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At 5:35 p.m. on Thursday, July 24, Officer Art O’Connell got a call about two missing girls in Douglas State Park. Officer O’Connell, his partner Diesel and a back up state trooper had to search the 5,900-acre, nine square mile, park on foot, as the canopy of the trees was too thick to search via helicopter and the ground too uneven to search by vehicle.

So off they went. Diesel lead the way, relying on instinct. After traversing three miles through a rugged overgrown terrain, they came across the two crying girls. While the girls hugged Diesel, Officer O’Connell radioed for help, and the young kids were reunited with their parents and checked out by medics, safe from harm.

But Diesel isn’t your typical police officer. In fact, he’s not even human. Diesel is a dog. He is a black lab that for the last six years has been working with Officer O’Connell himself, who is also not your typical police officer, he is a trained K-9 handler in the Environmental Police.

Photo courtesy of Officer Art O'Connell

Photo courtesy of Officer Art O’Connell

And perhaps it was inaccurate to say that Diesel relied on instinct alone; he’s had some practice. Diesel is trained to track human odor for search in both rescue and criminal situations and is nationally certified by the North American Police Working Dog Association. He is qualified to handle article recovery and narcotics.

Diesel did what Officer O’Connell believes no man could do. In his summary of the incident, he stated that he believes that if he and Diesel had not been around, the event could have had a different outcome. At the time, no one was even remotely close to the girls in the forest and detection from air would have been nearly impossible. Diesel was given the girls scent and with his keen sense of smell, he was able to locate them in the vast park.

Diesels is not the only K-9 in the Environmental Police Department. In addition to Diesel, the department has two other certified K-9’s in, Brie, a yellow lab, and Rocco, a Belgian Malinois.These dogs have helped with numerous narcotic finds and assisted in locating two unrelated missing Alzheimer’s patients and two felons.

Now these dogs deserve a treat!

Written By:


Nicole Levin is a rising senior at Harvard College where she studies government. She is an editor for the Harvard Crimson and writes for the Harvard Lampoon, a comedy magazine on campus. She is from Fairfield, California, home of the Jelly Belly Factory and her dog, Baby.

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