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First bloodhound K-9 dies after eight years of service

By KATIE FITZPATRICK

Staff writer

The Calvert County Sheriff’s Office lost a valued member of its K-9 Unit on Christmas when K-9 Duke, the sheriff’s office’s first bloodhound working dog, died.

Eleven-year-old Duke was donated by Wendy Zurenko of Port Republic to the sheriff’s office in 2004, according to a press release, because he was rambunctious and “too much to handle.” Duke completed his initial police service dog training for tracking and began a long career as the first sheriff’s office bloodhound working dog, the press release states.

Dfc. Joe Windsor was Duke’s handler since he became a member of the sheriff’s office K-9 Unit.

“It started out as [the sheriff’s office] had an opening for a bloodhound in 2004. I loved working with dogs; it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I applied for it, and they gave me the opportunity to work with Duke, and that’s how it all started,” Windsor said.

Windsor said Duke was a big part of his 14-year law enforcement career. He said Duke was “my everyday partner in the vehicle” and was “always with me no matter what.”

“He was a big part of my life,” Windsor said of Duke. “I’m very sad he passed away.”

Duke was primarily used for tracking and locating missing persons and children, the press release states. He also provided support to Project Lifesaver, a program that allows deputies to track lost Alzheimer’s disease and dementia patients, and was used to track criminals when needed.

Windsor said some of Duke’s biggest accomplishments included “numerous missing persons finds dealing with kids and missing Alzheimer’s patients.”

Windsor said when Duke began tracking a missing person, he would get that person’s scent from a piece of clothing or an object the missing person had last touched.

“All bloodhounds, once they get a track, they usually are working all the time,” Windsor said. “It’s usually non-stop, and they very rarely stop tracking.”

Windsor said Duke was “always on call” for missing persons cases in Calvert County, and also helped out in other jurisdictions in Southern Maryland.

Duke was an “ambassador for the K-9 unit,” Windsor said, as he would make public appearances throughout the county. Windsor said Duke was a dog anyone could approach and pet at any community function, including open houses and the Calvert County Fair.

Sheriff Mike Evans (R) described Duke as a “very friendly” dog who loved to be around children. “The kids loved him,” Evans said. “He was a very playful dog.”

In a written statement, Evans said, “Duke’s service to the citizens of Calvert County will not be forgotten. Duke and Dfc. Windsor’s commitment to the safety and well-being of the public serve as an example for all to follow.”

Lt. Dave McDowell said larger dogs generally have a shorter lifespan than smaller dogs and Duke died of “natural causes.”

If a K-9 dog does not have any health problems, McDowell said the dog will continue to work as long as it’s able. He said Duke continued to work because it made him happy.

“For him, this is play,” McDowell said. “This is what makes him happy.”

Although Windsor currently works with a narcotics dog, a German Shepherd named Azor, he said he hopes the K-9 Unit will expand to include another bloodhound.

Evans said the department has worked hard during the last 10 years to expand its K-9 Unit. He said the unit will look to replace Duke with another bloodhound, as there are handlers available.

As funds become available, Duke’s name will be placed on the “Fallen Working Dogs” memorial plaque at the Island Creek Canine Training Center.

kfitzpatrick@somdnews.com