Success! Having made it through all the walking Rhonda’s nose work trial had entailed on Saturday, on both even and uneven ground, I had crawled into bed tired to the bone, but exuberant.
Sunday morning, day two of the 4-day K9 Nose Work trial, arrived too early for me. Laying in bed with eyes closed, I took stock of how I felt.
A little achy … that’s to be expected and wasn’t all that bad. Oh, and the heaviness I felt in my knee turned out to be the ice pack I’d fallen asleep still wearing.
Relief and joy bubbled to the surface when I swung out of bed and felt only minimal stiffness. Yesterday’s excursion hadn’t resulted in adverse consequences. Yay!
With a smile, I turned the tea kettle on for coffee, dressed myself and leashed the dogs for their morning potty walk.
Today would be Baxter’s day to play! I had been trying to mentally prepare myself to scratch Baxter if I’d awoken with a swollen and painful knee, and was so grateful this wasn’t the case. I wanted our old boy to have his day to shine.
After enjoying morning chit-chat with co-competitors, Baxter and I quickly found ourselves engulfed in our day’s searches. He so enjoys every aspect of this game.
Side note: I tend to forget, not all my followers are avid scent work enthusiasts. For those of you who aren’t, here’s the scoop.
Search areas can be a group of vehicles, an outside area, a whole room or part of one, or a pattern of containers, with orange cones showing the perimeters.
A “hide” is a small tin or plastic tube, etc. containing 2-3 tiny Q-tips. The Q-tips have been lightly scented with any combination of birch, anise and/or clove essential oils and are well hidden within the search area. There is definitely not enough odor for the handler to smell – it’s all up to the dog.
Our dogs are trained to find any hide in the search area with those source odors, ignoring any food or toy distractors the judge may have also placed in the search zone.
12-year-old Baxter was his old, tail-wagging, jaunty self, confidently trotting through search after search with bright eyes and a quick paw. Tap! It’s right here! Tap! Tap! Hurry up, Mom. Pay me!
Not to be outdone by his talented younger “sister”, Baxter was making short work out of each search area, finding hides promptly, impeded only by Mom, who was slow to call Finish, even though Baxter knew this game well and was pretty darn clear about telling Mom there was nothing more to find. 😉
Baxter has been at this game for many years, and thankfully seldom “false alerts” out of frustration due to his handler keeping him in a search area too long. Even after all these years partnered with such a thorough and efficient hunter, Mom still sometimes wonders, “We only found one … maybe there’s more?”. Baxter has been known to literally roll his eyes and walk out of the search zone in disgust.
We don’t always earn placement ribbons in NW3, which are competitively based on time, but Baxter usually Q’s (earns a qualifying score).
However, Baxter is only as good as he can be within the confines of the length of his leash.
Our NW3 Exterior search was a fairly large space, with picnic tables, fire-pits and other objects. As usual, the search was on leash. Baxter promptly found two hides (remember, there can be from 0-3 hides in any search area).
Thinking we’d covered the whole area (it really doesn’t pay for me to think during a search 🙄), I called Finish and headed out of the search zone. As we were leaving, Baxter pulls me towards a trash container near the far upwind corner of the search area. “Wait”, says he. “You haven’t paid me for THIS one!”
So, my immature calling of Finish in this one search cost Baxter his NW3-Elite title (the highest K9 Nose Work title you can earn in Alaska, since we don’t yet offer Elite trials).
On the bright side, with only one fault for the entire day (six searches); Baxter did earn one “leg” towards this long-elusive title. So next year, if we either manage a perfect score and title outright, or finish another NW3 trial with just one fault – he might just reach this pinnacle.
Either way, fun was had, my knee didn’t seem much the worse for wear and the weather was once again gorgeous. Note to self; apply sunscreen more often! A sunny day in May in Alaska is intense!