We lost another “Gen 1” Nose Work dog on Friday. Jinxx and I were in the very first NW class offered in New England back in 2009. This was before there was a rule book, before you had an NACSW membership # for you or your dog, the ORT confirmation was just a paper certificate, nothing was computerized, there were no scorebooks, and our class had to pay for a judge to fly out and do our ORT! AND, we punched holes in the lids of the white boxes w/ a butter knife, so the dogs could detect odor, as a standard practice! The sport has come a long way, for sure, and it was fun to be in on it from the beginning.
Jinxx certainly taught me a lot in her almost 15 years, but I’ll focus on NW here. Some of the things she taught me, in no particular order:
- confidence and lack of self-preservation is a good thing in NW!
- being pushy and fearless is a good thing in NW
- watch the dog in front of you, don’t bring expectations for how the dog “should” work a problem
- a dog who has strong odor obedience helps the handler leave concerns about food distractions, toy distractions, animal distractions, etc. behind.
- confidence in your dog also helps leave concerns about distractions behind, and allows you to clear your mind so you see the dog in front of you, worry-free
- staying out of your head and focusing on what the dog is communicating to you will get you farther than over thinking or over working a search area
- pairing is fun! Simple is fun! Variety in practice – from boxes and containers, to locations, to hide placement – is fun, especially when you surprise the dog.
- adjusting is important… whether that is adjusting due to illness or injury, or age related changes. Learning to understand those changes, and what to accept and expect in the new reality
- Pressure to title, pressure to “beat the clock” of Father Time, pressure to keep up w/ the dog/handler teams of our generation of nose work, was a sure way to NOT keep up, and to lose sight of how the dog in front of me was working and communicating.
- persistence, perseverance, the ability to be humbled but not defeated, keeping the faith that my dog and I were fully capable of attaining that NW3 title, the fact that we never did didn’t make her a bad sniffer dog or me a bad handler, and learning to believe that and accept that it was just not meant to be
- Forgiveness: forgiving myself every time I was upset that *I* had caused us to miss NW3 yet again. She always forgave me and moved on, it took me too long to learn that lesson from her
- a dog can still have enough drive to play the NW game, one day before her last. She was still eager and willing to find birch, and knew that staying at source was a sure way to get more Stella & Chewey’s Duck Duck Goose!
My NW journey with Jinxx brought me farther than I ever thought I’d travel for a dog trial – NJ!? NY?!? Yup, no problem. Staying in a hotel with my dog, meeting new people from up and down the eastern seaboard, celebrating their successes, offering encouragement during near-misses, mourning their dogs when they pass, meeting their new dogs and watching them grow, meeting law enforcement, search and rescue and K9 explosive detection handlers as well as many many other interesting people with varied backgrounds, have all been part of the journey Jinxx started me on back in our first class in the basement of an old town hall.
Thank you Jinxx, I hope you and Maxx are back to being bookends, and that you do some sniffing with the NW dogs who have recently moved on… Jolie, Glory, Clancy, Kitsu, Taz, Dazzle and of course, Izzie. Thank you all for the lessons.