Monday, January 20, 2014

Snow Tracking


Snow tracking is great for working with your dog on different surfaces.  Snow really holds the scent, so it makes variable surface much easier.  Get lost in the snow and Magnum and I will find you! 

While in Michigan over the holidays with over 3 feet of snow, we tracked.  Our only problem was me.  Magnum demonstrated why he is a springer in that he sprang through the snow.  I struggled to make it through the 3 feet of snow.

Now in Ohio with 6 inches or so of snow, the tracking is great.  We tracked Sunday in a business parking lot with part of it plowed.  The track was through a lot of snow and then on more cleared areas.  The track hugged the curbs.  I continue to have Magnum work on curbs because they hold the scent.  I am trying to convince him that concrete holds the scent, if he will just keep his nose down and not use his eyes to look for articles.  He is still struggling with just tracking just on concrete.  The week before on concrete with no snow he did well but used his eyes more than his nose.  My friend and I threatened to blindfold him.

On the parking lot with snow he did very well.  About 80 feet or so on the 1st leg he indicated there was an article.  I looked for it, but couldn’t find anything in the snow.  I turned and asked Alan if there was an article and he said not there but further along.  We didn’t find the article on that leg, but he made the turn and found the next article. Magnum continued on and found all the articles (plastic, metal, and leather). 

After we finished, I told Alan we would go back and look for the missing 1st article Magnum hadn’t found.  Magnum and I went back to the 80-foot area and I re-scented him and said, “Find it.”  Magnum sniffed around then used his nose as a scoop and pulled up the article.  It had been there all along, but had gotten smashed down.  Alan was impressed that Magnum found it and I was too.

Don’t use snow as an excuse not to track.   Your dog can do it.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Peak Performance


I heard a discussion on NPR about peak performance – have we reached it?  It got me thinking about the concept.  As a baby boomer, I have believed in my endless youth.  I now realize that my youth is over.  And in fact, for many of the activities I do, I am past peak performance.  It doesn’t make the activity less enjoyable, just I am not as good as I once was.  I am slower and more cautious.  For most athletic activities, youth is needed for peak performance.

Then I saw an article in the Parade magazine in the newspaper about Olga Katelko, a super senior.  At 77 she took up track and field for master’s level.   She brook 20 records at 85 and at 90 is still competing in long jump and high jumping.  Whew, you go girl.  One of the interesting facts is that she rarely sits still, constantly jumping up and doing stuff.  It got me moving too.

But there are other activities that youth isn’t the key factor.  I read more now and read a wider variety of books and think my comprehension is better.  I tried to be a good mother and was the best for my ability, but probably wasn’t the best.  Now I have a chance to be a great grandmother.  I am sure there are many other activities that aren’t reliant upon youth.  I am just pleased that I still ride my bike, walk, cross -country ski, track with my dog, and am half of my dog’s agility team.  Maybe peak performance isn’t important.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Most Hopeful Day of the Year


Christmas Eve has always been my favorite day of the year.  I don’t want it to end.  On this day, all things seem possible.  Our hearts are light and our heads are filled with our sweetest wishes and dreams.

Most of us at sometime in our lives, believed in the magical.  It is the magical that gives us great hope.  We believe that life will be better and miraculous changes will occur as they did in “A Christmas Carole.”  It is a glorious feeling, which I never want to end.

Isn’t it more fun to look at the presents under the Christmas tree and imagine what they hold than to open them?  Unopened, they represent everything we desire.  For some, opened presents never live up to the dreams.  This is not to say that we are ungrateful or unappreciative.  Just that our imagination exceeds reality.

