Arriving at a dog sports event the evening before it starts puts a smile on my face, gets my heart pumping and engenders an almost giddy feeling of anticipation.
It also gives me time to settle myself and the dogs in, take a walk to accustom the dogs to the new environment, and get a good night’s sleep before the activities begin early the next morning.
This time the emotions were heightened by the mere fact of my being here at all. Walking the dogs in the grass behind the motor home took on a new meaning this year. Wow, look at me heel-toe walking right along!
I had pulled “Roada” (the RV, for those of you who are new here) into the nearly empty, tree-bordered parking lot of the small Anchorage area High School soon to host the event and parked temporarily in a shady section. There were a few cars and one other RV I recognized already on site. I knew from experience that someone would pop out to direct me to the competitor parking area.
Once settled where it turned out we competitors belonged, behind the main building, I managed to feed myself and two excited dachshunds as I watched several other RVs pull in to park. Oh! It was good to be back amongst friends.
I absolutely love being able to overnight at a trial location with my motor home. There is no frantic early morning packing, worry about forgotten gear or treats or a tiring early morning drive. I’m able to wake up, make coffee, walk the dogs – and be bright-eyed and ready for the 8:15 am check-in.
Of course, this time there was still the minor stress of wondering if my new knee was up for this, but honestly, I had high expectations. I was walking fairly well, with a steady stride and almost no pain, at least on even, level surfaces. Uneven ground was a little more iffy, but my knee wouldn’t dare fail me after all my hard work, right? My retired GP’s parting words came flooding back to me … “Just don’t fall down.”
Saturday morning was gorgeous; you couldn’t ask for a prettier trial day. The sky was a clear blue, the air crisp and cool and the dogs were in high spirits – ready to play. I walked each of them, if not with a spring in my step, at least with confidence.
Saturday was Rhonda’s trial day, so Baxter was free to chill in the RV, watching the action from his favorite perch in the plush dog bed on the passenger seat. Of course, he had plenty of opportunities for potty walks and attention between Ronni’s searches.
Ronni rocked her searches, finding every single hide in her Exterior, Vehicle, Container and Interior searches – all six of them.
Unfortunately, she didn’t quite know when to quit (she and Mom had not put any practice in all winter on what to do in a search with NO hides). Yep, in NW3, any one of the six searches has the possibility of being a “clear search”, one without any hides at all.
So, there we were, at just the 3rd search of the day. We entered a school room, which Ronni quickly and efficiently searched, just as she had another room just minutes before where she had found and been rewarded for two great finds! She searched and searched, sure she would find something for which to be rewarded. When she came up empty, clearly not understanding this part of the game, she just buckled down and tried harder – sniffing each and every table leg from floor to table.
Had Mom been paying closer attention, she might have noticed this change of behavior and thought, “Ah hah! This good little hunter is not finding anything – maybe I should call Finish.” Nope, Mom does the exact opposite, and calls “Alert” on a table leg Ronni was hoping would result in a treat. Not a reward, mind you, since there was no hide to find – but she really wanted that treat.
Mom did this not once, but twice – on two different table legs. Sigh. This resulted in two faults in that one search, and was the sole reason Rhonda didn’t earn a NW3 title that day. What a GOOD hunter! She just needs a better handler. 🤷🏼♀️
It’s a bit of an art, and takes a degree of communication and trust, to know when your dog is telling you there is absolutely nothing to find and we should call “Finish” and leave. Complicating matters at this advanced level; each and every search has anywhere between 0-3 hides and that’s all you are told. 😬
Ronni and I will work on our communications. Maybe next time, I’ll understand her when she all but shrugs her shoulders and says, “I don’t know what to do – there’s nothing here!”.
At the end of the day, it’s all about having fun with your dog(s). And lots of good, heel/toe walking!
Tired dog, happy life. 😉