The burly police dog with big, floppy ears took one whiff of the white handkerchief and began her hunt.
Sniffing a tree trunk here and a patch of weeds there, the dog relentlessly investigated her surroundings, following an invisible zigzag trail through the large field.
After several distractions the dog found her prey: a young girl curled up under a tree. A newspaper photographer clicked away.
Meet the Baltimore Police Department's newest officer, a 1-year-old bloodhound named Rose.
"She's super-friendly," said Sgt. Thomas Poffenbarger, Rose's handler, after the demonstration. "People aren't going to be intimidated by her."
The department has other dogs for that. While Rose will be used to find lost children, Alzheimer's patients and robbers in hiding, the 10 other dogs who graduated from police training yesterday will have duties such as helping to subdue violent suspects and helping officers in a scrape.
Police officials said yesterday's ceremony represented an important step for the department, which has spent the past year revamping its once-struggling canine unit.
"This is very significant," Commissioner Edward T. Norris said. "A lot of the special units when I got here were not functioning, and this was one of them. Many handlers couldn't control their canines. A year ago I said, `We should fix this.' And now, they're back."
The canine unit includes 28 dogs, with one handler per dog. Fifteen of those teams are in their first year. Nine officers and three sergeants were transferred last year after performing poorly during evaluations.
The unit has made a significant turnaround. This year, the dogs have assisted in 273 arrests and seizures, beating last year's total of 271. Even more impressive, the unit has been short-handed for nearly three months while the 11 teams that graduated yesterday were trained.
Besides Rose, the class included three German shepherds, a Dutch shepherd, four Belgian malinois, a Belgian tervuren and a Labrador retriever. Rose, who was purchased from a breeder in Wilmington, N.C., is the unit's first bloodhound. They are constantly with their handlers, forming a bond. "He's with me 24-7," Officer Shawn Edwards said of his Belgian malinois, Barry. "He's my best friend and my partner."