Cadaver dog honored by Florida Bar

Published: Jul. 2, 2018 at 7:31 PM EDT
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By: Julie Montanaro | WCTV Eyewitness News

July 2, 2018

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- The Florida Bar is honoring a cadaver dog with its Animal Achievement Award.

"We did a state-wide survey and Shiraz came out on top," said Ralph DeMeo as he presented the award to Shiraz and her partner, Suzi Goodhope, in Tallahassee on Monday afternoon.

Shiraz's nose has helped to sniff out grave sites and crime scenes for more than a decade.

Finding human remains is her specialty. She's scoured Indian mounds and forgotten burial grounds. We caught up with her in an old cemetery in Tallahassee.

"You can read it now," cemetery caretaker Wilbert Ferrell said as he wiped away the dirt. "That's the oldest one that's marked," Ferrell said.

This headstone in the heart of Munree Cemetery dates back to 1843.

"My intention is to never let these people be forgotten," Ferrell said.

A Belgian Malinois named Shiraz helped to find many of the other graves here. Almost all of them were unmarked.

"Sit. Ready. Find Hoffa!" Goodhope said as she sent Shiraz to work.

"She will go up to the area, sniff it and then sit and maintain that sit until I say okay or reward her."

"String cheese," Goodhope said. "Will work for string cheese."

Shiraz and her partner Suzi Goodhope have not only helped to find graves here at Munree Cemetery in Tallahassee, the duo helped to find remains in Thomasville in 2016 at a civil war prison camp there.


Perhaps its most difficult and disturbing task all these years was finding remains buried at the old Dozier School for Boys in Marianna.

"Absolutely emotionally draining," she said of that experience.

"I absolutely love doing this work," she said. "It helps people find lost ones in their families."

"Those dogs ... it's amazing just to think that they can smell out, sniff out a grave," Wilbert Ferrell said as he watched Shiraz working at Munree Cemetery. "She's helped a lot."

The scent-based sleuthing is helping families and law enforcers and earning Shiraz honors as one of Florida's top dogs.

Shiraz won the Florida Bar Animal Law Sections' "Animal Achievement Award.” It is named after another famous Tallahassee tail-wagger, Rikki Mitchell. That dog helped change Florida law to allow therapy dogs in court.