Upfront - we didn't title - didn't even come close. <sigh> Lots of lessons learned, but you know my motto: I'd rather be dumber and more successful.
The trial site was great and the hosts did a really nice job. It was at Chemawa Indian School a boarding school for Native Americans and Alaskan Natives. I didn't realize such a thing even existed in this day and age. I did find the English translation for Chemawa is "mourn", but couldn't find anything on their website talking about the school philosophy.
It was a verrrry hot day. The forecast said it would get to 98 degrees, but it was 100 degrees before noon and was still 100 when I left at 4:30. I parked in shade, but it didn't last. I have a few good things for keeping the car cool, but I think I'm going to have to break down and get some of those wonderful and expensive silver mesh shade cloths. It seems like the weather is trending toward hotter and hotter. I might only use them a couple times a year, but when I need them, it would be worth it. I need to measure the van and decide what sizes I need, before ordering them for my birthday...
Our first search was Vehicles, with 2:30. Gimme went from the start line to the front tire on the silver truck, sniffed there, moved to the back tire and sniffed before moving to the trailer hitch and alerting. The pink shows places she showed some interest and the blue arrow shows the direction of the breeze. After the first hide I took her around all the vehicles and she showed a little bit of interest at the front tire on the middle vehicle but turned away on her own. When she didn't show any more interest I called finished. I was sure we'd passed vehicles, but learned later there were two hides.
I thought we'd covered the vehicles, and assumed heat was the issue. The judge commented he was sure she would have found it if I had a "comprehensive" search pattern. This diagram shows what I remember walking. We only used half the time. I think I mentally checked off the front of the center car as we went by on the way to the silver truck. Gimme did show slight interest in the front tire of the center car, but I thought it was scent blowing from the rear hitch of the truck, further confirmed when she came away on her own. NOTE TO SELF - Go ALL the way around EVERY vehicle regardless.
Our next searches were Interiors. We had three search areas.
Room 1 - 2:30
This was a barracks room with 3 beds, 3 lockers and 3 desks. The hide was inside the nearest locker (open) in a bottom drawer. Gimme found it right away, momentarily started to pass it and then whipped back to it. We toured the rest of the room and called "finish" in 1:04. Easy peasy.
Room 2 - 2:30
This too was a barracks room with 3 beds, 3 lockers and 3 desks. The hide
was under the chair in front of the locker and desk on the right side. Gimme checked the lockers on the left side first, then was drawn to the hide on the chair. We toured the rest of the room and I was about to call "finish" when she showed interest at the foot of the bed (orange dot) and then alerted. I called it and heard the dreaded "no".
At first I thought she just was trying to get out of there, which doesn't make sense, since this building was much cooler than the car. I've also thought she might have been trying to please me. But I also note we were in the room only 2 seconds longer than the first room, so its not like I was prolonging the search. The more I think about it, probably there was a bit of scent drifting from the chair to the corner of the bed (toward the open door) and I was too ready to call alert, when she was only checking it out. She did look up at me, but didn't lift her foot.
Room 3 - 3:00
This recreation room was the hardest interior search of the three and frankly, Gimme aced it. As you enter the room there is a wall directly in front of you, recessed from the hall, so we could enter to the left or right. The start line tape included the area in front of the recessed wall as part of the search area, so I made a mental note to be sure we covered it. The room had three couches, two upholstered chairs, end tables, lockers, 2 l-shaped book cases, a couple of desks and a tall audio-visual cart.
I centered Gimme on the start line and let her choose which way to go. She went left and within seconds located the hide on the wheel of the AV cart. From there we checked the left side of the room, finding nothing. We passed between the couch/desk combo and the upholstered chairs to work the other side of the room. Gimme was quickly drawn to the trash can next to the book case, she sniffed it and then alerted on the outside top edge. I was going to take her from there to check the area between the start line and the recessed wall, but she had plans of her own and went directly to the two desks, quickly alerting again. This search took her 1:05... which is very close to the time we spent in the other two rooms (1:04 & 1:06). She clearly loves a challenge. Most of the dogs who failed in interiors failed in this room.
