own equipment - the camera was lost in the lake - and the search was called off for the weekend.
Members of Terrace Search and Rescue were called in to help this past weekend and relying in part on the coordinates provided by the dog team, found Smith's body on Saturday about 40 metres away, apparently having drifted somewhat due to a storm the night before.
Most of the dogs and their handlers received their certification in May, following training in Holland. Once they've achieved that level, the only proper training the dogs can get is by actually going out on the water.
They were originally thinking of going to nearby Francois Lake, where Burns Lake resident Syd Neville has not been found since his boat capsized on June 7. But they received a call from Smith's family, who learned about the organization through Takysie Lake Resort, after an initial RCMP search was called off four days after he was reported missing.
After getting approval from the RCMP, the team took to the water.
Asked how they can tell the difference between a body and another item, such as a log, Montier said there are some telltale signs - wood does not give off gas for example - but the only sure way to know is to send down a diver particularly if the lake is as murky as Takysie.
"We have a good idea when there is nothing else, you have just one thing, and that's when the dogs give the alert," Montier said.
Smith's wife, Lisa, praised the the RCMP and Terrace Search and Rescue for their help, but gave a special mention to the Montier and the dogs.
"Many people have not been able to find their loved ones like were were able to," Smith said in an e-mail to The Citizen. "Maybe CASDDA can help locate all the lost souls waiting to be found so their families can have closure."