It's a dog's life. For Murphy anyway, a trained dog whose discipline is to find cadavers.
Murphy and his owner Tracy Kaufman were the featured guests at Wednesday morning's Daybreak Rotary Club meeting in Sunnyside.
The two volunteer for the Yakima County Sheriff's office and when called, go help with the search and rescue of those believed to be dead, whether it be murder, drowning or suicide victims.
Nothing bothers Kaufman more than the misconception that work dogs get depressed as a result of their missions, as in the case of the Twin Towers cadaver rescues.
"We've trained these dogs to do a job, to love it," she says. "These are dogs. Don't put human emotion on them." Later, she added that Murphy's job "has to be a game. It has to be fun."
Because Murphy's only discipline is to find cadavers, Kaufman does her best to avoid loved ones who have a missing person. It disturbs her, not Murphy. "When I find someone who's passed, I make sure the loved ones aren't there."
Murphy gets paid just like other workers. Only his pay is in the form of a tennis ball that he absolutely adores. When Murphy finds a dead body, he is rewarded, and the reward thrills him.
Said Kaufman, "When he's told to work, he's gone. He's excited, he's thrilled. He's gone."
Kaufman said that Murphy alerts her to a find by making eye contact with her, turning his body in a circle, then dashing off to go back to the find. If she doesn't respond, he continues the process, but eventually can get aggressive with her, barking at her and even jumping on her. There was only one instance when he actually threw something with his mouth at her because, as she put it, she simply wasn't understanding that he made the find.
Kaufman said she has to be careful that Murphy doesn't get hurt. On one mission, Murphy was so focused on his work he sliced two pads on his feet. Kaufman noticed he was moving slower, but just figured it was the heat. It wasn't until they were back at her vehicle that she realized Murphy was so focused he worked right through his injury.
Murphy is a hunting dog by nature, which makes teaching him to hunt for just cadavers easier.
He is trained about four times a week and exposed to different scents of death. Some of the odors are man made, chemically enhanced liquids that train Murphy's nose to the smell of human decomposition.
Murphy is not a water rescue dog, though Kaufman is considering getting the certification for that, too.
Kaufman said of the dog, "He is a resource. I love him, I care for him, but he is a resource. (His job) is to bring somebody home (to rest)."