Monday, February 27, 2012

Still Tracking

This has to be the windiest winter I've ever had.  It seems out of a 7 day week, 6 of those days have strong winds.  Not only does that make my PT training runs hard and cold, but it also is not ideal for tracking.  Sure, it is important to train for wind, but I've had enough!

Dottie is still getting ready for her TDX.  I see I never posted the training video I made of her doing obstacles.  Obstacles are supposed to be scent obstacles, but physical obstacles can also be scent obstacles.  This was taken a few weeks ago and was the first time I set out to train some obstacles.  It was only aged about 30 minutes.

Next on the TDX quest is to get her tracking scent 3- 5 hrs old.  I had her doing 2.5 hrs, and she made it around the track, but with lots of searching, circling, checking and franticness.  K saw a video I took and suggested I go back to short tracks with lots of articles.  So I've been doing that and she did great at 3 hrs.  Today I did about 3 hrs and 15 minutes.  But the interesting part is the fact that we did  this in a wind advisory.  Winds 25 mph with gusts up to 40 mph.  I mostly track on the Navy base which is right on the beach.  I'm sure that is one contributing factor to the wind and if I didn't track in the wind, I'd never get to track.  But a wind advisory?  With a track aged over 3 hrs?

But Dottie lived up to the nickname a club member gave her.  Dottie- Badger.  And Dottie-Badger don't care.  Yes, it wasn't as "clean" as it could have been, but the wind was all over the place.  I thought she did great.

I lay Dottie's tracks at lunch, then come back and run them after work.  I guess when I get up to 5 hrs I will have to take earlier lunches.  If I couldn't sneak my dogs into work (they wait in the car, and a lot of people probably know but don't care- and it is very cool everyday on the coast under the shade tree) and I lived far from work, how would I ever progress to TDX level?  Laying and aging tracks only on the weekend?  I know the tracking community is not huge, but I wonder how many people who track have 9 to 5 type jobs.

I also laid short tracks for Fancy, aged about 15 minutes, and Pie, about 30 minuets.  Both Pie and Fancy have been having trouble, so I started having them track for a bowl of food at  the end of the track, instead of finding articles.  It helped, to a point.  Today I went back to articles (a bowl of food is pretty hard to hide on mown grass) and both girls had a better attitude and more desire to keep working.

I was going to try to get Pie certified this Wednesday.  The last TD of the season is at the end of March, and if it doesn't fill with TDs, they will open it up to TDXs.  I wanted to take Dottie up there, and when I saw it had TDs also, I thought Pie might give it a try as well.  Then she started having lots of problems, so I canceled our certification.  But the judge was so nice, he said, let's see what happens, and if it doesn't work, we'll turn it into a training track.  So now he knows I don't expect to pass, so the pressure is off.  If she barely passes, and doesn't improve before the actual test, I won't enter her.  I don't want to take the spot of someone who is 100% ready.  We'll see what happens come Wednesday.  Pie actually tracks nicely.  The problems are she will stop tracking and "take me for a walk" and that if she gets lost she looses confidence and will start panting and running in circles instead of searching for the track.  I think in her mind she is searching, but her body is not letting her.

So  that is where all 3 girls stand with their tracking progress.  Dottie is ready for the TDX, Pie may or may not be ready for certification, and Fancy needs motivation to track for 440 yards with no reward.

I wonder if the wind will go away when it warms up?

Pie- Still Living the Hard Life

Sometimes I wish I was Pie.
I was sitting by her back feet.  But I think she was more comfy than me!

Death Valley, CA Trip 2012

Over President's weekend, I left the dogs with K and headed off to Death Valley with my parents, youngest brother and family friends, the Rs.

We left Saturday morning.  It was a very full weekend.  Lots to see each day, and yet we still didn't see everything.  I would have liked to spend more time at some locations, but because we spent the time we did, we had to leave out such cool places like the Racetrack where the rocks move.

These are just some of the pictures I took.  I'll put a link to more at the bottom.  

