HAMLET — Rudy the AWOL police K-9 is back home after an intense daylong search that included police and firefighters, city officials and concerned citizens roaming the county in their private cars.
And he’s scheduled to take training that will end his skittishness around fireworks — the trait police believe spurred him to burrow out of the kennel at the home of his partner, K-9 Sgt. Britt Emert.
“I said a prayer just before I laid down” after arriving home at 11:30 Thursday night, said Police Chief Scott Waters, who had been out searching long after dark, using his car loudspeaker to summon the dog.
Waters said his phone rang at midnight with news that Rudy had been found on Mizpah Road, possibly on his way back to Emert’s house. A neighbor couple had found the dog, given him food and water, and called police.
Waters did not have their names Friday afternoon but said he had driven by Friday morning to deliver his personal thanks. The couple, who live near Ol’ Cracker’s convenience store, weren’t home.
Waters said he had been in the same area during the search, but Rudy “was just timid” and didn’t come out of hiding.
“Everybody was popping firecrackers everywhere he would go,” Waters theorized, so the dog remained spooked. Because Rudy is young, he has not received training that would help him to cope around loud noises such as fireworks and gunshots.
Rudy’s disappearance prompted news reports on Charlotte TV stations, as well as offers of both prayer and rewards on Facebook.
One man on Facebook also asked whether Emert had secured Rudy properly.
Waters said Friday that Rudy never had attempted to escape before, so Emert had no reason to think he would during the this time.
“The dog is like a child to him,” Waters said of Rudy and Emert. “Most of time time, the dog is in the house, sleeping” and not in the kennel.
Emert is “devoted to the K-9,” Waters said. “He was very upset” when the dog escaped, but “he’s better” now that Rudy has returned and passed a post-escape veterinary examination.
Rudy is the third K-9 Emert has worked with. He trained Edy, a German shepherd who now works with Officer Greg Stone, and made a home for his former partner Kasey, a retired K-9.
Emert has paid for some of his own training, Waters said, and applied for and won a training grant for Rudy. The city picked up the rest of the tab when it acquired the 2-year-old Belgian Malinois last fall.
Emert and his co-workers will beef up Rudy’s 10-by-10 kennel so the dog can’t do another Steve McQueen: Brick pavers will surround the fence where it meets the ground.
“He’s never (dug) before,” Waters said. “We’re tightening up to make sure we don’t go down that road again.”
As for the community … Waters couldn’t say enough about how thankful Hamlet Police were.
“Everybody’s been great,” he said. “We can’t say how blessed and grateful we are.”
Reach Christine Carroll at 910-817-2673 or [email protected]