High Level Of Performance And Endurance

“Until All Come Home”

The PRSAR Newsletter!

Some Updates on the great volunteers at PRSAR


Doing what it takes

It's a very romantic vision. There is a missing child. You and your canine are called to deploy. Once on scene, you begin working fiercely to locate the missing child. After navigating several twists and turns, your trusted K9 alerts by a tree. You move to the side, and there is your missing autistic child. All very heroic! But then the realities set in; it takes a LOT of work to get a K9 to track accurately and reliably so you can have a happy outcome.


For most tracking teams, the training day starts at 5 am. Yes, it's dark out, but the tracking field is quiet, and there are few distractions. The air is cool, moist, and with no wind. The area is dark, and the dog's eyes are useless, so it must depend on its nose. Perfection. The K9s are rested and eager to break from their crates and hit the training track laid so carefully the night before. A quick sniff of the target odor and the team is off to track.


This procedure is repeated countless times in the training and maintenance of the K9 tracking team's career. All the skills have to be tuned and tweaked and tuned again. The end product is best described as a beautifully coordinated dance of a K9 working a target odor and a handler reading every inch of that k9s body language, knowing when the K9 is on the odor track or off. It truly is a beautiful thing.

PRSAR trains for a very high level of tracking accuracy in the field. Accuracy is affected in many ways. The age of the track, weather conditions, the fitness level of the K9, and the victim's health. Why the health of the victim? Well, believe it or not, some medications can decrease or obliterate our victims' odor. That is why our handlers will ask what medications the victim is taking when they arrive to determine if there might be a problem! Also, a K9s fitness level will affect the nose sniffing rate. A K9 in poor fitness will struggle to keep accurate odor detection as nose fatigue and dog panting will decrease its effectiveness. With badly worn tracks, this combination is not optimal.

Training methods affect the dog's performance as well. There are many different tracking styles; some use the term trailing instead of tracking. Some trainers allow the dogs to work loosely on the track, which can cause the K9 to work on the downwind side (fringing) missing articles and evidence. Other trainers allow the dogs to track with their heads up, risking the K9 becoming more of an air-scenting dog than a ground-scenting dog (see Fig.1 above). This problem will present in areas of heavy contamination or backtracks. The air-scenting K9 will get confused and begin darting back and forth, trying to figure out the track directly from the air rather than on the ground. Why? K9s have an amazing ability to determine the age of a track. By ground scenting, the K9 can quickly determine the newer from, the older scent and make the correct choice. It is important that Law Enforcement personnel know what type of K9 they are requesting. The PRSAR K9 is trained to stay as close to the original track line as possible. This is critical if the K9 is trained to locate and alert on articles or evidence with our victim's scent. As the victim walks on and gets dehydrated and heat exhausted, they start shedding things like phones, keys, glasses, and even their clothes! These finds are critical to the search effort since it confirms the direction of travel of our victim, and resources can then be tasked accordingly for a successful outcome.

The K9 tracking team is one of the most powerful tools in the search team's toolbox. All PRSAR Tracking teams receive an in-house Mission Ready Evaluation and an outside certification from a Nationally Recognized Agency.

PRSAR Legacy K9's


K9 Caliber von Telos is a petite German Shepherd Dog who finds the odor of human remains. The Tiny Tornado, aka Twinkle Toes, aka the Pocket Rocket, is known by many names, all a reflection of the speed and elegance she works with. Her career spans nine years, over 250 deployments, and a multitude of successes. K9 Caliber has a once-in-a-lifetime gift as a cadaver dog. While it usually takes months for dogs to master the skill, she completed a National Level Human Remains Detection certification just eight weeks after starting Search and Rescue.


She came into the Search and Rescue world when she was an 11-month-old pup the breeder intended to keep, but somehow knew her destiny was for greater works. Her Handler, Julie, was not looking for another dog at the time. Instead, she had her 3-year-old rescued mutt K9 Roman, who was fulfilling his role as a tracking and area search dog for Peace River K9 SAR. In fact, her husband told her they could not have another dog in the house. 

A cadaver dog or human remains detection dog finds the odor of human remains, which can be anything from a deceased individual, a drop of blood, or an item with evidentiary value that has the odor on it. So what makes an amazing cadaver dog? A natural ability and desire to hunt, a drive that never quits, focus, an amazing sense of smell, and a handler that realizes they are primarily just a leash holder. K9 Caliber has demonstrated all of these abilities. She works endlessly and with commitment, all for the opportunity to receive the reward of a tug on a $1 rope from Walmart when she is done.

One of K9 Caliber’s most memorable finds was the search for an individual believed to have perished in a house fire. For 18 hours, firefighters combed through the debris of the two-story residence, finding nothing. Caliber started at the front of the charred debris pile, running immediately to the back right of the house on top of debris almost a story high. She slowly turned with her eyes big as saucers, looked at her Handler, Julie, and performed her trained final response almost in slow motion. Firefighters immediately moved in, revealing the deceased individual directly under K9 Caliber’s alert. The entire search took less than 5 minutes. Then, in K9 Caliber fashion, she took her tug toy down the line, presenting it to every firefighter for a quick tug as her reward.

