Bloodhound goes from family pet to police K-9

Sean Philip Cotter
  • A Windsor Township couple gave their bloodhound puppy to the Mercer County Sheriff's Department.
  • The pooch will track missing people and fugitives.

Andrew and Kristin Barnhart named their bloodhound puppy Flash, sort of as a joke.

"I thought it would be ironic," Andrew Barnhart said. They'd figured he'd be a mellow, dopey pooch.

But the dog, who was born in January 2015, proved the Windsor Township couple wrong — bouncy, energetic and playful, the growing puppy loved bounding around the outdoors.

They loved that about the dog — but ultimately couldn't provide for him. About seven months later, the couple had twin baby boys, and in the months after that, it became clear the family couldn't fulfill the dog's needs.

Flash the bloodhound serves as a pillow for twin babies AJ and Roman Barnhart.

"He was a high-energy dog," Andrew Barnhart said. "He needed to do more than we could provide for him."

So, with heavy hearts, they made contact with some search-and-rescue groups on Facebook. Can anyone provide a good home for a sweet dog?

That's when the police called.

No, the Red Lion couple hadn't done anything wrong — the Mercer County Sheriff's Office in New Jersey was in the market for another bloodhound, and they wondered if Flash would make a good police K-9.

Off to training: Things moved quickly. Earlier this year, sheriff's detective Michael Restuccia made the 2½-hour trip to the Red Lion area to meet the pooch.

"He spent probably about 2.5 to 3 hours with us one Friday night," Barnhart said.

Flash the bloodhound, from Red Lion, poses with his new handler, Mercer County (New Jersey) Sheriff's Office Detective Michael Restuccia.

Flash went with Restuccia in March. Sherrif's office spokesman Ernie Cerino Jr. said Flash — and Restuccia — just now completed a police-dog academy at the bloodhound academy in Cape May, New Jersey. Now a fully trained police K-9, Flash will be tracking down missing people and fugitives.

"For a couple Vienna sausage snacks, this dog will track you for miles," Cerino said. He said he's heard the sensitive noses of a trained bloodhound sometimes have tracked people for more than 100 miles.

He said the purebred bloodhound will serve as a "good-will ambassador" to the community, going to events and helping put a softer, fuzzier face on the force.

He said the detective, whom Cerino described as a veteran officer, is great with dogs. Restuccia's family already has for pets a retired police K-9 and a dachshund who, to Cerino's knowledge, had never taken down any criminals.

Visiting privileges: Barnhart said the detective has kept the York County family up to date on how Flash is doing.

"We get weekly updates from Mike (Restuccia)," he said. "He’s a class act."

Barnhart said his work will take him up into that area in September; the family plans to go up and hang with Flash, as Restuccia said they always will be allowed to do.

"He’s part of the family," Barnhart said. "He always will be."

He said the dog loved the twin boys, A.J. and Roman, who will have their first birthday in August.

"He has a wonderful personality," Andrew Barnhart said of the pooch. "He was definitely their protector."

Andrew and Kristin Barnhart pose with Flash the bloodhound when he was a puppy.

Cerino said the sheriff's department already had one bloodhound — Maverick — but they wanted to add another jowled officer.

"We needed to add to our force," he said.

Mercer County Sheriff John A. Kemler's deputies cover the county that contains Trenton and Princeton. Much like the York County Sheriff's Office, the Mercer County Sheriff's Office is responsible for the security of county buildings, tracking down fugitives and providing various services to the local police departments around the county.

"This dog is likely going to save someone’s life someday," Cerino said.

— Reach Sean Cotter or on Twitter at@SPCotterYD.