It took 1 1/2 years for Mickey to get his Nose Work level 2 (NW2) title after his Nose Work level 1 (NW1) title. It has been quite a journey trying new things and working through issues.
I had a great day today as I got to talk to many handlers and hear many great stories. The atmosphere was very friendly. Nice little community.
I have changed the way I approach trials and today proved that my new techniques work. This morning was the first time I have ever driven to a trial not nervous. I kept focus to task and being grateful for everything I could think of while driving to the trial site. I thought of happy songs and even started creating my own rap beat. Go get 'em, yeah, yeah, Go get 'em Uhh huh. Bopping head and keeping beat. Normally I'm so stressed, I know it affects Mickey. One ORT I was so tense that when i opened the door when I arrived, Mickey jumped out wanting to get the heck out of Dodge. Thinking gratitude and how awesome Mickey is really changed my way of thinking. Your mind is more powerful than you think. I even woke up in the middle of the night and took over an hour to get back to sleep. Fortunately I was "ok" in the morning. Got up early enough to get everything done I set out in the plan. Many mornings I don't feel well and trying to remember everything and gather everything is a challenge. But this day, things were going well and I knew it was going to be a great day. Set out in your mind the kind of day it will be and the probability it will happen will be high.
I arrived to the trial happy where I was already talking to people and helping them with their canopy. I didn't have anything to do, I wasn't over occupied with being stressed and had time to help others! Met some great people too! My demeanor was very much like I use to be when i was a park ranger. The appropriate focus has changed my life.
My first element was interiors. One bathroom was dark. I knew it going in. I had a dark situation with divine's trial and I left her leash on so I could "feel" her. I let Mickey off leash and I'm wondering if it would be better for dark rooms to keep him on leash. He alerted, but I didn't see it. The reason I didn't see it is he ran so fast and because I couldn't see, i didn't run behind him. If I was hooked up to him, I would have ran behind him. Mickey has acted as a guide dog in harness for me since I do not see well in dark areas or at night. Mickey has experience in guiding me in this type of capacity. How he would handle this in a Nose Work sitaution? I don't know. I did with Divine and she handled it well. Divine is a career changed guide dog. Mickey is a lot more sensitive to my footing. Would this interfere with him? Maybe. These things are a judgement call.
When I caught up to Mickey, he had already alerted. I didn't know where he nosed the area, i only saw his alert, so I had him show me again, what a patient boy! I called it. He got it. Yes, that incident probably lost me about 6 seconds, but I did want to be sure. With my low vision in these dark areas, I am going to need to come up with some creative ideas. I have thought about if they would allow me to wear a "miners" cap with a flash light on my head. This isn't really an advantage, it really is an accommodation. I certainly can get the medical documentation to support this request. But i want to be able to compete as true to the environment as I can. This is what it is, this is how I want to trial.
Unlike our last trial in Belligham, WA trial, I was forgetting to call finished. I did so well in our last trial I thought I would be fine this time. NOPE. The interiors we search two rooms. Fortunately, the judge gave me a look and I remembered "Oh yeah FINISHED!" For both interiors, I probably lost about a total of 8 seconds. Even with this, we were on to a great start for a great day!
the next element was Vehicles. About 1:30pm. We had this long dirt road to walk down. The cruel part was being warm and walking past this nice looking swimming pool just below the road. As we walked up to the staging area, it was like a horizon we finally reached. The judge greeted me saying how she really likes Malinois.
The vehicles were an interesting element. On a hot surface next to a building with an over ledge with a door open that went into a building. there was air being sucked into that door. As Mickey was working the vehicles, he did not find his odors right away, then found the first odor on the hitch of the small trailer. Then we set out to find the second one. This posed to be challenge. The odor was being sucked into the ledge of the building and into the door. When you have trial brain you don't think. Yes, I have had a year of physics and got a minor degree in Chemistry, equivalent of an Associate in Chemistry. I did a lot of study on heat transfer. I know heat moves to cool. There was a current of hot air going to the building. All I saw was Mickey running for cover in the cool. And I think that is what he was doing at first, but after awhile he really was sourcing odor and I kept trying to pull him back to the truck. I pulled him many times. But in a trial situation you just panic with that clock going and 30 seconds was called. I was really proud of myself for not freaking. In Bellingham when I got the 30 seconds. I gave up. I froze and went numb. This time I didn't and fortunately Mickey found the odor. What i really wish I could see that video. See the things you do in stress.
The next element was containers. What a creative idea to put this on a stage. The wind currents, what a challenge. The seating is designed that each row behind is slightly higher. So one side seating, and the other side a wall for the back of the stage, on either side of the wall is the entrance to the auditorium. I bet the breeze did some really funky stuff. Mickey found the first odor in the center, but the second one was on the edge, closer to where wind was doing funky stuff. When Mickey found the second odor, he liked hugged the suit case, sniffing the edges. I knew that was where the odor was located, I just wanted to make sure he alerted, he did and we got it!!
Exterior was unique. It was on a walk way in front of a building and a section to the side where you started. I just had a gut feeling there would be an odor in this small section. Mickey went right there but from my perspective he was fringing. When ever I'm directly behind him it is really hard for me to read him. He alerted but i just didn't feel comfortable that he pin pointed correctly. He does fringe and he does false alert. So I had him go find his second one, we went down the walk way and he found it on the bench. We immediately went back to the other odor. the second time much clearer and I called it. I knew if we just went away and came back fresh, we would get the odor. Great that we got it in the time allotted.
I was a little bummed that I wasn't feeling great. I had eaten something accidentally I shouldn't and that usually takes about 2-3 days for it to get through my body. So I wasn't really on my game. I really do feel this affects Mickey and he does get concerned when I'm not right on. But this is life and i have to trial in any circumstances. This isn't a fair weather sport and I wasn't feeling awful. Towards the end of the day I was getting achy, but still ok to trial. I was bummed that we were not as fast as we were in Bellingham. With the exception of the exterior, the other three we had good times. But we succeeded in getting our title. We now can move on to NW3.