Christmas Eve seems to go way too fast for me.  I have so much I do on that day and before I know it, the day is gone.  I always miss that midnight moment when the animals talk. I want to hear what my dogs and cats are saying.  Does Magnum talk about tracking and agility?  And Shadow, what does she say about being blind?  I am sure next year I will be present at that moment and hope you will be too.  Here’s wishing you everything you dream!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Holidays




So much is written about the holiday spirit – lack of it, getting it, transformation, and having it.  Probably it all has some truth in it.  Along with many, I am concerned about the over commercialization of Christmas.  I am not a religious person, but I love the values exemplified in the Christmas story.

I have never had a lack of Christmas spirit, but I too have to watch my spending.  I tend to use Christmas as a time to help my son’s family financially.  I think that is okay.  I am also generous to non-profits during this season.  I took a child’s request off the tree in the library to purchase a gift for them. 

I end up giving money to some non-profits I decided not to fund.  These are mainly national organizations.  I try to give locally because the impact is greater and there is less spent on fund raising.  One of the organizations I wasn’t going to fund was the U. S. Humane Society.  I heard a piece on NPR recently that many movies that state there were no animals injured in the making of the movie were out right lying.  And, the Humane Society was a part of this.  But, I decided they also do a lot of good and my heart is with animals.

I love to watch and read Christmas stories.  I have watched almost all the Christmas stories and find something to like in all of them.  No matter how unlikely the story, there is always a transformation in the last 20 minutes.  Some of the stories are just plain silly, but I still enjoy watching them.

A part of the holiday spirit for me is knitting something while I watch the holiday show.  This year I am knitting a sweater for my grandson.  I think I will try to do it every year even though I may eventually get the title the “Sweater Grandmother”.

Then there is the baking.  Since I am trying to watch my weight, I make a lot of dog biscuits.  They are great gifts for friends with dogs.  And, most of my friends have dogs.

I will end with saying “May the spirit be with you!”

Monday, November 4, 2013

Result - VST


Sunday, Oct. 27th was a cool day with dew on the grass – perfect for tracking.  The tracking test at the English Springer Spaniel Field Trial National Specialty had 4 dogs for tracking dog test (TD), 1 dog for tracking dog excellent (TDX), and 3 dogs for variable surface (VST).  I got to draw first for the VST and drew the first track.  This meant that Magnum and I would be the first VST tested.

While waiting for the tests to begin, I was talking with another of the VST testees.  With her was a tall man who said he had the first Springer to pass the VST test.  I knew the name of the person who had the first VST Springer so I asked his name and he said Ed Pressnell.  I had been using Ed’s book for VST training.  The woman with him was his wife.

The only dog to qualify for any of the tracking tests was a TD test.  None of us passed the VST test.  I wasn’t surprised or upset with Magnum because I didn’t think he was ready.  He started the test on grass and had a good start.  He transitioned from grass to asphalt and did fine.  He came to a crossroad with buildings to the left and right or could go straight.  This was about 100 feet from the start.  He did not commit to going straight and was uncertain.  I let him smell the scent article several times.  Finally he went to the left where there was grass running next to the asphalt.  He thought he found an article and I picked it up.  Shortly after this, the judges whistled.  The judges whistle when you and your dog have failed.  His track actually went straight for another 60 feet or so, and then turned.  The tracklayer said she thought he was uncertain and saw the grass and felt comfortable with grass.  Ed told me Magnum didn’t have the confidence to go straight and thought I turned my body to the left and so Magnum went left.

Ed has tracking workshops that cover VST, so I plan to attend one.  Unfortunately, the workshops close to me are full until summer.  So, I think I will go to New Mexico in March so we can be ready for either spring or next fall.

Ed suggested that I just spend a month working on short transitions doing 4 or 5 at a time.  Good advice.  I think I will go back to using curbs for about a month before the transitions.  I will cut back on the number of days we track to 3 or 4 per week.

