Sunday, August 23, 2009

Bloodhounds and man trailing

I don't know when my father developed an interest in Bloodhounds but he was interested in the scenting ability of hounds in general. I was about eight years old and my folks were not wealthy so Dad contacted a man with a reputation with that breed in Arkansas and bought two old bitches that were over the hill as far as being used for trailing but might be able to produce a litter or two of puppies. Old Bess had four puppies in her first and last litter and they were the basis of the White Isle Kennels. We lived in the city of New Haven near a city park, Edgewood and it would be in that park that I spent a great deal of time. First exploring and after the arrival of the hounds, laying trails for my father to use in training himself and the dogs. Dad had gone to Littlerock to listen to a bloodhound detective who had a reputation with convictions by the evidence of trailing to a crimnal that was recognized in courts as with no other breed of dog. His name was Captain V. G. Mullign. His title, Captain was awarded by a Governor of the state because of his effectiveness with his dogs.
As a housedog they did not work out. With ears dangling in their food and water as well as dripping from dangling jowells they can throw stuff all over the room with a shake of the head. As far as personality is concerned as well as disposition these are wonderful animals. Over the years we never had an individual with an untrustworthy disposition. Never a growel over food and always overjoyed to find a petting hand. We started training those first pups before it was necessary but great fun for the likes of a nine year old. Choosing a field with a stone wall across the rear of it I would pet and play with a puppy and run away calling back to it. Once reaching the stone wall I would climb over and duck out of sight and run a distande along the back of the wall and hide. Dad would release the puppy who would travel to the wall and climb over. It seemed as if the puppy had been trained to see it put it's nose to the ground and race right to me. The trials would become more and more complecated with my layin zig zag trails to challange the puppy. Eventually there had to be extended time between the trail and the dog's attepting to find the trailor. For the training of longer trails we would leave a piece of clothing such as a handcherchief at the starting point.
Bloodhounds are powerful creatures and when leashed pull when on trail with remarkable force. Before each training period we used a harness to indicate that the dog was going trailing and not for a walk. In the early days Dad used a double couple system, meaning two hounds tethered together but all too often the trail would lead through woods with one dog searching to the left and the other to the right of a tree. In 1931 Our new house in Orange was completed and we moved to that farming community of 2,ooo population. Woods all around and even a trout brook.
Dad shipped bitches in heat to Arkansas to be bred and those in training for trailing had almost limitless space to be trained in. Soon the news about the hounds has spread so that when a little five year old girl was out with her grandma berry picking behind their house the youngster wondered away. It was a Saturday and the neighbors gathered to help hunt for the lost infant. The police phoned at about midnight and asked my father to bring the hounds. The baby's play suit had been found and Dad told them to put the playsuit back where it was foung and to corden the area to make it easier for the dogs. We arrived shortly after sunup and there seemed to be thousands of locals arriving to help in the hunt. Police, volunteer fire fighters girl and boy scouts and all sorts of other groups were searching. They were in the process of organizing the people to form a line with individuals eight feet apart and to comb the area which they did while we were getting the lay of the land. It turned out to be the hottest day of the year and the dogs trailed to a low area swamp with impenetoarable briars and vines and brush. With another attempt they were started and trailed back to the house where the child and grandma lived and Dad stoped the trailing as the dogs were getting overheated. Late in the day the search with the dogs started again. They insisted on trailing to the briars and finally, not being able to penetrate them Dad let the dogs go. Someone got through and found the dogs licking the infant sitting, naked, waist deep in water.
Where most hunting dogs go in for the kill at the end of the trail, the bloodhounds seem to get their satisfaction with finding the person they have trailed as the ultimate reward. Another case concerned a murderer who had escaped from the police. He hs been spotted by the police where he used a high powered gun to try to kill two officers who had spotted him. He ran off through some woods. The police begged my father to bring the hounds and at first Dad said he did not want to do criminal trailing as he had a wife and two children. The police said there would be a small army of police with plenty of guns to protect Dad. He went with a convoy of siren screaming police cars. It was when Dad was trailing with two dogs at a time. The trail was fresh, only five or so hours old and the going was easy. When you are trailing with these hounds as they get close to the "game" they show it and Dad pulled up the leash to be sure the police were close by. They were not even in calling distance. He had been so interested in the dogs he had been pulled much faster than the army of police. Dad took the dogs back and home. Months later the mentality of this criminal was demonstrated when on a bus, a collection of burgler tools was found and placed in a lost and found location with a plain clothes policeman watching. When the burgler arrived to claim his tools he was arrested. He later said he had his gun site on one of the dogs but was afraid of shooting becasuse the other dog would get him. Those gentle great hounds still have police use in finding lost people but perhaps,unfortuanately do not make good house pets. If there is one in a local area it should be trained for the fun of it and one day someone will wander off on foot for a dog to locate. At present police departments in many areas have trained bloodhounds. For fresh trails any dog can be trained. Eventually the White Isle Kennels became the largest kennel of bloodhounds in perhaps the world.

No comments:

Post a Comment