Clue's Tracking Test Pass

by Martha Windisch


On November 1 my Golden Retriever, Clue’s AKC name had a TD (Tracking Dog) title added to it. He is now Harborwynd’s The Riddle WC JH TD. He earned the Tracking Dog title at Lenape Tracking Club’s Test. By passing the test, Clue actually solved “the riddle” just as his name suggests!! Here’s our story.

On the morning of November 1, we woke up early and drove to Solberg Airport in Whitehorse Station, NJ. We had to be there by 8:30 since at 8:45 they were going to draw for the order of the tracks. Out of the eight dog/handler teams entered, I was #7 in the catalog, meaning I was second from the last to draw. Just before the draw, I heard that the club had a bit of a worry in that they could not use all the airport property they had initially planned and had to put the last three tracks on a farm near Califon – about 40 minutes to the north. The draw consisted of picking a cute fall-themed oven mitt from a basket. Inside the mitt was a card with a track number on it. By the time it was my turn to draw there was only Track #1 and Track #8 remaining (the first and last tracks). I did eeny-meeny-miney-mo and was hoping to pick track #1 to run early and be at the airport property. Of course, I drew #8 instead – that was fine, but meant I had to wait for my turn and try not to get nervous as I watched the other teams run their tracks. When the first two dogs had trouble on their tracks, I started to get nervous; but then dogs on tracks #3 to 5 passed and it was time to drive up north for the last three tracks.

I watched the dog on track #6 pass and then needed to walk towards the start of my track, to the back of the fields, as Track #7 was being run. I waited with Clue on a small gravel road trying to keep him calm and not barking. I did not want him to disturb the dog that was running the track. We waited and waited and then heard cheering. Every dog/handler team that passes gets tons of cheering by the spectators. The judges then called on us to walk further up the road and through a break in the hedgerow to the flag marking the start of our track. Clue’s first thought seemed to be that we were at a hunt test since at hunt tests two judges call you from a waiting spot to the starting line. Clue was really hoping to retrieve some ducks or pheasants – he was overly excited. I spoke softly to try to calm him down – I was actually explaining that this was a track not a retrieve, but I don’t think he really got it. So he started his track in a pretty excited manner and seemed to take a bit of time to get into tracking mode. Fortunately in beginning tracking there are two flags so that the second flag at 30 yards out gives you the direction of the first leg.

So, by the time Clue reached the second flag, he was getting into his usual tracking mode. Very lucky for us since as he continued to sniff down the first leg of the track, I noticed a dark “bump” of something sticking up in the grass to the right of the track. I took another glance and realized that there was a large dead deer in the field. Fortunately for us there were no turkey vultures with it! Clue did not notice the dead deer until several yards later when he started circling. I thought, “Oh no! He has winded the deer,” as he glanced over at it. I told him to track and fortunately he started tracking again, making a beautiful left turn away from the smelly carcass.

After getting past the start and the first turn, he tracked like he had studied the tracking textbooks. He continued 110 yards, circled once then made a right turn, tracked 95 yards, made a perfect right turn and then it felt to me that he zigzagged to the left since the next turn was an open turn after a short leg of the track. After that “zigzag” Clue gained speed to find the tan leather glove lying in the grass. I praised Clue in celebration and he happily carried his newly found glove to show the judges. All in all, our track was 440 yards long with  four turns – three of the turns were 90 degrees and the fourth turn was around 135 degrees. It took Clue  eight minutes to complete his track – thus, we were moving at a good clip. The surface that we tracked on was a farm hay field with medium/low (scruffy) cover – the ground was damp which helped with the scenting conditions.

Clue got a new tracking glove, a title after his name (which does not matter to him) and a bunch of treats when we got back to my van. I got a title after my dog’s name, a ribbon and a certificate (in the mail from AKC) and we all had a tasty lunch, scrumptious dessert and great camaraderie back at the airport.

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