From the obituary page of Saturday’s Washington Post comes the sad news of the passing of Charger, age six, distinguished member of the Fairfax County Police Department:
Beloved Bloodhound Charger Dies of Cancer
By Michael Laris
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, June 21, 2008; Page B04
Charger could be bumbling.
When Fairfax County Police Lt. Patrick Ronan first brought him home, they’d take walks with his German shepherds. After their walk, the others would file straight into the house. Charger would run smack into the half-open screen door.
“Bloodhounds are dumb as a box of rocks unless they’re sniffin’,” Ronan said. But give Charger a whiff of human scent from a holdup note or from the hat of an Alzheimer’s patient and he’d wend a sniffing, drooling path in the right direction. “Their ears, when you look at them, are actually longer than their nose,” he said. “The ears are kicking up scent.”
When a woman who lived in an apartment building off Richmond Highway was raped, Ronan gave Charger a whiff of the attacker’s knife. Charger led Ronan to an apartment on the third floor.
There was no way the suspect would be dumb enough to attack someone in his own building, Ronan thought. So he led Charger back down for another go-round.
“We went right up to the third floor again, and he jumped up on the door,” Ronan said. The apartment’s resident was later arrested.
But being a bloodhound in a 399-square-mile county with a million people was sometimes frustrating. Trails go cold when criminals jump in cars, and that means many fizzled endings.
Other times, Charger would head off excitedly after a scent. Taking the cue, cruisers would rush ahead of him in the same direction — and find the target first.
Ronan and his wife and kids spent many hours setting off for hikes miles ahead of Charger, then hiding and waiting, to keep up his searching spirit.
“The last thing you want them to do is say, ‘This isn’t fun anymore,’ ” Ronan said. “The whole family’s got to be in there with you helping out, or it doesn’t work.”
Two weeks ago, Charger’s leg swelled, and Ronan thought it might be a snakebite from a copperhead in his Springfield yard. Charger was given antibiotics but was still lethargic and wouldn’t come out of his kennel. That’s when the cancer was discovered. He was dead in days.
Charger and his sister, Molly, were the county’s first bloodhounds. Molly is still at work. Two puppies, Cody and Shnoz, are in training.
The police department sent out a press release that was a departure from the typically sparse prose describing suspects and victims.
“For all of the great things he did, he was still a dog and chewed everything in sight. Somehow, that was OK with Lieutenant Ronan,” the release said.
“Charger was a very special friend, companion and dedicated police K9, he will be missed.”
Charger was 6.