Belle’s TD

by Joan Luckhardt


Belle, now an over-10-year-old Golden, had only been in tracking training about a year or so, although it felt like forever.  Belle brought along her usual, and sometimes endearing, neuroses:  her lack of focus when nervous, need to be hugged, terror of loud sounds, passion to eat gloves, and desire to roll in deer or groundhog droppings. Belle also casts widely on a track.  I had to suspend my anxiety of what could happen if we were to have a chance to find a glove.

We both calmed as we arrived at the Lebanon Township Municipal building, in part because we both had been there a number of times.  Belle attended a TED session there years ago - so new smells were less worrisome.  She was happy to walk around the ‘pond’ behind the building as if to say, “it’s okay here.”

I drew Track 5 but did not know which field we drew, knowing only that it was nearby.  Hence, I would stay at the building while others ran the first four tracks some distance away.  The time lag gave me a chance to calm down and give Belle water, which she drank (I was grateful that she did).

Our time came to meet the gallery and judges around the corner at the elementary school.  Then we waited some time for the tracklayers and others to return from the other tracks.  Belle wanted to greet everyone including Teryl, her coach, by jumping up and stealing a glove or scarf.  She wanted to get started and knew why she was there.

The field was across the street in a field the Club has used from time to time for our TED demonstration track.  Somehow I could remember only Torrie was our demo dog. I was more at ease, which in turn calmed my usually bouncy Belle. That day the field had nice cover but the wind was high.

The judges said start and we did.  Belle had created her own start by sometimes downing on the start article, or retrieving it, or throwing it, usually a sock, in the air, or all three. Belle did her own toss, down and start.  Off she went but then she came back toward me on the first leg with a “am I doing okay” look.  I told her to “find it” and “go” - and she went back down the track.  Belle then made the first turn, casting less than usual.  Her confidence in the track seemed to grow as we moved forward.  She made a right turn some distance from the woods bounding the track but then, perhaps because of the wind, she made another right in what felt like not quite 50 or so yards (although by that time I’d not a clue how far we had come).  I wondered if the wind had blown scent - but “trust your dog” became an internal mantra as we moved up the rise.  By this time when weariness can set in, I figured some motivational comment would help - so I said, “where’s your glove?”  Belle laid into the line and began to pull hard and moved much faster.  I was trying not to run but moved faster as she almost hit the end of the line.  Belle then made a left turn paralleling the road. Abruptly Belle stopped yards short of a hedgerow and began to bob her head and sniff to her right and to her left, indicating a find.  I began to move forward and saw her back paws were standing on the glove; she took a step backward and then downed at the glove.  Success!  I held up the glove to the cheers of the gallery and the judges, who all complimented us on Belle’s work.

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