Lou the bloodhound was out of his element, in a way.

Trained to track and find people, the York County Sheriff's Office K-9 typically does his searches out in the open.

But on Monday, Lou and his handler, Sgt. Sam Shipley, searched for man inside the disused Edgar Fahs Smith Middle School in York City during a multi-county training exercise.

Indoor searches are somewhat new to Lou and, despite his keen sense of smell that can easily pick any one person out of a crowd, it took him longer than usual to find his man.

"You're not used to working inside, are you?" Shipley said to Lou after finding a sheriff's deputy who was hiding on the second floor of the large building.

Berks County Sheriff’s Deputy Troy Wolf works with his dog Rokk while searching for drugs during K-9 training at Smith Middle School on Monday.
Berks County Sheriff's Deputy Troy Wolf works with his dog Rokk while searching for drugs during K-9 training at Smith Middle School on Monday. (BILL KALINA - bkalina@yorkdispatch.com)

Lt. David Godfrey, of the sheriff's office, said the scent of a person sticks to things, such as blades of grass, outside. But inside, the polished floors, air movement and scents from other people posed problems for Lou.

"He does a lot of his tracking outside," Shipley said. "This was just something to try today."

Exercise: Monday's training was part of twice-monthly exercises K-9s and their handlers take part in. All told, 10 dogs -- six bomb sniffing, three drug sniffing and one patrol dog -- and their handlers from sheriff's departments in York, Berks, Chester and Cumberland counties took part, said Godfrey, who organized the event.

"It's always good when we can get together," Godfrey said. "We learn so much from each other."

Deputies from York, Berks and Chester counties train together regularly, and when the exercises are held in York County, Godfrey said, he invites handlers from local departments and nearby counties to take part.

In August, the handlers and dogs descended upon Santander Stadium, home of the York Revolution, to train. When York City Schools closed the middle school earlier this year, they allowed police to use to as a training ground.

The different venues are meant to keep the handlers and dogs on their toes -- or paws -- and to provide settings they could encounter while on duty.

"It's not too often the doors of a school open to us and to be able to use it," said Godfrey, who is the handler of the York County Sheriff's Office second dog, Dargo, a German shepherd.

Sniffers: On Monday, the dogs took part in an assortment of scenarios that included searches for people, like the one Lou took part in, to searches for drugs and other contraband.

Roxy, a Labrador retriever, is trained to find one of the most common devices in the world -- cellphones.

Roxy's handler, Berks County Sheriff's Deputy Alicia Angstadt, said Roxy makes her rounds at Berks County Prison, where she hunts contraband cellphones that were sneaked in by prisoners.

Dogs like Roxy are trained to sniff out gas emitted by cellphones and similar devices, such as tablet computers like iPads, Angstadt said.

Like the training exercises, the cellphone sniffing dogs are just one example of law enforcement working to stay one step ahead of criminals.

"You can't have the mind set of 'It's not going to happen here' anymore," Godfrey said. "We have to stay up with the times."

-- Reach Greg Gross at ggross@yorkdispatch.com.