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Decatur native plays crucial role in finding weapon used at Martinsville school shooting

April 4, 2011

Hannah and Jon Fennig

    Authorities in Martinsville have a gun as evidence in the March 25 middle school shooting, thanks to Decatur native Jon Fennig, an Indiana Conservation officer, and his resource protection dog, Abby.
    Fennig, who works out of Johnson County, was called in to look for the weapon when Martinsville authorities, familiar with him and his partner, called for assistance.
    "Martinsville authorities tracked the suspect and eventually found him, in town. He (the suspect) told them the area where he had hidden the gun. They put their dog in on it, couldn't find it. Morgan County put their dog in on it, couldn't find it," said Fennig.
    "They called me. I put my dog in, and 20 minutes later she found it," explained the former standout runner and wrestler at Bellmont, and the son of Sid and Mary Fennig.
    Abby is a chocolate Lab taken out of a shelter. Jon and Abby have teamed up for over two yearas.
    Abby was able to find the gun because of her extensive training. "For this job,  she hits on different things, like burned gun power, fresh gun powder, gun oil, and human scent. We teach her to hit on those types of things, and being a chocolate Lab, she's used to using her nose to find things," said Fennig.
    Fennig estimates that Abby was a year and one-half old when she began training, and he hopes to have her a total of 10 years. He cares for her at a kennel on his home property.
    "When I was in Bloomington I had done several things for their department and the Bloomington PD, so they were aware of our team," said Fennig, who noted that he and Abby tracked down a murder suspect for the Bloomington authorities.
    "Main tracking is our primary job and she's had no aggression training. We do evidence detection, which is obviously what we were doing in Martinsville. Instead of finding drugs and bombs, we find fish and game because that's what we work at," he explained.
    "We do our best, and we've made some pretty good cases. Besides the murder suspect, we've located a lot of lost people. Our longest track was six and one-half miles looking for two lost hikers. They had cell phone contact with them but we had no idea where they were. We told them to sit tight and they told us where their car was located. We found it and off we went, and we found them.
    "The worst part of that case was the walk back. I was with a U.S. Forest Service guy, and the best we could figure to find the main road, unfortunately, was the route we came in on, so it ended up being an 11-mile day. But we found the hikers, so that was a good day," said Fennig.
    Fennig makes sure he has plenty of water for Abby, and for him, on a trek. "Typically, in a long track like that, we'll put a camel-pack on so we have plenty of water for her and me, because when you do a track with my dog it's a run.
    "Whenever I get out on a track and get a rolly-polly deputy ... well, I ask for someone in a little better shape, because if this guy wants to fight, the big guy is not going to make it," notes Fennig.
    Fennig performs all the typical duties of a Indiana conservation officer. "I use my dog a ton. It's nine weeks of training, and we do it ourselves. When we get our dogs they know nothing about tracking, anything they learn we teach them from the ground up."    
    Jon and his wife of four and one-half years, Hannah, have a two-year-old son, Liam, born on Jon's birthday.
    Fennig obviously enjoys his work, and his wonder dog, Abby.

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