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West Fargo search dog dies after years of service

FARGO - Earle "Bud" Myers remembers the first time he met Barnaby, a tiny puppy huddled in the back of a crate fresh off the airplane, scared to death.

Search and rescue bloodhound Barnaby shown with his handler, Earle "Bud" Myers. The 11-year-old bloodhound, who worked for the West Fargo Police Department, died Wednesday. Special to The Forum
Barnaby and his handler, Earle "Bud" Myers, search for a suspected shoplifter in south Fargo in this 2007 file photo. The search dog died Wednesday. Jay Pickthorn / The Forum

FARGO – Earle "Bud" Myers remembers the first time he met Barnaby, a tiny puppy huddled in the back of a crate fresh off the airplane, scared to death.

"He didn't want any part of anybody," said Myers, who at the time was a prosecutor in the Cass County State's Attorney's office.

He started taking Barnaby to work with him to socialize the bloodhound, who was to become a search and rescue dog for the West Fargo Police Department. It didn't always go as planned. On their first formal training trip to Illinois, Barnaby spent the first day hiding under Myers' car.

"That was a long week," he said, chuckling.

Myers had been training 8-month-old Barnaby in the basics of search and rescue when Valley Water Rescue volunteers invited him to help look for a missing person in the Red River.


"At that point, Barn's never been in a boat," said Myers of the still-timid dog.

But all of a sudden, Myers recalled, Barnaby went to one end of the craft, stuck his nose over the side and started to sniff. "And I went, 'There's your body,'" he said Friday.

It was Barnaby's first successful find, a sign of things to come.

On Wednesday, the trail came to an end for the 11-year-old dog, who began experiencing breathing problems and died shortly after watching Myers work his other bloodhound at Lindenwood Park in Fargo.

The news saddened many law enforcement officials and family members of formerly missing people throughout the region.

In his decade-long career, Barnaby found many people dead and alive, including wanderers such as confused elderly and children who suffered from Down syndrome or autism.

"I don't know that people understand the capabilities" of bloodhounds, compared to other types of police K-9s, said West Fargo Police Chief Mike Reitan.

Bloodhounds search differently than other breeds. They pick up skin cells shed by their subjects along the way, gathered by their long, pendulous ears, magnificent noses and drooping lower eyelids.


Barnaby was often called in to find criminals on the lam, picking up trails that were sometimes hours, if not days, old.

"It certainly shortened the time we had to spend on those cases," Reitan said.

The chief's son, Nathan, occasionally ran test trails for Barnaby.

"He would run and double back his trail; he's gone through water, up a tree. Nathan was amazed that Barnaby could always find him," Reitan said.

Barnaby never lost his innate shyness, but when a search was afoot, "Boo," as Myers called him, was all business.

He would howl when he saw law enforcement vehicles, thinking it was time to go to work, Myers said, and once chased a police car with sirens blazing, thinking he was missing out on the action.

That doggedness was highlighted in 2009 when Barnaby picked up the trail of Laura Williams-Jaffe, sister of Fargo city commissioner Mike Williams, during one of the snowiest Februarys that Fargo had seen in a decade.

Barnaby caught her scent after Williams-Jaffe was missing for six days, trailing her route to the frozen Red River.


"It's just not heard of, days afterward, in the cold and snow," Williams said.

He said with the record amount of snow and the volume of water during the record-setting spring 2009 flood, "there was no way we would have found her" without Barnaby's help.

Myers now has another search bloodhound named Laura, after Williams-Jaffe, who also works for West Fargo police.

He said it was clear Barnaby wanted to go on the training run he took Laura on Wednesday. But given his age and faltering health, Myers told Barnaby he had to wait nearby.

"I regret the fact that I didn't run him Wednesday night," said Myers, his voice thick with tears. "I think he would have liked to die on the trail."

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