Sunday, August 10, 2008

"My track went down the drain!" and other experiences from last night's VST training

One of the things I enjoy most about tracking is watching Devon figure out scenting problems. Last night was no exception, and I also get the joy of watching Archie and Sage also work through their various challenges.

Archie and Sage went through a parking garage last night. Steve assures us they don't often throw a parking garage in a test, but they do sometimes. Given the additional human scent and the oils and other materials coming off vehicles this is an interesting challenge. Both dogs worked it out well, and it's a challenge I look forward to working with Devon.

We were supposed to run Devon's track first; however, when we drove by the sprinkler system was running right on Devon's flag and start article! I laughed all the way to Archie's track! I told Steve, Janet and Terrie I did have a rain suit if we needed it! Instead, we ran it about an hour later. The track was three hours old (just in test range), and Steve said it was approximately 600 yards long, so although it was a little too heavy on non-veg, it was close to a test track.

Our start article was a little soggy, but Devon found the track quickly. However, she pulled up and circled (indicating lost scent) at about 10 yards. This was odd because it was on grass and three hours old so it should have been a straight forward start. I let her search and she ended up on the left with her nose down along the curb scenting back toward me where the curb and road meet. She investigated that then came back to the grass and went a few more yards when she repeated this pattern. That's when it hit me what she was doing. The run off from the sprinkler water had run to the curb, then along the edge of the road to the storm drain. Devon was following the scent of her tracker in the water as it ran off the grass. I asked Devon, "Did you tracklayer wash down the drain?" She thought maybe he did! After the third time of investigating this strange scenting challenge, she realized her tracklayer didn't wash away, but the scent was sure washing away! She moved on to the rest of her track.

The other funny challenge we had was near the end of our track. We came across a parking lot onto grass headed around some pine trees. Since Steve was my tracklayer, and I had given him and Archie a devil of track last weekend, he had reminded me from the outset that paybacks were hell. One of the things I'd given him was tossing his finish article in a pine tree, and then in the dark none of us, including Archie who knew it was in there, could find it. I turned and asked Steve if he'd thrown Devon's finish article in the tree since I figured we were coming to the end of this track. He laughed and said no but as he was laying this section a Robin had been sitting under this tree watching him. He had told the Robin it better move before the dog came through.

Just about that time Devon starts searching under the edge of the tree, intent on finding something. I had just opened my mouth to ask her what she had, when she backed out from the tree and what was in her mouth started to chirp and complain -- the Robin! She had retrieved yet another live bird for me! She put it down, and I said, "Hey Devon, we're tracking!" She seemed to remember we weren't doing field work and went right back to tracking. A few yards later she found her glove!

Steve laughed and said, "I really don't think you'll have a bit of problems with live fliers in hunt tests since Devon wants to retrieve live birds!" In fact, while Devon was quite proud of her glove, she continued to look back around the tree for her bird. I know if I would have said, "FETCH!" I would have give her a quick field lesson, too! What a girl she is!

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