Grady's TD

by Cheryl Matthews


As some of you are aware, Grady and I were drawn eighth out of eight slots for the Tracking Dog Test at the West Highland White Terrier Club National Specialty held in Elkton, Maryland. We only found out about the test when we were at the Ed Presnall TDX seminar back in August. I had never put Maryland on my list of potential tracking test sites... thinking it too far. So I was pleasantly surprised when I Google mapped it and it was only two and a half hours from home, which was actually closer than some of the other tests I was considering.

In order to make the 8 a.m. draw time for running order less nerve-racking I elected to make the two and a half hour drive down the day before and stay over at the local Motel 6 (at a modest $43.99/night). After arriving in Elkton on Saturday afternoon, we ran a track at a local community park (my new GPS made looking up parks a cinch, but wish it could show satellite maps of them in advance of getting there too!) It was not the usual Grady. He was checking out smells here and there and meandering down the track, something he doesn't often do. So I was a little concerned, but what to do - it is what it is.

Test day - so I leave early... planning to get to the drawing site by 7 a.m.... and I do... only no one is there! So I figure I'm too early and drive around the block to get gas, etc... and when I return it's about 7:25 and still no one is there! These are dog-people, they have to be here, there is always someone there early! Then, to my relief, I hear chatter and turn around and see that everyone is in a smaller, up until then less noticeable, parking lot than the main one I am sitting in. Whew!

So we pull in, I check in and exercise Grady before putting him back in the car. At the draw since I am catalog #8, I am the last to draw and so I really don't have to draw... the track that's left is ours and it's Track #1! We are first!

So the judges lead the caravan, with me next in line and all of the gallery/other exhibitors in line behind us as we drive over to the TD Test site. It's warm out (I had short sleeves on) and extremely muggy... everything is still wet from Saturday's rain which continued overnight. The sky is heavily overcast. Perfect tracking conditions (except perhaps for the heat which grew as the day progressed).

Here we go.  So I set Grady up a few feet before the start flag, put on his harness and remind him why we are there. Splash his muzzle with some water as is our routine and we're off to the start where he indicates the start article. I pocket it. As soon as he sees me pocket the start article, he does not linger but continues straight ahead on the first leg. Before the 30-yard flag he decides the exercise I gave him before wasn't enough and stops for a quick nature break. Then he's right back to work. About 20-30 yards further on he makes the first turn (left), continuing down that leg to another left turn, going wide around a stand of trees (right)... and then, just before we pass the end of the stand of trees he hears the gallery/judges behind us and turns around to bark at them. A stern, who goes there "woo-woooof!" I have a moment of jitters as I tell him to get back to work, "track, track" and "find it" and hope that he'll comply. He does. Soon he makes another right turn and I'm thinking we must be hitting the home stretch soon. And then I see it... ahead in the distance... the glove! But Grady doesn't see it. In fact after his last turn he has been tracking about one to three feet wide of the track (off to its right). I'm hoping he doesn't miss it. There are those jitters again. He finds the exact track about 15 yards from the glove and heads for it straight on giving me a perfect indication of his pick it up, drop it and sit! LOUD applause and cheering from the gallery and approval from the judges - we have PASSED! Hip, Hip Hoorah!

Soooooo, I am pleased to announce that Grady is now: Rocky Creek's Making the Grade CD-H TD. I'd like to thank everyone at the West Highland White Terrier Club for having us; our tracklayer and our judges - Jean Hillbog and Adajane Knoll. All of those folks who worked plotting tracks on Saturday had a rough day of it as the weather was bad (heavy rain). I'd also like to thank Lisa Pattison for helping me to be a better handler (Lisa, I heard your voice saying "no turning like a soldier, wait until the dog commits" in my head this morning) and for laying countless tracks for me all over northern NJ. Couldn't have done it as well without you! I also like to thank Karin Damon and St. Hubert's Giralda for Grady's tracking foundation and Kristin Elmini and Hopewind Farm for providing us a great place to train. Thanks everybody - it's knowing folks like you and having your help along the way that makes the end results so special. You are appreciated!

And now I have to go buy Grady the Egg McMuffin I promised if he passed. (I was eating one in our hotel room). Total results: six out of eight passed TD, zero of five passed TDX, one of two passed VST.

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