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Gary Meredith is part of a volunteer organization that specializes in searching for missing people.
As president and co-founder of Kentucky Bloodhound Search and Rescue, Meredith helps train and deploy dogs to track a person by scent.
The group was organized in 2005 with five handlers and three dogs. Maggie Mae was the first deployable dog. There now are 11 handlers and six deployable dogs.
Meredith’s interest began when he worked with the Stephensburg Fire Department and knew a couple people involved with other search-and-rescue groups.
Kentucky Bloodhound Search and Rescue is approved by the state and has an agreement in Hardin County to work with emergency services for search and rescue, said Meredith, a U.S. Air Force veteran who now works in federal security.
Most calls come in the summer, when kids are somewhere other than where they told their parents they would be. In 95 percent of the cases Meredith is called to, the person is found before the team arrives. And that’s just fine with Meredith because the goal is to ensure someone’s safety. They encourage agencies to call them as soon as possible. The sooner the dogs are on the scent, the greater chance they have of finding the missing person.
Bloodhounds are scent specific, Meredith said. Even with all the rescue personnel around, if the dogs have an uncontaminated article to smell they can lock on to the person’s scent and ignore the other scents around them.
People often fail to realize that a search doesn’t always work like it appears on television and the dogs have to have an uncontaminated item to start the scent trail. Tracking the trail can take hours, Meredith said.
Meredith said he works with an exceptional group of handlers in a collective effort. Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses but they all work together.
They also are committed, he said. Nearly all the expenses for the all-volunteer group come out of their own pockets.
All the hard work and training is worth it when they make a find and see their subjects reunited with family, Meredith said. A father himself, it’s especially rewarding, in the case of a missing child, to see the parents’ relief and joy, he said.
Meredith also participates in demonstrations to schools and community organizations to promote awareness and stress the proper procedure to use their services.
Always contact local emergency services because the rescue group only responds to their call, he said.
Each handler keeps his own dog. Meredith’s died last year and he’s now working with a puppy he’s hoping will work out as a search-and-rescue dog. As puppies, bloodhounds are all ears and feet, and his pup often still steps on her ears and face plants, he said.
There’s still a lot of puppy in her and she still likes to do things her own way, he said.
Not too much different from some people, he added.
To learn more about Kentucky Bloodhound Search and Rescue go to www.kybloodhound.org.
Becca Owsley can be reached at (270) 505-1741.