The sharp nose of a tracking Bloodhound led to a last-minute rescue of a missing and suicidal woman in Florida last month.
Family members and coworkers of Doreen Marie O’Connor contacted law enforcement after she sent text messages indicating she wanted to end her life, the Flagler County Sheriff's Office reported.
Deputies were able to locate her car and, using clothing found in the vehicle, introduce her scent to K-9 Wyatt, a Bloodhound with the nearby Tomoka Correctional Institute.
In just a half hour, Wyatt located O’Connor, who was unconscious, and paramedics rushed her to the hospital.
“Commanders at the scene said the woman would have died if the rescuers hadn't found her when they did,” said Laura Williams, public information officer of the Flagler County Sheriff's Office.
“It was very rewarding,” Wyatt’s handler Sgt. Mark Tarntino said. “Coming out of the woods with a saved life—that is why we do this job.”
This incident was Wyatt’s 38th confirmed find.
“Wyatt’s main purpose is search-and-rescue and apprehension of escaped convicts,” said Tarntino, who has led Wyatt and the facility’d six other Bloodhounds through an intensive training program that started when they were puppies. “These dogs also help look for missing kids, Alzheimer’s patients, and suicidal individuals.”
“These K-9 units are deployed about 700 or more times a year to help law enforcement,” said McKinley Lewis, communications director for the Florida Department of Corrections. “They and their handlers are putting their lives on the line to both catch bad people and save lives.”
While not on the job, Wyatt is “loving and enjoying giving hugs,” Tarntino said.
This breed is built for success in finding missing persons or searching for suspects.
“When they put their heads down, their skin covers their eyes a bit and their ears fall forward, forming a tunnel-like effect to help them focus on the scent," explained Jeff Banks, who trains Bloodhounds for a sheriff's office in North Carolina.
“They’ve got a lot of drive and love what they do,” he added. “It’s just instinctual for them. I tell the young handlers, ‘I’m going to spend six months training this dog and the next eight years training you.’ The dogs just know what to do.”