Tawny’s TDX

by Martha Windisch


Tawny earned her TDX on a cold November 10, 1996, at Mattaponi Kennel Club’s test at Manassas Battlefield Park in Manassas, Virginia. She was the only TDX out of three to pass. Her track was 885 yards long, 3 hours and 40 minutes old, and had five turns.

Tawny and I have been training for over four years. She has been a great dog to learn to track with, not because she was easy, but because I really had to learn to read her and to motivate her laid-back attitude. We gradually improved with each of the four TDX tests that we ran until the fifth test where we made it all the way!

It was very cold as we drew for track numbers. The TDX handlers actually drew their catalog numbers, thus Tawny was catalog #2 and track #2. After the six dogs ran the TD tracks, the judges went with TDX #1, a black German Shepherd and his handler. At this time Tawny and I were driven to a farm lane and were told to walk up to lane to wait for the judges. We waited for the judges and hopefully, the tracking dog, to come up over the hill to the right. Tawny was eating grass and chewing on sticks while I was trying not to be nervous. Finally the judges came, but they were not following a dog. The German Shepherd had done quite well, but had unfortunately missed a turn near the end.

Now it was our turn, and the fact that Tawny was grazing didn’t seem to be a good sign. Tawny and I walked with the judges further up the lane and past some farm machinery and a barn. Just downhill from the barn, in a newly mowed field, was my starting flag. I put Tawny’s harness on and let her find the article at the flag. She laid down and sniffed it. I took the article and told her to “Track”. At first she headed away from the barn, toward the high grass. Then she stopped, sniffed the air and looked around. I told her to “Track” and she started towards the right, parallel to the high cover and then stopped. She sniffed the air again and looked at the spectators on the hill. She then circled back near the flag, stopped to pee, then again looked around. Knowing how Tawny likes to sight-see, I was trying to stay calm. I firmly told her to “Track,” and she started tracking towards the right, made a left turn towards the high grass, and entered the high grass. I knew that she was on track, plus she loves high cover, so I yelled to her “Good girl, get it!” She kept on tracking, made an easy left turn, ducked through a row of pines with low branches, crossed a small wet ditch, and continued straight through the high cover for a long way. I was watching her closely and wondering if we were passing up turns, articles, or both - but since she was tracking, all I could do was follow and concentrate on her body language. Unknown to me, we had already made it through both of the crosstracks.

We then exited the high cover and went through a hedgerow. We were at the corner of a large mowed field when Tawny started circling. The hedge row that we had come through was 20 to 25 yards to our rear. The judges were standing on the other side of the hedgerow, so I figured that the track really did come into the field. I just had no idea where it went so I let Tawny search. She circled and sniffed for what seemed an eternity. I kept telling myself to be patient and let her work it out. I even did my part by backing up so she could search towards the hedgerow. Then she took me by surprise and started tracking to the right, towards the other hedgerow and through it. I had figured that the track would have headed out into the field, but instead, it only cut the corner of it.

So far, we had tracked over 400 yards with no article. Again I thought that maybe we had missed an article; and maybe the judges hadn’t noticed? Well, there had been no whistle, so I followed Tawny into a gully and through a stream at the bottom. Tawny likes solving the problem of obstacles, so I was hoping that the track really went into the gully. To be sure, I waited within the gully as Tawny climbed the bank into the next field. Boy, was she on! I barely made it up the bank without reaching the end of my line; and then, a strand of briars grabbed my sleeve. I had to tell Tawny to “wait” so I wouldn’t yank the line. Fortunately she understands “wait” quite clearly from our backpacking trips (I’m such a clumsy hiker!), so she waited. When I told her to again “Track”, she immediately found a bandana, article #1. When a relief to find an article! I praised her, scratched her back, and rested for a bit. When my heart slowed to a reasonable rate, I commanded “Track,” and Tawny tracked to the barbed wire fence at the edge of the field.

She went under the fence and immediately turned around and came back. I figured that maybe the track didn’t go under the fence, so I encouraged her to search around the edge of the field. As I was wondering if this was to be our downfall, Tawny went under the fence. I crawled on my knees to follow and heard the judges confidently moving up. My knees then felt a prickly cover. Tawny was gingerly tracking through a field of prickles with her nose not too close to the ground. That explained why she had, at first, changed her mind about going past the fence. Tawny hates briars, so I wasn’t sure how long she would keep tracking. Fortunately, I had been treating her dry pads with a pad conditioner for the last few weeks, so maybe the thorns wouldn’t hurt too much. She then made a right turn without much trouble, except that she was tracking so slowly and gingerly that she was hard to read. Then she stopped! Just as I thought she had quit, I realized that she had retrieved an eyeglass case - article #2.

We rested for a bit longer than we had rested after the first article. Tawny didn’t want much water, but I sure needed a drink. As I caught my breath and told her to “Track”, I couldn’t imagine how much farther the glove could be. My nerves and I were ready to find it and be done. Fortunately during the next 185 yards the briars thinned out, and we entered medium-high cover. Tawny followed the track as it turned right. She started tracking fast. She then raised her head and started lunging towards the glove. At that time, I also saw the glove and raced her to it. We tugged, I threw it, and she ran to retrieve. She did such a good job! She’s retired from obedience and tracking now, but will still get to run fun tracks.

I would like to thank the following people for laying tracks for Tawny and/or for their invaluable advice and suggestions: Cindy Adametz, my husband Andy, Lynn Stahl, Nancy Dunnigan, Joyce Lindloff, Allison Platt, John Rice, Romaine Halupa, Gail Benson, Louise Brong, Debbie Gatier, Bill Sitler, Tom Sitler, Richard Sitler, Thomas Reese, Carolyn Smith, Mary Legge, Roseanne Muscitella, Salle Richards, Maureen Foley, and members of Lenape Tracking Club.

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