RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – When it comes to you and your loved ones’ safety, how you smell doesn’t usually come to mind.
But, scent is proving to be a promising way of tracking down people who have gotten lost or wandered away.
“If we have a missing elderly person or even a missing child, one of our first resources that we call is a K9,” said Cpt. Eddie Moore with the Nash County Sheriff’s Office.
Moore says their dogs are mainly used to track down bad guys and are trained specifically for that.
“K9s can be trained differently. Most of your law enforcement K9s are not scent specific, where you see on TV where they use the cloth with the scent of a person,” said Moore.
That means if their dogs are tracking someone down – they don’t follow just one scent.
“Your body is shedding dead skin cells. The dogs can smell that. And then as you’re walking on the grass, that’s releasing an odor,” explained Moore.
Moore says there are dogs trained to be scent-discriminate, like a bloodhound in Florida. It tracked down an elderly woman with dementia in about five minutes, thanks to a scent preservation kit the woman made two years ago.
The idea of saving smells is shared by groups who worry about loved ones wandering away, like families of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
“Out of about 1,200 families that were surveyed, 49 percent had reported that their kids had run away, eloped or wandered away, where they felt they were not going to be safe,” said David Laxton with the Autism Society.
Laxton says while it’s not the only precaution they suggest, preserving a loved one’s smell is easy to do on your own.
“You can make your own scent kit by putting a wash cloth or a t-shirt next to them, letting them sleep with it a couple nights, then putting it in a Ziploc bag, putting it into the freezer,” said Laxton.
You can see other resources from the Autism Society here.
There are companies that provide scent preservation services and specially trained K9s.
CBS North Carolina asked area sheriff’s offices if they use any of these services. Those we’ve heard back from so far do not, but some are now looking into it.