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Bloodhound helps to find lost and elderly people in rural areas

Two-year-old Hoss can track people lost in open spaces.. (Photo: Scripps News Nashville)

Forrest Sanders

Scripps News Nashville

In a large rural part of the country it could be hard to find a loved one who has become lost — whether it's someone living with Alzheimer's, or dementia, or an autistic child.

"You can spend plenty of time just walking roads wandering, but if you don't have a direction, it's hard to know where to start," said Hunter Case of Metro Moore County EMS in Tennessee. "We have a lot of open spaces," added Zach Means, who works for the agency.

But now, someone is changing everything: Meet Hoss. Being a two-year-old bloodhound means the occasional towel needed for slobber, but this guy is an invaluable member of the team. "He's here so we can search for missing persons," Zach said.

Hoss is also helping in a statewide effort. In 2021, law enforcement joined the Tennessee Alzheimer's Association, and Alzheimer's Tennessee to collaborate and make the state's Silver Alert system happen. It alerts the public to a missing person 65 or older, who is developmentally disabled or cognitively impaired.

The temperament of Hoss is notably friendly and gentle. That's key, considering the people Hoss is trained to find.

Tennessee farmer Robert Darden made the first donation to bring a scent dog to his county. Jack Daniel's Distillery donated the remaining money to get Hoss, and train him at Scent Evidence K9 in Florida.

"They can have them trained and certified in about eight months," Hunter explained.

Zach went out in the distance while Hoss waited at the station during training.

"This is our scent evidence collection cup that we try to give out to any family members who have loved ones with dementia or Alzheimer's or autistic children," Zach said, holding up a cup with a cloth tucked inside. "Once you collect [the scent], you store it in this jar."

Hoss picked up Zach's scent from a cup and was off running through high grass, still wet from the rain.

"The fresher the scent, the quicker our dog will track," Zach said. "That doesn't mean we can't track a 10-hour-old trail or a 15-hour-old trail. We still can."

In only a matter of seconds, Hoss found Zach. These trainings take place every week, keeping the bloodhound's skills prepared for any situation Hunter and Zach may present to him in the wide open spaces.


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