JEFFERSON COUNTY, Mo. (KMOV.com) -- The Jefferson County Sheriff's Department has a new tool to catch criminals or save missing children. A new bloodhound named Zeus just started work this week.

He might not look like the German Shepard variety most commonly used as police K-9s, but the new officer is bringing a specialized set of skills to the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department.

"They have the strongest nose of K-9s," Deputy Derek Richard said, Zeus's handler. "He can be used for any kind of missing children. We can go out and locate them or felons if they take off out a back door or something."

Richard said bloodhounds' noses are so strong that they can even be trained to track cars by following the human's scent being expelled through the exhaust.

Richard's experience in the Marines got him interested in working as a K-9 handler.

"I was an advanced assault man so I shot rockets and things of that nature," Richard said. "I was on a team and someone else on the team was a dog handler."

After two deployments, one to Afghanistan and another to Kuwait, Richard went through the academy and started working with the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department about two years ago. In March, he matched with 2-year-old Zeus and they spent weeks training together in Tennessee.

"It was good from the get go," Richard said.

Now on the job in Jefferson County, the pair ran through a training exercise to demonstrate their skills.

"Everyone has their own kind of scent. Kind of like a fingerprint," Richard said.

Zeus and his training cost $20,000 but that was paid for by a generous donation from someone in the community. That investment is dual purpose. In addition to finding people, he will also help build relationships in the community.

A quick stop by a local store showed his popularity with children.

"You have a big old teddy bear right here that's going to go find a missing child or whoever needs to be found," Richard said.

Despite Zeus's strong nose and sweet disposition, he can still be used to catch criminals.

Richard explains Zeus will track the scent and when he gets close, a more aggressive, stronger dog on the force can then take down any suspects.

Copyright 2019 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved

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