WILMINGTON, Ohio (WDTN) – Months of searching for a missing K-9, and pleas for help from the public finally paid off Sunday.
A valued member of local law enforcement, K-9 Karson is now back home where he belongs at the Wilmington Police Department.
Officials say that the 3-year-old Belgian Malinois truly beat the odds and the elements outdoors, after 61 days away from home.
And while, he suffered from some minor issues, he’s relatively healthy.
A recently-released map shows where authorities believe Karson has travelled in the last 2 months.
And, their findings show he’s traveled a long way to get back home.
“He’s gone to New Jasper, back to Xenia, back to New Jasper, as far away as Jamestown– up into the Cedarville area,” Chief Duane Weyand described. “Then, like I said, he hung around collectively 45 of those days in the Xenia area til’ we found him Sunday in the Sabina- Starbucks Road area.”
The search for the police dog was extensive, costing the city of Wilmington more than $20,000- some of that already budgeted payroll for searchers.
But, “Karson’s leaving wasn’t misbehaving,” as K-9 trainer Jordina Ghiggeri explained. “It wasn’t him trying to get away from something.”
Ghiggeri was part of the efforts to find Karson.
Nationwide, she uses various tactics and other dogs to find missing K-9s.
“We used tennis balls with Officer Popp. We kept areas quiet, police cars, but the problem was that this dog was traveling such great distances
that he wasn’t coming back to any of our — anything that we had step up to lure him,” she said.
Karson’s return was heavily based on his independence and use of survival mode, according to Ghiggeri.
The canine often traveled to areas where he and his handler went, then the dog ran through bike paths.
But, eventually he started to follow rivers.
During those days, Karson lost about 14 pounds, suffered from dehydration and his paws were fairly reddened by the snow.
But still, veterinarians say the athletic dog is fairly healthy.
“He was in a state of panic for sure when we did get him and when he got into the car, it wasn’t 5 minutes later that we held up a tennis ball and that dog was like ‘ tennis ball’ and he didn’t care about tennis balls 20 minutes before that so those instincts will switch right back.”
And officials say it’s like Karson never left.
Several people called in about seeing the dog, according to police records from Sunday.
The department will now decide how it will divide a reward that was offered for helping to being Karson home.
Meanwhile, K-9 Karson is resting and is expected back on the job once he retakes several state tests.