Lava flow on the way to Death Valley.
We stopped for lunch along the way and it turned out to be a salt lake bed.
Large canyon.
With Panamint Valley in the background.
I got a boost to see over the rock.
Don't get too close to the edge Mom!
In Death Valley at last.  Sand dunes.
I'm at the top of the dune and the family is coming along slowly.
Heading to Badwater, lowest place in US.  Not quite there yet.
See that small white spot on the rock, right in the middle that I am pointing at???
This is that same speck.  Pretty crazy!
Badwater.  This is as low as you can go.
On the dry lake looking back at the parking lot.
Hi.  Snow in background.
Artist's Drive.   Pretty.

Ubuhebe Volcanic Crater.  Not quite sure on the spelling.  It was really big!
Starting down.  And down, and down.
At the bottom.  It was out of the wind, so was a bit warmer down there.  Neat to see all the different layers in the rock.
Heading back out.  Quite a climb.  That is the older section of the family trailing along behind.  Not to worry- they eventually made it out.
Next up was Scotty's Castle, a large home built as a getaway in Death Valley.  Scotty did not own it, he was a friend, but he was the famous one, so the name stuck.
Inside the music room.
Ghost town of Ryolite.  We didn't have time to get out, just drove through.  I think the buildings are in extra bad shape, since the town is from around the turn of the century.  I know people who live in houses older than this, and they haven't fallen down.  (Yet.)
Starting off in Titus Canyon. 
The scenery leading up to the canyon.  The camera was not doing the colors justice.
Leadfield only lasted 6 months, but they had a great view.
Inside a creepy Leadfield building.
I would have gone in the mine if it wasn't blocked off.  Drat.
Heading into the narrow part of Titus Canyon.
It was really cool!  Very steep walls and a very narrow canyon.
We stayed in the Stovepipe Wells hotel.  This is the historic stovepipe well.  So named because they would put a stovepipe on it to keep it from getting buried in the sand.  It is not a comfy seat.
Disembodied hands at the historic well.  No one mentioned it was haunted.
The white specks is the hotel dawfed by the vastness of the desert.
Last day was Mosaic Canyon before we left.  This picture shows why the canyon is called this.
More neat rocks, smooth in some places, much prettiness!
Hiking in Mosaic Canyon.
Wow!  A folding rock!!!
Canyon got wider.
Little bro on a rock.
The marble was extra pretty.
Last view of Death Valley from Mosaic Canyon.  They we hopped in the Jeep and drove home!
139 Pictures (click here.)  And I took even more but my Internet is so slow that I only have enough time in the day to upload the very best.  

Another great family trip with memories to last forever.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Death Valley Trip

The pictures are not even close to being ready.  It was a nice, short, 3 day trip to Death Valley with my parents and youngest brother.  No dogs allowed since it is a National Park and they are grumpy like that.  The girls stayed with K and had more fun at her house than they have at mine.  It was like being at camp.  She says Pie seemed to miss me the most.  Fancy just begged treats off of her, Dottie got to play for hours on end with her Sheepdog, and poor sad Pie lay in her kennel looking sad.  Between individual walks, chasing bunnies, and cookies, that is.  Here are some pictures showing how much fun Dottie had with her new boyfriend.

Dottie got tired much earlier than he did.  So she went to roll around in the shade while he chewed on a stick.
But, it was not a dog vacation, it was a person vacation, so I'll post a bit more about Death Valley below.

We saw lots of amazing sites in Death Valley and I'll share them when I have a minute. The End.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Dottie TD VCD1 !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Yes, we did it.  After the movie, we drove all night and arrived at 2:30 in the morning.  I got a Motel 6 room, which unfortunately smelled overwhelmingly of urine.  I only had 3 hrs for sleep, so decided to just deal with it.

We got up the next morning and found the test site no problem.  It was at Mather Regional Park outside of Sacramento.  Dottie was dog 12 out of 12, so we were the last to draw a number, which told us which order we ran tracks in.  I drew number 8.  Not too bad.  I would have rather gone sooner to get it out of the way.  If you go later, that does not mean your track has aged longer, since they wait until the person in front of you starts before they lay your track.

The tracks were aged around 30 minutes.  Very easy for Dottie.  They were 440 yards long, which is a quarter of a mile.  The cover was dead weeds that had fallen over, so it was like you were walking on thatch rather than the ground.  The cover was pretty uniform, although it did turn to dirt only in one section, but Dottie didn't have a problem with that.

