Off-duty police officer finds man missing in the woods with help of dog
An off-duty Manchester Township police sergeant on an early morning hunting trip returned with his biggest success story ever. Sgt. Charles Brooks, with the help of a loyal dog, found a man missing for more than 12 hours in the Pine Barrens.
“Coming down my normal trail and I see some dog tracks and human tracks that were out of place for that area,” Brooks says.
Brooks never bagged his sought-after white tail deer. Instead – “I got out of my vehicle and looked at the tracks closer and you can see someone was stumbling, walking their dogs. The tracks were a little off. Then I see a set of eyes looking at me and I realized it was someone’s pet,” Brooks says.
Fred Rapp, 78, along with his companion, a rescue dog named Petey, never made it home to his daughter’s house. He had become confused, drove down a path and got stuck. He then wandered the woods for hours in total darkness.
“He had left here 2 ½ hours prior. I knew he had gotten lost on the roads in Manchester Township and I was just beside myself, scared, because I don’t even know the roads well,” says Rapp’s daughter Heidi Sarno.
“The dog started whining and walking down the trail towards where the foot tracks were going. Followed the dog and after a couple hundred yards, the dog stopped and I observed the gentleman there in the woods,” says Brooks.
Rapp suffers from early stages of dementia. He had moved in with his daughter this year from his rural upstate New York home to be closer to family. He had his cellphone on him but was unable to answer it.
“I think he was very lucky. He was fortunate to have his dog with him and that I happened to pick that area that day and was able to use some of my trainings – police work and outdoorsmanship - to get a successful ending for this gentleman,” Brooks says.
Sarno says that she is happy that Brooks came by.
“He didn’t have to pay attention to a dog that approached him. He was off duty, enjoying his Sunday and he found my father,” she says.
Brooks says that if a loved one shows signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s, it is a good idea to get a GPS pendant for them and to also have a plan to make sure that they are well-versed on how to use a cellphone.
Rapp is still in the hospital but is expected to make a full recovery.