Bloodhounds have been the kind of dog the Ocean County Sheriff's Department K9 Unit has stuck with since JFK was in office and that legacy continues today.

Tim Cagney of Island Heights became fascinated by the bloodhounds bred for cold tracking with their nose while serving in the military.

In July of 1960, Cagney bought a puppy after returning home, while fascinated by the bloodhound's "floppy ears and sleuth like abilities", according to Ocean County Government officials.

The puppy was named Homer.

Homer's keen and instinctive tracking powers and senses eventually made him the first trained tracking bloodhound in New Jersey and a member of the Ocean County Sheriff’s Office.

“The Ocean County Sheriff’s Office has used bloodhounds since the 1960s,” Ocean County Freeholder John P. Kelly, Director of Law and Public Safety, said during a presentation with the current bloodhound K9s on July 11. “The department was the first to use bloodhounds in the State of New Jersey.”

Today, the Ocean County Sheriff’s Department K9 Unit is made up of 16 dogs.

Sgt. Robert Stack is the K9 Unit supervisor of those dogs.

“All of the dogs in this unit provide a variety of key tasks throughout Ocean County,” Sheriff Mike 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.”

During a recent preboard meeting of the Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders, four bloodhounds – two puppies and two veteran K9s – with their Sheriff Officer handlers joined the meeting where the puppies being introduced and the bloodhound K9s recognized for their service.

Both K9 Gertrude Penelope, the partner of Sheriff’s Officer Christine Casullo and K9 Emmitt, the partner of Sheriff’s Officer James Kohout, who is also the department’s bloodhound trainer, were recognized by the Board for their years of service to the citizens and visitors of Ocean County.

“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.”

Gertrude Penelope was given to the department when she was just five-months old as a rescue dog and the now seven-year-old bloodhound continues to serve the department.

She is nationally certified though the National Police Bloodhound Association and has assisted in searches with many county and state departments.

Among her many accomplishments, K9 Gertrude has helped track down a stabbing suspect.

“K9 Gertrude Penelope loves to work, but really loves meeting all the people at K9 demonstrations, especially the kids,” Sheriff’s Officer Casullo, who also is working with Fiona, said.

K9 Emmitt was donated to the department as a 12-week old by the National Police Bloodhound Association and originally came from Canada.

The now nine-year-old bloodhound continues to serve as well.

“K9 Emmitt trained for at least 10 months before he was put on the road,” said Sheriff’s Officer Kohout, who is working with Clifford.

K9 Emmitt is also nationally certified through the National Police Bloodhound Association.

He has assisted many other departments, county and statewide and his accomplishments on the job include finding a bank robber and an Alzheimer’s patient.

“The bloodhounds answer hundreds of calls each year,” Kelly said.

Mastronardy said the bloodhounds assist in finding missing children and missing dementia patients and help with tracking in investigations for 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.”

Now, new puppies are being added to the force.

Sibling bloodhounds Fiona and Clifford are 11-week-old puppies from a breeder in Westport, N.Y.

Casullo said the two were chosen from a litter of 11.

“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.”

Both puppies will be in training for at least 10 months before they are put on the road.

Kohout will do the training in-house.

“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.”

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