TOMS RIVER – Blind epic poet. Bumbling father from Springfield. First trained tracking bloodhound in New Jersey.
New Jersey’s Homer was a floppy-eared sleuth, purchased as a puppy, sight unseen, in 1960 by Island Heights native Tim Cagney. He became fascinated with the breed while in the military.
Cagney’s puppy became the first trained tracking bloodhound in the state, who was a member of the Ocean County Sheriff’s Office, the first in the state to use bloodhounds.
Today the sheriff’s department has a K-9 unit of 16 dogs, supervised by Sgt. Robert Stack. The unit was recently recognized for its service at a pre-board meeting of the Board of Chosen Freeholders.
“All of the dogs in this unit provide a variety of key tasks throughout Ocean County,” Sheriff Michael G. Mastronardy said. “In addition to the bloodhounds, we have dogs trained specifically in narcotics, explosives, patrol and arson. Our K9s are well known throughout the county and the state and we are very proud of the dogs and the officers that work and care for them.”
K-9s Gertrude Penelope and K-9 Emmitt, with their partners, officers Christine Casullo and James Kohout respectively, were honored by the Board for their years of service.
Gertrude Penelope was rescued and given to the Sheriff’s Department as a five-month-old puppy. Now 7 years old, she’s nationally certified though the National Police Bloodhound Association. She’s worked with numerous county and state departments, and has many finds under her nose, including a stabbing suspect.
Emmitt, 9, who hails from Canada, was donated to the department by the National Police Bloodhound Association when he was just 12 weeks old. He’s also nationally certified through the same association, and also has many finds under his nose, including a bank robber and Alzheimer’s patient.
“Both Gertrude and Emmitt continue to provide a great service to the citizens of Ocean County and also our visitors,” Mastronardy said. “They will be retired once our newest bloodhounds – Fiona and Clifford – have successfully completed their training.”
Mastronardy said bloodhounds assist in finding missing children and dementia patients. They can also track suspects in homicides, burglaries, robberies, assaults, and motor vehicle accidents.
“All of our bloodhounds are nationally certified once a year, and have continuous training every month,” Mastronardy said. “The bloodhounds also take part in the many K9 demonstrations done by the K9 Unit each year.”
The newest additions are sibling bloodhounds Fiona and Clifford, 11-week-old puppies from a Westport, New York breeder. They were chosen from a litter of 11. They’ll be in training for 10 months before they are put out on the road.
“As we visited the puppies, Fiona and Clifford exhibited the qualities we look for in a new dog,” Casullo said. “They were the first to reach the gate when we arrived. They are curious and they are already working well with the training.”
“These dogs, as do all of the K9s in the unit, and their partners provide an important service to all of our citizens and visitors,” Freeholder Director Gerry P. Little said. “You can see by their temperament that they are well-trained and they love what they do.”