Monday, September 8, 2008

PA hunt test, day 2

Well the second day of our hunt test was truly a TEST! We were in a large alfalfa field where the cover was almost to our knees. The first mark was off to our left, about 60 yards. The second mark was 100 yards down a valley and up a hill, landing on the face of the hill near the top. When the judges set the test and scented the area on the second mark, they had the mark landing on the top of the hill. However, the test dog ran past the mark and disappeared of the back of the hill. The judges didn’t want our junior dogs out of sight, so they changed the angle of the mark lower so it landed on the front face of the hill. The only down side was this was not the area scented, and many dogs ran to the scented area and had a big search.

Devon acted like she did these marks every day! She put her two front feet on the first mark, retrieving it so fast I barely had time to remember to put my whistle in my mouth. On the second mark, she exploded from the line and down the hill at top speed. As she came up the hill she sucked into a row and was now headed more than 45 degrees off the line and to the left of the bird a good 30+ yards. I held my breath. As soon as she was parallel to the bird, she made a 90 degree right turn and put her two front feet on the duck. She picked it up and raced back to me.

As Devon came up the hill, she started to slow and looked like she was going to stop. She was about 20 yards from me and you'll have to read the next post to see what happened next. She did come into me with the bird and give a perfect retrieve -- she's such a good girl!

I was so proud of her on these land marks, that I had tears in my eyes! What an amazing accomplishment for the two of us to run land marks like this when I certainly had no idea what field was about before I got Devon. She has the ability, and it was just incredible to watch it come out. I put her leash on her and I’m sure I had a big stupid grin on my face. From behind me I heard, “good job” and “thank you” from the judges. “That’s it!?!?!?” I wanted to say. “You just saw a brilliant performance, and that’s all the enthusiasm you can produce!”

After I got her to the van and gave her some more kibble from her breakfast and toweled her off, I headed to the woman in the vehicle next to me. She ran a Golden earlier in the series and I could tell she knew what she was doing. I asked her if the judges always were this quiet! Basically she said yes unless you do something bad. She said she was a judge and she really enjoyed talking with the junior handlers, but not all the judges gave a lot of feedback.

In the course of the conversation, she said she was from Buffalo, NY. I asked if she knew Mary and her dog Brita. She grinned and said yes, and you could tell she was putting something together in her mind. I said that Devon and Brita were littermates. She said that as she watched Devon run her marks, she had thought how much Devon looked like Brita. Later as we were talking more, she said it wasn’t necessarily their resemblance, but it was their mannerisms and movement as they worked. It was so funny because that was the same thing I thought when I saw a video of Brita doing agility. It was like watching Devon even though the two dogs are different colors and have slightly different builds. They do share similar facial expressions.
Of our group, Zoe was the biggest heart attack of the morning. When she went to the long mark, she searched and searched. Being a Champion Tracker, we expected she’d nail the mark. However, this is one time her nose did her a disservice. Zoe marked every single bird fall there was in the junior test that morning, and likely the senior test the day before. She was so cute when she indicated, “oh here it is!” then would look down and no bird! After more than 90 seconds of searching, she stopped and looked back at her mom like, “Are you SURE something is out here?” but she went back to work. Her persistence paid off and she FINALLY found the duck. The judges said to Janet, “you can breathe now!” and she turned and said, “no kidding!” Janet was about to collapse from all the adrenalin that raced through her as Zoe searched!

We only had 25 dogs on Sunday and with the scratches Devon ran 9th in the order when she was actually dog 12. We were done with our land marks by 9:40 a.m., and we were off to water. Steve wandered over and watched them set up the water marks. When I walked up and said, “How do they look?” He said, “Splash, splash.” Both were in the water! The first mark was 45 yards and the second about 50 yards.

We had to walk down to the edge of the bank and I set Devon up to the left of a bush on the edge of the pond so she could see the duck land. She looked straight out to the water, and then you could tell she was annoyed with my placement because the bush was in the way as she scanned the bank of the pond for the gunners. It’s amazing to see this dog work the set ups! I remember during her puppy testing, Gayle said she was equally environmentally aware as people oriented, and that the environmental awareness would help me in the field work. She wasn’t kidding. Devon heels to the line and her head is scanning the whole field. She picks out her gunners whether exposed or hidden before she even sits on the line.

For the water marks on Sunday, she looked past that “stupid” bush and identified the gunning station and you could see her relax. I took off the leash and called for the bird. She watched the bird from the time it was launched until it landed, then swam straight for it when she was released. She repeated this on the second mark. She never considered cheating the bank.

The only trouble she had on these two marks was at the bank going out. The long grass had been pushed into the water, and apparently it dropped off rather quickly. Devon didn’t like wading out into the wet, underwater grass, acting like she was stepping through oatmeal up to her body. She kicked free on the first mark and it looked like she had some problems kicking out of the grass into the water. Later Steve said Archie found a stick that was right in that area, and we decided Devon might have actually gotten tangled in that stick, too. However, she never turned back and kept her eyes on her duck the whole time.

Coming in on her second water mark, she was starting to sit in heel and she dropped the bird. This was shocking to me since she’s never done that before. I was about to scold her when she shook the water off. She usually holds her duck or bumper until I take it and then shakes. However, I wonder if she was getting tired after her second day of testing and forgot. I let her shake then said, “fetch it up” and she immediately did.

So this time after two great water marks, I put Devon’s leash on and told her did a great job and gave her a big pat. My effusive judges didn’t say a single word to me as I left the line – not even thank you! Luckily Janet and Beth were in the small gallery and they were cheering. The AKC rep who had spoken to me earlier also watched me run and said we did a great job and was all smiles for me.

After receiving our second orange ribbon, I went to the judges to check my scores. This was something the judges on Saturday seemed unwilling to provide me. I told them it was my first ever weekend at a hunt test, and I wanted to know if there was anything specifically I could work on. The first judge looked at me with a totally blank look. I told him I had a Golden, and we were dog 12. He went for his book because he didn’t remember us. He opened the book and said we scored all 9s and 10s and he had no notes on me at all, so we must have done a good job. The other judge over heard us and I repeated my request. He also gave me a blank look and turned to the first judge. When the first judge said my scores were 9s and 10s and he had no notes, the second judge echoed the first that we were doing fine.

Goodness! I guess if I want a judge to tell me I did a good job and clap for me, I need to go back to agility!

On Sunday, all four dogs got orange ribbons! We were so proud of our group and our dogs. We’ve worked hard and we really had fun. I was also able to say, “I TOLD YOU SO!” to Beth as we left the grounds. I told her Reba was ready for a JH and she just needed to work on her deliver to hand. Beth did an excellent job of catching this weekend!

Devon was exhausted, sleeping in a tight ball all the way home. She didn’t even want to get up off the floor to go to bed! She gets Monday night off for a job well done this weekend. I couldn’t be more proud of her!!!

1 comment:

Kathy said...

What a fun weekend. I wish I could have come along to watch.