by Sandy Hambrecht


It was our fifth attempt at earning a TD, and we were ready, Frankie and I. After four failures the previous year, we had refined our partnership and techniques through hours of diligent practice. Nevertheless, I was leaving nothing to chance. I had brought our “lucky cookie” No. 5 from Frankie’s smoothly-executed certification track a few weeks earlier; I also had a printout of tracking coach Teryl’s email, advising me to trust Frankie – he would lead me right to the glove. And we got up at 4 a.m. on Sunday, November 6th, to arrive at Solberg Airport with plenty of time for a brisk 20-minute warm-up walk and some casual “crittering” in the parking field. By the time of the draw, both of us were fairly relaxed and ready.

The conditions were perfect: sunny, cool, wet grass, a little wind, but not too much. We drew Track 9, also perfect: grass of moderate height which was ideal for a 12 pound smooth dachshund. In a bit of a daze, I fought to focus my mind as we walked to the start flag. Frankie gave the start article barely a passing sniff as he took off at a dachshund’s version of a canter, forcing me to quickly pocket the sock and let the line slip through to the 20-foot mark before lurching after him.

Much of the track was a blur for me. As Frankie porpoised confidently through the grass I concentrated on watching for the change in behavior that would indicate a turn, but he found each one and darted ahead so quickly on the straightaway that I was more than once caught flatfooted or off-balance. This was Frankie tracking at his best!

The final turn was an open one – my bugaboo! Had he caught the scent of something more interesting than the track? But he was pulling hard, and I made myself repeat Teryl’s words: trust Frankie, he’ll take you right to the glove. Half expecting to hear a whistle at any moment, I suddenly noticed something in the grass ahead. Could it really be … ?! Frankie stopped and turned sideways to me, put his head down, and flipped something yellow with his nose. Relief washed over me as I hurried up to praise him, waving the glove at everyone BUT the judges and tracklayer, whom I’d totally forgotten were behind me.

As I picked up my wonderful little dachsie and began walking toward the group of cheering Lenape spectators, judge Michael Clemens laughingly reminded me to “wait for the judges, please.” I turned back toward them and Frankie and I received hugs all around from Michael, judge Diana Reich, and tracklayer Nancy “Stinky Feet” Grove.

I’m still euphoric over our triumph, but I realize we could not have done it without the good training provided by Lenape Tracking Club’s TED and Joan Luckhardt’s summer sessions a couple years ago. Further coaching by Teryl Lebkuecher locally, and Mary Thompson and Dorrie Viguerie at Camp Gone to the Dogs helped us refine our partnership.

But above all, we owe a huge debt of gratitude to our regular “tracking buddies,” Nancy Grove, Jim Bunderla and Judy Todd (joined on a number of occasions by John and Pat Etchells). They have watched, critiqued, given advice and moral support, and laid countless practice tracks for us. Our hardearned TD is a tribute to them as well. Thank you, Buddies!

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