Don Ryce’s son, Jim, was kidnapped by a sexual predator on his way home from school in 1995, but authorities couldn’t track the boy down.
As it turned out, Ryce’s son was taken to a trailer a mile from his house in Miami-Dade County. The 9-year-old boy was eventually killed after he tried to escape.
Ryce said a bloodhound could have made the difference. That’s why, since then, he has donated more than 400 bloodhounds to law-enforcement agencies worldwide as part of the Jim Ryce Foundation.
On Friday, two of those bloodhounds — brothers Bandit and Kash — were among five dogs unveiled by the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office’s K-9 Puppy Program.
Three border collies and one bloodhound have been shadowing older K-9 officers since benefactors of the Sheriff’s Foundation and Ryce’s foundation helped to acquire them. The other bloodhound — named Kash, for Kids Are Safe Here, by third-graders at Cross Pointe Elementary — is the school district’s future K-9 officer.
The pups rolled around in the grass at the sheriff’s office K-9 training facility in suburban West Palm Beach on Friday. They played with each other with not a care in the world — a far cry from the business-like alertness displayed by big dog Miki, whose handler described the all-black German Shepard as a “go-getter.” Soon the pups will be stoic and their eyes will move as quickly as Miki’s while scoping out people.
“We already have dogs that are in the field working,” said sheriff’s office Sgt. Jon Newcomb, the handler for a collie named Dash. “As they start to age out of the program … we’re able to get these border collies and get them in the field starting to be acclimated to the areas they’re going to work, so that when these dogs that are aging out do need to retire, these dogs are ready to step right in and start the process.”
Newcomb said the three collies are already shadowing a big dog they’ll eventually replace. His pup Dash, a black and white collier who is just under 6 months old, will replace big dog Edo in traffic interdiction. Seven-month-old Rooney, who also has a black-and-white coat, will replace Chris, who currently works the marine unit. Tip, an 8-month-old, brown-and-white collier, will take over from the courthouse explosive locator, also named Chris. The bloodhound Bandit will locate missing children and adults once Clue retires.
The collies are smaller dogs that are expected to work eight to 10 years, Newcomb said. The bloodhounds, whose larger sizes causes more wear and tear on their bodies, are usually in commission six or seven years.
Newcomb said by September the pups will begin official training. By then they would’ve already learned the ropes from the veterans they’ve been mimicking.