Thoughts on Skye’s Track

by Joanne MacKinnon


To say I was nervous is putting it mildly! I had every confidence in Skye’s tracking ability, but I knew that I had to uphold my end of the bargain as a handler, and that was what was making the knots tighten in my stomach that Sunday morning.

Just why were we here? Skye loves to track and so do I. He has been a wonderful dog to share tracking with - a natural! However, we have not encountered many really difficult situations. Due to the wet summer, we really have not had to work hard on the track. Would I be able to help out if the tracking got tough? Would I understand the messages Skye was sending me? Of course the fact that we had had a week of very warm, dry weather had me very concerned.

The time has come. As we approach the flags, I try to concentrate on the field out ahead of us. Then we go through our usual “Putting on the harness” routine. Skye seems eager with a good attitude. We have a good start. Then - heart failure - WHAT IS HE DOING? He is munching away on the wonderful “treats” left by the numerous deer that inhabit Jane’s beautiful fields. He has never done this on a track, and we have not even made the first turn. Somehow between scolding him for snacking and encouraging him to “find the glovie” we find ourselves on the second leg. We are looking pretty good now, confidence returning. Oh No - more deer …!!! Skye is snacking but still tracking. We were running out of field. There must be a turn soon. Is he searching for more deer “hot dogs” or indicating loss of track? He says we should turn up field and away we go. Well, you guess it, just as the confidence was returning, so did the same old question, was he searching for the glove, manure or were we at a turn. It seemed as though an hour had passed, and it was hot. I knew Skye was running out of steam and so was I. I probably should have brought along the water. I found myself babbling at him “where’s the glove?”, “find the track”, “blah, blah, blah”. I have never had to say more than ”good dog” on a track in training. At this point into the track, my whole tracking life (15+ years) passed before my eyes. I recalled my first certification with Piper (my first TD dog) and how we eventually worked out a difficult situation. I also recalled my friend Lisa’s comment when I was stuck on a corner during one of our tracking sessions. She said not too kindly, “your dog is telling you that the track is not there, SO MOVE!” and move we did. I started backing up, encouraging Skye to leave the spot we were stuck on and search fresh ground. Finally he gave a slight indication that there was something interesting to the left. Was it the track of more deer droppings? I couldn’t tell, but I followed him, and sure enough, he became a ”tracking dog” again before my eyes. I really felt we were going to do it, AND WE DID!!

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