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Posted: February 23, 2011 12:00 a.m.

K-9 sleuth a Hometown Hero

K-9 sleuth tracks down missing two-year-old

By Brittany Thomas/

Pete the bloodhound has been described as many things. Not only is he stubborn, but he is hard-working and dedicated. He's also a hero, at least to one little girl who was lost in the woods.

The call came in to the Newton County Sheriff's Office around 1 p.m. on Feb. 11, a parent's worst nightmare; a 2-year-old was missing, last seen near a wooded trail that led to the Yellow River. Law enforcement officers arrived and within the hour, Pete was called in to help.

The 3-year-old K-9 officer has been with the sheriff's office since July 2009. His trainer, Deputy Chad Hunt, has been with the office for nine years, but Pete is his first K-9 officer, and the two have learned together. They typically search for criminals, those wanted for burglaries and who had fled authorities on foot.

Occasionally they will search for elderly people with dementia who have wandered off, but this was the first time the duo was called to search for a child.

According to Hunt, the tracking gift is bred into Pete. He came to the sheriff's office from Astro Kennels in South Carolina and Hunt had 400 hours of training to learn how to work with the dog. Pete trains at least once a week for six hours. But all that paid off when they were called to help find the little girl.

When Pete and Chad arrived, the child's mother provided them with a "scent article" - a pair of the child's pajama bottoms. Such items help Pete to differentiate between the person he is tracking and an animal who may have recently crossed the same path.

"People think the dog can just come out and get a scent article and find it," said Hunt. "But if we don’t have an exact location, we wouldn’t know where to start. In this case, the child lived there and had spent the day playing in the yard. Her scent was all around the house and the yard."

After about a 20-minute search in the woods and near the river, Pete raised his head and took off running, according to Hunt. They came to a hill, and when Hunt looked up he saw a little "weenie dog," which he knew had been with the child when she left. The dog barked a couple of times and ran back over the hill. When Pete and Hunt got up there, Hunt saw a jean jacket and at first thought maybe the girl had gotten hot and taken it off. But a second look showed him that she was still in the jacket, curled up in a fetal position, roughly two miles from her home.

"I called her name," said Hunt. "I said ‘Lillian!’ and she picked her little head up, with that red hair, and said ‘I want my Mommy.’ I told her ‘Baby girl, I’m going to take you to your Mommy," said Hunt. "I have a 2-year-old at home too, so it was touching… It’s moments like this that make everything we do worthwhile," he said. "It doesn’t matter if it was a good hunt or a bad hunt, we found her and that’s the icing on the cake."

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