The best part was the weather.  It was cold and foggy.  The damper it is outside, the easier it is for the dogs to sniff out the trail since water holds scent.  Actually scent is a lot like fog in that if it is bright and sunny (or windy) the fog/scent evaporates and dissipates or blows away and makes it harder.  But the weather was perfect tracking weather, if not perfect waiting weather.  I was cold.

The very first dog, a young Newfoundland failed.  She had trouble even leaving the start pad and got past the second marker flag and would go no further.  But the second dog passed nicely.  Everyone else passed with varying degrees of ease except for a young Bloodhound who missed a corner, picked her head up and took her owner for a walk, and he followed.

Exept for 2 goldens, none of the dogs were the same breed.  Let's see if I can remember them all.  Newfoundland, Bloodhound, German Shepherd, 2 Goldens, Hovawart, Malinois, Portugees Water Dog, Corgi, Rottwieler, an English Cocker Spaniel and the lone Elkound (it was the Elkhound club.)

Here is a picture of all of the passing teams.  The dogs looking off to the side are looking at ducks in the pond.

Dottie ran her track with absolutely no problems.  Her corners were very tight, not really even any casting.  She went nice and slow, as she was trained, as to not make any mistakes.  Coming down the last leg, I could see the glove from a long way off, yet Dottie didn't see it until her nose hit it.  She was 100% using her nose and not her eyes.  We got lots of compliments on her nice and easy pace, her classic tracking body posture, and how easy she is to read.  People wanted to know how I slowed her down.  C at the SchH club joked that if people ask me that I need to tell them my "seminar rates" and I'll give them all the secrets then!  I did give the easy answer that I use lots of corners.  It is more than that, but that is a start.  The judges said they were worried  they were in for a sprint (they follow along behind you) as Dottie drug me, out of control, to the start flag, but - bam!- she hit that scent and slowed right down.

Dottie was so good.  I was more nervous on our certification track.  She had more trouble on the certification due to the lack of cover, and possible cross track.  This time I didn't have to feel nervous because she put her nose down and never made a step wrong.

So, as I raised the glove in the air and the judges blew the "you passed" whistle, Dottie became my first AKC Tracking Dog (TD) AND my first AKC Versatile Companion Dog 1 (VCD1).  You get this title if you have the beginning level in each of the "companion" sports.  Obedience, Agility, and Tracking.  The TD actually covers level 1 and 2, so once she gets her CDX, she'll be a VCCD2. 

When I decided to keep Dottie when I was fostering her, I had lots of plans for her.  Foremost was agility.  So far that hasn't panned out great.  I did not think Dottie would be my first VCD and that she would be such a great tracking dog.  I didn't see that one coming.

Now that Dottie has successfully passed her TD, I'll put my hopes and dreams for her into writing so it is official.  I want Dottie to be the second Champion Tracker (CT) in the history of Malinois in the AKC.  There is only one Malinois CT, but I want Dottie to be the second.  We'll see.  I believe she has the ability, and her clear tracking signals make it that much easier for me to not mess her up.  To be a CT you have to pass the TD, the TDX (longer track, aged longer, obstacles, varied cover and more articles) and the Variable Surface Track (VST) which involves a Moment of Truth (MOT) turn on a hard surface such as a parking lot.  These usually take place at college campuses instead of out in fields.  

But for now, I'll bask in the glow of finishing the TD!

After the tracks were done, the tracklayer and judges signed the glove we found (a tradition, apparently) we got our map of the track and pictures taken, then we hit the road.  It was around 2:30. I had to pull over to sleep before too long.  I'm not sure how much sleep I actually got, but I didn't feel very refreshed.  I got home around 9:30.

Our track started near the tires and ended up to the left of the middle.
Dottie posing with her glove.  I guess I need to remember to NOT take photos sideways since even though I rotate them, it still puts them in sideways.  Yes, her green harness (came with foster mal Boscoe) is not very attractive, but now it is our lucky harness, so i will have to keep using it.
With the movie and the tracking it was an exciting weekend.  But Fancy doesn't see it that way since she had to wait in the car both days, all day.