Al and Patti Means have followed their man-trailing bloodhounds into many places, but for Patti, the Red Rose K-9 Search and Rescue Team's June appearance in court as witnesses in a trial was a first.
"They always tell us at our seminars that you don't want to end up in court," Patti said. "Personally, I was grateful for that experience. It brought things full-circle."
The couple was inspired to start the search and rescue team after the death of a local child in the early 1980s. A young girl had wandered from home on Thanksgiving and had died of hypothermia by the time she was found less than a quarter-mile away the following day. The team was established in 1989 and incorporated in 1991 as a volunteer, nonprofit organization. Over the years, the Meanses have trained and tracked with 12 bloodhounds, and they have found numerous lost or missing persons.
Increasingly, however, the team has also been called upon to help in criminal cases. Bloodhounds have a keen sense of smell and are capable of smelling a trail of scent hours and sometimes days after a person has passed by. When in court, Patti testified about how in 2015, then-14-month-old bloodhound Reuben tracked the path of a person as he fled from the site of a crime. Reuben's great-aunt, Heather, who was 9 years old and highly experienced, confirmed the find.
"(The dogs) just went by the scent they were given," Patti said.
The team's skill does not come cheap. Al and Patti invest thousands of hours a year in caring for the team of bloodhounds, which also includes 2-year-old Chip, and training with the dogs. They attend seminars in several states, and they also give presentations in schools, to emergency services organizations, and at community events. The bloodhounds also have expenses related to their care and feeding. Al estimated that each dog eats about 30 pounds of food a month.
"They have (ongoing) expenses and every time they're called out, but they don't charge," said Phyllis Koenig. She and her husband, John, are the organizers of the annual Muddy Run canoe/kayak race, which benefits the Red Rose K-9 Search and Rescue Team.
Last year's race brought in approximately $500. There is a fee to enter the race, which this year will be held on Saturday, Sept. 16. Registration will be open from 8:30 to 10 a.m., and the race will begin at 10:45 a.m. Several courses - ranging in distance from 1.25 miles to 5.5 miles - will be laid out on the lake at Muddy Run Park, 172 Bethesda Church Road West, Holtwood. A total of 25 classes have been established in order to appeal to a wide range of people. John makes awards from shells and driftwood for the top three finishers in each class. This year, physical therapists from a local hospital will be available before and after the race to provide stretches and other exercises related to paddling.
"We try to keep this race (basic) so local people who are recreational paddlers can come out," Phyllis said.
"And enjoy it," John added.
A kayak tug-of-war contest held after the race concludes has traditionally been a source of levity.
"That's funny," Phyllis observed. "That's the best part."
Folks who would like event T-shirts must register by Friday, Sept. 8. The last day registrations may be received in the mail is Thursday, Sept. 14. After that date, registrations may only be submitted at the event. Registration forms may be obtained by visiting http://www.keschneider11.wix.com/muddyrunrace or contacting John at 717-872-2805 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Facebook users may also search for "Muddy Run Canoe and Kayak Race."
To learn more about Red Rose K-9 Search and Rescue Team, readers may visit http://www.redrosek9.com.