WEEKI WACHEE — Duke Snodgrass smiled as he recalled his late son Kody.
Kody Snodgrass was a 24-year-old Citrus County police officer who proudly used a bloodhound while on duty to sniff out suspects.
"He always stressed the importance of an officer having a dog by his side," Duke Snodgrass said Wednesday night with a grin from ear to ear.
When Kody died in an accident about nine years ago, Duke Snodgrass started a nonprofit dog training institute called 832 K-9's Deputy Dogs. The organization, which incorporates Kody's badge number, breeds, trains and donates bloodhounds to local police agencies.
The dogs are used to find fleeing suspects and missing people, particularly children. "We do this so that more missing kids can come home safely," Duke said.
At Weeki Wachee Springs Wednesday evening, Snodgrass watched as about two dozen dogs and their human partners began aquatic training. The session introduced the mostly young bloodhounds and German shepherds to deep water for the first time, preparing the pups for possible chases where a suspect may use water to evade the police.
Coordinator Bill Martinez of the Hernando County Sheriff's Office said the K-9 teams do not typically apprehend suspects in the water, but the police want the dogs to be prepared just in case.
"It's like insurance." Martinez said. "We don't want a real life situation to be the dog's first time in the water."
Each officer and K-9 team start by guiding the dogs into the water. Some dogs appeared to be more resistant than others, which Martinez said depends on the dog's familiarly with the water.
"For some dogs this is their first time in the water," he said.
Many of the dogs are young, ranging from 18 months to 3 years old, and imported from Europe, primarily the Czech Republic.
The training ended with the dogs learning how to bite an aggressive suspect, which was an officer in disguise, near the end of pool.
"I can't tell who is having more fun, the officers or the dogs," Snodgrass said.
Ryan Strong can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (352) 544-1630.