Luck Be a Lady

by Pat Etchells


Pippin's tale could almost be the saga of Lady Luck. Not of whether he would do the track - he's the most reliable dog I've ever tracked - but whether he would ever get into a test in the first place. It seems like everybody who had ever owned a glove was out getting certified this fall - and tests up and down the East Coast had twice as many entrants as slots. First we were Alternate #2 at Lenape. Then I drew Alternate #6 at Dauphin the following week. I still hadn't heard from Hyattsville - but was giving serious consideration to a friend's suggestion that I come visit her and see how he handled a snow track in Illinois in December. The day before Lenape's test, things started to turn around. First I got a call from Hyattsville that we had been drawn #2. Then that evening I found out that two dogs were not going to run at Lenape - we were in!

The draw itself continued our reversal of fortune. The Halloween bag that was left in the bucket at the end had one dog biscuit in it - he had Track #1. It was in a field where he had frequently tracked and the tracklayer was Karl Gabosch. He'd never tracked Karl - but Karl has kind of been a good luck charm for us - being present when Pippin's mother Robin got her TD and stewarding at many of the shows where she got obedience legs. Things were looking good.

The track itself. Well, I know there were two starting flags. I set up Pippin a ways back so they were aligned, and I remember keeping him on a short line as he approached the first flag so I could help him find the track - but he was already trucking. The knot on my line reached the flag, and we were off. At a run. Couple of little pauses to grab a deer cookie or two - then off again. I wasn't counting turns. I wasn't looking for landmarks I could align on in case I had to back up. I was running. About the point I when wondered whether I was going to make it, he stopped - at the glove!

Eighteen months ago we had no intention of keeping a puppy with the plumbing in the middle. It just didn't fit in with our plan of keeping only girls, and breeding once every three or four years. Then Pippin came along, and he made it pretty clear that he wasn't going to go anywhere and we'd better re-evaluate our priorities.

Robin is a tracking fool and Pippin's father also had his TD before going on into field work, so we thought the litter might have some tracking potential. When they were about eight weeks old, we got out our flags and hotdogs and gloves and went out into the front yard. We learned one very important lesson. A puppy is not going to be interested in a hotdog if he/she has no idea what a hotdog is! A taste and then onto a second track - and it's amazing how fast the light went on. And it was also fascinating how different the puppies were - and what a good indication we got of their future tracking style. Pippin put his nose down and went to the glove. His sister Daisy tracked, crittered, tracked, crittered - just like their mother. The three other puppies eventually kind of got the point.

I'd read on the Internet Tracking list about starting to train corners as curves and thought why not give it a try. Both pups got the concept really easily and were both doing well - but we weren't really getting out on a regular basis. (Well, we also did have the Winter from Hell in there). But in early summer Joanne MacKinnon and I realized that we needed to quit playing around and had to set goals and get organized if we wanted to get Ts this fall. At that point Pippin was a little better than Daisy at tracking and Daisy was a little better in obedience - so that's how I decided to focus - since I did have an agenda of putting four different obedience titles on four different Deerhill Cockers in '96 .

As is usually the case, when you and your tracking buddy actually get out there and track, great things happen. Ruffie and Pippin both got certified at our match, and they both passed at our test. Pippin and I are very grateful to all of the fantastic club members who made it possible - both in terms of supplying manpower at the actual events and in helping with TED, which raised the funds to pay the bills. Thanks, guys!

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