Saturday, November 5, 2016

Having faith in fate

        It has been since April of 2016 since Mickey and I have been able to trial in NW3. We keep getting wait listed. With my health, and Mickey's age, I am limiting trials to Southern California, and Las Vegas area. I had a big scare about April when Mickey had trouble with his heart. He also lost a lot of his stamina. I thought for sure his nose work career was over. But through acupuncture, therapies, supplements and trying everything I can, He has come back. he and I are ready, but we can't get in a nose work trial. This is the norm, I'm not alone in this issue. Though it is hard seeing Friends trial in three trials ni a row and nada for me. It is hard. Especially when Mickey only has months left to be able to do nose work at this level.

         With every disappointment, I tell myself, have faith in fate. I am going to get in the trial that Mickey and I succeed. With so many things going on in my life, like challenges of driving, my health etc. it is best that I get in a trial that is meant to be and have faith it will come.

         This reminds me learning the grieving process. I have read some books in the past from the Grief Institute. It taught me to grieve. That it is ok to feel sad. Everyone is always trying to tell you hte bright side or how to feel better, but in reality, we need to greive that little loss. Not swallow in it, but grieve. It is loss. It is similar when i don't tile. People trying to tell me I got to spend it with my dog, that that is more important and all this other advice that really doesn't make me feel better. What makes me feel better is grieving over the situation, study what I did to improve and practice to get better. That makes me feel better. sometimes you just have to shut the people out and not let them rob your grief. Yes it feels bad, but grief is supposed to be felt and once you feel it and work through it, you can move on. It helps you grow and become a better person.

           Since April, th e last time Mickey and I trialed, I have worked on myself a lot. This is from grieving that pushed me to be a better person. I emerged myself into the Mental Mind Management (R) program. It helped me get Divine's title and some smaller titles with Mickey. I felt myself coming back. I now know how to manage the way I think at a trial. It isn't a concept, but a practice. Now that I have improved my mental management, i really want to try it with Mickey before it is too late. It will feel as if I have grown and I Have come to a higher level of performance. Not for a title but for self fulfillment and life betterment.

              For now, I continue to have faith in fate, my time will come and when it happens, it will be magic.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The prize is not the ribbon

       Another NW3 trial finished. This was my 7th NW3 trial. It was a beautiful day in Somis, on May 21st, 2016. An occasional puffy clouds, some wind to keep it cool. We couldn't ask for a better day. The morning started out right for me. I got up on time, showered, did what I needed and was very calm. I felt like this was going to be a happening day for me. My attitude was good.

        We were #8 in the running order. For interiors they did 1 through 30. For Exteriors they split and started at #9, which meant I would be last for this section of the trial. Which I was ok with that.

        The first was interiors, three rooms. As I walked in the staging area, there was music playing. Pharrel Williams' Happy was playing. I just couldn't help myself but get into the groove. I was in the cove of the long hallway at the school and so badly wanted to dance down the hallway like they dance down the street in Pharrel's video, except I would have Mickey dancing with me. This really lightened my mood and got the endorphins flowing in my body as I danced to the song. This is really ironic because I really wanted to "HEAR" this song before trialing, but didn't want to eat up my data on my cell phone. So I didn't listen to it. I thought Wow  this song is playing for me. This is going to be a fantastic day!

        Mickey and I are up, we go in the three rooms on time at a time. First, he found two odors, second he found one, third he found two. Most of the hides were on the little chairs for little kids. He did a fantastic job. I felt confident we did well in the interiors. 

        Then a wait for awhile, and our turn for exteriors and containers. The wind had a good steady blow along this wall with the over hang. The area wasn't that large. I sent Mickey and he ran to the water faucet. I didn't call it because Mickey fixates on things that stick out and false alerts so I continued  and I figured we would come back. He alerted again, I called it, we got it. I went to the lockers, there was interest but no alerts, went to the other side and in the electrical box, an alert on odor, I called it and then called finished. I felt confident there were only two odors.

