DESOTO COUNTY, Miss. — The search for a scent: It's often the biggest stumbling block when rescuers are on the lookout for a missing child or even a mental health patient.
A law enforcement agency in the Mid-South is doing something about it.
DeSoto County is handing out free scent kits to families with children or adults with mental disorders, such as dementia or Alzheimer's, so if their loved ones vanish, search dogs have an easier time looking for them.
For Maddy the search dog, smell is her greatest sense, and she puts it to good use searching for missing people with the DeSoto County Sheriff's Department search and rescue team.
But as her handler explains, sometimes Maddy's job is complicated; the scent she's after is not always so easy to sniff out.
"Oftentimes it's been in the home where multiple family members live, thus it has multiple scents on it," Maddy's handler, Angela Fletcher, said.
Rescuers think they've solved the problem.
Tuesday, they began handing out free scent kits to families with special needs children and adults with mental disorders.
DSCO Director William Nichols explained you would swab the person's arms and armpits and neck — anywhere where it's common to perspire. You then seal the swab in the jar and send it back to rescuers.
"So if your child comes up missing, our search team can come back their with their K-9," said DeSoto County Sheriff Bill Rasco.
The county paid $2,500 for 500 of these kits. So far, 30 people have signed up, and that number's only expected to grow.
"My phone has been ringing nonstop," Nichols said.
The scent samples are good up to 10 years, and once the county runs out of kits, it said it will happily purchase more.
"We will do whatever it takes to make sure that it continues on," Rasco said.
If you would like a kit, contact Nichols at (901) 282-7473 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Officials said you can get a free kit for any child, not just those with special needs.