CHULA VISTA, Calif. — Volunteers have started using cadaver dogs in their ongoing search for Chula Vista mother, Maya Millete, who has been missing since January 7.
The latest effort took place this past weekend off Otay Lakes Road, east of Chula Vista.
A Phoenix-area nonprofit, Arizona Search Track and Rescue (AZSTAR), brought in the dogs, free of charge.
One of the dogs, Scout, is a 4-year-old Belgian Malinois trained to find human remains.
It was the first time Team Maya volunteers had used canines as part of their weekend searches, simply because most cadaver dogs work exclusively with law enforcement search and rescue operations.
“We're actually lucky to have this group with search dogs from Arizona come out and help us on the search,” said Richard Drouaillet, Maya’s brother-in-law.
Drouaillet was part of the search team of about two dozen volunteers who gathered early Saturday morning. They followed the trail the canines had sniffed out earlier, up an overgrown wash off the side of the road into a thicket of bamboo.
“We followed the commands of the dogs. They had a couple of hits,” Drouaillet said.
Scout, the younger canine, alerted in the wash area but the older cadaver dog did not. Still, it was enough for the volunteers to start digging with shovels in the sandy dirt.
If they come across any evidence of human remains, the team will stop digging and call Chula Vista police.
The team did not find any human remains in the area.
After the search operation finishes, the handlers typically reward their cadaver dogs by hiding a bag of human teeth or tissue for the dog to find. When the dog alerts to the location of the bag, it gets rewarded with its favorite tug toy.
Several weeks ago, law enforcement reportedly used canines during a search of a closed-down golf course near Maya Millete’s home in Chula Vista.
Later on, volunteers searched the same golf course without dogs.
WATCH: Team Maya searches East Otay Mountain in July: