|Tracking is not the only venue in which my dog participates. Passing the TDX test was the hardest thing we have ever shared. That includes weight pulls, obedience, water rescue tests, agility, and hunting retriever work. At least tracking did not pose a physical challenge like some other venues, for my fifteen pound Miniature Poodle.
JIB is the first dog I have trained in tracking. I used Judi Adler's book, The Audible Nose, and started JIB on a Caribbean Island soccer field. After a few weeks, and back home in Texas, I called our local tracking guru in Ft Worth, Marge Cook, and introduced myself. Marge laid our first blind track and JIB was certified within a few weeks of that day. Another month and some luck found us in his first TD test, in Dallas TX. It took him 7 minutes to the glove. Two weeks later in a Colorado TD test he cut that down to 5 minutes.
I had reason for optimism, but that's because I'd never seen a TDX test! Well, we've seen them now, and flunked five before the magic pass, almost two years from the time I first read Judi's book.
My husband Michael flew to Springfield MO with JIB and me the night before the test, and was as excited as we were. We drove onto the William Tynes Farm the morning of the test, just thrilled with the beautiful green fields and lovely hundred year old white manor house. What a fabulous setting for a dog training club with over 150 tracking titles. The weather was perfect, with a cool morning and mild cloudy day.
When the TDs finished the three X dogs drew their tracks, and JIB was assigned number two. The other two entrants were Border Collies, and neither passed, proving again the usual low percentage of X success.
When our turn came, and the track had aged three hours, my start was right out the backyard by the farm house. The gallery was about a dozen strong, including Michael taking pictures and a bit of digital video. Judges Robert Brown and Cathy Hawkins pointed me to the flag. JIB has never had the pleasure of tracking in a hay field of six inch deep green. He went to the flag, found the track layer's red bandana, and proceeded to eat grass. I know my part, and it is patience.
He munched and sniffed, circled and munched some more, then eventually headed out, much to my relief. 80 yards out he checked and took a left turn just past a big oak tree. 65 yards later he headed into tall weeds at the edge of the field and woods, between a tractor and big hay bales. JIB worked his way among the bales and even checked under the tractor, urinated on a bale, and eventually worked his way around the obstacle and back into the field. He took me along the edge of the field and then stopped to pick up a pair of ear muffs placed in tall grass on the perimeter.
I was thrilled with this gift and reassurance we were on track!! The slow start and the obstacle had been hard work, so I insisted JIB take a water break, and then hurried to put things away so he could get back to work. He was moving much more quickly now, and covered this 160 yard leg to a right turn with certainty. Now we were really moving, pulling the line with me walk/jogging to keep up. The 145 yard leg was divided by cross tracks, but JIB ignored them. He made a quick check at the next corner, and took me right again and found a sock in the grass which he retrieved in his standard article indication. Motored over the second set of cross tracks and turned right at the end of 155 yards. A short 50 yards down, he banked left and hauled me 115 yards towards the farm house and gallery. I was sure we were nearing the end, and dared to hope.
We passed within twenty yards of the gallery on my right and I followed the Poodle into tall grass, as he slalomed between pine trees away to his left. I was jogging now, eighteen minutes since the clock started, and 820 yards from the start, THE GLOVE! THE GLOVE! He brought me the GLOVE! The gallery cheered. The judges and track layer applauded, and I was laughing and dancing. JIB ran toward the judges dragging me along. He showed the glove to each judge, and then went to the track layer and laid the glove between his feet, as if to say, "I believe you dropped this".
Suzi Cope and JIB
CH KALLISTA'S SILVER SAILS ALOFT TDX CDX MX MXJ