For many pet owners, their animals are often solely companions. But for individuals like Brian Parrish, of Mechanicsville, his bloodhounds Rufus and Hobbes are not only his family’s pets at home, but are also his partners, friends and, sometimes, children.
When he’s not spending time with his dogs at home, Parrish spends his free time training the hounds to search for missing or lost people with Hanover Hounds, a locally based volunteer search and rescue team.
Last Saturday, all types of canines that serve citizens and the community were recognized at the second annual Hanover K-9 Heroes Day at Courthouse Park. Hanover Hounds partners with the county’s Parks and Recreation department to educate the public and showcase dogs like Parish’s that provide search and rescue services for individuals and also canines that provide therapy or police or military work.
“No matter where we are, we need to remember that K-9s provide service and it’s unconditional,” said Parrish, the group’s first lieutenant and training officer. “They never ask for a raise or a big write-up for a news story, all they want is love and that ‘paycheck.’”
Parrish is referring here to the rewards dogs receive during training. This comes in different forms, but often canines will receive praise, affection and in some cases treats like liver or steak.
“All that does is that continues to build that excitement and fun and that’s what makes them successful,” Parrish said.
The search and rescue team are first responders and can get dispatched to cases in any Virginia county. Often they team up with other K-9 units when extra help is needed. Parrish said most groups like Hanover Hounds are all volunteer-based because of a lack of funding.
“We felt that there needed to be more resources,” he said.
In a case that drew widespread attention, Parrish’s group teamed up with other K-9 units in 2011 to help the Hanover Sheriff’s Office and other forces find an autistic Caroline County boy, Robbie Wood, who had gone missing and was found in a Hanover park after a five-day search. Although they weren’t the first bloodhounds on the scene, Parrish said were especially “instrumental” in the search.
One specific bloodhound, Maggie, was remembered Saturday. In December 2011, she was killed by a non-service dog in the line of duty for the Louisa County Sheriff’s Office. Although her owner and handler, Lt. Patrick Sheridan works with another canine now, he said Maggie was a part of his family. At the event, Sheridan received a detailed and patriotic mural of the fallen veteran dog.
In addition to honoring service canines, the celebration helps educate people about the dogs’ special line of work through a number of demonstrations. Military personnel from Fort Lee showed onlookers how dogs can be commanded to attack or bite people, who, for example, may not obey orders in serious situations.
In a search and rescue demonstration, Parrish showed how the specially trained dogs are able to sniff around an area like the park in search of someone, eliminating the unsuccessful places, until the “lost” person is found.
“I think it’s really neat because it shows the public what sacrifice these dogs do to protect the citizens of the communities they serve,” Sheridan said. “The dogs don’t ask for a paycheck, all they want is the love of the handler and family that takes care of them— and [the canines] give so much.”
Each year service dogs are recognized and remembered throughout the state on March 13, which was designated as K-9 Veteran’s Day.