HUNTINGTON – The Huntington Police Department is still searching for 7-year-old K-9 officer Rudy several weeks after he went missing in the Prichard area of Wayne County, and his handlers say the prospect of finding him looks bleak.
Rudy, a Belgian Malinois, broke out of his pen overnight Nov. 4. His normal handler was Pfc. Joe Denning, but K-9 trainer Lt. Levi Livingston was temporarily looking after him at home.
The department has received plenty of tips, but so far the only lead of substance led to Rudy’s collar.
“They would get a lot of tips, and it turned out to be the same dog over and over,” said Bryan Chambers, communications director for the city of Huntington. “If we continue to get those tips, they will certainly run them down and look for him.”
Handlers develop personal relationships with the K-9s and deeply care for them, but they aren’t considered pets by any means. The dogs go through extensive training, and they often are viewed as officers on the force.
The department has seven other K-9s, including five patrol dogs, a bloodhound in training and a springer spaniel. Chambers said Rudy’s absence doesn’t detract from the K-9 unit’s ability to serve, but it can be difficult for officers to reconcile after putting so much time and attention into him.
K-9s are a big investment, costing about $7,000 per dog, and local businesses and community programs have helped with the costs through private donations. Training the dogs also can be expensive, but HPD offsets that cost by having Livingston train them.
“They take great care of the animals,” Chambers said. “At the end of the day, they are viewed as an investigative tool to help (police) in their daily duties.”
Chambers said officers are grateful for the tips they have received and will continue to investigate any leads.
“They haven’t had any luck,” Chambers said. “This was just an unfortunate incident.”
Anyone with information on Rudy’s whereabouts should call Livingston at 304-544-8442.