Hounds have a real nose for finding criminals UNCOMMON SCENTS

April 25, 1991|By Carl Schoettler | Carl Schoettler,Evening Sun Staff

GRANTSVILLE -- Sgt. Malcolm Deuser pushes his bloodhound puppy's nose down onto the orange glove like a downhome preacher dunking a sinner and then sends the dog off with an explosive "FIND HIM!!"

The puppy, whose name is Scud, "casts" around the meadow, trotting back and forth in the gathering dark, searching for the scent, nose down, ears dragging, tail twitching. Then he lunges into the pine grove at the edge of the grassy field, pulling Deuser along with him at the end of a 30-foot leash.

Scud is young and eager and doing what a bloodhound does best: man-trailing.

Bloodhounds are unsurpassed among dogs in scenting ability. They can "scent discriminate," which means they can pick you out of a crowd of smells if you're the "runner" they're looking for.

"They're the ultimate dog on any trail," says Terry Davis, an undercover narc from Loudon County, Va. Davis dropped the orange glove as a "scent article" and then ran a trail for Scud to follow.

Bloodhounds can pick up a trail from nearly any "scent article," anything touched by their quarry, a cap, a handkerchief, a car seat, a gauze swab wiped across a car seat, money handled by the runner. Oldtimers tell about a runner captured by the scent left on a quarter.

"They do it naturally," Deuser says. He runs a K-9 unit in Jefferson County, Ky., and Scud is one of his newest members. "But you have to teach the dog to run who you tell him to run."

Deuser's not doing much teaching right now. Scud's really into his work, sniff, sniff, snuffle, snuffle, schnozzle, schnozzle, all nose and no nonsense.

Behind him, Deuser bobs and weaves on the end of the leash, dodging and darting through the underbrush with a kind of heavy-footed grace.

Deuser and Davis, and maybe Scud and Davis' dog Hope, are members of the National Police Bloodhound Association, which is meeting at a University of Maryland 4-H camp about 10 miles south of here at Pleasant Valley, where soft, rounded, hardwood-and-pine-fringed hills fold down to the sparkling water Cunningham Lake. About 80 dog handlers have brought 60 dogs for the training and seminar sessions, which are being held there for the third year.

Scud's just 3 1/2 months old and a little sleeker than older bloodhounds, who with their loose skin and mournful faces tend to look like very worried Old Testament prophets who have recently lost a lot of weight.

Scud finds Davis in about five minutes, hiding in a pile of pine branches about a quarter of mile from where he entered the wood lot. Scud noses into the pile and IDs Davis: Scud stands up on his back legs and plants his front paws on the narco officer's chest.

He's perhaps tempted by his reward, a slice of iced peanut-butter cake leftover from supper.

"It's a piece of cake, Scud," says Davis.

Davis and Deuser are NPBA instructors. They've led training sessions pretty much like this all day. They've come out to run their own dogs as the sun drops cold and gray behind the pines.

Deuser runs a trail pretty much like Scud's for Davis' dog, Hope, who works with a more methodical dignity befitting her age. She's 7 1/2 months and already has the dowager jowls of the adult female bloodhound.

And then Scud trails Davis on a second, half-mile, run just as night falls. Scud is very excited just before he finds Davis perched in a pine.

"See his head come up," Deuser says. "If that was an armed guy you'd be pulling your gun out about now."

The lawmen assembled here train their dogs to trail criminal suspects, search for missing persons, track escapees from prison.

Tony Warfield, a dog handler from the Eastern Correctional Institution at Princess Anne, brought his bloodhound, Sir Frederick, to Pleasant Valley. He trains Fred with a group led by Terry Davis, who brings them into Grantsville for a little urban, or at least small town, work.

"Fred's the only hound we have in the Division of Correction on the Eastern Shore," Warfield says, "only one on the east side of the Bay Bridge."

But Fred hasn't caught any fugitives. Nobody's escaped from E.C.I. during his term in office.

Sir Frederick comes by his name honestly enough. Bloodhounds have a noble lineage. They got their name not because they can smell blood but because they've got "pure" blood.

"They're blooded hounds," Terry Davis says. "Blue-blooded people used them to hunt poachers."

Dennis Guzlas, a deputy sheriff from DuPage County, Ill., who wears a mustache under his nose and what looks to be a Beretta on his hip, says a monk named Francis Hubert first bred bloodhounds in the seventh century.

"He kept records," Guzlas says, "and the blood line's pure, as they say. They saint-ized him later. He became St. Hubert, patron saint of hounds."

Bloodhounds have a certain patrician air about them, a look of world-weary resignation one associates with good breeding that despairs of the foibles of the lower orders.

But they do tend to slobber. One theory has it that the moisture helps capture the scent they pick up along the trail with their wonderfully sensitive schnozzolas.

And they have splendid voices that rumble forth basso profoundo arias when they're tied down in camp. But, despite the evidence of all the old movies, they do not bay on the trail.

"When Scud gets frustrated, he sits down and howls," Deuser says. "It means he's kind of lost."

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