Tallahassee K9 wins national award for finding human remains

Published: Dec. 14, 2020 at 7:57 PM EST
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - A Tallahassee dog trained to sniff out human remains was just named the best search and rescue dog in the country by the American Kennel Cub.

Shiraz has spent a lifetime searching for missing people and finding long lost graves.

It’s no walk in the park. This Belgian Malinois is a working dog with an award-winning nose.

Shiraz received an ACE award from the AKC as the best search and rescue dog in the business.

“It was unbelievable when they told me that she had won,” her partner Suzi Goodhope said. “I’ve worked with some of the best cadaver dogs in the country and to know that she was the one that was picked, it was just overwhelming.”

Shiraz has been working with Goodhope to find human remains since she was a puppy and following the quirky command “Find Hoffa.”

“She’s somehow able to detect very faint, faint, faint whisps of this odor and she is very confident when she smells it. Her way of telling me is to sit and she’ll sit and look at me like, Okay, it’s your turn,” Goodhope said.

WCTV tagged along in 2018 as Shiraz worked to identify unmarked graves in Tallahassee’s Munree cemetery.

She has sniffed out remains at the old Dozier School for Boys and a Civil War prison camp in Thomasville.

“The oldest remains she’s found, that we know of, radio carbon dated to 670 A.D.”

Closest to Suzi’s heart is working with churches to find lost cemeteries. Some of them the final resting place of slaves.

A powerful moment with a plantation worker in Louisiana is one of her most treasured.

“Shortly after he joined me, Shiraz went over sniffed very heavily and then sat,” Goodhope said, “and he looked at me and said, What does that mean? Is she tired? And I said no, it means she has found what she believes is human remains and he looked at me and he had tears in his eyes and he said “then she’s found my people” and I was just absolutely stunned.”

Shiraz is now 12 and recently diagnosed with cancer. making the ACE award extra special this year.

“She got a really good steak the night that they made the announcement so she got to have some of the rewards for all of her hard work,” Goodhope said.

“It’s a lifetime achievement award?”

“Exactly. Exactly,” Goodhope said.

Shiraz finished her final cancer treatment Monday. Suzi’s greatest hope is that she’ll recover and the two of them can get back to work finding history.

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