We had a bit of a rest and time to cool down (relatively speaking, it was 100 degrees) before it was time for Containers, with 2:30.
There were a variety of boxes, two plastic shoeboxes, a black bag and
an assortment of other containers. Gimme left the start line and very
quickly found the hide in the upper left plastic shoebox. From there I
started walking Gimme up and down the lines of boxes. When we got to
the box with the orange dot, the other plastic shoebox, she showed a
little interest in it but didn't commit or indicate. I finished the
line and went back by it and this time she was all over it, so I called
alert and we got another false alert.
During the judge's debrief I learned a number of dogs had this same false alert. I'm not sure why she chose to alert to it - surely she knew there was nothing there (not even a distraction). Initially I thought maybe I belabored the tour of containers, but our time was only 1:13, so it doesn't seem to fit. Inside the building was cooler than inside the car, so it doesn't make sense to think she was trying to get back to the car.
So the thing I'm left with is thinking she was trying to please me. I thought it was interesting on both false alerts, it was one-hide searches and after she'd found the only hide. She may think I believe there is more hides and doesn't know I don't know how many there are. The fix as I see it is to continue "searching" after she's found all the hides in class, so she gets used to the idea I may continue to wander around in the area as if I think there could be more. Another plus is I will get more video footage of her searching when there are no more hides. Perhaps then I can pick up on what her tell is to say there isn't more.
For the second time of the day we were called too early (turns out there were two handlers named Carla). We had 10-15 minutes to wait until we would have been called for our last search, but I just didn't want to walk Gimme across the hot pavement back to the car. Since there wasn't any other search still running and there was room for another team to loiter, we stayed near there. Gimme and I relaxed in the shade of a big tree, resting on the cool grass. There was the occasional dog going by, but far enough away it wasn't an issue. Gimme got a tummy rub in the process.
Our last search was Exterior with 2:30.
This wasn't a particularly busy area, though the four columns presented a leash handling challenge. There was a large wood pallet very near the start line, which was immediately suspicious to me. The brown area is landscaping, which had flags running through it showing what was included in the search. The far end and right wall were brick and the grey area was under an overhang. There was a large green picnic table. At the far end were two doors, and along the wall was a spigot, a small electrical box and a floor to ceiling pipe. The three grey lines on the right wall represent huge air intake grates. We were told they wouldn't be running, but I could hear the fans behind them while we searched.
Gimme started past the pallet, but then snapped back and quickly indicated the hide. From there she went briefly into the wood chips, but then came right back and drove to the far end. She checked both doors and then started down the right side, settling quickly on the second hide. We continued down the wall and I had Gimme check the vents, but she wasn't really interested. We made a loop around the picnic table, but she wasn't buying it either. I called finish and we were done. We finished this search in 1:24, which netted us 5th place. The judge was confused by my "finish" call, so it may be we were faster. Then again it would have been the timer to stop the clock, so perhaps not. We were only 9 seconds behind the first place dog. We also got a "pronounced" rating on this element.
We at least came away with a leg toward an NW3-E title. And I have some ideas what to work on. One is staying in the search area after she's found all the hides, so she gets used to it and/or I learn how to read when she is done. The other thing I'm thinking of is teaching her to pull harder toward odor. I'd like to see if I can get her to drag me to it and refuse to be led away. I haven't completely formulated how I'll teach this - something along the lines of leash pressure on her harness while I reward her at source. I have to play with this.
This is twice now we've ended up in NW3 trials where it was really hot, though Cherrybrook last June wasn't this bad. I'm going to start entering more trials. Even though we only qualified in one element, I still feel like we were really close. Its just tiny details messing us up. I'll try to enter more Winter and Spring trials, meanwhile ordering some shade cloths so we'll be more comfortable (and better rested) when it is hot.
I definitely came home with the cutest dog in the trial. Just sayin...