Bloodhounds help keep police on the trail

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It has been said that 'dogs are man's best friend,' but if you are missing in central Indiana - it may actually be true.

Scout and Waldo are bloodhounds, working dogs, who work for you.

"They focus all their energy toward one common goal," said Ryan Horine of the Hamilton County Sheriff's Department. "That's to find people, whether it's a good person who has a mental health type issue or whether it's a criminal that's running from police for some reason."

Each dog has been working for about three years and each has about 30 successful searches. They are each called out about 100 times a year, mostly to look for older people with a medical condition and kids who have gotten lost or run away, but some are criminals who just want to run from authorities.

Scout and Waldo don't discriminate. They can track anyone, at almost anytime. They do it by smelling the thousands of cells that our bodies naturally drop all day long. Scout's handler is Reserve Deputy Neal Hoard, who explains it this way:

"They have an eight-pound brain, they use a pound of it for smelling. We have a 16-pound brain and we use eight ounces for smelling," said Scout's handler, Reserve Deputy Neal Hoard.

To put it another way, Hoard says, "you walk into somebody's kitchen and you smell chocolate chip cookies. They smell eggs, brown sugar, butter, that kind of stuff."

But it takes work to keep the dogs sharp. Hoard and Deputy Nate Biddle take at least two full days a month for training - not that the dogs mind.

"That's what they were born to do. It's what they were originally bred to do," Biddle said.

"Bloodhounds have been working since the 15th century," Hoard added.

To test their mettle, I volunteered to be a "runner" during one of their training days. I rubbed my arms with a piece of gauze and tried to get lost in a Hamilton County park. For Scout, I hid in heavy brush. She found me in under four minutes, covering a quarter-mile of scrub grass to do it. For Waldo, I waited at a picnic table, with other people walking by. He didn't get thrown off the trail, finding me in about three minutes.

The county pays about $20,000 a year to support the dogs. That's just a fraction of one percent of the sheriff's department budget. They are the only working police bloodhounds in central Indiana and they have been dispatched all over the state. Other departments can call them out as needed, just as Hamilton County might call in a SWAT team or a dive team, neither of which it has on the payroll.

In times when every penny spent by a public agency is scrutinized, the Hamilton County Sheriff is as dedicated to the bloodhounds as they are to following a trail. Deputy Ryan Horine wants people to know that Scout and Waldo are a good investment.

"You're getting your money's worth on this program. These guys, they work hard, they train all the time. They're good at what they do. Like anyone else, they have good days and bad days, but they do find quite a few people," Horine said.

To learn more about bloodhounds, click here.