          Then containers. One row of various types of bags, center row boxes and third row square duffel bags. Total of 12 containers. Very similar to Las Vegas, but Las Vegas had 9 containers. I waited 10 seconds behind the start line in the middle, He ran right for the first box, alerted, but I just felt that was too easy, went down the row, came back, he alerted, called it. Then the square duffel back he showed interest but just wasn't alerting. I brought him back, interest but no alert. He started getting goofy with his playing with containers. In the past if he gets frustrated, he will false alert, so I took him to the side, collected and started him again. Still that one duffel bad, some interest and I was so close to calling it, but it just wasn't an alert. I was getting frustrated because I felt like this was Las Vegas all over again. I knew there was something with the container, but in Vegas he was pounding on the bag. He never pounding on this bag, got his know inside the zipper and the container, but STILL didn't alert. So I figured he is just playing because I keep presenting this to him and I'm more or less "selling it". So I didn't call it and called finish.

              Then another hour or so, we started vehicles. We did that 1 through 30. The wind was firm. I wouldn't say strong but it wasn't a breeze either. I set him out, he got the first odor and searched the second car, didn't find anything, we went to the third car and found odor. I went back to the second and he showed interest in an area. A weak alert. so I went around again, and we went there and a little stronger but not really but I called it. Got the No. Oh.......first thought, no Elite title today.

              I was disappointed but fortunately the steward said to me, a lot of dogs were false alerting there. So for the next 10 minutes I was bummed, but I was happy that I didn't want to cry. I felt ok. I let Mickey sniff along the way back to the parking lot. The one good thing is if you are going to screw up, better on the last and not the first.

               Because my mother lived 10 minutes away, I took Mickey to her house so he wouldn't have to be in a crate for another 2 or 3 hours. When I got to my mom's I played pine cones with Mickey. Which is like playing ball, I am throwing pine cones instead of balls. Mickey just loves pine cones. Not often I can do a really fun activity like this after we do nose work. My heart swelled as I watched Mickey enjoying our little bonding and play session. I thought this is sweet. This is how i should be. Happy to be with my dog and giving him a moment he enjoys.

                My timing was perfect. I got back when they put up the sheet with the results. As I looked through it, I already knew I goofed on vehicles, but oh that duffel bag. There WAS odor in that sucker. Oh, so I didn't miss the trial by just one little thing. Which actually made me feel better.

             Then of course I go into analyzing mode. The last three NW3 trials we have bombed on containers. I need to start doing some serious container work. Not boxes, but need to gather up a lot of bags. Work on them. Mickey has got interiors and exteriors down. So maintenance practice with that will be fine. But hopefully I can get with others that we can have a bag party. And of course, we need to practice when the wind is up.

            I always enjoy listening to the debriefing. I learn so much, especially if I messed up the trial. Trials I didn't title I learn so much more than when I title. All my trials I titled, I were a breeze and not a lot of learning. At the end I got my score sheets back. I decided to read them right there in the auditorium where we had the debriefing. WOW! What impressive comments. Interiors, the judge liked the way Mickey detailed the room. We got that element. She put down a P for pronounced. For exteriors, good comments on handling, on containers, I got a "VERY PRONOUNCED" The judge for this element actually came up to me and verbally told me how well I did. He said your dog wasn't telling you what you needed. He said, "I saw what you did, he didn't give you an alert and you pulled him away to reset him three times to give him a chance to tell you. That was fantastic handling" I said, "I wanted to call it but it just didn't seem right" He agreed. This judge certifies narcotic dogs professionally, so to have him come up to me after seeing 90 runs that day and to really say I did a fantastic job in handling this situation, even though it wasn't favorable I just was on cloud nine after that! I also got a pronounced on the vehicles, even though my dog false alerted, He liked the way I handled my dog on the vehicles.

            These comments and singling me out like that was the biggest boost of confidence in Nose Work I have ever gotten. I so many times doubt myself as not being that great of a handler, and in containers, I doubt myself of "did I not see the alert?" and this judge told me "Your dog didn't give you what you needed." So it wasn't my vision. I'm not a blind handler that is fumbling away in these trials. In the late 1990's when I was supposed to be a wildlife detection handler, they ran out of budget, but some of the other handlers said I was "too disabled." I wanted to get the Elite title to prove I'm not a "Handicapped" person who can't be a handler. This comment from this certifying official gave me what I needed that I thought the Elite title would, he told me I have excellent handling skills and I read my dog well. This is priceless to me. And now, I don't feel that I desperately have to get the Elite title anymore. Yes I still want to work towards it, but it isn't killing my ego that I didn't get it. No longer I feel not getting it means I'm not a great handler, that I so badly wanted to prove myself since the late 1990s. And fighing kidney disease, feeling fatigue many times, trying to over come so much, I wanted to prove I could be someone getting that Elite title, but those comments were better. Those comments gave me confidence. And I love my dog even more now.

