Kelly Saves The Day

By Dottie Seuter


During the long ride from our home on Long Island to New Paltz on the day of the Tracking Test, I had this sinking feeling as if I were about to attend my own execution (little did I realize that I would almost pull the switch myself!) I thought back to the day when an absolutely adorable seven-week-old German Shepherd puppy snuggled onto my lap and gazed up into my eyes for the first time, never realizing (thank goodness) that she was destined to become and brains and heart of our newly-formed partnership. In spite of my proceeding to make every mistake in all the training books, as well as committing a number of totally unique blunders, Kelly had never quit on me, and I only hoped this would not the day it would happen.

As I watched the first few dogs run their tracks, I began to feel more relaxed because, except for the first one, they seemed easier than the tracks we'd been practicing on recently. However, when I realized it was our turn next, I started to shake. As Kelly and I walked down the hill towards the start, my legs felt like rubber, I had awful pins and needles in my hands and Kelly had her "Oh Nuts, she's doing it again!" expression on her face.

The first flag was only a few yards past the foot bridge and, although I wanted to put her harness on further back, I was so wobbly I was afraid I'd fall in the ditch, so we crossed the bridge on lead. My shaky fingers somehow found the buckles, put on her harness, and it was "post time".

As Kelly picked up the scent at the first flag, she dug right in and began to step-track. I remember thinking, "Wow, maybe this will be okay after all!" She zoomed around the first turn and tried to gallop the second leg as I held on for dear life and tried to lean against her with all of my strength. Once she gets up a full head of steam, I can't hold her, and I had visions of her disappearing down the track a hundred yards ahead of me.

Meanwhile, my husband and the rest of the onlookers watched us believing we were off the track because although the original track #5 had been fouled and we were doing #6, they were all looking at a drawing of the previous track.

Kelly tracked wonderfully around the second corner and down the third leg, and then she suddenly changed her tracking behavior, slackened off on the line, picked her head up and gave me what I felt was an indecisive corner indication. I stopped and backed up, waiting for her to commit again, but instead she went slightly past and to the right of where she had just been and promptly proceeded to roll in deer droppings. When she got up, she seemed to forget where she was. I backed up again to see if she'd find the track, and she started circling around several times without appearing to find any scent. Tears started rolling down my cheeks and all I could think of was that I hadn't followed her on her first indication and I had blown it for both of us. She didn't stop working even though I could see how stressed she was. After what seemed like hours (although it probably was only a minute), she found the track, started working with authority again as I stumbled along behind, whizzed around the corners and suddenly lay down on THE GLOVE.

I ran to her, and dropped to my knees sobbing with tears of joy and relief and showered her with hugs and kisses as her tail wagged madly with pride. When the judges approached us, one of them said to me, "You have a very good tracker, but you'd better learn to trust her." I was absolutely mortified, but as I looked down at my wonderful friend, I realized that somehow she had known how important this was to me, and she was determined that she would get to that glove no matter what, and she did!

Use your back button to sniff out a new story