By Evamarie Socha
The Daily Item
LEWISBURG — Rosie is nosy, but she needs to be in her line of work: The bloodhound is a super tracker and the latest K-9 to join the Union County Sheriff’s Department.
The 5-year-old bloodhound came to Lewisburg via the Billerica, Mass., Police Department, about 25 miles northwest of Boston. Rosie was a rescue dog that was recruited for the Massachusetts K-9 corps and trained by the Connecticut State Police.
“The police department was gracious enough to donate her to Union County,” Sheriff Ernest Ritter III said. Rosie had been trained by the same people who trained other Union County K-9 dogs and who are familiar with the department here, he said.
John Harring was Rosie’s handler, and they had many successful “finds” for criminal and rescue needs. Recently, Harring was promoted out of K-9.
The timing was perfect. “I was considering putting on a bloodhound and was looking for a good working dog,” said Ritter, who started the county’s K-9 program. “We get quite a few tracking calls” from criminals to missing kids to Alzheimer’s disease patients who wander, he said.
Ritter’s experience has been with German shepherds, trained for drug and explosives detection and officer protection. “Shepherds will track but not for long periods of time,” he said. “Bloodhounds can hone in on one person and distinguish scents. Shepherds can’t.”
Also, German shepherds, by their nature, are loyal and “will engage the subject,” Ritter said. “Rosie will lick them to death.”
It’s hard not to love the 90-pound bloodhound, with her droopy-face features and warm nature. When in the sheriff’s office, Rosie likes to greet everyone, sometimes sharing a toy for play or a howl for treats.
It’s those same physical characteristics that make Rosie an incredible scent dog. The American Kennel Club calls the bloodhound a “unique looking dog in a baggy suit,” the wrinkly skin trapping scents and the long ears acting as sweepers, directing scents to the nose. This dog’s sense of smell is 1,000 times stronger than that of a human.
Rosie demonstrated this Friday while sniffing out a person in Soldiers Memorial Park. After just a one-second sniff of a tissue in the person’s pocket, Rosie followed her exact path and found her hiding behind a tree.
“All working dogs work for a reward,” said Ritter, who with Rosie recently finished nearly a week of tracker training. “For shepherds, it’s a toy; for bloodhounds, it’s finding her person, though food and affection help.”