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'Cold trail' rescue highlights dog's nose for policing

When Shnoz found her, the 53-old woman was disoriented, covered in a blanket of wet leaves, hypothermic and soaked through after thunderstorms that had rolled through during her two long days in the woods of Mason Neck State Park in southern Fairfax County.

More than 48 hours after the most obvious leads to the missing Lorton woman had vanished, the 2-year-old bloodhound from the Fairfax County Police Department tracked her and with his handler, Master Patrol Officer Peter Masood, led her out of the woods around midnight Wednesday.

Shnoz. (Fairfax Police)

It was the coldest cold trail Shnoz has worked for a successful rescue since he joined the force as a puppy out of Alabama. On Shnoz's first case, he flushed a burglar out from some bushes, said Masood, a 22-year veteran with seven years in the canine section for special operations.

The ability to follow a two-day scent is uncommon even for a bloodhound, said Masood. “It always makes you feel good when it works out well and from the condition the woman was in when we got to her, I’m not sure she would have made it another night," he said.

The woman, who has an undisclosed medical condition, was taken to Inova Mount Vernon Hospital and treated for non life-threatening injuries. A hunt for her began after park rangers on Monday found her abandoned Subaru and, through her family, realized she had not reported Monday to her job at a grocery store.

Foot searches failed to locate her and on Wednesday, the aptly named Shnoz -- Masood chose the name -- was brought in working off the scent from a maroon shirt that belonged to the woman and had been picked up from her family after odors at the parking lot and near her car were not fresh enough, said Masood.

In his yellow harness with “police” in black letters, the dog headed off trails and into a thicket of evergreens as Masood and another officer called out. They heard a faint call back in the direction Shnoz was taking them, said Masood, and within minutes found the woman who was not visible from trails.

For his work, Shnoz was praised and given a treat. Shnoz favors the food Masood normally keeps for his other police dog and Shnoz’s traveling companion -- Chewi, a Belgian shepherd who works narcotics and patrol.

“It’s like with people, you think what the other guy has must be better," said Masood. "He loves Chewi’s food.”

Also like people, Masood said, Shnoz “works for treats” and has days when he dogs it and "doesn't feel like giving 100 percent effort. But when it all comes together like it did in this case with this result, it’s fantastic.”

Shnoz and Chewi live with Masood.

Fairfax police have 22 canines, Masood said, including another bloodhound and dogs trained for patrol, narcotics and bomb-detecting duties.

-- Mary Pat Flaherty

By Mary Pat Flaherty  |  March 26, 2010; 12:26 PM ET
Categories:  Emergencies & Rescues , Fairfax , Mary Pat Flaherty  
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Bravo, bravo, bravo!

This underscores the need to keep up K-9 funding. You cannot put a price on saving a life. I hope that MPO Masood and Shnoz get every bit of the recognition and gratitude that they deserve.

Posted by: texarkana_girl | March 26, 2010 3:51 PM | Report abuse

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