Erving revives K-9 program with new bloodhound

  • Erving Police Officer Laura Gordon with new tracking and comfort dog Ziva at the Erving Police Station. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Erving Police Officer Laura Gordon with new tracking and comfort dog Ziva at the Erving Police Station. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Erving Police Officer Laura Gordon with new tracking and comfort dog Ziva at the Erving Police Station. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

Staff Writer
Published: 11/5/2022 9:35:12 PM
Modified: 11/5/2022 9:34:43 PM

ERVING — Just over four months after the Erving Police Department brought aboard 24-year Greenfield Police Officer Laura Gordon, the new hire has enlisted the help of a four-legged partner. 

Ziva, thought by Chief Robert Holst to be the county’s only police bloodhound, arrived at the Police Station last week. Acquisition of the 1-year-old dog catalyzes the revival of the department’s K-9 program, which was endorsed by the Selectboard in early October. As the department’s first dog since 2014, Ziva is expected to serve both tracking and comfort purposes once certified next year.

Holst, who ran the K-9 program between 2012 and 2014, previously said he was forced to end it due to the weight of new responsibilities he took on following his promotion to sergeant. During this period, “outreach to the community was tremendous,” he said. The department’s former dog, a bloodhound named Badge, proved its worth and elicited an “outpour” of appreciation from members of the public, Holst said.

Gordon said she “immediately applied” to serve as a handler when Holst requested letters of interest for the position last month. Before joining Erving’s force as a full-time patrol officer in July, she led the Greenfield Police Department’s comfort dog program. Gordon still cares for two dogs from her time with the Greenfield department.

“Having a working dog is something I’ve always wanted to do in my career,” Gordon said. “I’m hoping that after working with the comfort dogs, I can cross some of that over with Ziva.”

According to Holst, Ziva began with a handler in Orange County, Virginia, where the partnership fell through for unknown reasons. She was then relocated to a handler and rescuer in New Jersey, where she lived until being purchased by the Erving Police Department for $350.

Although Gordon voiced confidence in her experience as a handler, she said training Ziva will be unlike any handling she had previously done. Aside from never having owned a bloodhound, Gordon has grown used to slow-rolling, lax dogs, including Donut and the late Clarence, both Saint Bernards that served the Greenfield department.

“She’s very loving,” Gordon said of Ziva. “She has a lot of energy and the nose is always going.”

When it’s time to be professional, though, Ziva crates away her playful demeanor and is all business.

“When she puts on the tracking harness, she knows it’s work time and is super-focused,” Gordon said. “When she’s working, she’s motivated, and when we need her to be more of a comfort dog, she’s able to do that.”

Gordon explained that Ziva will be training with Northeast Houndsmen each Sunday. She is tasked with meeting with instructors and training within different “tracks,” or sensory-based situations that simulate circumstances that might require police response.

“A big part of it is that we have to learn one another and how to work as a team,” Gordon said of the training process. “Probably more of it is about training the handler.”

Gordon hopes Ziva can be certified by spring so that she can begin work in the field. Once on duty, the bloodhound will be responsible for “man trailing.” This can involve tracking someone who flees from a vehicle, searching for a missing person, or finding somebody with Alzheimer’s disease who has wandered off, Gordon cited as examples. Ziva will also provide stress and trauma relief to those in need in her role as a comfort dog.

Although Ziva is “still learning” and discipline has “taken some work,” Gordon is optimistic that her new partner will show her worth as a productive public servant.

“So far,” Gordon said, “the instructors that we’ve been so lucky to work with say that she’s a keeper.”

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-930-4231 or jmendoza@recorder.com.


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