The call came into the Haddonfield Police Department about 11:30 on the evening of June 8. On the other end was an official from the Audubon Police Department, two Camden County towns over, requesting assistance:
A 10-year-old Audubon boy had been reported missing an hour earlier. It was now close to midnight, and his parents were frantic.
The Audubon officer asked, would the Haddonfield Police Department be willing to lend its search team — a bloodhound named Blue and his human partner, Cpl. Jake Sorg — to the effort to find the boy?
Sorg and Blue leaped into action. After all, it’s what they have been training for since January 2019, when Sorg, 29, picked up the dog (who was about 8 weeks old at the time) from a breeder in upstate New York, with the help of the New York State Police. The plan was to integrate Blue into the Haddonfield Police Department as a search dog.
Sorg and Blue would subsequently spend two and a half months at a bloodhound training academy run by the Cape May Sheriff’s Department, graduating in November. They continued training ever since with once-a-month, eight-hour drills to keep their chops strong and to maintain Blue’s certification with the state.
Since joining the department, Blue has sniffed out evidence that aided in solving other cases, said Haddonfield Police Lt. Stephen Camiscioli, who pushed for the department to add its first-ever rescue dog. But Blue knew what to do.
Sorg sensed the family’s fear when he and Blue arrived that night in Audubon.
“The stress is heightened, and the parents are looking at you and the dog for help,” Sorg recalled.
All Blue needed to get started was a sniff of the child’s bed pillow, and then he trotted from the family’s back porch, to the front yard, and down the sidewalk, sniffing for other traces of the child’s scent. Within 15 minutes, Blue’s trained nose led police right to the young boy — who was sound asleep under a tree in the backyard of a private residence four houses away.
The child, who was in good health, was quickly reunited with his family.
(The parents, who declined to comment, asked not to be identified, said an Audubon Police official, who described them as “very emotional” and “obviously very thankful.”)
The evening’s happy ending reminded Sorg of the importance of Blue’s presence on the force.
“When I saw that youngster laying there,” said Sorg, “it was a great feeling to know that, number one, he was safe, and, number two, the dog did what we trained him to do.”
It’s unusual for a police department to have a dog like Blue in its ranks, according to Jeff Hibert, spokesperson for Search and Rescue Dogs of the United States (SARDUS), a national nonprofit that trains, evaluates, and certifies dog-and-handler teams.
“Most police K-9s are used for apprehension or drugs, etc.,” Hibert said in an email. “There are departments that have bloodhounds, but in Colorado, for example (where SARDUS is headquartered), I can think of only four.”
Most SAR dogs, he added, are handled by volunteers, with “probably not more than 2,000 in the whole country.” The number is uncertain, he said, because there is no one organization that tracks the numbers overall.
Sorg and Blue are more than work partners — they’re also housemates. Sorg and his fiancee live in Bellmawr, Camden County. The couple has developed a great relationship with their hero pup. But getting used to Blue’s ways took time.
“It hasn’t always been easy,” said Sorg. “Blue was my first working dog, and he had a lot more energy than I was expecting. He digs holes, and tries to jump the fence, and gets into a lot of stuff. If we leave anything out, on the ground, he’ll try to run away with it. He’s always trying to work; he sees it as a game. I had to get adjusted to him.”
Even when he’s off-duty, he said, Blue is always kind of on.
“He is always coming up and trying to sniff people,” said Sorg, laughing. The dog has been a boon to community policing, where he comes in constant contact with adoring youngsters and adults alike. “He loves it when people play with him, and he’s always loving.”
Haddonfield Police Lt. Camiscioli is especially smitten by the dog.
“Corporal Sorg gets mad at me for giving Blue [treats] in the lunch room,” Camiscioli laughed. “I say I can’t help it.” Besides, he added, “We don’t have to spoil Blue, because, the town does. They have adopted him as their own.”
That leaves it to Sorg to play, well, bad cop. But he has to, if he wants a focused partner. Blue is a working dog, not a house pet. Lives depend on Sorg distinguishing between the two.
“It’s hard to be strict, but I want him locked in when we’re working,” he said.
Sorg is proud of Blue’s drive and determination, qualities the bloodhound exhibits every single day.