Ziva passed her TDX at the Hudson Valley Tracking Club test on September 27!
There were 4 TDX tracks offered we got one of the slots at the draw 10 days before the test. Saturday morning I packed up the van for the 4 hour drive to New Paltz for the test on Sunday. We arrived by mid-afternoon and went for a walk. We found a nice grassy park area and of course there were little squeaking critters everywhere in the grass.
Critters cost us our test last week and we had been working all week on leaving the critters alone to live another day and going back to work. I ordered Chinese to take back to the room for dinner and once back at the hotel; Ziva flirted shamelessly with someone we had met the week before at the Pioneer Valley test (apparently all it takes is one small piece of ham to buy her loyalty). We spent the rest of the night sitting on the bed watching NCIS reruns. Between shared bites of sesame chicken and cheese filled pretzels I pointed out to her how all of members of Gibbs team work together, just like we need to tomorrow. I read the fortune cookie to her and she promptly snatched and ate our fortune, then it was off to bed.
The next morning we were at the test headquarters 1 hour early. We were drawn as catalog # 1, so we got to draw our track 1st – – I drew track # 3. We had to drive to our track once it was our turn, and so far, the first 2 dogs had failed 🙁 I got her ready and the judge gave me my angle of approach and off we went. I took the tracking line from her from her collar and hooked it to her harness about 20 feet from the start flag; that is her queue to go to work.
She ate a bit of grass telling me she was a bit stressed. I waited a bit and she started her approach to the start flag. We had a great start-she quickly analyzed what way the track went and was off in a nice steady rhythm. After her 1st turn, I saw trouble, her tail and head raised ever so slightly—oh no, she was getting ready to critter and off the track she went, pouncing on clumps of grass. Curses, this was a repeat of last weekend, but maybe my anti-critter training can save us. “Ziva, hey you, no mousies, is that your track? Go back to work.” That caused a momentary pause and I followed up with a sterner “Hey, knock it off , where is your track?” Miracle of miracles, she looked at me, left the terrified rodents & started casting. She indicated she found the track and we were on our way again! Up ahead were woods. She shot into the woods and went through them like she was on rails. At one point I had to ask her to wait while I climbed over a fallen tree trunk that she had already jumped over like a gazelle. I continued to follow with my head down and arm up trying to weave through the tree branches and keep both of my eyes intact. I saw what must have been the stone foundation of a house and over that she went with barely a pause. Then she stopped dead, turning around, she alerted me to the fact that there were now strange people following us in the woods. She did not seem to mind the judges, but the gallery farther behind them apparently was evil. I restarted her and she alerted a second time when the gallery started to move. The Judges then made the gallery retreat and when she was satisfied they were gone, back to work she went. By now I’m thinking that we should have come across an article. My mind was taken from this thought by an abrupt turn and soon we were out of the woods into a hay lot. She is doing some weaving and I was concerned she may be critter hunting, but her posture says tracking and she seems confident she is where she needs to be. I think the weaving may be caused by the transition from shade to sun-that can affect the scent trail. A few more yards and she stops dead. What the heck is she doing…… oh yeah dummy, she is standing over something waiting for you. “Hey Z, what did you find,” there it is, article #1. I take the time to give her some water and she decides she’s had enough, and off we go again. She makes a turn and then I see it, that darn tail and head raising ever so slightly-UGH she is going to critter again! As she shifts her focus to the critters, I slow down and ask ever so sweetly, “is this your track?” She pauses and swings back and forth over the track a few times, then comes back over the track, drops her head and commits to follow it with nose to the ground and tail swinging-thankfully she is back to business. Now I am starting to think, where are the cross tracks? I have estimated we have gone about 500-600 yards and she has not done anything that indicated to me she encountered them. While I was thinking other thoughts instead of watching my dog, she suddenly stopped in the middle of the field and started casting, she searched in full circles around me multiple times. I backed up several feet until I knew I was standing where she last indicated she was on track. She looked at me, came back and sat in front of me-now what? My trainers advice magically pops into my head; [when they get stuck, offer them some water and reassurance and see if they will go back to track, it’s not a race, so take your time]. This seemed like that moment. She drank and played with the water stream I squirted at her. She also was holding one of her ears funny so I rubbed it and she groaned appreciatively.
I stood back up and re-scented her. “Can you find this Z”? She started to sniff and off she went with purpose. She makes a turn and I see something in the field ahead-it is the color of a blue plastic poop bag. Oh, don’t tell me she is going to investigate a poop bag…I almost slowed and questioned her, but her tracking behavior was strong-so I followed. There she is, stopped and standing over the poop bag, I walk over to it expecting the whistle any moment and see it is a nylon baby bib the same color as a poop bag. I pick it up chuckling and she wags her tail and drags me off down the track again.
She makes a turn which heads toward a road. I still have not seen a cross track indication. Track # 1 that I was able to watch had the 2nd cross track on the last leg and the dog followed it and failed. I was sure that is what they did to us too and all I had to do was make it over the road. Then she turns to parallel the road, oh no-no investigation, nothing-she pencils the turn and keeps on going, nose to the ground, tail swinging. Panic, I am so close, if I stop her I will be guiding. Again my instructors voice pops into my head [trust your Dog] so I follow expecting the whistle-at least that would be an honest mistake I console myself. She has gone at least 50 yards and no whistle-maybe she is right (of course she is, I don’t have a clue-why do I try to think I do). Another 25 or so yards and she stops and lays down-perfect indication that for some reason I only consistently get on a leather glove. I walk up the line asking her what she found and there it is, the final glove! She paws the glove and looks at me. I kneel down and let her know what a good girl she is, scratching all of her favorite places. I then realize the test is not over until I show we found the glove. I stand with it over my head –holy cow, we did it!