2009-06-18 / News

Island bloodhound certified to track people

By Eileen M. Daly

Abby Abby Abby, a bloodhound, spends her days being pampered by owners Bill and LuAnn Botelho while waiting for the next search and rescue call to come in.

Abby is the only search and rescue dog in Rhode Island. Abby burst onto the scene last January when she was called out to help locate another animal.

It was Jan. 1 and the Messinger family dog, Lola, was missing. Todd Messinger called police to report the dog missing, LuAnn said, and shortly thereafter another report came in regarding a dog that had been hit on Route 138. Unfortunately, the report also indicated that the dog had run away before it could be caught.

Abby was given a scent article and was able to track Lola, finding her curled up and freezing behind some pine trees on the side of the highway, LuAnn said. The grateful Messinger family took Lola home and, after seeing a veterinarian the following day, she began to recover from the ordeal. Lola has only a slight limp left over from the incident, LuAnn said.

More recently, LuAnn said, Abby was called out to help locate a missing miniature pincer in Exeter. “The North Kingstown dog pound called about a missing miniature pincer that had gotten loose behind the Ladd School. The owner only had the dog for a couple of days and when she let it off the leash the dog took off. The owner was crying,” LuAnn said.

Once again, Abby was given a scent article and then set off to track the missing animal. After following a dirt road for about 10 minutes Abby was able to locate the dog much to the relief of her owner, LuAnn said.

If Abby has been instrumental in providing assistance to the owners of missing animals, Bill and LuAnn have extremely high hopes for the role they hope Abby will have a chance to play in the future.

After completing a certification course with Abby, given by the American Mantrailing Academy in Indiana, Bill and LuAnn are eager to let Abby loose the next time a missing person’s report comes in. “I remember hearing about an elderly person who had gone missing and couldn’t be found for quite awhile. The person was eventually found only about 3,500 feet from the house,” LuAnn said. She said cases like that are what got her interested in having Abby certified to track people. “Now if someone with Alzheimer’s or someone from a group home goes missing, Abby can help to find them,” she said.

LuAnn had nothing but praise for the American Mantrailing organization. “Master trainers Tony Keith and Dave Wheeler were very professional and taught us a lot about tracking, including the necessity of having a back up person to assist,” LuAnn said. “The back up person helps to look out for tracks or other articles,” she said. Wheeler is also a skilled Indian Tracker, who took husband Bill out on the trails. “Dave said Bill was very good at it,” she said.

Both Bill and LuAnn, along with Abby, are now certified to track lost people. She and Bill are getting the word out about Abby by word of mouth and through local press coverage. Eventually, however, there will be a database listing available tracking dogs that police or others can use to locate certified dogs, LuAnn said.

The Botelhos have had 4-yearold Abby since she was a puppy. LuAnn was given a choice of puppies from a litter that the owner offered to her. “It was where I kept my horse,” LuAnn said, “and the owner kept saying, ‘Don’t you want one?’ He gave me a good deal and the first pick,” she said, explaining how they came to own the black and tan bloodhound. “My dream was always to own either a bloodhound or a white lab,” she said. As for Abby, “We are very proud to have her and to have her certified.”

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