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A Tennessee bloodhound named Fred is being hailed a hero after locating a missing 6-year-old girl, who disappeared last month with her father.
Fred used his nose to track the young girl, who Oxygen.com has opted not to name, to an outbuilding in Pea Ridge, where her 34-year-old father had barricaded the pair inside.
“The door to the outbuilding was barricaded and the windows had been covered up with metal,” a statement from the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office said. “There was no ventilation and air conditioning inside the small outbuilding. There was barely any food or water for the child.”
Authorities said the building also had a strong smell of ammonia where the father and daughter had used a bucket to urinate and defecate in while on the run.
The child had been missing since May 26, when she was last seen by a family member. Investigators, who spent “hundreds of manpower hours” searching for the missing pair, believed the father and daughter might be camping in the Pea Ridge area and used drones and thermal imaging to try to find them.
However, it was Fred who would make the heroic rescue after the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Department was called in to assist with the search.
Fred’s handler, K9 Deputy Richard Tidwell, provided the dog with an item that smelled like the father and instructed Fred to follow the scent, according to a statement from the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office. The dog tracked the smell behind a home past a burn pile and truck to an outbuilding, before he sniffed the door and door knob and sat down, signaling that he had found the father.
“We made entry into the building and discovered the suspect and child in the back of the shed behind blankets that were hanging from a makeshift clothesline,” Rutherford County Sheriff’s Sgt. James Holloway said.
Lisa Marchesoni, the public information officer for the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office told Oxygen.com, that after the young girl was found safely and was getting something to eat and drink, she learned that the dog had been the one to find her and requested to thank him personally.
“She came outside and Fred walked up to her and licked her and she hugged him,” Marchesoni said.
After a job well done, Fred was rewarded with chicken and pizza crusts.
“I praised him and loved on him,” Tidwell said. “I pulled the chicken reward out of my pocket. He ate the chicken and wanted to meet other people as if to say, ‘Look what I’ve done.’”
According to Marchesoni, Fred has been with the department about a year and has had about six finds during his service.
The young girl’s father, who Oxygen.com has opted also not to name to protect the girl's privacy, is now facing charges of child abuse and neglect. He also had outstanding warrants for failure to appear and custodial interference.
The 6-year-old has been released to the custody of the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services.
The child had been removed from her father’s custody earlier this year after they were found camped out under a bridge in the rain on March 18. The DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office said the 34-year-old suspect had driven his Nissan Rogue off the roadway into a creek bed where it got stuck during heavy flooding.
He was charged with child abuse and neglect in that incident. The girl was placed in the custody of a family member; however, after the father was released from jail, he was given approval to live in the same house as his daughter, authorities said. The 34-year-old took off with his daughter at the end of May, sparking the search for the father and daughter that ended peacefully Friday.
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