Thursday, July 24, 2014
Amanda and Billy Harmon lived through an eternity for about four hours one anxiety-ridden night this summer.
That’s when their special-needs daughter Hannah wandered off and got lost in the woods near their home in Legend Oaks.
Hannah was found safe and sound, thanks in large part to the efforts of bloodhound Caley, and Tuesday Hannah and Caley were reunited for the first time since the rescue.
In truth, Hannah doesn’t remember much of that night. She doesn’t remember why she wandered off as the rest of the family unloaded the car; she doesn’t remember telling the deputy who found her that she has special needs, had hit her head and probably needed oxygen – she’s learned well to advocate for herself over the years, her mother said – and, animal-lover that she is, she doesn’t remember wanting absolutely nothing to do with Caley.
The behavioral changes and memory problems are due to Williams syndrome and Moyamoya syndrome – both rare diseases on their own and even more unusual in combination.
At 21, Hannah has lived to be the oldest person with both diseases, Amanda Harmon said.
Amanda Harmon was calm and grateful Tuesday, but that wasn’t the case when she realized Hannah was gone. She said she was unloading the car and thought Hannah had gone into the house. Once she went inside, she couldn’t find Hannah.
The family started searching the home, then reached out to neighbors.
One of the characteristics of Williams syndrome is an unusually sociable nature. The Harmons moved to the neighborhood only in April so they don’t know many people, yet they hoped to find Hannah chatting up a nearby family.
Once it became clear Hannah was gone, the family called the sheriff’s office for help.
Neighbors stepped in to help search, too.
“We had neighbors we’d never met there helping us find her,” Amanda Harmon said.
As the search widened, Sgt. Justin Eaches and Caley were called in.
Caley is a 4-year-old pure bloodhound who’s worked for the sheriff’s office for three years. She’s a no-bite dog; she doesn’t hunt down suspects but helps only in cases of missing people.
Eaches said Caley works purely for praise. She doesn’t need treats; she just wants the praise and love.
“That night, she didn’t miss a beat,” Eaches said.
She got Hannah’s scent and pulled Eaches off into the woods. Soon Eaches heard Hannah screaming. It was so dark, though, that he couldn’t see her until the pair got within about 50 yards of the missing woman.
The rescue marks Caley’s first “find” in a real-life situation. Up until now, missing people have been found before Caley got started, Eaches said.
Tuesday, Hannah and Caley enjoyed getting to know each other.
Sheriff L.C. Knight presented Hannah with a certificate of bravery to commend her for keeping her cool as deputies searched, and Hannah presented deputies with some homemade goodies.
As the Harmons thanked the deputies for their work, Chief Deputy Sam Richardson said it’s all part of the job. Never hesitate to call, he said.