The list of successes is monumental, a body recovered under a heavy debris pile many months after Caliber’s alert on Abaco following Hurricane Dorian. The location of human cremated remains over 1000 years old. A body was recovered under a dock, a pile of clothing found in the woods that the victim had worn in a murder in South Carolina. Despite her many successes spanning Washington State to the Bahamas, what resonates the most is K9 Caliber’s ability to understand the world.

It is her innate ability to know the assignment that has been amazing throughout her career. On one occasion she was deployed to locate a man believed to have drowned in a local lake surrounded by trees. After being deployed she took off like a rocket, without a backward glance at the searchers. Once they caught up, they discovered Caliber laying in the shade in a heavily wooded area, on the lap of a nearly naked but very alive man. He was the individual they had been looking. Somehow, she knew, even though she had been instructed to find human remains, that this person was who she was meant to find.

Her understanding of the world is not limited to searches. On one occasion, K9 Caliber attended a girl scout demo. All the kids watched the performance of the PRSAR K9s and then were given the opportunity to get pets and ask questions about the dogs. One young girl sat alone on a bench not really interacting with the crowd or showing a lot of interest. K9 Caliber picked a stick off the ground and gently laid it in the girl’s lap. Not getting any reaction, she nosed it closer to the girl’s hand. A small smile escaped the girl as she picked up the stick and started playing with Caliber. They played for a few minutes, the girl smiling. We were told later that the girl had a disability.

On another occasion, a victim’s brother was present at a site where his loved one’s remains were being excavated. As you can imagine, this was an overwhelming situation. The brother walked away from the site, hanging his head. K9 Caliber left her handler and walked over to the brother. She gently nudged his legs, then picked up a stick and dropped it at his feet. He dropped and hugged her, the tears falling, then picked up the stick for a couple of rounds of fetch. 

There has been no shortage of laughs along the way. Last year, Julie’s younger dog was completing his Human Remains Certification evaluation, looking for an elevated hide. Caliber waited in her crate in the car with the windows down about four inches. Apparently, not happy with the speed her younger protégé was working out, Caliber escaped from the crate and the car, ran to the odor source, got up on her hindlegs, nosed bumped it, and looked at everyone as if to say, “What is taking so long.”

K9 Caliber’s courage has been endless. There is nothing she has faced that deters her from her job. She has been transported on UTVs, searched from boats, jumped into alligator-infested waters at 2 a.m., and flown in helicopters. She has broken bones, cut her paw pads, and been crammed under an airline seat for 5 hours, yet nothing deters her desire to work. She shows professionalism for the job that is unwavering. While most dogs retire around 9 or 10 years old, K9 Caliber is still active and ready to work. She has survived three surgeries to remove cancerous tumors, and each time bounced back. She may be a little slower, and getting off the floor might involve a small groan, but she is still ready to work. Her service to the community and dedication to her job is unwavering, which is why she is considered a PRSAR Hero Dog.

Help Us Continue Our Mission When Using PayPal!

Recently PRSAR got approved as a preferred charity on PayPal! This enables us to be listed on the PayPal app and available to be set as a favorite charity to receive Micro-donations when you make purchases at checkout. How does this work? There are two ways to set PRSAR as your favorite charity. You can find us on the PayPal Giving Fund website and click the heart icon on our page, or you can use the PayPal app on your phone, With the phone app, go to payments, then to Give and set PRSAR as your favorite charity. When you checkout using PayPal you will get the chance to add $1 to your purchase and that money comes to us! This is a simple and great way to support your favorite Nonprofit! Thank you for your giving!

Thanks Richard!

It's always a sad day when we say goodbye to a great team member. One of our team medics, Richard Hendrzak served as a medic in the military and brought that experience to PRSAR. His organizational skills and medical knowledge were outstanding. Richard helped us organize our medical response and command trailer. He worked with us on several searches and we always felt better knowing Richard was out there if needed. Unfortunately, Richard has taken a job in another state and will be leaving us! We wish him and Michelle the best and they will always be a part of the PRSAR family! Thank you for your giving hearts!

A Fellow CERT Team Needs your Support!

Our Friends at the Rotunda Communities CERT team are trying to raise funds for a Command Response trailer for use in Major Disasters like Hurricane Ian. They have a Poker Run and Golf tournament that will help them get the funds they need for the project. Please support their efforts! #weareprsar #rotondawest #englewoodfl

Dealing with Heat and Flying Drones

With the increasing popularity of drones, it is important to understand the risks associated with flying them in hot weather conditions. High temperatures can have a significant impact on the performance of drones and can pose a threat to their safe operation. To ensure safe drone operations during hot weather, we recommend the following guidelines:

1. Check your drone's manual for recommended operating temperature ranges and avoid flying your drone if the temperature is outside of this range.

2. Keep your drone and batteries out of direct sunlight and avoid exposing them to high temperatures for extended periods of time.

