In the morning we had a group tracking exercise on contamination. It was aged about 15 minutes. We've done this exercise in other seminars and she's always done well with it.
- This is the first time Gimme was in one of the middle tracks. Before she was always on one of the two end tracks, so she only saw dogs in one direction. Having dogs in both directions was very distracting, increasing her need to look at them.
- When she was able to work, she did pretty good. However, when she needed to start or restart (after each article), then she needed to watch them again to be sure they weren't doing anything she needed to be concerned about.
This was a semi-blind TDU-like track with extra articles. As she usually does, Gimme drags me to the start sock. It takes her just a moment and a quick pee, before she picks up the first leg. The line of the track goes between the two attic windows on the green roof. She goes partway down the leg, looses it, goes back and forth and circles, then lines out on it again. She searches around and finds the first corner (2:30), turning a little early. She drags me behind her and then turns slightly right (3:05). She crosses a ditch and indicates loss of scent (3:35). I gave her water and that was when Sil indicated for me to come back. Since Gimme took the first corner early and was tracking parallel to it, she misses the second turn and starts following a line of contamination where a group of boys crossed the track heading for the sports fields. After a short discussion we restart her (6:05) and she's very quickly rewarded by an article. As we continue, Gimme indicates loss of scent right after the corner. At 8:22 you can see one of the straw-flags just 2 feet to the right of where I'm standing. This is a regular flag, curled tight on itself and then a straw is slipped over it. These flags are very hard to see from a distance, so you can have a fully marked track, but the handler can't 'see the markings until they are right on top of them - hence the term "semi-blind". Gimme really struggles to find this corner and Sil finally comes up to tell me where it goes, so I know when to encourage/support her. With a little bit of encouragement, she takes off strongly - with a little side trip to pee and check pee-mail in the shade. When we leave it, she zigzags a little before finding the next article (10:31). When she reaches the road (11:40) she goes back and forth along the curb before deciding to cross. Note the sneezing at 12:45. After I re-scent her she decides to cross the road, where she finds another article. After we move on Gimme is drawn visually to the cement utility panel on the ground and then to the shade next to the building. I remained standing next to the straw-flag for the corner, providing a good anchor for her and she comes back and lines out on the next leg (14:30). The voice you hear after the turn is Maureen's - I always love her comments since they are fully in line with Sil's methods, but she says it in a different way, then between the two of them I get the message. Since Gimme is struggling to make a commitment on this transition, I give her water again and then re-scent her. Although I couldn't hear Maureen, I did happen to move gradually toward the parking lot and Gimme decided to forge ahead. There were multiple transitions here before she gets to the final article - sidewalk, parking lot, curb, driveway, curb, and parking lot. She overshoots the article into the grass, but quickly comes back and indicates.
What you don't see before Gimme curled back to me at 3:35, was that she was well ahead of me, then hunched her back and stiffens like she was about to puke, but then she doesn't. When she came back to me, she was crouched low and trembling a little. For a moment I honestly thought she might be about to have a seizure, but it cleared up so quickly with the water, I decided to let her continue. I was hoping to be able to see more of this in the video, but the person taping was kind of all over the place for a bit, so it doesn't show. Later on she sneezes several times, which I've never seen her do on track before. This coming so soon after the other causes me to realize when I thought she was about to puke, she was actually reverse sneezing, leading me to realize she is having trouble with seasonal pollen and such. She had two other reverse sneezing episodes on one day a couple weeks back, but I didn't place any significance on it. Since we've been home I've noticed her doing some snuffling twice. So now I have an explanation for why her tracking ability has seemed to fall off so much starting right after the TD/TDX seminar, which I thought was because we missed so much tracking practice in May. Poor baby has been trying so hard, but she's really not getting the level of scent she normally would.
Comments from the track wrap-up:
- At the road crossing, I was too willing to walk with Gimme as she explores back and forth. It would be better for me to stand still while letting her use the full length of the line. I think I need to go back to using the 40' line in urban instead of the 25', so I have it to play out and let her investigate without following her (which supports her moving when I may not intend to).
- My line was dragging on the ground between us and on her back an awful lot. Gimme moves in and out relative to me, so it's a challenge to reel in the extra line as fast as I need to. I think I usually do better than I did in this track, especially after she had the episode where I thought she might be about to seizure - I pretty much gave up doing my job from then on. I looked back at the beginning of the video and while it was not so bad, I can do better. I also need to get better about climbing up the line when she is moving out strong in front of me.
- Laura, a Canadian judge who audited the seminar, talked a lot about her philosophy on the importance of starts. Laura called it a "flying start". For the track we do on Sunday, she and Sil seemed to think had a better start. Gimme did stop for the sock, waiting for me to reward her and then started when I verbally cued it, so I'm not clear on what was wrong with the start for this track. I'm putting together a short video including the start from both tracks and will send it to Sil with the question about what I'm missing.
- Sil does expand to say the importance of starts is why he almost always includes an article in the middle of the first leg. I must've missed this. I've been suggesting leaving out the mid-leg article on the first and last legs, since we are starting or ending with an article.
Sil has a model made of peg board and little straw flags, which he uses to demonstrate certain principles about air flow and how it is affected by environment features, both natural and manmade. It's quite interesting to see how wind (and presumably scent) changes direction and especially how far out the affect goes compared to the size of the feature.
He told us old-timers thought scent disruption extended three times the height of the building on the lea side. Science has since demonstrated turbulence at eight times the height of structures!
Even though this track was disappointing in terms of showing off how great Gimme is... it was still very helpful for me to finally figure out what has been going on for the last 6 or more weeks. I am so blessed that she's continued to try so hard despite how difficult all the tracks have been for her during that time.
In the future I'll know to account for this issue. I've checked my blog entries and there was no sign of difficulty in May and through the first weekend in June (TD/TDX seminar). I'm trying to find a site that shows the different pollens and when they are prevalent so I can get an idea of what is bothering her. I'm also putting a reminder on my calendar so I'll know when to give her simpler-younger tracks.
It's my job to make sure her tracks are all appropriate for where she is on the specific day and at the specific time. I am so blessed to have Gimme who is so willing to keep trying.