For a 76-year-old Nova Scotia man, Lear is king.
The two-year-old German shepherd, the latest recruit for Kings District RCMP, helped find the man reported missing from his home in the Sunken Lake area late on Nov. 26.
A search was started near the missing man's home. Lear and his handler eventually found the man safe in the woods several hours later after a four-kilometre search.
Lear only started working in Nova Scotia this September after being trained in Alberta.
RCMP Cpl. Jeff Wall, Lear's handler, said the dog has police work in his genes.
"He comes from quite literally a long line of police dogs," he said. "His dad was a police dog as well. His mother was part of our breeding program, but not a police dog."
Longest search so far
Wall said the rescue of the missing man was Lear's longest effort so far in his two months with the force.
Before Lear arrived in the province, he and Wall worked together at the police dog training centre in Innisfail, Alta.
The time together helped them bond.
"That's probably the most important part of our training," he said. "Our training centre really looks at the whole team, the handler and the dog as a package and how they work together.
"It's pairing the right dog with the right handler to get the just the absolute best result we can make for a team."
General duty tandem
Lear and Wall were trained as a general duty police dog service team.
It means they can track suspects, find lost people and help front-line investigators find clues. They can also take down a suspect, if necessary.
It's all based on the dog's ability to track a fresh human scent, but Wall said environment factors can sometimes present challenges.
Extreme, heat or cold and high winds can affect the dog's ability to pick up a scent, as can too many other scents in the area.
This often happens when family members and other well-intentioned people are also looking for a missing person, as was the case with the Sunken Lake search.
Just a little praise
"The big challenge that night was kind of breaking away from that and locating a track, and kind of departing the general area," Wall said.
"Once we established that, it was kind of obvious that no other person would be in this part of the forest at this time of night other than our missing male."
Wall said, like people, Lear just wants a little praise after he does a good job.
Unlike his human counterparts though, Lear got to play ball after finding the missing man, and he got a treat.
Wall thanked Kings County and West Hants ground search teams for allowing the story to end happily.
"This doesn't happen this way all the time," he said. "Conditions were in our favour.
"I've got a really strong tracking dog and I'm just super happy that it worked out the way it did."
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