         Since Mickey is getting older and doing an Elite Division competition would be too hard on his body, when I get the Elite, no more nose work trialing. So, since he didn't get it, I get to play more nose work trials with Mickey. I will keep going until Mickey gives me that look, this is no fun mom.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

A full day of bang!

     I am not letting barriers getting in the way of my practices. I cannot drive, and throughout the day, I get different intensities of fogginess in my field of vision. I was able to walk to a morning practice, Santee Trolley Square, about a mile from my house. Mickey and I walked there with only a bowl for water and odors kit to set hides. I met up with two others and we each set two search areas, which was a total of 6 areas for us to work our dogs.

     The first two were near the bus stop. Hides were either two or three in the area. An interesting discovery was, Mickey targeted on two areas where there were a piece of gum. I'm wondering if the gum has either birch, anise or clove mixed in their formula. I could tell Mickey was getting a bit frustrated me not treating him and he kept hitting on both pieces of gum. When Mickey doesn't get rewarded for an odor, he starts doing a lot of fringing and false alerts. And it was hard to get him back on track in the search area. I just don't know what was in that gum, and I should do a little research to find if there is a gum that has one of the or all of the three odors in it. I do know Virgil's Root Beer has all three in it, birch anise and clove. When I open the jar of my birch odor, that smell always takes me back as a kid when I use to eat the candy cigarettes. But Mickey did decent on his other search that it was a confidence builder.

       The next hide was bicycle lockers. This turned to be both difficult for Mickey and myself because there were 4 set of lockers and they all looked the same. Odor was drifting over to the other side which trapped Mickey and I in an area. There were 4 hides in this area. Interesting challenge.

       The hides I set, was one in a turned off water fall, fountain. It had a long bed, that the water would go over a metal flap in a gravel pit. I put the odor underneath the flap where the water flowed over. All dogs had a difficult challenge on this one because the odor kept sinking and pooling into the gravel. A good puzzle to work. The other odor was around the corner, wedged between the wall and the decor pillar. Tight corner. Good practice.

         The other I put two odors in line with each other on a bench with a tree in the middle. The odor kept going up the tree, which was what the dog's showed, and I did a ground hide. Good practice for all.

          Then the afternoon, I went to a practice Sniff 'n Go. Four rooms. I took Mickey and Divine. Mickey had a bit of a challenge, but I had a hard time seeing in the rooms. The glare was so intense, it was a white out for me. Mickey knows when I struggle and he turns into a concerned for mom and not really caring to look for odor. So it was a challenge since Mickey was so distracted. This is a good lesson for me. I like having Mickey off leash, and he is better off leash, but when I do not see well, the best thing to do is put him on leash. I have talked about this with my instructor, Kim, and just went into old habit to have him off leash. The conversation i had with John confirmed i need to keep Mickey on leash when I can't see, but if I see fine, have him off leash. My goal is to try to be as calm and laid back as possible. Very difficult when I can't see and I have a white out or a black out. This will be my challenge for my next trial.

           Divine was on fire! She did fantastic in the rooms. I kept her on leash because she gets a bit too excited and yee ha runs around with excitement. The leash really does help her keep focus. So for her trial, I will keep her on leash.

           I had a great learning experience. And my main thing is to try to stay calm when I can't see. At the trial I will spend the day in my chair getting into a Zen mode and remembering I need to make this fun for Mickey. Even if I can't see, there is no reason why I need to get tense since it doesn't pay for me to get tense if I see or don't see. It messes up Mickey. He is so sensitive. But we will give our best shot for the trial. Have fun, and if you can learn and have fun, you have accomplished a lot.

          With the mile walk to the first practice, practice, mile back and the four interior rooms for each dog, I could really feel it hard on my body the next day. But, just another barrier to get through, I'm going to succeed all the way!

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Trying to get it together

    One of my goals in today's 3 hour workshop was to get back into my self-compassion and calm state when I run Mickey. I thought about setting myself up right and getting back into t his practice. Unfortunately, I fell back into bad habits. To understand what I am trying to achieve with self compassion and getting to the calm, read my previous blog on "Getting the Right Focus".

