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Trained bloodhounds used in search for pets missing in Marshall Fire

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Posted at 3:45 PM, Jan 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-24 11:39:58-05

LOUISVILLE, Colo. — While the cleanup process has started in Louisville after the Marshall Fire, the search is on for missing pets.

One local non-profit, Justice Takes Flight, has joined in that search with a special tool. The nonprofit calls in the bloodhounds to help in its search.

The sound of trees falling echoes throughout the Coal Creek South neighborhood. Covered in ash and snow, it’s an otherwise quiet area. A car door opens and suddenly you hear the pitter-patter of little paws.

Britney Hartman and Alan Duffy lead their dog up a driveway past a burned-out truck. The dog’s nose twitching in the wind. She’s got the scent and is on the hunt. The 5-year-old bloodhound, Amber, is here for work.

“We’re right across the street from where the dog used to live,” Duffy explains.

The group, Justice Takes Flight, is in the neighborhood searching for a missing pet. Amber, the working bloodhound, takes off into the alley and up the hill. Past rows of grey homes.

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They’re searching for Jason Herrington’s missing black and white Chihuahua, Violet. His family was forced to evacuate before they could find Violet, who he says was hiding. The fire marshal told the family to leave as homes across the street were on fire.

“We just threw bags in the car. Our kids, 2 and 3-year-old boys, were napping,” said Herrington. “We grabbed them out of their naps and threw them in the car. You know, we couldn't find our dog.”

After the family left, they headed to Texas where they’re currently staying. He’s unsure if they will be able to rebuild in Colorado. Since leaving, though, Harrington has been back to search for Violet.

His evidence can be found throughout the neighborhood. On every other tree, every porta-potty, even mailboxes and tailgates of vehicles left in the driveway you can see his work: missing dog signs.

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“It’s heartbreaking to think she could have been within less than a mile of me at that time before I had to fly back,” Herrington said. “And I couldn't actually get my hands on her.”

This brings us to the search with Amber. Justice Takes Flight has done over two dozen of these searches since the Marshall fire. Some have ended with closure, others are still unsolved, believing the pets escaped the blaze and are still out there. It's much like the belief Violet is still out there.

The snow aided in the search on this day. Water in the air actually helps, according to Hartman.

“Water holds more of this scent. So it helps get into the nose, back further and just holds more of that scent,” Hartman states.

This is the second time the group has been in the neighborhood searching for Violet. Their previous search yielded the same results. However, they did leave with something. Hope. Amber’s trail leads them to believe Violet is still out there, hiding, hopefully waiting to be found.

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Violet has been missing since the Marshall Fire. Call or text 626-372-2889 if you have any information.

A plastic bin with blankets, food and treats sits in the front yard of the Herrington home. Jason’s sock sits underneath a game camera, hoping the scent will lead the Chihuahua back home.

Amber stands in the driveway of the Herrington home whining. The totality of the searches is taking a toll on her according to Hartman.

“At the end of the day, she's depressed,” Hartman expressed. “She gets home and you can just see the little tear ducts and she just has tears going down.”

As a pet owner, Hartman just wants to find Violet. She wants anyone to find Violet. She doesn’t care who. All she wants is for Herrington to get that phone he’s been waiting on saying Violet’s been found alive.

“If we had our dog back, it would just be a game-changer. I would never cry over my stuff. I'll tell you that much, but we've definitely cried a lot over our pet,” Herrington conveyed.

Who could blame him?