The Villager Journal is proud to introduce to the county one of the many assets that may be utilized to serve the public if the need were ever to arise. This feature is not only to salute the great officers, handlers and trainers, but also for a twist, to recognize the dogs, who make many rescues and detections possible.
These are the Cave City Fire Department's Emergency Response Group's K-9 Division, as well as K-9 units that serve law enforcement in the county. Make no mistake, these dogs know their business. They have been through extensive training and are a vital addition to Sharp County and surrounding areas.
The four dogs ride in style in a retrofitted trailer created on the frame of a pop up camper that was donated by Archie Wilkes. The trailer was created to fit each dog comfortably, as well as to include an area for storage items in the back. Wooldrige said the metal was donated by the Cave City shop class.
Bloodhounds were originally bred to hunt deer and wild boar, later specifically bred to track human beings by scent. They are famed for their ability to follow scents hours or even days old over great distances. The manner in which these dogs track is unique in comparison to other tracking dogs who track by broken vegetation,
This can be problematic if there are several persons in the area which may quickly contaminate a search area. This K-9 unit tracks by scent discrimination, whether it is from a vehicle seat, article of clothing or any other item that might hold the scent of the individual being sought.
Their scent receptors are so strong that even if a victim has drowned, their scent will reach the surface of the water and the bloodhound will hit on the scent, even if it is days old. These floppy eared hounds know their business when it comes to search and recovery, as their breed was created through the breeding process of a culmination of other scent hounds.
Bloodhounds were used during the pre-Civil War era to track runaway slaves. Their scent receptors are 60 times greater than that of normal dogs. The folds in the skin around their face and ears enable them to hold a scent in for days. This is an important reason these dogs are very valuable to the area. Their capabilities exceed that of humans in respect to being able to find missing persons.
Other dogs that are equally important to the county include those responsible for narcotics detection as well as search and rescue missions. Unlike the calm natured bloodhounds, the training process for narcotics detection dogs is much different.
These dogs, Belgian Malanois, which resemble a German Shepards, are more slender in appearance. Graddy said the training process is a find and reward system for these dogs. He said, "These dogs are wired 440," commenting on their high drive. Graddy, who has been training dogs for nearly 25 years and narcotics dogs for the last few, said he has attended a school to learn to train the dogs. The Belgian Melanois are highly sought after dogs and can cost between $500 and $1,500 as puppies.
Graddy said after his children came home telling him about things that went on at school, he realized a real need for this type of dogs and began to train them.
These dogs are also "bite" dogs and not that they are not friendly, but the nature of the training keeps them from being friendly with anyone but the handler.
Dr. L. Paul Waggoner, Interim Director of the Canine Detection Research Institute at Auburn University, says that the other characteristics of dogs may be even more important than their odor detection sensitivity in field detection work, especially comparedwith other detection methods:
* Rapid: Canine detection is the only readily available tool that can detect target odors "real time."
* Mobile: Canines can interrogate larger areas in a given period of time than any other method.
* Versatile: Narcotics and Explosive Detection Dogs (EDD) can detect a wide spectrum of substances.
* Focused: Canines can detect target odors in a very "odor noisy" environment, which often compromises the effectiveness of electronic sensors.
* Able to Find Source: Only canines can track chemical vapor to its source; no instrumental device presently is capable of doing this.
* Selective: Dogs can discriminate between very similar chemical compounds and are not very susceptible to false alerts.
Sharp County Deputy Gary Mitchell handles Max, a bloodhound who has assisted the county in missing persons and escaped felon instances. Max was trained by the Department of Corrections and
Sharp County officer Trint Milligan has a "narcotics dog in training." Hamlet who is also a Belgian Malanois rides with Milligan and will also be a welcome addition to the Sharp County Sheriff's Department. Hamlet was also donated by Graddy.
Yet another reserve officer in the county has a certified narcotics dog that will undoubtedly become a viable asset to the county.
These men have handled these very intelligent dogs and have become one with them through careful training and handling techniques. They devote their time, money and effort into training these animals. Who are an extension of the officers and handlers, as they work to help keep the county safe .
Presser and Wooldridge are also volunteer fireman for Cave City.
Presser is part of BARK, an acronym for Bristow Association of Recovery K-9s. Mike Bristow, formerly of Lynn was one of the men who helped Presser train Slugger. His search and rescue team is currently based in Jonesboro, where he moved, but still will search in this area. BARK was formerly known as Lawrence County Search and Recovery. Presser is also a member of the Arkansas Search Dog Alliance.
Graddy said he is interested and getting a program started to serve the entire Tri-County area.
As a county, everyone should feel much safer knowing these canines areserving everyone in both their time of need as well as to protect and serve.