About 24-hours after Hocking County Sheriff’s deputy Rick Torchick last saw his K9 partner Ilka, civilians and law enforcement have shown up at his Pickaway County home to lend a set of eyes to the search.
Ilka was last seen at Torchick’s home. What few houses dot the landscape in this area are surrounded by fields separated by patches of woods.
All involved in the search recognize a dog free to roam would be tough to spot.
“There’s a lot of space. There’s a lot of ground to cover. A lot of doors to knock on. It’s a large area,” said Hocking County Sheriff’s Department Lieutenant Ed Downs.
Signs that Ilka lives here with Torchick, like a few scattered dog toys, are in the background.
Front and center now, the focus is on the search for the 8-year-old Belgian Malinois.
Steps away, a local photographer mans a drone shooting video from the sky.
Down Jackson Road a bit, Torchick takes his search on the road eyeballing fields and shaking hands.
Going door to door knocking, talking and hoping for any sign of the K9 partner that has been by his side since 2013.
Six years ago, the two worked for the Ross County Sheriff’s Office before both retired, only to be rehired by the Hocking County Sheriff’s Department where the team is considered a good get.
“They’re both hard workers and it’s something that we didn’t have is an explosives dog which with today’s day and age with everything that goes on, it was a great catch for us,” said Downs.
Ilka is trained to detect explosives, apprehend suspects, conduct building searches, find lost items and ironically, locate missing persons.
Yet she’s so used to being by Torchick’s side that the fear is if she’s alone she is wandering and frightened.
“She could be running and she’s scared. She hasn’t been away from her handler this long ever. So she is scared and she’s running if nobody’s picked her up,” said Downs.
Torchick has even left the back door of his cruiser open to welcome Ilka in the event she returns when he’s gone. If you live in the area and have exterior surveillance cameras searchers are asking you to review the footage to see if you notice anything, any sign of Ilka or what direction she might have gone.