     The first run was a container search. I did collect myself and had it going right. We did good. Not perfect, but good. The exercise was designed to see how we can read a dog when they are sniffing distractors and odor. I did learn I need to be a little more patient before I call. I am calling too soon. Although normally I need to call it quickly. I think with my decreased vision, I need to call it later. This is just something Mickey is just going to have to learn during this time.

      My second try with the distraction, odor in containers, I went into my panic mode. I didn't start off well, I just brazenly started. I didn't set myself up, I didn't get my head right or let Mickey look at the search area and think. And it showed to be frantic at the end. Mickey was bopping on things and getting a little confused a bit, bopping on distractors. Wanting to get paid, but bopping on anything. This behavior is common when I frantic, he turns frantic. A reality that I need to work much harder of getting my mental state together.

       My confidence is shot with my less vision. It is harder to read, and I need more information, thus I wait longer. Just what Mickey and I have to deal with right now.

      The next exercise were about 6 maybe 8 odors on chairs that were in a circular pattern. Simulates a vehicle. We started out using our non-dominant food hand.  and leash in the hand we normally do not have the leash. This was awkward. My left hand had a hard time trying to get into the bait pouch. Then treat deliver was not that smooth. Being blind in my right eye, when I was working on that side, ti was difficult. We went counter clock-wise, then clock-wise. Then when we went around we did it in the hand we normally treat and hold the leash. Wow, this was much better. It is good to be put out of our comfort zone. This is what helps with practice and thinking on your feet when you trial.

      Then we went outside and with a row of chairs on a wall, odor was placed on every chair. Went through, then back, then the last run, the last one we did not treat right away. Wanting to get that 'Hey pay me look". Mickey stayed by his odor.

       Whew, I was tired at the end. Mickey's hinds are getting weaker. The race to get his Elite title.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Getting the right focus

      As I think back on the past five years of my involvement in nose work, I have seen a lot of growing. Not only my growth, but the growth of the sport of Nose Work. We are experiencing new territory, the growing pains, and the excitement of how this sport is evolving. Even with the pains of waiting lists with nearly 180, the sport has enabled many people to catch the Nose Work fever.

This sport has also enabled me to grow as a person. Learning about myself and gaining my confidence. 

      I have succeeded in nose work trials with Mickey. I have gone further in Nose Work than any other dog sport. When I first started NW3 (Nose Work level 3) trials in the fall of 2014, it was the highest level of competition before Nationals  at that time. I felt so honored to finally reach the highest level of competition in a dog sport short of Nationals. That feeling did give me the confidence I could perform with the top. I could do this. I may not be the best, but I was right up there side by side with the National winners.. An exhilarating feeling. 

       Mickey and I have titled two times out of the 5 times we competed at the NW3 level. On the days we titled, I was relaxed and with a carefree attitude. I had been to a sport psychologist, read up on how to get me in the right frame of mind for competitions. I had the attitude of what ever happens, life is good and most of all I love my dog. Last June, Mickey took 5 months to recover from an injury. Two weeks before his trial, he stopped limping. We didn't practice much, but we titled. We danced that day. I set the mood. I listened to music that put me in a good mood, I didn't focus on getting everything right. I just flowed. Waiting my turn I read something to get my mind in a calm state. I also meditated. No mapping search areas, no over thinking the day of the trial. My focus was to set this up so Mickey had fun in a relaxed way. No forced fun; relaxed fun.

          So after two titles in NW3 in a row, I really thought I had gotten it all together. How could we not get our Elite title at the next trial? As time past, NW3 was no longer the highest level of competition before Nationals. A new level was introduced to Nose work, the Elite Division. Getting the Elite title in NW3 now no longer meant a ticket to Nationals. The sport has grown that Elite Division was born. Getting the Elite title in NW3 now means going to Elite Division. I now was not in the highest level of competition. I felt the pressure to try and get to the next level.

             Last Thanksgiving weekend I trialed in Sacramento. Now my goal was to get into the Elite Division. I was a little pressured because Mickey was 10, soon to be 11 years old. His eyes have the slight frost look of an older dog. His hinds legs are not as strong. His age is showing. How much longer can I trial him? I want to still stay in the highest level of competition. I also was struggling with some serious health issues. With all this on my mind, it was boring into my brain as my relaxed state was dissipating. I started to lose my competitive edge. My mind was cluttered with the wrong thoughts.

From October to November 2015, I entered five trials, four with Mickey and one with Divine. Titled only in one Level 1 element for interiors. What happened? I was supposed to have it made.

