VALLEY CENTER, Calif. — School is in session for the newest member of the San Diego County Sheriff's Department.
Albert, a 12-week-old bloodhound puppy is working to become a search and rescue dog with the department's Search and Rescue (SAR) K-9 Unit.
Wednesday was his first day of training. He's the first bloodhound in the department's history.
"He’s very sweet, he’s very fearless," said Pam Medhurst, Albert's handler.
She's been a volunteer with the unit for the past 23 years.
"[Bloodhounds] have just been a hunting dog for a long time," Medhurst said. "Their nose has a long history of good finds. When they put their head down, their ears kind of channel that odor into their nostrils, so that helps helps them smell,"
The 14-pound pup will train to be prepared for any terrain -- using tunnels, barrels, and uneven surfaces for climbing and balancing.
Albert will eventually take part in wilderness and urban rescues and he'll help search for missing people. He'll also help with evacuations during natural disasters.
But for now, he's cute and curious. Medhurst said he often steps on his floppy ears while playing.
"He walks on them quite frequently and stops, trying to figure out why he can’t move forward," she laughed.
Albert's name holds special meaning to the unit. He's named after Sgt. Don Albert Parker, a 25-year veteran of the San Diego County Sheriff's Department.
He was the unit's coordinator for nine years and led the team on high profile cases including the search for Chelsea King and Amber DuBois. Sgt. Parker died of brain cancer in 2018.
The hope is Albert will carry on his legacy.
Albert will go through nine months of training before he's certified.
You can specify if you want your donation to go towards a specific SAR K-9, law enforcement K-9 or towards the purchase, training and care of Sheriff’s Department K-9s.
WATCH RELATED: San Diego Humane Society honors Betty White | More than 200 pets find furever homes (January 2022)