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BLOODHOUND, THE SEARCH AND RESCUE PET

My favorite game! This is a topic that I know a lot about, although I've never searched for any "real" missing person. My family pretends to get lost and I find them.  Search and Rescue (SAR) requires a Bloodhound to use their nose, and truly this is the purpose of our existence.  Nothing in this world comes more naturally to us than using our nose to sniff someone or something out. SAR Training is lots of fun for me. I don't get to go out often enough.  But, when I do, I surely enjoy it, almost as much as I enjoy BONES!  When my parents first started SAR, they were thoroughly impressed with my scenting abilities. Lets see...where do I start? 

First, a brief history of SAR: Today, the Bloodhound is used more and more for man trailing, or more commonly known as search and rescue.  In 1962, an organization called the Eastern Police Bloodhound Association was formed in Connecticut.  This was a small group of law enforcement officers, whose primary goal was to train Bloodhounds extensively by using time-tested and field-proven methods.  The Association rapidly grew and in 1966, the name was changed to the National Police Bloodhound Association.  I've heard my Dad and Mom say that training a Bloodhound for Search and Rescue is both exhilarating and exhausting!

Preparing for the search: Well, I guess the first thing that a owner and/or SAR trainer must do is introduce as many different possible items of scent to a Bloodhound pup. I think the more we smell, the better we can train our own nose to be able to make the distinction of different odors. The earlier we start our training in SAR, the better the result. There are certain materials that will have to be bought for SAR missions. In addition to our regular collar and leash, we also need a harness. (This harness should only be worn during SAR training or on SAR missions.) We also need to have, preferably a 16 foot lead. A reflective jacket/coat for a Bloodhound is a good idea to have as well. That is all that a Bloodhound needs to wear.  Now, the handler must prepare for the mission. A handler will have to get a backpack, the smaller the better.  Packing light will be very important, especially on long searches through rough terrain. These are MUSTS for the  backpack: Flashlight, seal-able plastic bags, water bottles (one for the handler and one for the Bloodhound), compass (but, a handler will have to know how to read one or they may as well not carry it!), a hat or sweater in colder weather, rain gear if necessary (be prepared for the weather is what I'm trying to say),  some sort of communication (such as walkie talkie, two way radio, or cell phone), maybe a candy bar (if it's a small child you're searching for), and maybe one for yourself, and of course, a few or a lot of dog bones! The bones will be our reward when we find the victim. The items I mentioned, are of course for an actual SAR mission. Carrying these along on training missions aren't really necessary at first (unless you get lost a lot), but when the Bloodhound gets more experienced in SAR training, it's a good idea for you to wear your back pack, to know what it will actually feel like carrying that extra weight.

The search: The Bloodhound will have to wear both a collar and a harness, however, until the search site is reached, she/he should be walked by the collar.  Once the site to be searched is reached, the Bloodhound should be commanded to sit.  After doing so, take the lead from the collar and attach it to the harness.  The item of scent should be given to the dog to sniff, and then immediately placed back into a sealed bag.  The Bloodhound, by now is waiting patiently for your command.  Keep your command to search simple.  Use the word search, look or find.  Now, the she is ready for the search!

It is truly amazing, if I may say so...to have a “pretend” victim lay down a trail of twists and turns and then watch a Bloodhound go to work. Our ability to scent is extraordinary; a Bloodhound could actually sniff out their victim/suspect up to two miles away, which could make the SAR effort easier.  If a Bloodhound catches the scent via the air, rather than the actual trail laid, the Bloodhound will take a short cut.  In other words, if a victim wandered around in circle, the Bloodhound would not necessarily have to follow that ‘circle’.  The Bloodhound will take the quickest path to the victim.  Drills, such as this one have to be performed on a regular basis to train the Bloodhound for superior SAR efforts.  Bloodhounds must be taken to various locations, in different weather conditions, with new ‘pretend’ victims during search and rescue training. 

Training tips: A single person should hide from the Bloodhound, while leaving a trail of disintegrating paper, such as toilet paper, or retrievable flags, so the handler of the Bloodhound can be sure they are on the right trail.  Locations and preferably the ones hiding, from the Bloodhound, should be changed each time.  It is important to train in the rain and snow, as well as sunshine and in the evening as well as the day hours.  Gradually, two or three people must be sent to hide, crossing over one another’s trails and the Bloodhound must be instructed to search out only one.  Eventually, Bloodhounds will prove their trust to the handlers and the toilet paper can be discarded.  Even though, the Bloodhound has been successful on all training missions, it is still important to continue these drills.  When the time comes, the true test of a real search and rescue mission will arise and the Bloodhound will be completely prepared to do its job.

Overall:  Bloodhounds have proved to be of instrumental assistance to law officials.  For instance, in 1977 when James Earl Ray, the convicted assassin of Marin Luther King, Jr.  escaped for Brushy Mountain prison, it was the Bloodhound, a 14-month old Bloodhound named Sandy who found him 8 miles from the prison.  A vain attempt to camouflage himself beneath wet leaves did not deter the Bloodhound.  He was so dumb for even trying! Even Hollywood could not overlook the amazing scenting ability of a Bloodhound.  For example, in “Cool Hand Luke”, Paul Newman was successfully tracked and brought back into custody after his escape from prison.

     Many a bloodhound have been successful in finding a missing person, be it victim or suspect when man has failed.  This is because the Bloodhound thoroughly enjoys conducting a search.  This, after all is the purpose of their existence.  Nothing pleases a bloodhound more than following a scent.  This is the only time you will ever see a Bloodhound be aggressive.  So aggressive, in fact, that they would rather die than to give up the search.

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