Tani’s TDX

by Gail Thompson


I had entered Tani in both Hudson Valley’s (HV) and Vermont’s TDX trials on October 7 and 14 respectively. I had also entered two local obedience trials (in case I didn’t get into the TDX trial) on October 5 and 6, trying to get the last leg of a UD on him. I got into HV’s TDX and planned on going up on Friday, October 6 to be ready for the trial Sunday morning, giving him a day to rest after the day of traveling. I did not know yet if I had gotten into VT’s trial, but later found out I was the first alternate.

However on the 4th, while doing UD work, I started getting chest pain that wouldn’t quit. I had a heart attack back in 1986 and had stents put into my heart in 2005, so I do have a history of CAD (coronary artery disease.) Since I had a rather hectic schedule upcoming, I decided to go to the ER to be sure it was “nothing.” However, even though all the preliminary tests were negative, they decided to keep me overnight and repeat a cardiac cath on Friday. Not knowing what they might find, I decided to pull out of HV’s trial to give any alternates time to prepare and therefore had to pass up on the obedience trial on Friday also. This spring I entered nine trials and only got into one, so I figured I might be passing up my only chance for a fall entry! Since the cath was negative they discharged me Friday afternoon, and though I made it to the Saturday obedience trial, Tani got creative and NQ’d.

Vermont was offering TD tracks and two TDXs. But they only had five TD entries, so another TDX track was added. One TDX entry pulled out, so two alternates got it!

The Vermont club was a very gracious club. They had a fabulous dinner for the judges, tracklayers, alternates and entries on Saturday night at one member’s home. It was a great opportunity for tracking fellowship. We ate our fill of a wonderful dinner and had plenty left, plus even more for lunch on Sunday!

The judges were Ray Desmarais and Phil Gallagher. It was a cool day, and it rained lightly overnight so all the fields were perfectly damp Sunday morning. All five TD dogs passed, so I figured that it MUST be a perfect day for tracking.

I drew the third TDX track. The first TDX dog was an ILP Cocker “Millie” that motored through her course to the title. While they were in the woods, a hunter came across their track and told us that a bear had crossed her track earlier! We saw moose crossing signs on the roads so who knows, maybe even moose had crossed some tracks. I did not get to see the TD tracks, but all the TDX tracks were laid so that the gallery could see the whole track from the starting flag, except when the teams were in the woods.

The second dog was a Tervuren bitch that got lost in the woods, but finished the course without the aid of the tracklayer. That was her first “almost successful” try at a TDX.

Tani’s track covered two fields that were separated by a gravel gray dusty road that everyone had driven over to get to the start of our track. The cover in the first field was calf-high “grass” but the second field had dense alfalfa that was also calf deep. Tani usually takes a while to get started, but immediately took off in what turned out to be the correct direction. In that field I could see the track ahead occasionally, and when I couldn’t I thought there might be a turn there, but he just kept going straight so I had no choice but to go with him.

We went straight into the woods on the first 235-yard leg. We came to an almost dry, rocky creek bed, which he started to follow. I had trouble walking on the unstable rocks, until I came to what would have been a waterfall had there been more water in the creek. He was already past that point down the creek, and I wondered how I was going to get down, but he shortly got up on the creek bank, so I followed him on the bank.

He made his way of the woods and had to search for the track as I later found out he had exited the woods early. He found the track and shortly thereafter came running back to me with the second article, tail wagging. We continued without incident through two more turns in that field, then crossed the road. The crosstracks were on those last two legs, but he never indicated them. I practice with him in a business complex where there are several doctors’ offices, etc., and I lay track early in the morning right past their doors and then return after “who knows” how many people have crossed his track entering and leaving the offices. I’ve even had the people pass right in front of us while he is tracking and he usually ignores them, which surprises me as he is a therapy dog and loves to greet people.

The dense cover in the second field didn’t seem to pose any problems for him initially as he made a turn and shortly thereafter came bounding back to me with the third article. He continued straight and several times he poked his nose in the adjoining very tall grass/woodsy area, but backed out. Since I didn’t know what the judges had considered as the second obstacle, I was willing to go with him if he had continued. After a short time I had forgotten as to where he had located the third article.

Then he seemed confused and backed up (not apparently tracking) possibly back beyond where the article had been. We circled around and covered quite a bit of ground back and forth. I thought he had possibly missed a turn, but by now I had no idea where the last article had been. You could not see where anyone had walked in the field. I kept thinking this is the best he has ever done, and I was pleased with his performance to this point and would have been happy even if we had never made it to the end! Then he seemed to start going in a straight line, but without the pull he had up to this point. Still not sure if he had found the track, after a short distance he put his nose deeper into the cover so I could only see his ears, and to my surprise came back up with the last article. The gallery told me later that when his head was buried in the cover, his tail started wagging. Since I wasn’t sure if he was even on the track, I missed that indication. His track was 914 yards and it took him about 43 minutes. The first dogs did their tracks in about 10 to 15 minutes. Fortunately the judges were very patient; being more objective, they could probably “see” his perseverance better than I could.

I trained Tani initially at the Navy base with their head trainer. (Besides dogs for the Navy, Rudy trained search and rescue dogs that were capable of doing a night track up to 29 miles through towns, fields, etc. However, I’ve never had a track longer than 3/4 mile as physically I wasn't able.) Therefore, for Tani’s first year of tracking we always had a tracklayer so he always had someone to find at the end of the track. He loved finding the tracklayer, and we had to break him of air scenting if he located the person early, maybe as much as several hundred yards upwind! Later when my most faithful tracklayer had a stroke, I had to start laying my own tracks. So when the tracklayer (in VT) came up to Tani in the field, he had to be the happiest dog in the world at that moment. And Rudy, who retired from the Navy and moved to Georgia several years ago, received a very happy phone call from me.

I owned and trained the first Champion-UD collie of either variety back in the early 60s when roughs were the most popular breed. That was a smooth also. I have always wanted a Ch-UDT dog but I gave up with that dog after he failed 18 TD trials even though he had been certified by three different judges, including Milo Pearsall, for those of you old enough to remember him! (One trial in RI was at the beginning of a hurricane where the track was now six inches under water and the tracklayer was stuck in a tree in the middle of the rising river that already had flooded its banks. We had the first track, but when my dog failed, they cancelled the trial!) But since Tani got his TDX before his UD (had two UD legs before the TDX trial), if and when he ever gets the last UD leg, I still won’t have a Ch-UDT dog … but a Ch-UDTX.

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