This Basset Smells

by Priscilla White


I am sure that I am probably the only person in tracking history that was late for my first tracking test. I had debated even entering a test on Thanksgiving weekend, as we would be away from home visiting in New England. I couldn't even talk anyone into getting up at 4 a.m. to make the trip to southern New Jersey with me. I even had to drag my Little Miss Muffet out of bed, and got within ten miles from the test site in plenty of time, but the local directions had me baffled. They made even less sense to the foreign speaking gas station attendants that I queried. I didn't know whether to pull over and cry or turn around and go home.

When I got to the general area of the test, the site was not marked and the tracking fields were spread over Mr. Jones' 2,000 acre farm. Everyone except one kennel club representative had gone to the tracking fields, so I was glad to spot a mini-van with a license plate "Find It" parked in a driveway along the road. By now, I was sure I should be awarded a VST for finding the place.

I was not upset that I drew the last track by "default." (Of course I had missed the drawing for tracks.) I find that my dog gets "keyed up" (as much as a Basset gets "keyed up") and probably very hungry waiting to track. Anyway, by this time I was sure this was not our day. The only thing that had gone "right" was the weather. It was a lovely fall day.

Before I knew it, it was time for our track. As we approached the track, both judges remarked that it was a "fun" track, wished us luck, and repeated, "have fun." I looked over the field ... didn't see any gift shops or snack bars and realized that the "have fun" was probably not meant for me. When I saw the starting "flags" (a stake with a yellow ribbon), I wondered if my Muffy would recognize it as a "flag." When I said "track and treat," however, she lunged forward past the first flag, where there was a collection of broken, dried up corn stalks - sticks to Muffy. She chewed them, and brought a couple to me. Then her keen tracking nose picked up a spread of manure. Little Miss Muffet sat on her tuffit, eating her turds away. She then rolled and rolled and rolled in it. Nothing I said brought her to her senses. It was probably only a few minutes, but it seemed like a half hour. I realized that is what the judges meant when they said "have fun." Muffy was definitely having fun. I had plenty of time, while she was rolling, to thumb through the rule book in my mind, but unfortunately I hadn't looked at it since TED. I was pretty sure that a good kick in the butt would probably be considered "guidance." I remembered reading something about a "restart" and wondered who would ever need that! I asked the judges for permission to start again. (I don't think I even needed to because I hadn't passed the first flag.) I just wanted to get Muffy back to me so that I could whisper "sweet nothings" in her ear. The only part that can be repeated here is that if she was going to smell as bad as she did now on the trip home, she'd better get a "T". Again, I wasn't sure if I should pull over and cry or turn around and go home.

The second start was only a little better, but after she passed the second "flag," she actually seemed to be tracking. I knew I would probably find out at the first turn, as the first leg was parallel to a busy main road, and a left turn would only lead to Mr. Jones' "Registered Holsteins" and I am sure, more manure.

I was relieved when she made a right turn and picked up speed. By the end of the second leg, I was holding on to the knot at the end of the line. I'm not sure if she was working fast or I was just slow. It seem to be going fine. 100 yards, right turn, 100 yards, left turn and no whistle. I realized that even I was having fun. About halfway down the final leg, she put her nose down, started to pull, and started flagging her tail. I knew she had the article scent. It came up about 30 yards ahead. What a thrill. I expected to find a big stinky man's glove, but it was a small black lady's dress glove. It was in such good condition, I returned it to the tracklayer.

All the way home, despite the smell, all I could think was "this Basset smells ... good"

Thanks so much to all the Lenape trackers who helped us this year, especially Anna and John and Pat who talked me into this test, and Mollie and Joanne for letting me track in their front yards.

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