JPD adds search-and-rescue K-9

Jay Hamlin/Yourstory Photography
Clint Stewart and Makya

By CHRISTINE STEPHENSON
cstephenson@dcherald.com

JASPER — The Jasper Police Department has officially welcomed a new member to the force, and she’s unlike anything the department has ever had.

Makya, JPD’s newest K-9, is a 3-year-old bloodhound that will be used as a search-and-rescue dog. Her owner, Clint Stewart, brought her to the Jasper Board of Public Works and Safety meeting Tuesday morning so the board could officially accept her.

Stewart, who joined JPD in February, has had Makya since he was at the Boone County Sheriff’s Office, where he worked for 13 years as a patrol deputy, detective and canine handler. He used Makya to start a bloodhound search-and-rescue program at the Boone County department and hopes to begin one here in Dubois County, as well.

“This is a great expansion to the capabilities and services of the police department,” Mayor Dean Vonderheide said at the meeting.

Bloodhounds are unlike other police dogs in that they typically specialize in mantrailing instead of tracking. When a person becomes missing, whether its a criminal situation or a lost child or elderly person, K-9s such as shepherds or labs will try to find the person by tracking their footsteps. This can sometimes be ineffective, though, as footsteps can dissipate rather quickly and become difficult to track if other footsteps interrupt the path.

“If a person runs through a park or something where there are several cross tracks, those dogs are not capable of doing that,” Stewart said, “and it’s a very short window of two, three, four hours.”

Mantrailing is often more effective because bloodhounds can follow the scents for multiple days after a disappearance and aren't as affected by cross tracks.

“Every human has almost like a smoke pipe coming off the top of their head of dead skin cells and scent particles, and that is actually what the hound tracks,” Stewart said. “So they’re able to track up to, records show, 11 days later after a person goes missing.”

Stewart said he also hopes to use Makya to strengthen a sense of community with the county. Some police dogs, such as those that are trained in aggression apprehension, cannot interact with the public like a normal dog. Makya, however, has been brought to several schools and nursing homes by Stewart.

“They’re conditioned as puppies to be around children and the elderly because that’s mostly who they track,” he said. “It’s just a really good PR tool between the police department and the community because, let’s face it, things right now are not always good.”

Makya lives with Stewart and his family, where he maintains her training by taking her on practice trails. She could be especially helpful in rural areas because of the open space, he said.

“In Indianapolis and up in that area, it was a lot of urban area, and people would go missing but they were usually found pretty quickly,” he said. “But the unique situation here is that we’re surrounded by over 100,000 acres of public land between Ferdinand State Forest, Patoka and the Hoosier National. I mean, you just look out into the woods and it’s just a needle in a haystack, but that’s her prime hunting ground.”

Most bloodhounds can work until they’re 8 or 9 years old, depending on hip health, Stewart said. Makya will likely work her whole life, he said, because she’s agile and significantly smaller than a typical bloodhound.

Stewart and JPD Chief Nathan Schmitt said they hope to use Makya to eventually expand a search-and-rescue program within the county.

The board also:

• Approved a First Baptist Church of Jasper event called “To The Families of Jasper With Love” for 11 a.m. July 10 at the Jasper Riverwalk shelter and gazebo.

• Approved circuits in the park for Aleesha Lopez, a local women’s fitness instructor, on several Tuesdays and Thursdays in June and July at Buehler Park. The City of Jasper website will have dates and times on its website.

• Accepted a letter of resignation from JPD Officer Martin Loya. His last day will be June 25.

• Accepted the purchase of a new fire truck for $546,823.

• Accepted a bid for road microsurfacing in Jasper for $113,250.94.

• Approved the closing of Fourth and Mill streets and Fourth and Jackson streets for crosswalk mural painting near the Thyen-Clark Cultural Center. Fourth and Mill will be closed July 3 with a backup date of July 4, and Fourth and Jackson will be closed July 10 with a backup date of July 11.

• Passed a resolution approving the addition of stop signs throughout town over the last two years. The additions will then be approved by the Jasper Common Council via an amendment to the city’s municipal code book.




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