Washington County sheriff's deputy Keelan McLeish and his 5-year-old bloodhound Beauford are life savers, literally, and now a national award has recognized their accomplishment.
On Thursday, McLeish and Beauford were the 16th ever recipients of The Life Saving Award, which was established in 1993 by the National Police Bloodhound Association, said Washington County Sheriff Larry Mincks.
"This is extremely significant. This is an award that is issued throughout the United States. It has existed 19 years and in 19 years there have only been 15 other awards given out. It's a tremendous success," said McLeish.
Deputy Sheriff Keelan McLeish and his 5-year-old bloodhound Beauford received The Life Saving Award Thursday.
McLeish and Beauford got a call in May that an area man had ingested a large amount of pills and disappeared into the woods.
"It was about 92 degrees that day, and the hospital emergency room informed us that we had about one hour to find him," recalled McLeish.
Thanks to countless hours of training, Beauford was able to use the man's socks to track him two miles through the woods. They found him in a patch of bushes, completely out of sight and rambling incoherently. McLeish was able to get him transported to the hospital in time to save his life.
Training bloodhounds is a rare specialty. Unlike drug sniffing and attack dogs, only a handful of sheriff's offices in Ohio have bloodhounds, said McLeish.
"The county is extremely fortunate to have a sheriff that recognizes the need for these dogs and keeps this program around," he said.
But Mincks said all of the accolades belong to McLeish, who owns, trains, and pays for Beauford as well as his new bloodhound, Dr. Watson.
"He trains them two or three nights a week," said Mincks.
It takes a lot of training and devotion to get the dogs to the optimum level of performance. Despite misconceptions, McLeish said his bloodhounds are never simply set free in the woods and they do not bark when they find something.
"They are on a lead at all times and they are a silent tracker," he explained.
McLeish trains the dogs at all times of day and night, on different types of terrains, and during different weather patterns to help them be best prepared for any possible scenario.
"He'll send somebody off into the woods to go through streams and try to throw off the scent," said Minks.
To accomplish this, McLeish relies on a lot of help from friends and family.
"Anytime anybody comes and visits they have to run off first," joked McLeish.