The Canadian Search and Disaster Dogs Association is sending four canine specialists to Lac La Ronge, Sask., to help find a missing man who may have fallen through the ice.
Thirty-six-year-old Billy Taylor was last seen on the evening of Dec. 17 leaving Lac La Ronge on his snowmobile. Despite the searchers efforts, there has been no sign of the experienced hunter and trapper.
CASDDA is a not-for-profit, volunteer organization which trains and deploys dogs and their handlers for search and rescue missions locally, nationally and internationally.
The dogs are trained to find human scent in wilderness, rubble and water searches. Ice searches are an extension of a water search, but with an added challenge.
"It makes it, of course, a lot more difficult because scent travels through the ice extremely slowly if at all," CASDDA president Richard Lee said. "There are always natural cracks that occur, and some ice, depending on hot spots, is more porous than others."
The dogs don't smell through the ice, only what is able to filter slowly to the top.
"It is extremely painstaking and difficult work," Lee said.
Lee added that search and rescue missions are never pleasant, but it is gratifying to put the dogs to good use.
"In search and rescues the sad truth is that finding a live victim is very much the exception rather than the norm."
When they do find the lost person, even if that person has passed away, it is very important to the family.
"The family's in such horrible agony wondering and not knowing," Lee said. "If we are able to find the person and return them to their family it makes a big difference."