Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

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April 1, 2013

Tracking dog part of EMA

CATLETTSBURG — There’s a new employee on board at the Ashland Boyd County Catlettsburg Office of Emergency Management.

Her speciality is finding missing people.

She works cheaply, too. Toss her a few dog treats and give her a pat on the head and she’s happy.

Her name is Lucy, and she’s a 9-month-old black-and-tan bloodhound.

Lucy is a stoutly built, sweetly disposed canine with massive paws. She weighs in at roughly 100 pounds. The dog had been actually been in training to join for the emergency management agency for a few months.

 And, just this week, she and her handler, Deputy EMA Director Harold Holley, 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 performed flawlessly, actually exceeding the standards set by the association.

Holley said the examiner, Doug Adams, also told him Lucy was one of the youngest bloodhounds the organization had ever certified. Most of them don’t even begin training until they are 1 1/2 to 2 years old, he said.

“He (Adams) was amazed by her,” Holley said.

The completion of her exam gave Lucy a total of 127 tracking miles under her belt, er, collar, Holley said.

He explained that he and Lucy were certified through a West Virginia organization because Kentucky doesn’t have its own agency to certify tracking dogs and handlers.

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.

Holley said it was a rash of incidents involving missing Alzheimer’s patients and youngsters that convinced him the EMA was in desperate need of dog like Lucy.  He purchased the animal from a breeder in Arkansas. Lucy was 6 weeks old when she came to live with Holley, his wife, Amber, also a deputy EMA director, and their daughters.

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. One, for a missing woman who was said to be intoxicated and suicidal, took place in the dead of winter when it was “like 7 degrees outside,” he said.

The odds of Lucy locating the woman seemed remote because “scent freezes,” making it more difficult to follow, Holley said. “But, she found her.”

Holley said it would not have been possible for the EMA to have purchased Lucy without a $1,500 grant it received from the Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital Foundation. He 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, it would appear the gamble has paid off handsomely, he said.

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

KENNETH HART can be reached at khart@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2654.

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