By Molly Kirk/DWR
Photos by Meghan Marchetti/DWR
A veteran of the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) Conservation Police K9 team since 2017, K9 Bailey retired as of January 10, 2023. Bailey, a 6-year-old black Labrador Retriever, will stay with her handler, former Conservation Police Officer (CPO) Jim Patrillo.
“She was really good at what she did, not just the regular CPO work, but when we added in the human remains detection and she became quite proficient at that as well,” said Patrillo, who has also left the Conservation Police but still works for DWR as Waterways Program Manager. “It was great watching her go from a pudgeball puppy and progress into, in my opinion, one of the best dogs we had.” Patrillo and Bailey were assigned to Region 1, covering the area from Richmond to the Eastern Shore, but they also worked all over the state.
“It’s hard to keep track of all the things [Patrillo] and Bailey have found for our agency and other agencies, on cases from trespassing and poaching to homicides and breaking-and-entering cases. Then they added in the human remains detection capabilities. They had quite a bit of success in the human remains detection on water and on land,” said Sergeant Richard Howald. “As an officer and a K9, they were both so consistent. If it was there, Bailey was going to find it. [Patrillo] also understood that part of our mission as an agency is to promote hunting, fishing, and boating, so he volunteered for extra outreach duties. He was committed to the program.”
On November 5, 2022, K9 Bailey’s capabilities were on full display as she successfully contributed to three investigations. First, she assisted in a case of shooting from the road in Hanover County, where she located the wadding material from a shotgun slug. She and Patrillo were then called to Henrico County to help locate suspected trespassers.
“Bailey tracked from the vehicle over two miles to the guys that were fishing on country property that weren’t supposed to be there,” said Patrillo. “When I interviewed the guys and asked them where they’d gone, I realized Bailey had taken us step by step where they’d walked. They’d gone in places we didn’t think they would walk, so I was sort of questioning the dog, but she was right on it the whole time.”
While on the trespassing track, Patrillo received a call from the Westmoreland County Sheriff’s Office requesting K9 Bailey’s assistance with a homicide investigation. Patrillo deployed K9 Bailey on a search warrant of a suspect’s vehicle. “She was able to locate human blood on a car that had been washed, waxed, and spray-painted. She alerted on the bumper, and we couldn’t see anything, so we didn’t know what she was alerting on, but I felt pretty confident there was something there,” said Patrillo. “Then through their forensic process, they verified it was human blood and it was the victim’s blood, so they were able to secure homicide charges off of Bailey’s work.
“That was one of the most rewarding days I’ve had, because she was able to perform successfully all three of the disciplines she’s trained on—she did an article search, successfully located people over a two-mile track, and then was able to locate human remains, from just a speck of dried blood that was almost a week old that had been washed, waxed, and spray-painted over. It was an amazing day for her,” said Patrillo.
Over the years, Patrillo came to trust Bailey’s keen tracking and search skills. “If she didn’t find it, I was pretty confident it wasn’t there,” he said. “I got calls from all over the region and state from people who knew her reputation and would ask us to come out so Bailey could help them find a shell casing or something else they were looking for. One case I remember in particular was a horse that had been shot during hunting season. They’d been working the case for two weeks when they called and asked for Bailey to come out, and within minutes of us being on site, she was able to find the shell casings and the wad they’d been looking for.”
Patrillo’s decision to retire Bailey came as she matured, and he knew that staying in DWR’s K9 program would require him being assigned a younger dog. “Looking ahead to Bailey’s retirement, I didn’t have the heart to leave her home and take another dog to work. That would be really tough for her,” he said. “She follows me everywhere I go; we’re really bonded.” In addition, Patrillo wanted to spend more time with his family, so stepping down from the Conservation Police at the same time made sense for him.
Bailey has seamlessly transitioned to the family dog role, but she keeps her nose sharp. “She lays on the couch with my son and she’s my whole family’s best friend,” said Patrillo. “My son can’t win at hide-and-seek because she tracks him and finds him in seconds. Wherever he’s hiding, she knows. She’s a great dog and a great companion in addition to being an outstanding K9.”
Patrillo takes Bailey with him everywhere, including to his father-in-law’s cattle farm, where she can ride on the tractor with him and run. “I still go out and shoot guns and let her find the shell casings. My son will go for a walk in the woods, and she’ll track him and find him. She’s still doing all the things she loves and did as a K9,” he said.
Patrillo describes his work as a K9 CPO with Bailey as “most gratifying work I’ve done to date,” he said. “I would like to thank the agency for giving me the opportunity to be in K9. I also wanted to thank Sergeant Richard Howald and Sergeant Wes Billings for training me and mentoring me when I first came to the K9 unit. Finally, I would like to thank Ward Burton and the Ward Burton Wildlife Foundation for donating Bailey to the DWR K9 program.”