How Tawny Earned her Tracking Title

by Martha Windisch


After Tawny completed her UD, even though I am not much of a morning person, I decided that maybe we would try tracking. Thus, we attended Tracking Experience Day 1991. During the summer of 1991, I taught her the basics using Glen Johnson's tracking book. In September, we tried the Lenape Match, but I failed to read her second turn (which she also indicated quite poorly after rolling in deer droppings.) In the fall she completely ceased to track. She could not find a triple-laid track which was less than 10 minutes old due to her coming into season. We then took a break until she got her nose back. During the winter of 1992, we worked on turns to get her used to indicating them while I held my position. During this time I realized that she is a "left-handed" tracker. Coming into the spring of 1992, we were becoming much more of a team, although she was not always confident at the starts. At this time I realized that if I did not get pushy with her at the start, she usually would take it - eventually.

This brings me to the certification match in Maryland. Boy was it windy - you could lean into it and not fall over! As we approached the start of our track #3, I figured that the wind might throw her off, especially since the starting flag was loudly flapping over the track. Well, she really stressed me out when she stood at the start for four minutes sniffing the wind. Somehow I remained patient (or maybe petrified!) and all of a sudden, she put her nose down and did the entire track at record speed of just under six minutes. I have no idea of where that track went. I was just trying to keep the line from getting tangled and from falling on my face in the corn stubble. Due to the hilly terrain and to her speed, when she grabbed the glove, I hardly had the breath to praise her.

After the match, I sent my entry into Hudson Valley Tracking Club's test. I had to send it overnight to make the closing! I figured that I would try a test before she again came into season in case she stopped tracking. The day of the test was cool, damp, and foggy. It seemed to be perfect tracking weather except that Tawny has not read the book! Sometimes she seems to track better during warm, dry and windy weather. I drew track #7, which was good since they were laying three at a time. While waiting for our tracks to be laid, I tried to convince Tawny that a rawhide bone would be waiting at the end. I think she saw right through me, because her start was still a bit nerve wracking, although fortunately not four minutes' worth. This time she stood still for only a few seconds then put her nose down and sniffed the track. Only trouble is that she did not pinpoint it, and she circled around behind me before I had moved. At that time I encouraged her over to the start and she took it!!! Boy did she take it fast! I practically jogged most of the track, and I really concentrated on her as she indicated earn turn perfectly. Again I had no idea of how many turns we had actually taken although many appeared to be to the left (three of the four were lefties). At the end she passed by the glove because she was downwind of the track. Fortunately, because of the tree line ahead, I spotted it and got her to circle behind me for it. As soon as she circled behind me, she saw the glove and actually pounced on it! At that moment I praised her and asked the judge, "Did we do it?" The judge replied, "Well, you do have the glove, don't you!".

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