On Saturday afternoon we were making plans to meet to track Devon and Archie on VST, and Steve (our local AKC tracking judge) asked if I wanted to do anything with Page. In the area we selected to track, I didn't think there were any fields big enough for TD work, so I said we could just lay Page a small VST track. Steve and Janet showed up 5 minutes late Sunday morning to our meeting spot, but they were grinning and said they found a TD field and Page's track was in!
I have to say on the way to the track, I was nervous. Steve said later he didn't tell me it was a certification track; but I know him well enough that if he's going to go to the effort to put in a track for a dog that's ready to certify, he's not going to do it twice! I started to get mad at myself and talk myself out of my nerves, but then I figured I'll be nervous at a test and Page will need to know what that "feels" like and work through it. Devon ignores my nerves in tracking and field, and I figured Page would too.
For those of you who like to know these things, the track was aged 1 hour and 5 minutes when we started. Page went to the start flag well, but she stopped 6 inches before the start article. I put my hand on it and then let her smell it and she just looked at me. She's never stopped short like that, so I'm curious about it. Maybe it was my nerves she sensed that were different?
However, when I told her to track, she trotted off like she normally does. Halfway between the start flag and the 30 yard flag, Page got the line wrapped around her neck and I had to unwrap her and restart her. She was a little confused since we haven't really practiced that, but once she got going again she locked into the track.
I think I was most worried about getting past the first turn. Page showed loss of scent as usual and locked quickly onto the new leg to the left. At this point, I knew we would be fine and my nerves went away and we were tracking. On the second leg Page found two large feathers she was interested in, but as soon as I said "track" at the second feather, she left it and tracked on like a big dog, handling the second turn with ease.
The only difficulty Page had was on the third turn. When she showed she had lost the scent, she circled all the way around me twice looking for it. This is very unusual for Page, since she shows loss of scent so quickly on turns she doesn't have to go behind me. When she started working her way backwards on my right, I knew she was past the turn and more than likely I was too.
This is when I was very thankful for our Thursday track when this very thing happened to us and Page worked it out. I backed up, and when she locked onto the track, it was 6-8 ft. behind me and to my right. I could tell by everything she gave me Page was locked onto the track and working, so I stepped in behind her. I was confident, but I also gave a little peak over my shoulder to make sure our judge was following us. Steve was following and was grinning from ear to ear!
Page handled the rest of this track with ease. Halfway along the last leg, she saw a large plastic bottle off to our left. I knew it wasn't an article, and when Page wanted to pull to it I held my ground and she came back to the track so we could walk forward. As soon as I was confident we were on the track but close enough to let her investigate it and rule it out as something she should find, I let her out on the end of the 40 ft. line to go see it. As soon as she got there, she knew it wasn't for her; she turned and came right back to work.
However, the distraction had pulled us to the left of the track just slightly. She got back on it and a few feet from the glove winded it and circled right. Once she was back on the track, I saw the glove about the same time she did.
The track was 490 yards long with 5 turns. The legs were 95 yards, 75 yards, 60 yards, 110 yards, 60 yards and 90 yards. It was low cover and the day was cloudy, damp and cool with no wind. Perfect tracking weather!
After we found the glove, Steve's first comment was that she was an incredible problem solver. He said for a 19 week old puppy to problem solve the third turn when she was so far beyond the turn and to work backwards to lock onto the track was impressive. He also said when she was on it, Page was footstep tracking and when she angled off, she corrected herself to right on the line.
Janet brought Page's reward with her when she followed us. Janet brought the feather Page wanted on the second leg, so Page got to carry that back to the vehicles with us. She was very proud!
So we will maintain Page's TD skills for the next 3 months as we work TDX and VST tracks and shoot for a test later this fall. I am super proud of this incredible girl!