Thursday, January 12, 2012
Sunday, January 8, 2012
But Devon did come with a fear of movement and she’s very environmentally aware, so lack of confidence in her foundation along with those issues have caused training and confidence problems. And in Oct 2009, after earning her OA, Devon got spooked on the teeter in training and wouldn’t get back on it. It took her nearly 6 months to even start back with a board and a 1-inch dowel.
Then in June 2010, I pushed a weave performance one weekend during a 3-day trial when she was sore in her left shoulder (something she’s battled on and off for most of her career). That caused a weave confidence problem!
So 2011 was the year if we would figure out of Devon was really going to have an agility career. Other than tracking to finish her VST and some obedience training here and there, we focused on agility all year. And it paid off!
In 2011, Devon earned all three legs of her AX for her title, as well as her first MX leg. All three of her AX legs were earned at “home” training buildings. I had a slight worry that she’d never weave successfully away from home on the first try, when she earned her first MX leg in Zanesville, Ohio, proving me wrong! In addition to her first master’s standard leg, Devon earned three MXJ legs this year and a total of 30 MACH points.
While 30 MACH points in one year is certainly low, it represents a year of hard work for us. Most of her Qs and points came in the second half of the year. By December, Devon looked confident and happy in agility. Even though we didn’t Q all weekend in her last trial of 2011, I’m so proud of her attitude and performance. We’re getting there, and I can’t wait for next weekend when we get to step to the line again.
The one thing I have learned with Devon is it truly is a pleasure to step to the line with her in any venue. She is a happy willing worker, but she really does it so we can have fun together. When I remember that, magic happens!
Saturday, January 7, 2012
Devon made the third draw in the Oct. 2, 2011, Glenbard Obedience Training Club's VST test in DeKalb, Ill., on the campus of Northern Illinois University. This was the second time I'd made the trip to this campus and this test. It was the site of Page's pass on Oct. 3, 2010, and of Devon's first VST test.
I was more than ready for Devon's VST journey to be over in October 2011. The first fall had been fantastic. Page earned her VST at her first test, and out of three tests in the fall of 2010, Devon nearly passed two coming within approx. 100 yards of the final article. I knew my dog could pass this test! I was content that most VST/CT journeys take several tries and a lot of time due to the difficulty of getting into tests and then passing them. I knew it was your track on your day, so I was fine to hold her over the winter.
But the winter of 2010-2011 was very cold and snowy without much tracking. Then we started entering spring tests and NOT making the draw. UGH! Here I had a dog ready and no tests! We finally made the sixth test we entered, the last test of the season in late May. It was a sunny day and the first 85 degree day and my dog was toast. At that point, I knew I'd have to hold Devon over the summer, and with work ramping up I knew it would be tough to track.
The summer of 2011 was HOT. I realized that Devon couldn't track VST above 75 degrees. As fall approached and the October VST test deadlines were looming, we'd only tracked about 7-8 times. Devon looked good ... but then I again was I dreaming she looked good? We'd hardly tracked, so was she really ready for the grueling VST test? I entered, trusting my dog, and we made the draw for the first test of our fall season.
It was good we'd been to DeKalb. I knew the area and was comfortable. It was also good I knew the route, because Sunday morning came with pockets of very heavy fog. There were times on my drive to the campus that I couldn't see past the hood of the van.
I got to campus very early and waited. I chatted with two wonderful people with Goldens, one new to tracking and working the test. Finally the draw came, and we got track #2! Yeah!!! I LOVE early tracks. I had hoped for an early track, because if it ran like the year before, the early tracks were on the west side of campus in the less populated areas. The down side of those tracks was geese, as I'd learned the year before. The downsides of the later tracks were people and squirrels!
In a last minute judging change, Darlene Bernard was joining her husband John as the judge because the original judge was ill. This was the same judging panel as I'd had the previous year. I stayed at the draw site, as they wanted each of the participants to stay there during the track before them.
I heard quickly that the exhibitor at track #1 failed, so it was our turn! I drove to the track, but there was no parking near the start, so I handed over my keys to a wonderful person in the gallery, got Devon, and we walked with Darlene to the start.
Here is where the test got REALLY interesting. Devon's start was almost exactly where Page's final article had been the previous year. I knew this was going to be tough for me not to want the track to be like Page's track. I was going to have to watch and trust my dog.
Darlene told me as we were walking to the track that they moved the start up because there was a bunny nest near it (i.e., don't let my dog go backwards!!). Then Devon saw a squirrel playing near her start as we walked up. I was NOT going to let her go squirrel hunting this year (an evil squirrel on this campus last year is why she didn't pass).
