Walla Walla County Sheriff's bloodhound has nose for finding people

A Walla Walla County Sheriff's deputy and his wife are training a bloodhound for search and rescue work.

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WALLA WALLA -- Along with all the animals shown at the fair last week, a slobbery bloodhound had his own showing.

Though Bentley didn't take home any blue ribbons, there were plenty of people who stopped to admire Walla Walla County Sheriff's Deputy Dale Preas' newest addition to his family.

"He is kind of unique. Big, friendly, slobbery. People just love him," Preas said, commenting on how strangers seemed to flock to the lovable hound.

But it is the hound's ability to flock to a stranger that is the reason Preas acquired Bentley.

The 100-pound, droopy-faced, nine-month-old, black-and-tan-colored dog with oversized jowls is a purebred scent hound.

And under the watchful eyes of Preas and his wife, Brooke Martin, Bentley is now being trained to work professionally with either master, to do what comes naturally to him, in hopes of one day being used for some of the most important type of scent work: search and rescue.

But as an officer of the law, Preas said he has come to realize that a search-and-rescue hound might also be used to help find prowlers and burglars who are still lurking in the area of a crime scene, just by grabbing the scent off a door knob or handle.

"There is no end to the possibilities," Preas added. But he noted that police work is not why Preas and Martin spend hours each week training the dog, often asking neighbors to hide in the woods so Bentley can find them.

"This dog has a very specific use. He doesn't do dope. He doesn't do protection work. All he does is people finding," Preas said.

And the people Bentley will hopefully one day be able to scent out are often the most vulnerable and precious -- children.

Martin and Preas are currently working on certifying Bentley in search-and-rescue work and Child Abduction Recovery Team work.

Next month, just shy of one year, Bentley will undergo testing for his SAR and CART certificates.

But getting his certificate at one year is almost tantamount to a teenager passing a state bar exam, noting that many experts say the dog wont be fully usable until about age 2.

At this point in the dog's life, Preas described Bentley as a big teenager.

"He has a stubborn streak in him when he gets something in his nose. His hearing goes away ...," just like a teenager's, "... He's a good boy," the deputy added.

"Even if we don't get his certificate, it will be good training for him," he added.

But Martin corrected him, "He'll get it."

Preas, who is a 15-year veteran of law enforcement, said Bentley will not necessarily join the force.

The husband and wife handling team are doing this on their own, incurring all the costs and time to train Bentley to work with law enforcement.

Their goal is to be a known and available resource in the greater region for the recovery of children. One day their reward will be to help recover a lost child. For now, Bentley is more than enough reward.

As for Bentley's payback, Preas described how the hound loves to find the person he is scenting, and when he does he reaches out with a paw and touches them.

"He has an uncanny nose. And he wants to put his paw on things and reach out and touch it. But his big reward is love and praise," he said.

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