Tanaquil's Machine Gun Kelly UDTX!

by Dottie Seuter


Forty-eight hours have passed since Kelly indicated the final article on her track at HVTC's TDX Test on April 19, 1992, and I still haven't come down to earth yet! She, on the other hand, is dozing on a sheepskin rug next to me patiently awaiting whatever quixotic escapade her "mother" has in store for her next!

Although last month was unusually wet, and I knew that the fields at New Paltz had been pretty soggy, I had been hoping we would have "a little" rain a few days prior to the test so that the top cover wouldn't be all dried out. Ha! I think it rained every day for the week before the test, and I was beginning to wish I could swap my trusty German Shepherd for a Newfoundland.

It was drizzling as Kelly and I left Long Island, but by the time we got to the fields, the day seemed to be improving slightly. It was overcast and cool, but the rain had stopped and the wind had died down. I was hoping I'd draw the first track so that I wouldn't have too much time to think about everything that could possibly go wrong. I pulled the fifth track! I have to confess that due to the stalwart efforts of Diane Bauman (who fed me Pepto Bismol for my queasy stomach and whose calming presence and encouragement really got my focus off of my anxiety) and Mary Ann Svizeny, who kept me laughing as usual, I actually felt reasonably confident by the time our turn arrived.

Once Kelly got off to a good start, the most amazing thing happened. I began to feel as if we were one individual. It was absolutely incredible as I felt tremendous confidence and calmness radiating from her. We made a right turn, and then she jumped across a ditch filled with water( I stumbled through it - thank goodness for Wellies!). After another right she made a small check of what were the first set of crosstracks, crossed the road and found the first article. Up again, right turn back across the ditch which continued through the field we were now in, never even noticed the next set of crosstracks, a left turn, another left turn and into high cover which felt like bamboo stakes (yuck), and there was the next article. Back to work - oops it can't go into that deep pond, can it? No, we veer off to the right just at the water's edge, then another right turn and out of the cover and up the slope of the field. I sense that the glove may be getting close. I slow down. Both of us are getting too excited, and what if there is another turn? Suddenly Kelly throws herself down on the glove, and I'm laughing, crying and kissing her all at the same time. She did it - unbelievable!

Kelly's accomplishments during the preceding twelve months have surpassed my wildest fantasies. Her TD (on her first try), her UD (three first places and two high combined) and her TDX (on her first try). All this with the immense handicap of having to deal with my attacks of "competition nerves". Thank goodness she was always able to deal with the extra pressure by giving me one of her famous withering looks as if to say, "Don't worry mom, stay out of my way and I'll handle this for both of us", and she did.

Our progression from TD to TDX level work proceeded quite steadily, due in great part to the efforts of a number of people who generously gave their time to lay tracks for me and/or critique my not always sterling performances. People who freely shared their knowledge, saving me from a lot of beginner blunders I would have absolutely made on my own. I especially want to thank Dot Vail, Tony and Mary Ann Svizeny, Michael Clemens, Lydia Strawbridge, Diane Bauman, Doris Tschoke, Kay Kleisler and Dorit Vanderwilden. I truly believe tracking is one sport where people who have experience can make a tremendous contribution to the ultimate success or failure of newcomers and their continued interest and participation. I hope I am now skilled enough, in some small way, to help someone else discover the absolute wonder of following your best friend as he or she drags you blindly along behind, through all kinds of cover in all kinds of weather until he or she suddenly pounces on a one inch square piece of leather and you feel as if you've won the ultimate prize, and you have!

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