West Chester >> Anyone familiar with K-9 Nero, a stately, bomb-sniffing German shepherd, regarded him as a rock star long before he expanded that definition.
In early May, Nero and his partner, Chester County Deputy Sheriff Matthew “Jamie” Mendenhall, were participating in a routine training exercise when Nero literally left no stone unturned. The K-9 located a rock that had been planted by a member of the Kennett Rock Hunt. The group’s representatives paint the stones with colorful images and messages and then hide them, hoping to bring some whimsical, well-grounded merriment to their discoverers.
Nero’s prize fulfilled the group’s mission by bringing a smile to Mendenhall’s face. Under a drawing of a crab was the message: Don’t be crabby! The other side of the rock contained a request to post a picture with the newfound treasure on the Kennett Rock Hunt’s Facebook page, which he did.
The page offered further instructions to expand the fun by moving the rock to a new location where it could be rediscovered. Those interested in keeping their rock are asked to paint a new one and hide it somewhere.
The deputy chose option two. He placed his cheerful crab in a place of honor and offered the job of creating a new treasure to his 6-year-old daughter, who happily complied. She drew a paw print accompanied by the words “K-9 Nero.”
On Memorial Day, the Mendenhall family hid the memento at the Appalachian Campground in upper Berks County. A week later, a new owner transported it to Smyrna, De., where someone else found it and took it to Fenwick Island. Another discoverer continued the journey south, this time to Ocean City, Md., where the rock suddenly reversed course.
Mendenhall said the last Facebook post documented the well-traveled stone as it headed north to Plymouth Meeting, the home of its latest owner. Where it lands next is anyone’s guess.
Tracking the odyssey has become a fun, family pastime, Mendenhall said.
“It’s opened up a whole world of entertaining discovery,” he explained. “We’re eager to see where it goes next.”
In the meantime, Chester County Sheriff Carolyn Bunny Welsh said she has also enjoyed Nero’s virtual globe-trotting. “This is great fun,” said Welsh. “I can’t wait to see our future rock adventures.”
In fact, Welsh wondered whether each K-9 team should have a signature rock to circulate, involving the deputies’ families in the process of creating it. At the very least, the process could offer a momentary escape from the grindstone. “It’s a wonderful experience for kids and deputies as well as dogs,” Welsh added.