As soon as he entered North Augusta Middle School’s gym on Monday, Sampson, a 6-year-old bloodhound, went straight to John Hanyok.
John, 13, petted the dog as it placed its paws on his lap and briefly laid its head on the pupil’s shoulder. Sampson then moved along down the bottom bleacher greeting other seventh-grade pupils.
“That was really cool,” John said of the dog coming to him, adding that he didn’t mind the dog hanging around him.
Officer Jason Ramey and Deputy William Tucker, members of the Aiken County Bloodhound Tracking Team, brought Sampson and a female bloodhound, 4-year-old Jessie, to the school for a seventh-grade assembly. They talked about their careers on the tracking team and how they use the bloodhounds to find people.
The pupils recently finished reading Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls, and bringing in the bloodhounds was one of the activities related to the book, said seventh-grade teacher Beth Reynolds.
The pupils also received a visit from local coon hunters before they left for the winter break.
“Activities like these allow the students to have some hands-on experiences with how dogs and humans interact with each other, and it helps them make career connections,” she said.
The pupils had an opportunity to pet each of the dogs and get an up-close view of some of the equipment the bloodhound team uses.
“I learned a lot about what the dogs do – how they seek and react to smells – and how this connects to the book” said John.
Phillip Smith, also 13, agreed.
“My favorite part was seeing the dogs and getting to see them up close,” he said. “The most interesting thing I learned was that dogs like that usually eat just one time a day.”
The Aiken County Blood-hound Tracking Team is a multi-agency team consisting of four officers each from North Augusta Public Safety and Aiken Public Safety, six deputies from the Aiken County Sheriff’s Office and 15 bloodhounds.
“We hope that they took away the knowledge of who would look for them if they, or a family member, gets lost,” said Tucker.
“We also want them to understand that while we do track bad guys, we’re not always around for bad reasons,” added Ramey. “We help find people and bring them back home to their families too.”