The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, August 14, 2009

Bloodhound helps find missing person

A potential tragedy was averted on Friday night, August 7, when a canine search team from Billerica helped Carlisle Police locate a missing 76-year-old resident of Baldwin Road. The man was found by the police bloodhound at 10:40 p.m. about 11 hours after last being seen at

Billerica Patrolman John Harring works with Diesel, a three-year-old bloodhound skilled in tracking. (Photo by Betsy Fell)

his home. According to Carlisle Patrolman Paul Smith, who assisted in the search, the man was dressed in a black winter jacket, black pants and was found disoriented, lying behind a stone wall about a quarter-mile from his house, unable to rise without help. He suffers from diabetes as well as other medical conditions, and had been without medications, food, or water since morning.

The Carlisle police first received a call reporting a missing person at 8 p.m. According to Smith, the family was worried about the missing man’s health, and said it was unusual for him to have been gone so long and unlikely that he would have accepted a ride. Police first searched the house and property. Another patrol unit searched in the immediate area with no luck.

They then posted a bulletin asking police in surrounding towns to be on the lookout for the missing Carlisle resident. Billerica police called to offer their canine unit to help in the search and Smith said, “Carlisle immediately accepted.”

When Patrolman John Harring arrived with his bloodhound, Diesel, the dog was allowed to sniff a hat and jacket belonging to the missing person. Smith said that the dog then went around the property twice, with no result. After he was allowed to sniff the hat and jacket again, Diesel came up to the front of the property and took a right turn to the end of Baldwin Road. They found the man when they came to the last house on the dead end street. Smith said the man “was complaining of back pain” and was unable to get up. The Fire Department ambulance was called and transported him to Emerson Hospital, where he was treated and released.

Canine officer Harring, and many people in the Carlisle Police and Fire Departments were involved in helping the Baldwin Road resident. Smith was quick to share credit with the bloodhound. “Diesel’s the hero.” Smith stressed that in a time of limited budgets, Billerica’s K9 team “really helped save the man’s life.”

Harring later explained that Diesel receives daily training as part of the Billerica K9 police unit. In addition, every three months he is taken for a week of more intensive training in Connecticut. Diesel is three, and will continue to work “as long as he wants to.” Barring health problems, Harring said that bloodhounds sometimes work until they are 10 or 11 years old.

The Billerica police also have a trained German shepherd. Harring noted that while many area police departments have canine units, bloodhounds are uncommon. He said that bloodhounds are preferred in searches for people where the trail is more than a couple of hours old. Other breeds might be used for narcotics searches, to bite on command, or to follow a fresh trail.

When and how to help a neighbor

Another resident of Baldwin Road recalled seeing the neighbor along the road on the day he went missing, but she was not sure he was having difficulties. Because he appeared to be taking a very slow walk toward his home, she therefore did not intervene. Without rushing to the phone every time a senior citizen is spotted out taking a walk, Smith urges people to try to help when they notice someone who might be lost or ill. Smith suggests a two-step approach. For example, if someone is wearing a heavy coat in summer, is standing in the same spot for a long time, or acts disoriented or “very unusual,” then Smith says to start by simply asking the person if they are all right. If the response leaves any doubt, Smith recommends calling the police to request a “well-being” check. They will drive over and chat with the person in question to make sure everything is okay and give assistance if needed. ∆

© 2009 The Carlisle Mosquito