             My health was deteriorating. November I started Kidney Dialysis and my eye had experience two traumatic events and I was developing haze in my field of vision. I was being bumped out of my comfort zone with these changes. Changes of not seeing people's faces, not being able to drive, being dependent on a dialysis machine that took about 3 hours from my evenings. The complications I had with dialysis also didn't help. I had some major events preoccupying my mind. I was off kilter and dissociated from my relaxed self. I tried hiding behind positive statements and positive thinking, hoping that could pull me through. In many situations it did, but it didn't help me to keep my right focus for competitions. 

             I started to create a fear of handling my dogs. Going into rooms were darker than usual, my eyes wouldn't adjust, glare disturbed my ability to see and the haze made me lose clarity. My ability to read alerts diminished. I slipped. This made me tense, which affected Mickey. He started to change. I wasn't going to quit, so I realized I need to start practice over again to get use to the "new" way.  Even though my confidence was disturbed, I still had the desire to go forward. My handling wasn't up to par, but I kept going. Denial enabled me to continue to move forward and ignore the pains of what was happening. I lost my dance with Mickey. We were not in sync. But I still kept going like nothing was lost.i was still driven to move forward. My desire was still alive, I had a new component I needed to figure out. It would come, but I had to go through the process of learning how to live a different life.

               This new challenged taught me a lot. In life we are all going to have something to knock us off our balance. This was mine. For others it could be a loss of a job, a divorce, loss of a spouse, a loss of child and the list can go on. We all will have a curve ball thrown at us, this was mine. The strong people learn to work through these and become stronger. I had to go back and relearn how to focus. I had to remember how not to let fear take over, and ego take over. i needed to be mindful and step in again. I was learning how to be stronger.

            When we do things from our ego, it isn't genuine because if we don't succeed, our ego gets damaged. All those trials I was devastated for not titling, was my ego. It is not productive. It isn't right to put our dogs through that feeling. they really have no concept or idea of a title, they just know when mom or dad is happy or when mom and dad is upset. I did this to my first NW3 trials. It broke my heart seeing how I affected my dog. I knew I had to change. Then to have it happen again last Thanksgiving, really taught me how I always have to manage myself.

              So now I need to get back on track. I need to train my brain to get back into the right focus. Let go of ego, let go of title, let go of fame, let go over thinking, and let go of fretting. Let self-compassion come in to Mickey and priority is to make this fun for Mickey. I should also extend that self-compassion to my fellow competitors, the host of the trial, the volunteers and to the sport of nose work. It is amazing what this shift of thinking does. It brings peace, calmness and relaxations. Finally, we need to remember to have self-compassion for ourselves. Be our best friends and good to ourselves. When we can do that without criticism, we become a much better person over all. We can extend the compassion to others.

I have had this state of mind before, I can do it again. I will practice, but not over do it. I will continue my regular classes and keep my happy. My mind will be clear, not trying to be a perfectionist. Iw ill develop a regime. In practices, I will have a routine of what I do at the start line. While there, I have a breathing pattern. During that time I take one deep breath and let it out slowly. It is about 10 minutes. This allows Mickey to scope the area. I will have good thoughts for Mickey like what an awesome dog he is. While at a trial, I will not think about the trial, I will read things not related to nose work. Sometimes I will quietly sing a silly hip hop song. Helps me get into a grove and relaxes my whole body. While walking to my element I will do happy talk to Mickey. "What a HAPPY bay" in a happy voice which Mickey really does respond. I ignore the volunteers and everyone because to "hear" them say something me I have to take my concentration off Mickey. I will only pay attention to instructions that direct me to my element. When I go to the start line I do what I practiced. When I let Mickey go, I follow him, but give him space. I stand back and "let go". This let go is like letting my 6th sense take over. That gut that already knows from several practices. It enables me to dance with Mickey. When this happens it is beautiful. We are in sync. I did this with my last NW3 I titled. We can do it again. Now that I'm getting back on track, we are going to have success again. We will be able to handle anything that comes our way.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

12 odors of christmas

     Last weekend I did another fantastic Nose Work workshop with my instructor Kim Buchanan. Driving to the facility, I could tell I had energy and felt good. Mickey seemed to be in good spirits as well.

