SAN DIEGO — The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department’s first bloodhound is now on duty, the agency announced Tuesday.

Albert, a bloodhound dog who joined the department in Jan. 2022 as a 13-week-old puppy, has completed his training and will begin serving as part of the Sheriff’s Search and Rescue (SAR) K-9 Unit.

According to the department, Albert completed his training in March and received his badge from Sheriff Kelly Martinez. He was donated to the department by the Honorary Deputy Sheriff’s Association.

Albert was named in memory of Sgt. Don Albert Parker, a 25-year veteran with the department who served as unit leader of SAR for nine years, the department said in a news release. Parker, who died of brain cancer in 2018, led search efforts in several high-profile cases.

SAR K-9 Unit leader Pam Medhurst is Albert’s handler and both are members of the National Police Bloodhound Association (NPBA.) Notably, Pam and Albert are the only citizen volunteer members of the NPBA, due to Medhurt’s 24 years of volunteer service and search and rescue experience, SDSO said.

Albert is one of 18 dogs in the SAR K-9 Unit. Each dog undergoes a five-month academy and must complete a recertification with their handler every two years, officials added.

The Sheriff’s SAR team is comprised of 150 volunteers who perform wilderness and urban rescues and help search for missing people, the department said. They also assist with evacuations during wildfires, flash floods and other natural disasters.

You can find more information about volunteering with the department here.

Albert and Medhurst will be part of a training exercise Saturday on hiking safety and rappelling training. The department says that due recent heatwaves, the SAR Unit trains in various terrains and conditions to maintain readiness for a search and rescue call.