After just under 4 years and 20 attempts, I have finally earned a NW3 title with one of my dogs! Yes, that is how long and how many times we tried. There were many reasons why it didn’t happen, from lack of knowledge and poor training in the early days, to gunshots, to anaplasmosis, to me pressuring my dog into an alert (more than once), to a blurt alert to an elimination in the search area (probably a low point) to rushing and missing a hide (more than once)… but finally, finally, it came together all on one day.
It started off great. Containers first – I know some of you groan, but it has become one of my strongest elements, with Jinxx and now Quattro. (Izzie, not so much)It was large area, with bags spread out – almost all suitcases! I can’t wait to get the video, because he sniffed the first couple, then RAN to the bag in the back corner. Alert? Yes. He skipped a couple en route to a bag right in front of the judge… Alert? Yes (talk about pressure of not dropping treats! It felt like Jean was right above us as I rewarded) We turned to cover the bags we skipped, finished the last row, but still had a bag in the very back corner near the exit to cover. He paused, and I mean it was a loooong pause, at a bag. Something felt like he was sniffing dog odor, it didn’t feel like his freeze. I think he was moving ever so slightly, like really investigating who had been there, where in his final response, he’s pretty locked in and not moving. I didn’t call it, and he moved on. We still needed to get to that last bag… he finally made his way over to it and froze. Now I was spooked by that last freeze, and didn’t call it right away. He laid down and stuck his nose under the bag, completely still. Alert? Yes. Yay! 3 hides – at least I knew I passed one element! Phew.
Interiors was next. We had to drive up a hill and around a corner to a building that housed a common room that we walked through but did not search, 2 identical, good sized bunk rooms w/ bunk beds, twin beds and bureaus, and the 3rd room was a tiny bathroom between the 2 bunk rooms.
We found 2, one and then one. He looked a little flat in the last room, I was ready to call Alert at one point, but he walked off, crawled under a twin bed to investigate what looked like a dead moth, then made his way around back to the bureau and alerted where I had been ready to call it. Not sure what that was all about, he’s usually a little more enthused than that. We were the 29th team out of 30, so there was LOTS of dog odors and I’m sure the odor had spread quite a bit since the dog in white ran. I left not sure if I missed covering one of the bureaus, and I hadn’t really made him search the tiny bathroom. He alerted on the small trash can – again, for some reason I waited to call it, thinking it might be dog odor, but he repositioned and held his freeze. After that I called Finish (in :19 seconds) and never pushed him into the shower. It was such a small space, I didn’t even walk inside. The judge, timer and judge’s steward were all outside.
Exteriors. Lots of goose poop along the way, lots of interesting ground smells. We were on a hill high above a pond. The search area had a grouping of benches, then an area of lawn, then a building w/ porch. The mulch and flower beds were out of play. Well, of course, he pulls into the search area just barely clearing the start line cones, does a U turn, and heads for the mulch. I realized he was not chasing odor on the mulch, he was chasing something smelly IN the mulch. After our first NW3 Exterior experience, I was a bit gun shy about letting him root around in animal smells. so pulled him off, actually said Leave it! and Keep searching. He went to the benches, and did a nice head tilt up underneath one – Alert? Yes. We breifly moved through the other benches, then moved up the hill to the building. We got up on the porch, and were about to step off, when I thought, we didn’t check that bench up here… I was turning to look at it when Quattro came over to it. Sure enough, another Alert. We did one quick pass past a big wooden sign, and I called Finish. Didn’t want to spend too much time in an area he had finished, and give him other ideas! Unlike our last NW3 Exterior, I didn’t feel like he was chasing odor, but you never know. I felt like we could have missed something, but was happy to get out unscathed.
Vehicles last. Should be pretty easy, only 3 cars parked alongside each other. But many people were coming back, saying, “we got all the way to Vehicles before we heard a No!” I’d really rather not hear that, especially before my run! But I figured, it’s 3 vehicles, my dog responds to odor, despite rarely practicing vehicles, how hard can it be? Well, there was lots of breeze blowing, and Quattro was drawn to work into the wind – past all 3 cars, towards the Exterior area that we’d finished. I got him back onto the cars, and he really got into odor on the middle car. He worked the wheel well, under the rear bumper, back to the wheel well, then went over to the upwind red minivan. Got nothing on the minivan. We came around the middle car and he started working the rear tire, under the bumper, back to the tire – really taking a while to make a decision. He finally did, I think, and I called Alert. Yes. We went around the car closest to the start line, that he had run by, and called Finish.
By the time I put him back in the car, the last dog had finished, and we could talk and compare notes. Of the 2 people I was talking with, they’d found 2 hides in the Container search, and were sad to learn there was a 3rd. Our Interiors and Exterior numbers matched up, one of them had falsed on the wrong car, and the other also only found one hide. I thought, I think I got it… they posted the results, and I still felt, I think I got it. I won’t believe it until I get the ribbon… but even then, it hadn’t quite sunk in. Yes, I GOT IT, along with 3 Element title ribbons and a 2nd place overall (4th in Ext, 5th in C, 6th in V and 9th in Interiors).
Let’s hope the curse is broken, and we don’t get stuck again! We have another shot in CT and then Huntington. No rush, of course, he’s a young dog and we have plenty of time. But I do look forward to Elite! It looks like a lot of fun… accumulating points, it doesn’t feel as pass/fail as the other NW trials do. In these next trials, I’d like to leave Coach at home and just concentrate on Quattro. Coach’s time will come, and he looks to be shaping up to be a similar Nose Work dog to Quattro. Look out NW world!