Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Opinion

April 6, 2013

Gifted sniffer

Tracking dog can be a great asset for the entire region

ASHLAND — There is a good chance the newest employee of the Ashland Boyd County Catlettsburg Office of Emergency Management will spend a lot of time sleeping on the job. But when she is called on to do her job, Lucy can be invaluable in finding lost hikers, campers and children, locating those suffering from Alzheimer’s and other ailments who have wandered away from their homes and families, and even tracking suspected lawbreakers who are still on the lam.

 In short, Lucy is a 9-month-old black-and-tan bloodhound trained to find missing people.

Lucy’s new job with EMA was made possible through a $1,500 grant from the Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital Foundation.

Deputy EMA Director Harold Holley, Lucy’s handler, said the foundation was “taking a gamble” by putting up the money because it wasn’t a certainty when Lucy was purchased that would she would develop into a tracking dog. But the gamble has paid off handsomely.

Holley and Lucy both passed their certification tests with flying colors. Lucy was certified as a tracking dog through the West Virginia Police Canine Association. At the same time, Holley received certification as a tracking dog handler.

The certification exam was conducted in an area off the Northeastern Kentucky Industrial Parkway. Holley said Lucy exceeded the standards set by the association.

While she was somewhat expensive to purchase and train, Lucy works cheaply. She has no salary. All she requires is regular feeding, a clean, warm place to sleep, a few dog treats now and then, regular exercise and potty breaks, a few pats on the head, and she is happy. She lives with Holley, his wife Amber, also a deputy EMA director, and their daughters. She never complains.

Lucy’s principal duties will be helping to locate people who have gone missing. But Holley said she could also be used to assist law-enforcement agencies in tracking down escaped prisoners and criminals on the run.

In addition to Boyd County, Holley said he planned  to make his and Lucy’s services available to agencies in adjoining areas. “As long as (EMA Director) Brent (Webster) will allow me to travel, we’ll go wherever we’re needed,” he said.

That makes Lucy even more valuable. Fortunately, most law enforcement agencies do not need the constant services of a tracking dog. While her first responsibility will always be meeting the tracking needs of the local Office of Emergency Management, the more Lucy is able to assist other agencies, the greater the asset she will be for the entire region.

It was a rash of incidents involving missing Alzheimer’s patients and youngsters that convinced Holley the EMA was in need of a dog like Lucy. Holley trained the dog himself, with assistance from Craig Hayes of NightWulf Canine in South Point. He said Lucy had already been involved in a couple of searches and has performed flawlessly.

“She’s a great dog,” Holley said. “She’s going to be a real asset to this entire area.”

It sounds like she already is, and she is likely to only get better as she matures.

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