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Local dog, handler aid effort to find Rudolph

August 11, 1998

Bloodhound and handlerBy SHEILA HOTCHKIN / Staff Writer

photo: JOE CROCETTA / staff photographer [enlarge]




Two bags stand at the ready in Cpl. Doug Lowry's Hagerstown home.

One is stuffed with the clothes and supplies that the Maryland State Police trooper would need to spend days hiking North Carolina's Nantahala National Forest.

The other contains the harnesses, medication and supplies that a bloodhound named Jimmy would need to go with him.

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The state police K-9 team, which returned from the FBI manhunt for fugitive Eric Robert Rudolph on Saturday, is ready to rejoin the search at a moment's notice.

Lowry didn't receive much more notice than that when he was called for his first 10-day stint in the FBI search. He got the call on July 28.

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"They said, 'How would you like to go on a manhunt?' I said 'sure,' and they said, 'We want you here tomorrow.'"

Lowry estimates that six dog teams were chosen to search for Rudolph, who has been charged in the Jan. 29 bombing of a Birmingham, Ala., abortion clinic. The blast killed an off-duty police officer and severely injured a nurse.

Rudolph also is wanted for questioning in three Atlanta bombings, including the explosion at the 1996 Olympic Games. One woman died of injuries from the explosion, a man had a fatal heart attack and more than 100 people were injured.

He is on the FBI's 10 most wanted list.

Lowry and Jimmy joined the manhunt in the far west of North Carolina, where Rudolph, a skilled survivalist, is believed to have eluded authorities for six months.

"He played there as a child," said Lowry, the vice president of the National Police Bloodhound Association. "He knows that area like the back of his hand."

The heavily wooded terrain - filled with steep inclines, caves and poisonous snakes - is not as easy for an outsider to master, said Lowry, who received special instruction on treating heat exhaustion and snakebites in dogs before he left.

"It's probably some of the roughest terrain I've ever been in," he said.

Jimmy, however, maneuvered his 120-pound frame surprisingly well on the trip, he said.

Jimmy could not complain about his accommodations. He slept in the hotel room with Lowry and another canine team from Colorado. On the way home, he flew in the cabin with the first-class passengers.

Lowry's major concern was that his companion of five-years could be shot with the AR-15 rifle that authorities believe Rudolph is carrying.

"I knew that if we did get on a trail, Jimmy would be out in front," he said.

"It was always on the back of my mind that I could lose him out there to a gunshot or something. That was my biggest fear," he said.

Lowry admits to feeling something like a proud father toward Jimmy, whom he has raised since the dog was just a couple of months old.

The big reddish-brown animal with the mournful expression and wagging tail came to Lowry from Quebec, Canada.

"When I would praise him, I would praise him in American and French, so hopefully he'd known what I was saying," Lowry said.

Bloodhounds have played a major role in Lowry's life. In addition to the four with which he has been teamed, he met his wife Lynn at a bloodhound seminar.

She was a handler with the California Rescue Dog Association and was assigned to his training group. Two years later, they were married at the National Police Bloodhound Association's training school.

"I was in camouflage fatigues and she was in spandex tights with tracking boots," Lowry said. "Instead of rice, they threw dog food at us."

They now share their home with five dogs, four cats and a parrot - including a police dog that searches for bodies and a patrol dog cross-trained in narcotics sniffing.

It was Lynn who sent several days worth of dry dog food by overnight mail to North Carolina, when Lowry's stay was extended by a couple of days. They were worried that abruptly changing Jimmy's diet might disturb his work.

Not that Jimmy is easily distracted, Lowry said.

"I think it's more of a game to them," he said. "They like to run. They like to find people, and basically, that's all they like to do."

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