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Runaway Japanese police dog finds missing woman days after return to duty

The Hyogo Prefectural Police German shepherd is seen running in this February 2021 photo provided by the police.
The Hyogo Prefectural Police German shepherd is seen in this February 2021 photo provided by the police.

KOBE -- A Japanese police dog who ran away from the force has found a missing elderly woman just three days after his return to active duty, the Mainichi Shimbun has learned.

    The 2-year-old Hyogo Prefectural Police German Shepherd had only returned to front-line service on Feb. 4 following some three months of retraining, after he absconded during a mountain search operation.

    According the Fukiai Police Station in Kobe, the family of a woman in her 80s in the city's Chuo Ward called police at around 12:30 p.m. on Feb. 7, saying, "(The woman) went missing after leaving the house." The police station requested the canine be dispatched for the search at around 3 p.m. the same day.

    Upon arriving at the woman's home, the dog sniffed her pillow before embarking on a tracking mission at around 4:30 p.m. The dog kept walking for about 1.7 kilometers, constantly sniffing the ground, before finally discovering the woman on a street in a Chuo Ward residential area at around 5:20 p.m. The woman was unscathed and returned home safely.

    During the search, the dog managed to "catch only the woman's scent despite there being a mix of smells due to heavy traffic" when he passed near a train station in the city's Nada Ward, according to a senior officer.

    When the dog stopped sniffing and looked up, an accompanying officer reportedly spotted the missing woman.

    The dog will receive a commendation from the head of the Fukiai Police Station, which made the search request, on Feb. 12. "It's not exactly a treat, but we're thinking about giving him a certificate of merit and a chew bone," a police station representative said.

    In October 2020, the dog ran off on Mount Nagusa in the Hyogo prefectural town of Fukusaki, where he had been mobilized to search for a missing person. He was found two days later. He now has a GPS-equipped collar.

    (Japanese original by Shota Harumashi, Kobe Bureau)

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