BRIGHTON (AP) — You know those TV shows where the lead character is a medical specialist who also solves crimes? Andrea Lautenschlager is like that, but with a twist.
A Brighton veterinarian and specialist in animal surgery, Lautenschlager also trains dogs for investigations beyond the scope of police canine units.
“We have trailing dogs, disaster dogs and human remains dogs,” she told the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus of Howell.
Disaster dogs, trained to assist in finding people during hurricanes, explosions and other catastrophes, are among her star pupils. They’re not necessarily the type of dog one might expect, either.
While German shepherds are commonly selected for police service, Lautenschlager’s dogs are drawn from a variety of breeds.
“We have German shepherds, but my disaster dog is a boxer mix, and we also use Labrador retrievers. Mixed breeds are also common,” she said.
She recently showed students at Shepherd of the Lakes Lutheran School in Brighton Township what the dogs could do, putting them through their paces at a school assembly.
Youngsters enjoyed watching the dogs find a stranger, hidden inside a cardboard-box “house,” by scent alone.
Lautenschlager, though, is no stranger to the school. Her children have been educated there, and she serves on its leadership team.
Lautenschlager launched her veterinary career in her native Germany.
She originally came to the United States about 15 years ago, when her husband was transferred here by his automotive industry employer. After a brief return home, the couple settled in the Brighton area in 2006 after her husband was once more transferred stateside.
As a veterinarian, Lautenschlager works out of Brighton Animal Hospital.
Her dog-training activities are conducted through K-9 One Search and Rescue, a Flint-based organization that provides dogs for police and fire operations throughout the state.
“What our dogs do is a little different from what police dogs do,” said Pat Lamson, who helped found K-9 One in 2004. “Police dogs are trained for general operations; ours are trained for specialized operations.”
The company’s trailing dogs, for instance, are trained differently than police tracking dogs.
“A tracking dog is trained to follow the footsteps and to look for damaged plant life,” Lamson said.
“Our dogs are trained to go for the smell, which can often be off somewhere in the bushes.”
Dogs specializing in human remains can find a body with just the faintest scent of blood, Lamson said.
While K-9 One hasn’t assisted in any recent Livingston County cases, Lamson said it has assisted police and fire departments in communities throughout southeastern Michigan.
“We work with departments both large and small,” she said. “Even departments with police dogs of their own might not have dogs who can do the things we do.”
While K-9 One assists families in cold cases no longer under active police investigation, its operations are always conducted with the blessing of the local department.
“We’re not an agency that you can hire if your daughter has gone missing for two days,” Lautenschlager said. “We only work with police agencies.”
School presentations are exciting, she said, because of the response young people give to the dogs.
“My youngest son’s friend, instead of having a birthday party, asked his friends to donate to our organization,” Lautenschlager said.