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Search and rescue dog relocates to Sequim, enjoys respite at pet resort

A celebrity moved to Sequim recently and was able to sneak under the radar of the paparazzi.

Until now, that is.

Chile, a 5-year-old bloodhound, is known for his ability to find missing or lost people. The 145-pound canine doesn't need high-tech gadgets or any other technology to do his job, only his nose.

An Arizona and Washington state certified search and rescue dog, Chile holds multiple "man trailing" titles from the American and Canadian Bloodhound clubs, is a member of the Northwest Bloodhounds Search and Rescue group in Pierce County and has participated in more than a dozen searches, including one where the docile, highly-trained animal led rescue workers to a missing 8-year-old boy who wandered away from a campsite.

Chile is a guest at Dungeness Ranch Pet Resort, located in Sequim, while his owners, Sheri and Tim Whetstine, are traveling on vacation.

"Chile is one of our most important guests here at the resort," said Kelli Chen, president and founder of the high-security boarding and grooming facility. "As you can imagine, the Whetstines wanted to be absolutely sure that we had the expertise and qualifications to properly care for Chile. I am honored that they entrusted us with this huge responsibility."

A well-known animal enthusiast and dog-lover, Chen is trained to care for search and rescue and police dogs. She routinely sends Chile on practice finds - playing a game of hide-and-seek that is both fun for the staff and beneficial to the dog - to keep the animal "on his game." Chen walks in circles, around buildings and vehicles and then hides behind a bush. Following the trail of her scent, Chile is able to track Chen in a matter of minutes. He lets his handler know he's successfully completed his mission by intensely wagging his tail and letting out an occasional excited bark.

The bloodhound's physical characteristics make the breed excellent trackers. Larger than average nasal chambers detect scents the human nose cannot, large ears prevent wind from scattering scent and folds of wrinkled skin under the dog's lip and neck, commonly referred to as the "shawl," catch stray particles in the air, reinforcing the scent in the animal's memory and nose. Under optimal conditions, a bloodhound can detect the lingering scent of a human hours, even days, old.

"In working with Chile here at the resort and working his search and rescue skills, he has amazed us with his incredible abilities," Chen said.

Although Chile is a VIP guest at the resort, he still participates in several of the same activities as other dogs. A typical day for Chile, Chen described, includes a morning exercise session in a secure play yard, a chance to socialize with other dogs, lunch, an afternoon nap while listening to soft jazz in a private suite, "man trailing" and "scent discrimination" exercises and dinner before bedtime.

"The challenge for us with Chile," Chen said, "is that he may have significantly higher separation anxiety than other dogs due to his close bond with his owners and he is very used to having their attention 24 hours a day."

"On top of that," she continued, "we know that Chile's typical day at home is very different from other dogs, so keeping Chile active and involved in various activities is crucial so that we can ensure that he is comfortable and happy."

Dungeness Resort regularly houses service and working dogs such as law enforcement and champion show dogs, which - according to Chen - can experience work-related stress similar to humans.

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