Scent preservation kit helps track missing woman

- An elderly woman suffering from dementia is back home thanks to a K9 and an extra precaution she had taken years ago.

About two years ago, the woman had completed a scent preservation kit. On Monday night, it's what may have saved her life.

The Citrus County Sheriff's Office received a call about a missing endangered elderly woman. She had been reported missing from her Sugarmill Woods home for about two hours, but it only took a K9 named Ally and her handler, Deputy Justin Williams, five minutes to find her.

Deputies are crediting her scent preservation kit with the quick rescue.

The kit is designed to preserve a person's scent for seven years, or longer if kept unopened. The process is simple and can be done at home: a swab is taken from under the arm using a sterile pad from the kit and then sealed in a special jar with evidence tape. It's then stored at room temperature.

If a loved one goes missing, the kit can be taken to law enforcement so K9 units can get to work immediately. K9 officers said these kits are helpful because they give tracking dogs a pure sample of the missing person's scent. Household items aren't nearly as effective because can be contaminated with other scents as well, making it difficult for a dog to focus in on what they're trying to find.

In Citrus County, scent preservation kits are provided for free at several locations including:

- Inverness Library: 1511 Druid Road
- Citrus County Chamber of Commerce: 915 N Suncoast Boulevard in Crystal River
- Homosassa Library: 4100 S Grandmarch Avenue
- Crystal River Library: 8619 W Crystal Street
- Citrus County Chronicle: 1624 N Meadowcrest Blvd in Crystal River                                    
- For other locations, visit Find M' Friends Inc. at http://www.findmfriends.org/contact-us.html

The kits are recommended for anyone with dementia, autism, Alzheimer's or other conditions that might make someone vulnerable.

In a Facebook post, the Sheriff's Office said Ally also had a sweet ending. She was treated to a vanilla ice cream cone as a special reward for her efforts.

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