Rico's TD Report

by Susan Palius


Rico drew into the Capitol DTC TD test at Oaklands, in Leesburg, VA, so off we went Saturday in the snowstorm. Sunday morning we got up at 5:00, pottied in the freezing cold dark, climbed back in bed and snuggled while I drank my coffee, packed up all the throws I had brought into the hotel to protect it from wet doggie paws and left the hotel by 7. The sun was just rising, temps were just below freezing and there was no wind. There was two to four inches of new snow on the ground, meaning the tracks would be 100% visible. Best of all, the conditions were just about perfect for big sporting dogs. 

Rico drew the third track. On Track #1 was a Lab who made short work of it. Track #2  was a Weim who carefully and methodically worked from flag to glove.  We waited 20 minutes and then our track was sufficiently aged to start. Rico picked up the start article, dropped it and then motored the first leg -- all 195 yards of it. He circled a little and then turned convincingly to the left and motored down a 55-yard leg. He overshot the next corner by about 10 feet but circled and quickly picked up the track, another left turn. Then he started wondering if maybe it would be more fun to do some hunting and considered going in another direction so I rescented him and he got back to work. He did a lot of quartering on this leg (which he does when he's a little bored; when he's ON he tracks Golden style, i.e., nose down, tail wagging furiously), cut the next corner to the right but picked up the track as he crossed it. Then he really thought about doing some hunting and I told him in my sternest voice to find his glove. For a moment I thought it was all over and we’d be whistled for stopping working as he looked to me like he had given up and we were at least 30 feet off the track, but then (just in the nick of time I later found out from the judges) he decided to get back to tracking and he put his nose in the air, sniffed once and then beelined right back onto the track.

As much as I love my Goldens, I have to say I was never so glad to have an air-scenting dog. And boy was it cool to watch!  Rico overshot the last corner by about five feet but air scented back to it. He motored for about 50 yards and then began to lose interest and wander, so once again I asked him to find his glove. But I could see he was distracted by some other wonderful scent and wandered to the right of the track and then started moving in the reverse direction. Of course I had no choice but to wander with him -- I wasn't going to refuse to move and be called for guiding -- but I think the Tracking Gods were really on our side because as I stepped backwards I fell into a critter hole, right up to my knee which made me fall down.  Rico came in to check out what had happened and as he caught scent of the track he remembered what he was there to do (yeah!!) and I told him "GOOD BOY, FIND YOUR GLOVE." He motored right past me and when the line was approaching 20 feet I scrambled out of the critter hole and followed him 30 more yards and then he picked up the glove! 455 yards; 10 minutes flag to glove, although the last third of the track felt like an eternity and surely put a few more gray hairs on my head.  So it wasn't the prettiest track I've ever run, but I was pleased that I was able to read him and also to refocus him. He's been acing his tracks since his cert (I've called in every favor I had to get blind tracks to practice on) so I have to think yesterday I had test nerves and that threw him.

By earning his TD in the same year he earned his CH and RN he became eligible for a very prestigious versatility award from his national breed club and I really wanted it for his breeder. And this had been our only chance as we are ninth alternate at the last remaining TD test in the Northeast this year.  Jerry was about 72nd alternate in the TDX test so his activity for the day had been to meet and greet. But at the last minute the alternate TD dog couldn't come and the alt track was just sitting there, so with the judges' permission I ran Jerry on it, just for fun. Maybe three and a half minutes flag to glove -- and that included three stops for Jerry to consider the birds -- and me to catch my breath :-)  Of course we owe a HUGE thanks to Judges Susan Boyd and Elizabeth Goodbody as well as the amazing folks at Capitol DTC who braved absolutely miserable, freezing cold, soaking wet conditions on Saturday to plot the tracks. Yes, of course, seeing the tracks helped all the teams, if for no other reason than the handlers knew with 100% certainty when their dogs were correct, and that confidence traveled right down the line. Nonetheless, it was great to be able to reward this club's hard work with such a nice pass rate -- three out of three TDs and three out of four TDXs.

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