HENRY COUNTY, Ga. -- Bill Hilsman sees real potential in his 2-year-old German Shepherd, Tess. She's young, but she already has a good track record as a K-9 search and rescue dog.
The two were just honored for a life-saving rescue three weeks ago.
It started with a call from Henry County Police, who said they needed help finding Julia Palmer, a 16-year-old with Asperger's Syndrome, a form of autism.
Palmer had wandered away from home at around 6 a.m.
"You have to get a scent article, some clothing the little girl's had on that nobody else has touched," Hilsman said.
He gave Tess some jeans to sniff, then they took off toward a creek behind the family's home.
"I went on up the creek, got away from the water," Hilsman said. "Tess picked the scent back up and followed her to where she was sleeping in some hard woods on the hillside."
It took 90 minutes for Tess to find Palmer when no one else could. She was safe.
"Oh, it made me feel good," Hilsman said. "It makes you feel good because you train a lot."
Hilsman is a retired Delta Air Lines mechanic who now volunteers with the Georgia Piedmont Region K-9 Search & Rescue, a nonprofit group that works with law enforcement across metro Atlanta.
"It's not about one person and one dog," he said. "It's about teamwork."
Hilsman and Tess received a special commendation from the Henry County Police Chief last week.