I think this is the only place I really almost panicked. We were so close, and we'd failed at this point two other times! My mental game slipped, and I was ready to put my nose down and find that last article myself!
What you can't tell from the map but can see in the photo is that we had to go up hill for the final article. After seeing the end of the track and the terrain, I do know why Devon struggled here. Remember I said it was very, very foggy that morning? Fog is damp and damp holds scent. I now know she was working the scent cone from the final article. It had traveled downhill with the fog and settled in that valley area, especially the taller cover she wanted to go into. The tracklayer's scent was trapped in the trees, but once she cleared them, Devon was exposed to this large fairly dense scent cone she needed to explore. Her early article search about gave me heart failure!
Finally we worked back to that pine tree area, where I knew the track was. I sat Devon and watered her and rescented her and she settled right back into her job, moving forward and uphill. As we crested the small rise, I saw a bright teal sock on the grass and as Devon crested the hill right after me, she saw it too. Devon made a beeline for it, and as soon as it was in her mouth I raised my hand in success!
I was in tears as soon as Devon had that sock. I ran down the hill and threw my arms around Darlene and thanked her for passing both of my girls to their Champion Tracker. The first words out of her mouth were, "I know! And did that track look familiar???" What a hoot! I bet Darlene was floored when I drew track #2.
In addition, my tracklayer had Goldens and just started tracking. This was her first VST track she laid. She said several folks in the gallery remarked on my good handling. That's important to me because I've never wanted to fail my dogs by my handling. Several in the gallery also remembered Page's pass last year, and they were very impressed with both my dogs. At the end of the day, Darlene asked me when I was going to bring another Gaylan's Golden Retriever for them to pass to be another CT. I told them it would be a while! I had no more tracking dogs left in my house to finish!
As has been the case from the time Page entered our lives, Devon's pass is intertwined with Page's pass. Their journeys, while different, are so interrelated. The October Glenbard Obedience Training Club's test at DeKalb is the test where Page passed her VST/CT. For those of you who do tracking, you know that it is a random draw to even get in a test. Then, once you reach the site, you have a second random draw for tracks the day of the test.
There are 8 tracks at this test. Devon got the third draw and drew track #2. In 2010, Page had drawn track #3. Imagine my surprise when they took me to Devon's track, and the start flag was almost exactly where Page's final article was! The map here is an overlay of Page's track from 2010 (pink) with Devon's track from 2011 (purple). What where the odds that I drew that track when 75% of it was Page's track from the previous year backwards! It was incredibly difficult for me to handle Devon wondering if I was seeing what I wanted to see or she was really tracking what she was supposed to!
He then told me Devon indicated a 48-hour old cross track he'd laid in the field 2 days before. He asked me how far I wanted to go with this dog, and without really understanding what I was saying I said, "I want a Champion Tracker." Five years later, that dream came true! I have to thank Steve for teaching me what he knows about VST tracking. Steve and his wife Janet who laid hundreds of footsteps for Devon to track were an important part of success.
Devon and I learned tracking together, she taught me what I know about how dogs track scent, and she is my heart dog. Frankly, I'm glad our journey was longer; there was more to savor. What a great joy it was for us to accomplish this goal together! She is a truly wonderful dog.
Sunday, January 1, 2012
It’s rare in an AKC trial to actually get a mulligan, or a “do over.” A few months ago, Page and I got one, and I decided to use it to my advantage. Page had not been weaving, due mainly to her lack of wanting to collect to slow down the game. We were just past our third try at the weaves and moving on when half the lights went out in the ring. The judge gave us a do over because we had not completed the course, even though we had already NQ’d.
When we finally got to run the course again (20 minutes later and not 5 minutes later as initially thought), Page went around the second jump. UGH! Something we’d done so well in the first attempt. I’m not fast enough to turn her around, and I knew the weaves would be a problem anyway, so I changed my plan.
When I walked the course, I knew you could run it with all front crosses or all rear crosses. In my first attempt, I went with all fronts, and I was happy with the results. So the second time when I had nothing to lose, I used all rear crosses. How rare is it to get the same course and the same trial situation and get to run it a different way?
Well, I learned something. The fronts worked better in this case. My dog has much more clear direction with the front crosses. Now it could have been because I did a bad job of executing the rears, and I’ll accept that. But it told me something about my team. Page gets better direction when I’m in front of her and I need to do everything possible to continue to learn to be in front of her.