Florida Police Dog Tracks Down Missing 12-Year-Old Girl in Midst of Tropical Storm Elsa

As Tropical Storm Elsa raged around her on the night of July 6, sniffer dog Mercy tracked down a 12-year-old child who had been reported missing and endangered earlier that day.

Heavy rain and strong winds battered much of the South as Elsa headed up the coast. Since arriving in the continental United States on Wednesday, the storm, which was briefly classified as a hurricane as it passed over Cuba, has killed one person in Jacksonville, Florida; injured 10 near St. Marys, Georgia; and caused floods, felled trees, and left more than 25,000 Floridians without power.

It was in such severe weather conditions that the 12-year-old's family called the Lee County Sheriff's Office, which serves the citizens of Lee County as well as those of Bonita Springs, Estero and Fort Myers Beach, to report her missing earlier last week. She had run away from home, Caitlyn Mumma, one of the office's public information officers, told Newsweek.

Bloodhound Mercy tracked down a missing child.
Lee County Sheriff's Office bloodhound Mercy tracked down a missing 12-year-old girl in Florida during Tropical Storm Elsa. Facebook/Lee County Sheriff's Office

"In addition to the child's age, the weather conditions contributed to the urgency of the call," Mumma said.

The sheriff's office deployed K-9 Mercy, a female bloodhound, and her handler, Deputy Travis Jelly, to assist with the search, Mumma added. Referring to what Mumma characterized as a "[p]iece of clothing," Mercy tracked the child's scent for more than a half-mile through "thick woods" before locating her, according to a July 7 Facebook post by the sheriff's office. The child's identity was not made public.

"Thankfully, Mercy found her and brought her safely back home to her family," the post, which has been liked more than 3,800 times, concluded. It has 296 comments so far. Of them, the majority heaped praise on Mercy. Many said her hard work should be rewarded with a treat or two.

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"Give that dog a pig's ear," one wrote, adding a smiley-face emoji.

"Get that pretty girl some tuna!! And a towel," another wrote.

"Way to go Mercy! Your handlers need to give you a nice big steak!" a third wrote.

Mercy is a member of Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno's ReUnite program. Developed in partnership with United Way and the Sheriff's Youth Activities League, the program involves a "multi-layer [sic] approach to locating the missing and endangered," according to the county's website. Following what the News-Press of Fort Myers described as "hundreds of hours of training over about six months," Mercy and Sergeant Rich Castellon graduated from K-9 training school in July 2020 along with four other pairs of dogs and handlers.