      Our first exercise was environmental sensitivities. Kim had put down a tarp, flattened folding chairs, flattened ex-pens and  other obstacles of misc. origin. The odor was put in the center. Most dogs walked right through to the odor. I think it took me longer to try to treat than it took Mickey to get to the odor. This exercise is good to get dogs to walking over anything odd to get to odor. You never know what you will face in atrial.

       The next exercise was a slightly broader arrangement of "stuff" for the dogs to walk through to get to the odor, but this time the handler would sit in a chair and wait until the dog got to odor. As long as they stayed there, handler would get up and go treat the dog. If the dog moved from odor, handler would stop. Mickey has done this exercise before, so this was good. exercise to teach a dog to stay at source.

     The next exercise was practice in a pee zone. Not that difficult other than a lot of pee. three hides. Mickey got the first two fast, the last one he did multi-task of sniffing pee and then catching odor. Reward fast that he recognized odor in the middle of pee and got paid for it.

     The next was an outside search of three odors in an area about 80 feet by 65 feet. All were ground hides, blind. One in a tree base and two out in grass with one grass hide by gopher holes. I was debating if I should have Mickey on or off leash. I saw that he caught odor and just let him go and leaving the leash on. He found the hide in the base of the tree at :08 seconds, ran out to the grass and found the grass hide at :35 and went further out towards the gopher holes, crittered a little, then went to odor. I said alert about 1:33 and said finished at1:35. That was a fantastic run. He was in odor the whole time except for maybe 5 seconds of searching, but all other times you could tell he was following odor. Just amazing work by Mickey. I was flying high and happy after that search he did so well!

     The last search was the 12 odors of Christmas. Twelve odors in small boxes scattered around tables, on tables, on chairs, under chairs, under tables etc. Mickey only found 5. Ok, didn't do that well. It was on leash and I could tell that I got pressured and unfocused during this exercise. In the past we have gotten more on these multiple hides. we haven't been doing that fantastic on containers, we blew our L2C (containers) title, and blew container element in his last NW3, so not sure what this is about, but we need to revisit doing containers. 

       All exercises were great. Solidified his first three exercises, the fourth one was a good shot in the arm of confidence, and learned from the last one. Now that is a great day!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Mickey's NW3 #5 trial

     I was really hoping to shoot for Mickey's Elite by the end of 2015. As I see him age, the reminder keeps popping up, how much longer does Mickey have? Six months? Two years? We don't know. I decided to enter a trial outside of Southern California in increase my chances. This was a big decision because previously I have declared no more trials outside of Southern California. The travel is hard on me and traveling with dialysis supplies takes a lot of planning and energy as well. I decided to enter the Sacramento trial and Mickey got in! Nose Work competitors always feel like they won the lottery when they get in, because some trials will have about 180 people on the waiting list. That is about a 15% chance of getting into a trial. It can be disheartening. However, I won this lottery and was gamed to just go for it!

       October and November were busy months. I was booked 7 weekends during those two months. That is a lot for someone who is just starting dialysis and also had surgery. Having nose work to look forward to really allowed me to focus on something positive, rather than the grim of everything that is associated with having end stage kidney disease. 

      I didn't have a lot of time to practice. I tried to balance trialing  three dogs. I learned, I simply just can't do it. I was spread too thin and other factors like shortened days, with no way to practice during the week away from home, we didn't get the practice time we needed to get back into our zone and in sync. I noticed even with my all day workshop with Fred Helfers, I just wasn't in sync. Mickey was doing well, but our dance routine just wasn't quite in step. My practices happened on the weekend, hoping we could get back into the swing of things. It didn't quite happen. All I could do was just hope for the best.

      I took all day Thursday, thanksgiving day to drive up and rested on Friday. This was so I wouldn't be so exhausted for trial day. Saturday was the trial. The night before my trial, I had a mishap with my dialysis machine. Frustrated, I just went to bed without having dialysis. I woke up that Saturday morning feeling the sting in my muscles. Ah yes, dialysis really does something. I felt OK through the day, but towards the end i could feel my body breaking down a bit faster. Dialysis I learned, really does make a difference.

        The trial was located at a Community college in Sacramento. American River College. We had some really nice search areas. The rooms had good light for me to see. My running order was #8. Since they did a unique split to run all the search areas, sometimes I ran last.

         Today was a good vision day. The past several months the white film has really made it hard to see. This day was the clearest I've seen in a long time. So I at least had this working for me.

