By Myron Robb and Mike McMillan
The image of a bloodhound forms an important part of the Contra Costa County Search and Rescue Team’s shoulder patch. As Evan Hubbard wrote in the March 2010 issue of the Callout, an early revision to the patch (1979) added the bloodhound. Contra Costa SAR was the first search and rescue team in the state to use bloodhounds. Here’s how that came to be:In 1970, Myron and Judy Robb began raising bloodhounds in Walnut Creek, primarily as show dogs. In 1976, Judy, and friends Bev Mestressat and Lynn Hanson, were invited to give a working bloodhound demonstration to Contra Costa SAR. That demonstration was so effective, it led to the formation of the Sheriff’s Office bloodhound unit and by the end of the 1970s, the SAR team was organized into seven divisions: Bloodhound/Tracking, Communications, Equestrian, 4x4s, Medical, Support and Explorers.
The bloodhound unit’s third callout was for a high-profile case at the Lafayette Reservoir on Nov. 14, 1978, in which a 40-year-old female jogger went missing. Her car was found in the parking lot. Judy Robb and K9 Pita arrived at the search, but were unable to get a proper scent article, so Judy scented Pita off the woman’s car door handle.
After 20 minutes of trailing, the bloodhound led her to the woman’s body about 65 feet off the trail, concealed in heavy underbrush. Their excellent work on this case set the scene for a busy SAR career for Judy, Pita, and members of the CoCoSAR bloodhound unit and in 1982, Judy and Myron were named the Contra Costa Sheriff’s Office volunteers of the year for their contributions.
In just a few years, the bloodhounds and their handlers became well known throughout the state. From this basis in bloodhounds, the SAR Canine Resource grew to include a number of breeds. In 1998, the resource included 16 handlers and at least five breeds, but it’s the bloodhound that remains the icon on the team’s patch.
Myron retired in 1993 and he and Judy moved to a log home in the Ponderosa pine forests near Pioneer, Calif. Judy passed away in July 2010. Myron continues his interests in bloodhounds as second vice president of the American Bloodhound Club and treasurer of the northern chapter of Bloodhounds West. Mike is a member of CoCo SAR and is raising Baskerville, a bloodhound puppy.