This is not the week to be a scofflaw in York County.
All week, dozens of bloodhounds and their handlers have been scouring the streets, fields and woods in and around York and Clover, learning how to track and find people so they can better serve law enforcement agencies across the country.
“It’s been going on 16 years,” said York County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Trent Faris. “We just have a multitude of different places that they can work with.”
Around 45 K-9 handlers and 23 instructors from across the country were participating in training all week, Faris said.
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During one exercise, a person hid under a manhole cover. The dogs found him. In another, a man was in a tree. The dogs found him.
On Wednesday, the dogs hopped on board a helicopter before it went airborne and then landed in a field a few miles away. The dogs hopped off and followed a trail.
The dogs, once again, figured it out.
“A bloodhound has the most discerning sense of smell of all dogs,” said Phillip Ferguson, chief of police in the Outer Banks town of Duck, N.C.
Ferguson was attending his 13th year of training and brought his wife, Sandy, and their two dogs, Harley and Magic, for a refresher course in their tracking skills.
Like most police bloodhounds, Harley and Magic primarily are used for tracking missing people. Sometimes, those people are runaways. Other times, they’re on the run from the law. A few weeks ago, Harley and Magic were called out to look for an elderly man who had wandered off.
Search party volunteers eventually found the man, but so did Harley, Ferguson said.
While the Fergusons have made a habit out of attending the yearly training seminar, some K-9 teams were there for the first time, including Kelly Fosler, a deputy sheriff from Jefferson County, Colo.
Fosler, her husband and their K-9 dog Jessie drove 24 hours over three days to York County for training they just can’t receive out west because there aren’t a lot of bloodhounds, she said. The training in York County was some of the best in the country, she said.
“I’ve never seen this many bloodhounds in one place,” she said.
Jessie had been put through her paces, Fosler said, practicing tracking in cities, the woods, inside buildings and even sewer grates.
“You name it, we’ve done it,” Fosler said.
This is the fifth year at the training seminar for Lindsay Mahon and her dog, Lulu. They work for the Albemarle County Police in central Virginia.
Lulu and Mahon were one of the first K-9 teams called during the high-profile search for University of Virginia freshman Hannah Graham, who disappeared in September. Her remains were found in the woods 10 miles from where she was last seen alive.
Bloodhounds have an important job, so it’s vital that they and their handlers stay up-to-date with their training, seminar attendees say.
“This is some of the best training you can get,” Mahon said. “We learn something new, something good, every year.”