Bloodhound returns to St. John’s

Despite cold winds and treacherous footing at a lake on the St. John’s campus, Hoover was back on the job at St. John’s on Saturday.

Accompanied by Todd Borell and Bart Lauer of the Maple Lake Fire Department, Hoover’s owner, Penny Bell, continued the tracking effort to locate Joshua Guimond that brought her to the St. John’s campus for the third time in a month.

Two weeks ago, Hoover led searchers to an area of Sagatagan Lake located behind the St. John’s abbey. Starting out on Saturday morning from the spot close to shore where that effort left off, the search party, which also included Bell’s two assistants and Joshua’s father, Brian, followed Hoover on a path that led further out into the lake.

However, the cold and icy conditions were hard on Hoover, requiring at one point that the dog be transported back to a warm car by sled. Brian Guimond said Hoover was finally placed in the sled to do her tracking. “It was just like she was in a boat then,” he said.

At various points where Hoover showed interest, holes were drilled in the ice to give the dog a chance to catch a scent in the water beneath.

Brian said Hoover took the group out to an area toward the middle of the lake, but the search came to a halt at about 3 p.m. when members of the St. John’s Life and Safety staff asked the group to leave.

“First, they said we were interfering with the investigation,” Brian said. “And then they said you couldn’t have pets on campus.”

Michael Hemmesh, St. John’s director of communications, said that both statements are accurate.

“It’s true, pets aren’t allowed on campus,” he said. “But they were asked to leave because the search was not coordinated through Stearns County and any search they would do would impede on that investigation.”

Hemmesch said that St. John’s would be agreeable to additional search requests as long as they are coordinated through the Stearns County Sheriff’s Department.

Whether that will happen or if Hoover will return to St. John’s is undecided.  “We’ll have to see what develops,” Brian said.

But the weekend definitely ended on a high note for Joshua’s family with Sunday’s big turnout for the “Find Josh” Benefit, which was also attended by Penny Bell and Hoover.  Brian said he was overwhelmed by the long lines of people that kept streaming into the Maple Lake VFW.

“That was unbelievable,” he said. “It showed a lot of support from everybody around.”