A Lee County Sheriff’s K9 located a missing 12-year-old girl as Tropical Storm Elsa raged across the southern U.S.
Mercy, a Bloodhound K9 with the sheriff’s office, tracked the girl for more than a half mile through thick woods during the severe storm, officials said in a Facebook post.
“Thankfully, Mercy found her and brought her safely back home to her family,” the Facebook post concluded.
Mercy, a bloodhound, is a different breed from most police dogs. Sgt. Julio Lock with the Lee County Sheriff’s Office said that bloodhounds are biologically more suited for tracking, and are often used to track missing people.
“Yeah, they have the cute squishy faces, but the wrinkles will actually trap in the odor of the person we’re looking for. Their ears will actually blow the odor up into their nose and face so they can track older odor further distances,” he said.
The tropical storm, which was briefly classed as a hurricane as it passed over Cuba, has killed one person in Jacksonville, Florida, injured 10 in St. Mary’s, Georgia, and caused massive flooding and power outages across the state.
It was during these conditions that the girl’s family reported her missing after she had run away from home, according to Caitlyn Mumma, one of the office’s public information officers.
“In addition to the child’s age, the weather conditions contributed to the urgency of the call,” Mumma said.
K9 Mercy, along with her handler Deputy Travis Jelly, tracked the girl’s scent from a piece of clothing and was able to locate her and bring her back home.
“Reuniting a family with a lost child like that, especially in a tropical storm or hurricane, and we got her home before any harm could come to her, anything bad, it’s a home run for us. It’s a win,” Lock said.
Mercy is part of the county’s search and rescue operation for at-risk individuals known as the ReUnite Program. The program was developed in partnership with United Way and the Sheriff’s Youth Activities League, and involves a “multi-layer approach to locating the missing and endangered,” according to the county’s website.