The bloodhound takes off, nose to the ground, crisscrossing a Lumberton road and casting around in a circle at a corner intersection.
Less than a block down the road, the Beaumont Police Department’s newest recruit jumps a drainage ditch, running down a fence line before reaching a patch of woods.
“Liz! You found us!”
Lowe’s wife, Tabitha, and stepson, Michael Henderson, hid from Liz as part of a routine practice exercise for the tracker dog.
Infrared cameras and other gadgets are good, but Liz performs a function that can’t be replicated with today’s technology, said Jerry Lowe, a 44-yearold Beaumont police officer and Liz’s handler.
Although researchers at Pennsylvania State University are getting closer to developing an artificial nose that would replicate a dog’s sense of smell, they haven’t announced a breakthrough yet.
So far, researchers have mapped a dog’s nose and simulated how air flows in and out, but they still are working on fine-tuning the technology, research associate Brent Craven told The Enterprise by phone.
“Once the technology develops, pretty much anywhere you’d use a dog, you could use this,” he said.
To date, simulated do g noses created by the researches can only work for a limited range of chemicals. Too often, a mix of those same chemicals confuses the artificial noses.
Actual dog noses aren’t fooled like that.
Now an officer with the Port of Beaumont, former Hardin County jail administrator Coy Collins ran two bloodhounds for about seven years, starting in the late 1990s.
“They really never have come up with technology advanced enough to compete with a dog,” he said by phone. “Technology is trying to catch up to what nature already has. A bloodhound is the ultimate smelling factory.”
A consensus among many police handlers is that Liz’s bloodhound nose is even more sensitive than a German Shepherd’s or other breeds used by officers to track people, bombs or narcotics. Craven isn’t so sure.
“I’ve searched everywhere and talked to many different experts, and there’s nothing out there that indicates one breed’s sense of smell is better than another,” he said.
Read the rest of Blair Dedrick Ortmann’s AP story at Statesman.com.