Kimberly Maney and her bloodhound, Reba, trained at the Pat Thomas Law Enforcement Academy in Tallahassee, Fla., to certify Reba for Advanced level searches. —Contributed Photo
Kimberly Maney and her bloodhound, Reba, trained at the Pat Thomas Law Enforcement Academy in Tallahassee, Fla., to certify Reba for Advanced level searches. —Contributed Photo
As Hurricane Sally was pummeling the Alabama and Florida Panhandle a bit farther to the west, the Tallahassee area was subject to heavy rains and 40 mph winds. 

Yet Reba was able to catch a whiff of 27-hour- old scent, trail it while swimming through a flowing waterway, traverse the far bank of the waterway and proceed into the adjacent woods.  And soon, she successfully found her “victim.”

Kimberly Maney, Three Lakes Fire Department member and owner/handler of Reba, shared with exu-berance the recent training the pair participated in while in Florida.

Reba is Maney’s almost 3-year-old personal bloodhound, and is a full-fledged member of the Three Lakes Fire Department.  Reba has successfully achieved the highest level of training certification in “mantrailing,” the multi-faceted process used to find people, that is attainable.

“Reba came to Three Lakes when she was 8 weeks old,” stated Maney.  “I had been looking for a blood hound for several years for search and rescue and I finally found a breeder with good recommendations.  I purchased her myself, she is my dog and she came from Paoli, Ind., from a good line of tracking dogs.”

Maney sought out a bloodhound to specifically train for mantrailing. 

“I wanted to do something because there are so many missing people, abducted people, and Alzheimer individuals.  It’s always been my passion since I was a young kid when I watched an officer down in Beloit handle his dog.  I said, ‘that’s what I want to do,’ and not many people do that just with the bloodhounds,” Maney explained.

Maney explained that a bloodhound’s scent sensation is far superior to other dogs, about 30,000 times better than most other breeds.  

“The next level of dogs would probably be the shepherds, which are great dogs too, but bloodhounds have specifically designed olfactory (smelling) receptors in their noses,” explained Maney.

“That, along with their floppy ears which act as a funnel when their nose is to the ground and scoops the scent toward the nose, the saggy skin on their necks which actually holds the scent near their noses, and the sticky slobber that they have which reconstitutes the scent for them, these dogs are designed to go for miles and miles, and you actually have to stop them before they hurt themselves while following a trail.”

Maney said most law enforcement agencies tend to lean toward “dual purpose” dogs such as German shepherd for pursuit, narcotics and bite, rather than the single-purpose trailing and tracking dogs such as the bloodhound.

“Reba will be 3 years old in January.  Many agencies don’t let them work until they are 2 years old.  But Reba actually had her first “save” at 8 months old, so they are ready to go at a very young age,” said Maney.

Early training

Reba started training at 10 weeks old by teaching her how to follow a trail and know what she’s looking for, and to make it a  game for her.  She started with 10 yard tracks and gradually built up to longer, more difficult trailing situations.  

For the Basic level of certification in mantrailing, a dog must be able to follow a trail that is a couple of hours old and based on a scent article that the dog is introduced to, such as an article of clothing.  But, Reba has gone far beyond the Basic level at this point.

Reba is trained specifically for finding missing people, or mantrailing.  This allows her to concentrate on her goal of finding a missing person and not be distracted by all of the other scents she may be presented with while tracking.  

“Whether you are on foot, or are on foot and are picked up by a vehicle, Reba is trained to find you.  She is actually trained to follow that vehicle by associating your scent with that vehicle and trail it miles from that location.  She’s trained to go through water, trained for abductions and able to find both the abductor and abductee by either a scent article that you provide or even by a footprint,” said Maney.

“She loves vehicle work or abduction work, where she can pick up the scent of the victim and the vehicle the victim got into, and track that vehicle to its destination.  It’s absolutely mind blowing,” stated Maney.  

Maney went on to explain an example of Reba’s vehicle training.

“I started her vehicle tracking by attaching a GoPro (camera) to Reba, and then introduced her to a simple bootprint in the snow.  That’s all the scent article she had, and the point at which the ‘victim’ hopped into a vehicle and drove 6.5 miles down the road.  Reba successfully trailed that vehicle 6.5 miles (without any previous visual signs of the vehicle) from just those associated scents of the footprint in the snow and that of the vehicle.  It’s unbelievable,” quipped Maney.

Reba also has the ability to do a “scent inventory,” according to Maney.

For example, Reba has been trained in the “missing man” drill where you fill a room with people, allow her to smell everyone in the room, then remove one person from the room.  Reba can determine which person is missing and where that person went without giving her a scent article, just by doing a scent inventory of those people remaining in the room.

Reba’s recent training was completed near Tallahassee, Fla.  This session was to certify Reba for the Advanced level, or highest level possible, and was for bloodhounds only, rather than mixed breed training, because of the capabilities of the breed.  

“They can progress more quickly and they can do more challenging training,” stated Maney.  “Plus, the bloodhound is more stubborn than other dogs and the obedience is different than other breeds of tracking dogs.

“This year, we were working during Hurricane Sally coming through the Gulf states at the time, with 40 mph winds, heaving rain and everything that went along with it.  Many don’t realize these dogs can work in rain, but rain actually intensifies the scent and blood hounds are excellent in rain,” said Maney.

“We did trails back in the woods, contending with cottonmouth snakes, rattlesnakes and alligators.  We also went into Tallahassee for work in buildings, elevators and so on. The course that they run is absolutely amazing how they design it, and they really challenge these dogs.”

Funding help

Funding for Maney and Reba’s training, along with travel, hotels and all other associated expenses is sponsored by the Three Lakes Fire Department (TLFD) Auxiliary, which is the primary fundraising group supporting the fire department.  

“The TLFD Auxiliary has been fantastic in their support,” stated Maney.  “They, along with the fire department have teamed together to sponsor Reba’s training for the past two years.  And as a full-fledged member of the fire department, we need to keep up on her training, no different than other members of the fire department.”

The auxiliary raises the majority of the funds for the TLFD to use for these type of activities, and has agreed to continue sponsoring the ongoing training for Reba next year.

“Further training sessions will concentrate on pushing Reba harder and in areas she needs further advancement by creating longer trails, 2- to 3-day- old scent trails and more difficult situations.  They are going to push her, which is good, and she likes to be pushed and challenged.”

Reba is able to help out any agency in the Midwest that needs her assistance.  She has worked in several parts of the state and has been involved in several Silver Alert situations, searching for missing senior citizens.  

Maney stated that she and Reba will go wherever they are needed and have contacts in Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota and Illinois.

“As long as I have a way to get her there, we are willing to go.  In my opinion, you can’t put a price on a life.  If my dog is able to help, or if she’s that missing tool that someone needs, I will take her,” stated Maney.

Maney, originally from the Beloit area, joined the Three Lakes Fire Department after moving to Three Lakes in 2001.  She was previously a member of the Juda Fire Department west of Beloit and was also an officer with the Three Lakes Police Department from 2001 until 2008, when she finished her law enforcement career following an injury.  Maney is also a master diver and scuba diving instructor.