         My first search was interiors. Three rooms since this is NW3 and either 0-3 hides to find. I don't know how many. That is where I need to trust my dog. We went in, and did our thing. My dance steps were out of sync. Just wasn't smooth like other trials I have done. I kept getting in his way. However, he found 2 odors, then I called finished. When leaving you always wonder if I found them all if you find 2 or less. Next room, was 1 hide. I sent him around a few times and obviously the judges are looking at me like don't over send, but we found one hide again leaving did I miss 1 or 2 hides? The last room was again, found 2 hides, and left did I leave one?. All rooms were classrooms and nearly identical except where they put the tape for the boundaries of the search area. This is the first NW3 trial I have been to that did not have a clear or no odor room. I was proud that Mickey and I did get all our hides in this exercise. Yes! We did it!

          Exterior was next. I did it right after my interior because they had started with #9. When I was done with interiors, I was the last dog to go into exteriors. They said I could take the time, I just gave Mickey water and we went right on over. The search area was an odd shaped boundary that included a partition of a wall that we could go all around. It had an overhang on one side that went to a building creating a breeze way. And, there was a breeze. The start line was to the left of the partition, about 3 feet back. At the right of the cone of the start line was a long cement bench that surrounded some strange structure with a grill. That was not in the search area. This cement structure was about 3 or 4 feet back from the partition, and had a 4 feet walk area that would take you to the other side of the partition. As I held Mickey at the start line to get a smell of his area before I let him go, Mickey pushed to the right and went to the other side of the partition and found the two hides, One on a metal grilled stamp lunch type school bench and the other on a pipe on the wall. Wow they were close but Mickey got those fast. Then we went to the other side where in the breeze way. I took Mickey right past the trash can standing along on the opposite wall, took him down the wall, came up, then took him to the partition wall. He got suck at the bottom, sourcing odor. He gave a half alert and i didn't call it, I pulled him a way and brought him back, he intently sourced, snorted, I called alert and judge said "NO!" That is just one of the most devastating sounds at a trail. I have had to teach myself not to let myself fall apart when I hear that NO! I couldn't even get my thoughts together before they pushed me out of the area. I respected the trial and kept moving. That point when you hear that no is "I didn't get my Elite today. I really wanted this before the end of the year" In past trials I would spiral down, but this time I told myself, I am going to do what I did with Divine's trial, make it fun. If I make it fun for Mickey, he will enjoy trials. Some trials when I spiraled, even his attitude fell with mine. This just teaches Mickey trials are no fun. The poor dog doesn't know why I am upset. Not fair to him. It is up to me to change my attitude and any and every trial is always a good learning experience. It is always better to get in a trial and try than not.

        The next search area was vehicles. One hide on three cars. Easy. We got it. Came in 4th place on this one.

          Containers, were all paint cans, Mickey got the first, and then stopped on one, inhaled but didn't do his distinct alert. At first I thought oh was that a distractor? Ran him over everything again and he did not respond. Called finished with only finding one hide. When the odor sheet was posted was when I found out there were two hides. At the debriefing, they said no distractors. Wow! NONE? No distractors and here when Mickey spent time on that one can, I thought it was a distractor. Wow. But he didn't do his distinct alert, yes he showed interest, which if he doesn't alert, I take it as being interested,not odor. An interesting learning experience for me. 

           My demeanor was so much better at this trial after I knew I blew the trial. I was able not to spiral down into deep sadness as I have in the past. This is a big step for me. This keeps Mickey happy, and that is one of the most important things.

           Because Mickey had successfully passed three interior searches at three different trials, he did receive his NW3-I title. I can feel good about that. Now we have just containers left. So we are going to work hard on containers!

          With all the stuff i went through, I really didn't practice as much with Mickey. We didn't practice until our dance routine was polished. We only did weekend practices.  I never felt like I was in the Zone like I have with some trials. What is hard is I have to decide to choose one dog. To finish Mickey I need to only focus on him. I can't be training my other dogs. I learned it is too much. It can be very challenging to not get in a trial, but want to work other dogs that may get in a trial. The balance of dogs can be maddening. If Mickey doesn't get into the February trial, I need to keep him maintained for when another trial appears. I do know another one will be in June. Nose work is the only sport I compete. My health is such I can only do one sport. I can only hope and keep thinking positive and get my boy so tuned. Besides, i really want to have him up to 6 minutes of searching for the Elite Division, so I have a lot of work to do.