Fifth-grade pupils at Hammond Hill Elementary got a special visit from the newest members of the Aiken Bloodhound Tracking Team on Friday.
In the past few weeks, the six puppies have visited schools that submitted winning names in the Pin the Pup Name Contest. One of the names selected was “Hunter,” which was submitted by Nikki Mock’s fifth-grade class.
Shelby Rucker, 10, suggested the name to her classmates.
“They said that the name was going to be for a searching dog, so I thought about the name Hunter,” she said. “I thought, ‘The dogs go hunting for people, so it’s a hunter.’ That’s how I came up with the name.”
After Shelby suggested it, the rest of the class excitedly agreed to go with Hunter as one of the two names they submitted, Mock said. They also submitted the name “Ruby” for a girl puppy name, but it wasn’t selected.
As the dogs were carried into the school’s gym, pupils’ eyes became large and many gave “aws” and “oohs.”
“It was exciting to see Hunter because we named it,” said Alise Harrison, 10. “I really like that they brought the other puppies, too.”
“He’s really soft,” said Abby Key, 10, after petting Hunter.
Mock’s class and other fifth-graders had the opportunity to pet the puppies and ask Lt. Chad Hyler, an officer with the tracking team, questions about the puppies and their job as bloodhounds.
Hunter, a golden brown bloodhound, is about 3 months old. He began training earlier this month to search for wanted and missing persons. His brother and sisters, whose names also were chosen from names submitted by other fifth-grade classes, have also been in training.
Visiting the schools has a twofold purpose, Hyler said. One is to thank the pupils for participating in the contest, and the other is to teach them what the tracking team does.
Friday’s visit is one many of the pupils will remember for years to come, Mock said.
“I think it’s great for them to connect and see that a name they came up with is being used,” she said. “They will always remember that they named Hunter, a new member of the police force.”
The other puppies named in the contest were: Diesel, Beau, Cloe, Casey and Frankie. Frankie’s name was submitted in memory of the late Lt. Michael Frank, the spokesman for the Aiken County Sheriff’s Office who died in 2008.