ALACHUA COUNTY -- Alachua County Animal Services was recently one of the key facilitators in the rescue of a missing Alachua County woman. Elinore Sheffield, 66, a Gainesville resident in the latter stages of Alzheimer's disease was reported missing by her family Wednesday, June 21, with no one having seen her since the previous day. Family members theorized that she became disoriented due to her disease while walking her pet poodle, Peaches.
Over the next seven days Alachua County Sheriff's Office deputies searched for her, employing helicopters and dogs, but found no evidence of her whereabouts.
During that time, Alachua County Animal Services, at the request of a family member of Ms. Sheffield, and in cooperation with the Sheriff's Office, set traps and routinely patrolled the area around the missing woman's house, in an attempt to locate Peaches, and thereby locate the woman. They also canvassed the area, inquiring if neighbors and residents had sited the dog. Samantha Davis, Steve Gayler and Hilary Hynes were the Animal Services officers who set the traps, while all of the remaining officers in the division were involved in patrolling and canvassing the area. The operation was conducted and coordinated by Field Operations Supervisor Vernon Sawyer. Sawyer's previous experience as a police officer and his ability to coordinate with the Sheriff's Office was very instrumental in Animal Services’ efforts in this matter.
On the tenth day of her disappearance, a construction worker at a site north of Sheffield's home found the poodle. Animal Services Officer Freddie Edwards was dispatched to collect the poodle and Ms. Sheffield's brother was contacted to identify it. After it was positively identified, officer Edwards took the poodle back to the construction site where Sheriff's deputies were beginning to assemble for another search after being notified of the discovery of Peaches.
Officer Edwards, who is trained in canine search and rescue, was walking the poodle on a leash near the woods adjacent to the construction site, when he noticed its keen interest in a certain location in the woods. Edwards alerted deputies, who later rescued Ms. Sheffield twenty five yards into the woods where her dog was indicating.
Ms. Sheffield was found lying next to a creek, uninjured and remembering nothing of the previous ten days.
Alachua County applauds the efforts of all of the individuals involved in rescuing Ms. Sheffield.