August 28, 2008
Utah County Deputies Get a Grade A Sniffer
By Sara Israelsen-Hartley Deseret News
SPANISH FORK -- She can't carry a gun, doesn't wear a badge and is still unsteady on her feet.
But the newest member of the Utah County Sheriff's Office is already a big hit, giving sloppy kisses and curling up along the parking lot curb for a warm morning nap.
Despite not having a name yet, the 8-week-old black and tan bloodhound already has a family and was cuddled by several K-9 deputies who stroked her wrinkly forehead Wednesday outside the sheriff's office in Spanish Fork.
She's the ninth K-9 for the sheriff's office but the first bloodhound and only one of a select group in the state.
However, there's a lot of training needed before before the puppy, who tripped and stumbled over her long, velvety ears, can track the bad guys or locate missing children.
"They can be used in so many different areas," said Hilary Sessions, executive director for Child Protection Education of America Inc., who donated the dog. "We had one that caught a bank robber, stopped a suicide victim, one that found a 12-year-old boy. One of the things we want to do is (ensure) that every law enforcement department has one of these tools that they can use."
She's a cuddly tool now, but after more than a year of training, her nose -- which is 4 billion times more sensitive than the average human nose -- will be invaluable in the county, Sessions said.
Her training will start at malls, gas stations and parks as she acclimates to Utah's smells, as well as scents of other animals and people. That way, when she's older and hot on a scent trail, she won't get distracted.
Sessions said the pup will most likely be certified by the time she's a year old, although once she graduates to adulthood at 2 years old, she'll get certified again.
"We're excited," said Dean Larsen, community-oriented policing coordinator for the sheriff's office and regional director of radKIDS. "The type of program radKIDS is, it trains kids on how to be safe. But if the worst case happens, this dog is going to be great."
Larsen met Sessions through a national conference on radKIDS and when she found out the sheriff's office didn't have a scent- discriminating dog, she arranged the donation.
The new puppy comes from a family of great sniffers. Her dad was a European champion, and her uncle had such a sensitive schnozz that he could differentiate between identical twins, Sessions said.
When tracking down a suspect, she'll wear a bullet-proof vest and be flanked by two large attack dogs, Sessions said. Once she picks up the scent and begins her baying, the large dogs will take off for the capture.
Sessions' organization donates seven to 14 dogs each year to any police agency that needs one, she said. Thursday, she'll be donating a dog to officers in Bismarck, N.D., then an agency in Massachusetts, then onto the U.S. Customs Office.
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