Very early Sunday morning, I loaded Blueberry and Chauncey up and headed to Orlando for the Tracking Club of Central Florida's TD test. It was cool, in the mid to high 60's and with some spitting rain. Once all were there and ready, we drew numbers to see who would run what track. I was the 5th person to draw (of 9 entries) and pulled track #2, which I was happy about as Blueberry tracks very well in those conditions and the sun would not be beating on her yet. We all headed out to the fields, about 5 minutes away from the draw location.
The fields were wet and the grass in our field was about mid-calf height and thick. The road leading into the big fields is bordered on one side by smaller fields and the other side with a new business center so they had the extras park in the center's parking lot while the first dog ran her track as it was in the first small field. That dog started well and did the first turn nicely, but went right instead of left on the second turn so the whistle was blown. While the tracklayer helped them finish their track, the judges, Ron Seeley & Jane Craig, got me to head on to my track which was just a little farther up in the next small field. Blueberry was ready to go as I harnessed her and got her out of the truck. The judges headed us to the flags, so about 10 yards from the flags. I sat Blueberry and switched her line from the collar to the harness and gave her the "find it" command. I felt very calm and wasn't nervous or funny feeling like I have been before. I was confident that Boo could find her glove.
I lined up our start flags and let her track in to the start article. She scented the sock and went about 5 yards forward and came back and sat down beside me. I stayed quiet and just waited, she was only 10 seconds and then started tracking. I didn't follow until she was committed and pulling hard, then I let my line get out 20-25 feet and followed. She did not track in her fast normal paced style, but was methodically nose to the ground and moving steadily with confidence. Now, due to the length of the grass and the early morning dew, I was able to see where the tracklayer had walked. I was careful to not look ahead for direction but caught myself glancing ahead of Boo to make sure she was on the correct path. She was solidly committed and working, never circled at the turns, slowed enough to indicate then kept moving down each leg. I was starting to breathe easier knowing we were closer and almost to the glove. Somewhere along the way I started counting corners and she had just done turn 5 and I knew she should be stepping on the glove at any moment. This leg was headed to a grouping of yellow road type signs with a red one in the middle (perfect for a judge to line up with) with a worn driving path running perpendicular to those signs. Boo tracked up to just before the road, I hadn't seen a glove and was sure we had missed it. She tracked a little to the left of the tracklayers path and worked a little to the left but never really committed, then went to the right for twenty yards or so but came back. I started backing up at this point thinking that we had gone too far, I could see the judges were standing just before our last turn, so I knew we were correct at this point. Completely thinking that we missed the glove and trying not to panic because Blueberry was just looking to each side of the track but not indicating or committing. After several minutes of this I knew we were in trouble. Blueberry was still working, but nothing was happening, so she got frustrated and came and sat beside me. I knew we were done, so I looked back at the judges and told them so. They were really impressed with her tracking until at the very end and there was one more turn to the glove. They judges headed off to the next track and left me with the tracklayer to find the glove. I had to help Boo down the already worked leg and then once we were past that turn she was tracking steadily again and the tracklayer was telling us we were off to the side of the track and probably had passed it when Boo stepped on the glove. A lot of hugs for Boo and treats once we were back at the truck. She was a good girl and tried really hard.
Talk about disappointed, big time let down for myself. I know anything can happen but really thought we were ready and going to pass. Maybe I was too optimistic. How do I know I screwed my awesome tracking dog up? While watching the first dog run people were discussing which way her track may go, turns, etc. One lady was talking about a minimum of 3 turns and no more than 5 in a TD. Somehow that number was in my head and even though I didn't consciously say "Oh, I can count the turns", my mind just started doing it somewhere along the track and I counted turn number 5 in my head when Boo had only done 4 turns. Instead of trusting my awesome tracking dog I mentally shut off and started looking for a glove and backing up instead of standing there, trusting her, and letting her figure it out. I know she would have, so bad on me.
Okay, I won't beat myself up too bad, but will enter the next test in December and the whole time I will not think anything but "trust my dog, trust my dog", it is what I did for our certification track:o) I talked to Jane and Ron later and Jane asked if we only practiced 4 turns? They both said even though I mentally shut out on Boo she never committed or strongly indicated that last turn. I looked in my training book and she has done two, five turn, tracks in the last year. The track we had at the test was 465yds long, the longest we have tracked is 455yds so I don't think length was the problem. There were 3 passes, an 8month old shepherd, an Otterhound, and a 7month old shepherd. The Otterhound took her time but worked her track out nicely. The two shepherds, who were not related and with different owner/handlers were spot on, fast moving dogs. So back to the fields to keep working and try another test in a month!!