Saturday, February 22, 2014

Book Review: Bloodhound in Blue (dog, police search dog)

Bloodhound in Blue: The True Tales of Police Dog JJ and his Two-Legged Partner, by Adam Russ (Globe Pequot, 2013, 274 pages, $24.95)

Utah’s First Police Bloodhound - A Nose with a Dog Attached!

When we think of Bloodhounds we think of police search dogs (and perhaps McGruff, the Crime Dog) but very few police departments have Bloodhounds on the force. Rather, they have German Shepherd Dogs (basically non-sniffer dogs - patrol dogs who chase, hold and sometimes bite) and closely related breeds to carry out other functions (get the bad guy!).

Bloodhound in Blue is the story of JJ, a family-trained family pet who became a highly valued member of a Utah police department through the determination, patience and self-training of his person, Officer Serio, with emphasis on the word, patience.

JJ at work was a non-biting dog and, therefore, not a weapon. He was a mellow, four-legged monster, a highly gifted and trained ‘finder.’ He was the only police Bloodhound in Utah for five years, beginning as a contract ‘employee,’ until his legacy expanded exponentially and lives on, to this day, years later.

JJ found suspects who fled on foot, as well as lost persons. He caught the bad guy 90% of the time, more than most officers put together and, no doubt, the ones JJ found would have gotten away. He averaged 32 finds a year and gained the respect of fellow patrol officers, which finally helped to bring administrators on board to the idea of having Bloodhounds on the force. Now (2013) there are 16 K9 bloodhounds in the area.

If Bloodhound in Blue doesn’t whet your appetite to further your recently acquired extensive knowledge about tracking, I’ll eat my hat! However, at the conclusion of this book you may just want to major in forensic anthropology or become a police officer yourself. That would be just fine.

How Do They Do It?

You will learn about scent clouds that we all give off, how odors do not tend to stick to concrete very well, how to begin laying a track for a novice dog, the difference between schutzhund and patrol and sniffer dogs, what mantrailing is, and much about canine body language (sometimes overruled by humans, but the dog is always right).

The Breed Standard

This goofy breed, the Bloodhound, ranks 43rd in popularity yet just about everyone recognizes him thanks to famous Bloodhounds at work and in literature.

Author Adam Russ, childhood friend and college roommate but, nonetheless, a gifted writer, used a unique method to keep our attention on the Bloodhound breed: each chapter is aptly preceded by part of the AKC (American Kennel Club) Bloodhound Breed Standard, such as gait or temperament, weight or color.

Not Just Another Book on Search and Rescue Dogs

A good adjunct to What the Dog Knows: The Science and Wonder of Working Dogs, by Cat Warren, which also came out in 2013, Bloodhound is, however, the more entertaining and educational of the two.

You will remain fascinated by the facts about tracking, odor spread, and canine noses, long after you finally put Bloodhound down.

Final Word – Excellent!

A book about a dog should be mainly about the dog and many are not: my pet peeve. Bloodhound, however, is - and includes just the right number of perfectly-sized family photos to keep the reader’s interest.

One of the best dog books of 2013!

Disclaimer: I purchased this book for review. It first appeared on

Caveat: Officer Serio was told to get a search-and-rescue vest (page 48) for JJ in order to take him more places than the average pet dog was allowed. This is not an ethical practice. In addition, JJ was trained with electric shock (page 69) rather than force-free gentle methods. The shock was called, ‘mild but uncomfortable.’ However, it must be remembered that JJ began his career several years ago, before positive reinforcement caught on in the law enforcement field.

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