Summit County Sheriff’s Office welcomes its newest (and cutest) recruit
Hazel, a 9-week-old bloodhound, will work as a tracking and cadaver dog
All Summit County Sheriff’s Office deputies go through rigorous training to prepare for the job, and the latest recruit is no exception – even if she does show up to work on four legs.
Deputy Hazel may be less than a year old in human years, but the 9-week-old bloodhound has become the fourth member of the Sheriff’s Office K9 team. Hazel is the first tracking dog employed by the Sheriff’s Office since Deputy Tank, who helped locate more than 40 people during his service.
“The K9 Program provides another tool in our quest to provide the best law enforcement services to our community as possible. The K9s help us keep drugs out of our community and schools,” Sheriff’s Office Capt. Andrew Wright said. “Hazel brings back an important aspect of the K9 program – tracking. Hazel will help us with search and rescue operations, missing and lost people, and help locate suspects who flee from law enforcement. Our four-legged deputies help us achieve a high level of service and safety to our community.”
Hazel will serve alongside Detective Jayme Woody, who works in criminal investigations, to track individuals who may be lost, injured or suspected of a crime. She’ll also work as a cadaver dog, meaning Hazel will be specially trained to locate human remains and alert people to them.
Woody hasn’t worked as a canine handler before, but she does have experience training her own dogs. She said she’s always had an interest in working with K9s and is excited for Hazel to join the family.
At home, the young pup is rambunctious, feisty and loves playing with her canine siblings. But with limited experience, she’ll need some time to grasp her duties.
Woody says they train in small periods until the puppy can develop a longer attention span, focusing on activities like chase and hide-and-seek. Hazel is also being slowly introduced to new situations such as walking near the roadway and meeting unfamiliar people.
“We’re trying to teach her that people are fun and chasing people, finding people is fun. Everything is like a big game. We’ll progress from there to where you get rewarded by following the odor of someone and eventually we work up to her being able to find somebody,” Woody said. “She’s already bred for it, born for it, and she’s a natural at it.”
She estimates it will be about a year before Hazel can work in the field.
The Sheriff’s Office wasn’t initially looking to grow its K9 team, but Woody saw a need amidst the growing number of search and rescue calls in Summit County and neighboring jurisdictions. She created a proposal a few months ago and presented it to administrators, who agreed a hound’s nose would make a great addition.
With the support of Mike and Michelle Kerby, who donated the money for the purchase, Deputy Hazel was hired. The Kerby family chose the name after Mike’s grandmother. They also paid for the medical costs associated with Cairo, a six-year-old Belgian Malinois who retired from the Sheriff’s Office earlier this year. It can range anywhere from $1,000 to more than $10,000 to purchase a dog for police work depending on their age, and level of training – which is the most expensive part.
Woody hopes Hazel’s training will allow the Sheriff’s Office to help locate missing children and hunters, or even dementia patients, that may have become lost.
“I’m hoping that it can be something that’s utilized quickly. I’m a detective and I’ve worked on a few missing persons cases up in the forest … the faster you can get to somebody, the easier it is to find them,” she said.
The red, white and blue transit buses that allow commuters, skiers and visitors to easily travel through Parleys Canyon will be reduced starting next Sunday, but a new agreement spearheaded by a county agency will ensure the critical connection remains intact.
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