Patterson rescue dog aids search for UL student
By: JEAN L. KAESS
Local support in the case of the missing Lafayette college student has been on the ground practically since she disappeared in the form of a human and two K-9 officers from the Patterson Police Department.
Irving Chauvin and his K-9 team of Bella and Lucy have been assisting the search for Michaela “Mickey” Shunick who disappeared in the early morning hours of May 19. The Patterson officers arrived on the scene less than 24 hours after her disappearance.
They have been working with Lafayette Parish, other local officials and volunteer search teams searching for the ULL student. PPD Chief Patrick LaSalle said Chauvin and his team were requested by Lafayette law enforcement.
Referring to the dogs, LaSalle said “he’s got some of the best in the state.”
Bella is a female purebred Belgian Malinois with cadaver, tracking and narcotics training. Lucy is a redbone coonhound who has tracking certification.
Chauvin’s website, www.irvingchauvinsk9team .com, indicates that “K-9 tracking requires two main aspects: Scent and Motivation. The motivation for a dog reflects directly with the motivator. The motivator for a police K-9 is the excitement of tracking and finding the object it desires. No matter rather it is a criminal, the articles he/she used in a crime, or a missing person, the anticipation of the find alone leads the animal to work hard for his handler. The scent aspect is based upon the dog’s pure instinct. The dog will use a mixture of human scent and ground scent to track its target. When both motivation and scent are put together, it is nearly impossible to run or hide from these trained animals.”
Meanwhile, “Cadaver Search and Rescue dogs are trained to locate various types of (human remains). Human remains such as flesh, hair, bone, blood, and teeth in various states of decomposition are used to train the K-9. The dog’s keen sense of smell, enhanced hearing, night vision and endurance are invaluable to both land and water cadaver searches. The trained dog will indicate with an active (bark) alert by odor response when it has found its motivator. Experts estimate that a single dog team can be as effective as 20 to 30 human searchers. The main goal is to locate missing, lost and injured persons before they are presumed dead.
The K-9 team’s reasons to be dispatched to the site are not only to search for the victim using its senses, but to assist with needed equipment and manpower. The K-9 is used to clear the scene, without indication from the dog in the designated area; the search is expanded to different locations using the teams’ available equipment.
There is a capped $25,000 reward for information leading to Shunick’s whereabouts. Those calling the tip line at 337-291-8633 after hours and on weekends now will reach an answering machine. The line still is staffed by detectives during regular business hours.
From the findmickeynow.com website: “21-year-old Mickey Shunick was last seen at about 2 a.m. (May 19) riding a black and gold Schwinn Cutter bicycle with glittery gold handlebars from a friend’s home in the Saint Streets area of Lafayette. She was riding back home to the area near Ambassador and Congress, but never made it home and hasn’t been seen since.
“She is 5 feet 1 inch tall, weighing about 115 pounds, has shoulder length curly blonde hair and blue eyes. She has a small tattoo of a bicycle on her right outer ankle and a nose ring on her left nostril. She was last seen wearing a pastel multicolored striped shirt, light wash denim skinny jeans and silver ankle boots. She also was carrying a light brown leather backpack, a black and yellow Vera Bradley wallet, a black Verizon slider phone and a small pink container of pepper spray.”
“The goal of the K-9 team is something that Irving has held close to his heart as an officer of the law, a volunteer, and a reserve officer for Patterson Police Department. This goal is to provide rare services to those people who need his help. He and the team travel to any place they are needed. They are currently on the active call out list for most of the largest municipalities in the State of Louisiana,” according to Chauvin’s website.