Earlier this year, the Tuscaloosa County Sheriff’s Office received two new additions to their K-9 Unit. Two-and a-half-year-old Dixie and five-month-old Pax are bloodhounds donated to them by the Jimmy Ryce Center.

On Wednesday, sheriffs were at the Tuscaloosa Regional Airport running drills with the unit. Sgt. Alex Miles, the K-9 Unit commander, says the monthly training is important for the dogs to stay sharp on their skills.

One of the drills done with Dixie was called man trailing. This simulates a search and rescue situation. Deputy Mark Weaver laid a trail and hid in a wooden area. Her powerful sense of smell allowed her to find Weaver in less than two minutes. Another drill performed, this time with a Belgian malinois, was finding a hidden bag of drugs.

The two bloodhounds join four other dogs in the unit: two Belgian malinois, a German shepherd and a labrador retriever. These dogs have various skills, that include tracking narcotics and people, patrolling and detecting explosives.

Each dog has a handler that first has to go through a six-week training at Alabama Canine. The handlers agree the dogs are a priceless asset to the Sheriff’s Office. Deputy Justin White, who handles Zeus the German shepherd, said working with his dog is one of the best parts of his job.

The Jimmy Ryce Center is a non-profit organization that donates bloodhounds to law enforcement. This was started by Jimmy Ryce’s parents, when their son was abducted, raped and murdered in 1995. Sgt. Miles said the parents believe that if the officers on the case had a bloodhound, their son would have been saved, and now they want to make that resource more available to law enforcement. Their website states that bloodhounds have 60 times the scent power of that of a German shepherd. Sgt. Miles further explained that by design, when a bloodhound’s head is down, its skin folds over its eyes and it can even go temporarily blind and fully concentrate on the trail. He also said, the benefit of having two bloodhounds is if they are trailing someone for an extended period of time, they can interchange them out, so they won’t get too exhausted..

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