The story is on every news feed on television and in print. Nineteen-year-old, Pravin Varughese, student at Southern Illinois University, went missing last Wednesday evening after a supposed dispute that broke out in a fight.
Now his parents, local law enforcement, and of course the experts in these types of situations, the search-and-rescue dogs are all working tirelessly in hopes of locating this young college student. Over 200 people joined the search over this past weekend to no avail.
Dogs that get involved in the searches use a couple different techniques. One is what is termed air scenting. The dogs are highly trained to go to large, open areas where there are few people present (the fewer, the better!) and they use the trace of the missing person that is in the air in order to trace them. The reason that so few people should be present is that these trained canines alert to any human scent and cannot distinguish one from the other. In order for a scent dog to be successful the temperature of the air, the time of day, the quality of the air, and, of course, the wind conditions all affect whether or not the search could potentially be successful or not.
The other technique that search-and-rescue dogs utilize is trailing and tracking. This method is based on the scent that the missing person leaves behind by shedding particles of human skin cells and tissues. People are continuously shedding skin and as the skin leaves the body, it gets left behind, giving the trained dog a scent to follow after they have sniffed an article of the victim’s clothing so as to appropriate the specific scent of the missing person.
When the dog is trailing a scent, their human partner should take them to the last place where the person was seen so to give a specific start to the trail to follow. In this incidence, the tracking dog follows the actual path of the missing person and does not rely on scent articles to do so. The dog, when placed at that particular spot, is able to track the path of the person based on the scent it discovered at the start of the route.
The dogs at SIU most likely used the latter technique since there are always so many people present and it is a busy area, so it would be difficult for them to find an open space with few people present. So far, both dogs and people that have joined the search have come up empty.
Let’s keep our fingers crossed that over the dogs will continue to be utilized and that they are able to find Pravin Varughese so as to ease the minds of his family members. Please, if you can help in the hunt for this missing young man or if you have some details that could help his family find him, please do not hesitate to phone the Carbondale Police Department at 618.457.3200 or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.