Local farmer, Jack Daniel’s donates to launch bloodhound program in Moore County

Meet Hoss the newest member of the Metro EMS crew. He’s pictured at Jack Daniel’s Distillery with (front row from left to right) Metro EMS’s Zachary Means and Hunter Case and (back row from left to right) Metro EMA Director Jason Deal, Robert Darden, Moore County Sheriff Tyler Hatfield, as well as Jack Daniel’s officials Melvin Keebler, Larry Combs, and Danny Lamb. (Lynchburg Times Photo)

LYNCHBURG, Tenn. — It’s Tuesday afternoon and the newest member of the Metro Emergency Management Services (EMS) crew sits at the Jack Daniel Distillery waiting to meet his benefactors.

With floppy ears and big cuddle bug energy, the nine month old, ninety-eight pound bloodhound named Hoss sits obediently in front of Jasper Newton Daniel’s historic office on Jack Daniel’s north campus enjoying attention from not only the group gathered to celebrate him but also the tour groups that pass, craning to get a better look.

As his handlers, Metro EMS’s Hunter Case and Zachary Means, take turns holding tight, Hoss sniffs the ground, enjoys ear scratches, and seems not at all phased by being the center of attention.

Turning tragedy into an opportunity to pay it forward

Hoss’s arrival in Moore County is a story of turning tragedy into an opportunity to pay it forward.

A little over two years ago, a local farmer named Robert Darden discovered the peace of mind that a scent discriminate canine can bring. On April 21, 2020 Robert’s 43 year-old, special needs son, Daniel, went missing from their Moore County farm located off Highway 41A around 6 p.m. Moore County deputies received the missing person’s report around 8 p.m. and responded to the scene.

“There were only a handful of people he would have left the farm to visit and none of them had seen him,” Metro EMA Director Jason Deal explains.

Once onsite they joined Moore County Volunteer Fire Department members as well as officials from Bedford County EMA and the Tennessee Highway Patrol to search for Daniel. Together, they began a grid search utilizing both drones and a thermo imaging cameras to no avail. As midnight approached, desperation set in.

That’s when Director Deal and Moore County Sheriff Tyler Hatfield remembered that Franklin County EMA recently launched a scent dog program. They reached out and within an hour, Ruger the bloodhound arrived.

His handlers started by obtaining a personal item from Daniel’s room to help the bloodhound establish his scent. Then, they eliminated everyone else on scene through a process called discrimination.

“They do that by lining up everyone they don’t want the dog to find and allowing the dog to sniff you, so he or she can establish that you aren’t lost,” explained Director Deal.

Forty minutes later, Ruger found Daniel lodged under a large hickory tree limb on the family’s farm. His official cause of death was positional affixation.

“It was just a freak accident,” Director Deal says.

An investment in our community that could save a life

Fast forward to the fall of 2021 when Metro officials received a second call from Mr. Darden — this time with an idea.

“He reached out and wanted to contribute so that Moore County could get their own scent dog,” says Director Deal. “Sheriff Hatfield and I loved the idea. People go missing in rural Moore County much more often than people think, especially vulnerable populations like children or those with Alzheimer’s or dementia.”

Director Deal and Sheriff Hatfield soon located a retired FBI Forensic Canine Operations Specialist who trains scent dogs in Florida named Paul Coley. Coley created one the first standardized human scent discriminate and scent detection K9 training programs called Scent Evidence K9. He works with organizations like Florida State Emergency Management and Homeland Security.

Deal and Hatfield looked at available dogs online for weeks before choosing Hoss. Though Mr. Darden’s contribution had been generous, trained scent dogs cost thousands of dollars.

“We’d actually planned to raise the rest of the money ourselves but serendipitously Jack Daniel’s Marsha Manley Hale contacted me and asked if we had any projects that needed a little help,” Deal says. “We jumped at the opportunity.”

Together the donations from Mr. Darden and Jack Daniel’s brought a valuable new asset to Moore County’s first responders without spending a dime of local tax payer money. The Lynchburg Veterinary Hospital also stepped up to sponsor the program and provide all Hoss’s medical care.

Jack Daniel’s General Manager Larry Combs says Hoss and Moore County’s new scent dog program are exactly the kind of project the distillery is happy to support.

“We at Jack Daniel’s are committed to making our community better,” Combs says. “The opportunity to make Hoss available to our first responders is a great example of that and could one day save a life.”

Hoss arrived in Moore County on April 14. Means and Case travelled to Florida to pick him up and spent several days with trainers who taught them the system and hand signals. He came to Moore County fully trained and ready to work.

In fact, he’s already been called out twice to help with searches in surrounding counties. Director Deal says both those cases resolved before Hoss arrived on scene but he feels confident his newest team member will be ready the next time duty calls.

Director Deal also says prior to Hoss’s arrival the closest scent dogs were located in Franklin and Williamson counties. Now, in addition to Moore County, Bedford County recently also acquired a bloodhound and he’s hopeful the three southern, middle Tennessee counties can partner to provide the area with a scent dog team.

If you’d like to meet Hoss, he’ll make his Lynchburg debut this Saturday at the Bring a Friend to the Park Day in Wiseman Park from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Director Deal says EMS officials will educate the public on what scent dogs do and hand out scent kits. Hoss will likely hand out his own slobbery treats. •

The Lynchburg Times is the only independently owned and operated newspaper in Lynchburg. We cover Metro Moore County governments, Jack Daniel’s Distillery, Nearest Green Distillery, Tims Ford State Park, Motlow State Community College, Moore County High School, Moore County Middle School, Lynchburg Elementary, Raider Sports, plus regional and state news.}