The agility trial did not start well for us.  We were having a great standard course run and were 3 obstacles before the end.  Magnum was heading for the tunnel when a photographer, standing outside the ring, but next to the tunnel, started shooting pictures of Magnum.  As soon as Magnum heard the camera, he headed toward the photographer.  This had also happened to a couple of other dogs.  Magnum is young, so I hope he is now used to this distraction.  I quickly got him back to the tunnel, but he had gotten a refusal.  He had been running really well and fast.  On the jumper’s course, he again ran fast, but knocked a bar.  Seems like he knocks a bar at every trial, so we need to work on this.  He tends to drag a back foot.

The next day we were entered in Standard, Jumpers, and Time 2 Beat.  He qualified in each, so I was pleased.  He again ran fast. We're traveling for a while and entered an agility trial in North Carolina.  We'll see how we do.






Friday, October 25, 2013

VST Ready!


I am getting ready to leave tomorrow morning for the Variable Surface Tracking (VST) Test at the Springer Nationals outside of St. Louis.  The test is on Sunday.  Just finished my last practice track with Magnum and he was awesome.  We tracked at Antioch College and the campus was busy with the new students and people in the community who walk on the campus.  There were lots of cross tracks. 

I was a little frustrated with Magnum on the first leg because he kept trying to follow cross tracks.  I just had to be patient.  He was running about 4 feet off the track and almost missed an article, but came back for it.  I was impressed.  I let him smell the start article several times to remind him what he was tracking. 

He made most of his turns decisively.  A big difference I see in VST is that he wants to check out bits of trash along the way to see if they are articles.  I have to let him do it or he won’t give up on it.  He went about 30 feet past his first turn, but then came back and found the turn.   The track was a little over 3 hours old. 

It was a good way to end it before the test.  He tracked well and reminded me that I need to be patient and follow my dog. 

We are taking so much with us on the trip because after the nationals we are going to Rice, Texas to pick up a Casita Travel Trailer.  We’ll spend about 10 days camping making a circle back to Ohio.  So, we are packing camping gear – towels, sheets, dishes and all the stuff we will need.  I actually started packing about 5 days ago, which is rare for me.  I think I have it all together. 

I so want Magnum to pass the VST test.  Preparing for it has taken so much of my time and Alan’s time.  I am ready to move on to some other stuff.   I won’t stop tracking, but will only do it a couple of times a week.  Wish us luck!


Saturday, October 19, 2013

Moment of Truth (MOT)


Moment of Truth

A moment of truth may be defined as a critical or decisive time on which much depends; a crucial moment.  A moment of truth (MOT) in tracking with my dog, Magnum is basically the same.  AKC defines it as a turn that should be plotted with 30 yards into the turn on non-vegetated surface followed by an additional 30 yards after the turn before another change in surface.

What it really means is that it is an extremely difficult turn and demonstrates your dog’s ability to track on a non-vegetated surface.  But, let’s face it; every turn in tracking is a MOT.  Your dog either figures out the direction to go or you are no longer on the track. 

Yesterday late afternoon I tracked with Magnum on a 3 hour old track laid at John Bryan State Park.  The track started in the grass, had a turn that transitioned to a parking lot, and then had a turn on the asphalt.  The turn on the asphalt was a MOT.  Magnum, for the first time ever, needed no assistance from me.  He got to the turn, stopped several feet after, and explored all directions.  He then took off in the correct direction. 

Wow – was I excited.  Magnum, as I have shared in the past, is an incredible tracker in that he is hard working, doesn’t give up, and is always enthusiastic.  He really gets it and understands his job. 

When I say it was the first time I hadn’t assisted him, I don’t mean that I usually lead him.  I don’t.  But I know where the turn occurs and I don’t let him go in the wrong direction.  I always let him explore and check out bits of trash all over, but I don’t follow him in an incorrect direction.  I wait until he is going in the correct direction and then follow him.

This particular turn was like his turns in the grass, very decisive and he pulled strongly.  We are one week away from our variable surface test (VST) and I am getting anxious.  I have thought about pulling him because I am uncertain if we are ready (we does include me).  Yesterday gave me tremendous hope.  And, isn’t life and joy about hope.  More to come later!