3. Allow your drone and batteries to cool down before and after flights to prevent overheating.

4. Always monitor your drone's battery temperature and avoid flying if the battery temperature exceeds the recommended range.

5. Consider using a cooling system for your drone and batteries to help regulate temperature during flight.

By following these guidelines, drone operators can ensure safe and effective operations in hot weather conditions. It is important to prioritize safety and take necessary precautions to prevent accidents and equipment damage.

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Missing Joe

It was with great sadness that we learned of Joe's passing. He was a retired detective that consulted with PRSAR on several cases. The world lost a great man. Below is the official obituary.

Joseph (Joe) Anthony Fanciulli went to eternal rest on June 8, 2023, at his home in Venice, FL. Born May 7, 1947, in Bridgeport, Connecticut to Guiseppe and Maria Grazia (née Bonitatibus) Fanciulli. He has gone home to join his parents and wives. Joe was preceded in death by his wives Peggy Ann Shea in 1999 and Patricia Ann Fanciulli in 2022. He is survived by his loving wife, Nancy Ann Fanciulli; children, Brian Fanciulli (Jesse), Mary Dalio (Chris), Kevin Fanciulli (Jackie), and Mark Fanciulli (Jamie); grandchildren, Vincent, Luca, Clara, and Michael Fanciulli.  

A 1969 graduate of LaSalle University, Joe became a police officer for the Westport Police Department. Joe and his wife Peggy Ann Shea were married in Bridgeport, CT in 1969. They moved to Lakewood, Colorado in 1970 for Joe to become a founding Agent of the Lakewood Police Department where he spent 20 years serving the community and retired as a Sergeant. In 1971 Joe joined the U.S. Army Reserves where he served until 2007 when he was honorably discharged as a Master Sergeant. Joe and Peggy raised their four children in the Lakewood and Golden communities. Joe was an avid Broncos fan. He spent almost every fall for 40 years supporting the Broncos and attended multiple Super Bowls with his son, Mark.  

Joe found his second love and was married to Patricia Bennett in 2000. Joe and Pat moved to Venice, FL in 2003 where they enjoyed time at the beach and Venice Yacht Club. Joe continued solving crimes and helping others through his efforts as a Certified Fraud Examiner, expert witness, and through volunteerism with self-funded search organizations; the Florida Blue Knights and Peace River Search and Rescue. Joe was key to the investigation and apprehension of national serial killers Carl Sherman and Sherman McCrary in the 1970s, culminating in co-authoring of Death Roads: The Story of the Donut Shop Murders with Orvel Trainer and later contributed to “Finding Andrea” on Investigation Discovery and “Families who Kill” on Wondery. Joe spent his later years of life on multiple trips to Italy with his family where they researched their family heritage.  

Joe met his final love, Nancy Ann Schaefer, in 2019 and married in 2022. Nancy and Joe enjoyed spending their days finding treasures at the beach and with their dog, Huxley. 

The Effects of Heat on Humans and Animal Searchers

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T), in its continued support of the working dog community, sought to examine the impact of abrupt search starts (and the often notable changes in environmental setting/conditions as a result) on detection canine performance. 

Dogs in the study were trained and housed under comfortable conditions (72°F, 60% RH) but tested under a range of temperature and humidity combinations (32°F to 104°F and 40% RH to 85% RH). Each test began with the dog held under comfortable conditions, then rapidly introduced into an extreme environment to conduct a search – similar to moving quickly from a climate-controlled patrol car to a vehicle search as part of a traffic stop. Detection responses were repeatedly measured so that time-dependent performance could be tracked.

Key Findings

Performance remained high when transitioning quickly into cold extremes. Oppositely, although the dogs appeared to work well in the hot/low humidity and warm/humid conditions, their performance was adversely impacted.

• Moving higher on the heat/humidity index, dogs unaccustomed to hot/humid conditions showed a substantial reduction in search behavior and performance in those extremes.

• Dogs take several moments to fully engage in a search, and performance during those first moments is reduced

(i.e., a ‘warm-up period’ does exist, and was present even when moving from comfortable hold conditions to comfortable test conditions!).

Recommendation #1:

Canines should be allowed a “pre-search” to mitigate any adverse effects of the warm-up period:

1. Settle the canine into the environmental conditions –allow them to roam/break.

2. Work the canine as much as 2 to 5 minutes before entering the critical area (this could include the exterior of a building, or several neutral vehicles, before arriving at the targeted vehicles).

3. When feasible and permitted, employ the common practice of a drop aid - where a target/training aid is knowingly present in the pre-search area to motivate and check on the canine.

Canines should be trained and evaluated under all environmental conditions in which they will work.

1. Systematic exposure and conditioning to the local environment are essential.

2. Collect the heat index rating at the start, end, and throughout the day; exert caution if the heat index exceeds conditions under which the canine has not been formally evaluated as decrements may exist.

3. Even with these precautions, note that performance under extreme conditions may be lowered even when canines exhibit adequate search behaviors.

This guide was prepared by Battelle Memorial Institute and disseminated with funding from DHS S&T under contract 70RSAT19CB000014.

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