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.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

What Nose Work means to me

     In the late 90's, I worked for the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a Wildlife Inspector at the port of Los Angeles airport, ocean port, Long Beach ocean port and international mail facility. My job was to enforce federal laws and disallow illegal wildlife into the country. Liveanimals to products of animals were imported daily. At that time there was a pilot Scent detection K9 program in San Diego at the border. The Los Angeles Office was going to make me the other handler. I was excited. I did a lot of research, contacted a lot of agencies, developed a Standard Operational Procedure manual and tried creative ways to get a budget for the program. I was gearing up to get a wildlife detection dog.

      Unfortunately, the mind set of law enforcement was, I was too handicapped to be a handler and some people just thought it was not appropriate to have a disabled person be a K9 handler. The program never started, and I later changed jobs. I was crushed to never get a chance to be a handler. This was back when my vision wasbetter. I still consideredpartially sighted, but at a mild level th at it shouldn't have been an issue to be a handler.

      As the years went by, I wanted to get into some kind of Search and Rescue. I was fascinated by forensic detection. I hooked up with a Search and Rescue group about 2006. But they wanted me to be proficient in wilderness searches first. I knew with my vision getting worse, and my kidneys also getting worse, that I didn't want them to send me out on a rescue and then they would have to rescue me. I lost my night driving in 2008, and most searches are done in the evenings.

     It was frustrating because i wanted to do something with scent detection, but you had to be in law enforcement or associated with law enforcement to do it. Then K9 Nose Work (R) came along and I hopped on it. So for nearly 12 years wanting to get a detection dog, I finally started Nose Work with Mickey my Belgian Malinois.

      With law enforcement mind set saying I couldn't do this, I set out to tell myself, oh yes I can! My vision has deteriorated even more, which the training has been challenging at times. I didn't want to be looked at as the special "handicap" girl, isn't that nice she is doing that, but wanted to rise above and be a fierce competitor. I want to be able to compete with "average" or "normal" people where I'm not in any special Olympics or any para Olympics. I want to feel that I can do this just as equal as anyone else. No more accommodations, no more "special" consideration. I want to compete just like everyone else.

      My hearing loss doesn't really affect too much of my ability to do nose work. There were some snags, but I was able to solve them. My vision is the biggest culprit. Being monocular with no depth-perception, having a haze, like it is  always foggy, and having floaters that are clumpy or with strings that get in my field of vision were challenges I had to work around. Dark rooms are a huge challenge and flourencent lights are problematic. As my vision gets worse contrast gets harder, the more minute visual cues of my dog gets hard to see, so I work harder.

      To a sighted person, they would get impatient and yell at me to call alert. they didn't understand I was learning. I am learning how to deal with my lack of vision and learning how to work with my dog. It was getting stressful being around people who got on my case for not calling at the right time. It did make me feel more handicapped. I had to ignored them and moved forward. That doesn't mean i didn't cry all the way home. It hurt. But I just eliminated them from my brain and moved on.I kept trying and working.

      I have studied sport psychology or mental management systems to help me get through the mental part of competition. How not to get stressed and fearful when I couldn't see. which was a big issue at trials. My brain would work hard trying to piece the environment together. I had to over think to get a picture in my mind I couldn't see.

When i would get tense for not seeing, this did affect Mickey. He is so sensitive. With my other dog, Divine, she isn't as sensitive and cares more about getting food. So she would go straight to the odor and alert. Mickey would get frantic and worry. It was important for me to be cool, collected and not panick. Harder to do. have your vision taken away and try to solve this problem when you can't see everything that is going on. It is stressing. All I can do is work harder at staying calm.

    It means so much to me to try and over come my disabilities and short comings and to succeed in getting Mickey's Eligte title. It is a way to show up those law enforcement officials, to show that disabled people can do this. I don't want to be the handler of "Oh isn't it nice she can play at nose work." I want to be competitive just like anyone else.

     Due to starting dialysis and the night falling much sooner, I haven't had a lot of chances to practice. So in a way we will be winging it. We have passed two times before, we have the knowledge, but the condition will be a little less that I would like. Doesn't mean we won't title, we can certainly do that.

     Getting this title will mean a lot to me. That i don't need special Olympics or special treatment to participate. I only ask for the same search area as anyone else. I never ask them to modify it. Each new challenges teaches me how to go back and problem solve in how I can over come the new barrier. I can do it, I can title. I'm looking forward to Saturday.

     Nose work means to me that I was able to show up the law enforcement and negative people who thought I was substandard in working with my dogs. this means i can be right there elbow to elbow with other competitors that do not have a disability.  I will feel accomplished that i am capbale and not handicapped.


Sunday, November 22, 2015

Not in Sync

     November 21, Mickey and i had entered a Container Level 2 Element Search and Level 1 exterior search. It was held at a historical museum of Spanish adobe buildings, one of the original Spanish lands.

     The weather was warm, dry and windy.

     For the container search, the first was in a raised chapel that had a roof, but no sides. open Chapel. There were boxes on the floor and on the benches. Mickey got one hide, but didn't find the second. I was really puzzled he didn't find the second hide. I don't know if it was the wind, or him not spending enough time on the box. In past container searches, He would stick his nose on the container and find the odor.

      The Second container search area had three hides. Lunch boxes on grass. Mickey got two, but didn't alert on the third. I also kept getting lost. My brain wasn't there. Mickey and I were at a terrible start, blowing two of the searches. Just something to chalked up to really bad search day.

       The third search was in a dark room of books. We had off leash option and I let Mickey off leash. There were tables in the center with books, so the boxes were on the floor, on the perimeter. As I let Mickey go, he ran, he did something to a box, I ran up to him, called it....no. Ooops. Boy, this is a really BAD day!!! What I learned is I should have left him on leash. I would have been able to see him better, the room was really really dark, and it would have been better controlled.

     The last search were big cardboard boxes. one hide, yay we got it! Ok,1 out of  4.

        Then the next element was exteriors. This is level one so there is only one hide in each. Mickey got the first, got the second, and got the third, then the last one.......he was not focused. he kind of went to the odor, then went away, so i didn't call it, he wandered, paced, oops, ran out of time. Took him off, he ran to some ivy and instantly dumped. Oh sigh. i tried to get him to go earlier, but he doesn't like to go on leash. Oh well......crappy day anyway.

      You have to have a bad day. it is what i can say is "been there, done that. The more experience you have, even if it is falling on your face, the more seasoned you get. I wanted this to be a confidence booster for this upcoming trial that means a lot more to me. but my coaching skills for myself are really needed right now. Mickey and I have already titled two NW3 trials, we can do it this Saturday. Even though today was a bust in two elements, we had practice. The more we practice, the better! 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Working towards the Zone

     Today i didn't have to go to work so I decided to do a lot of various nose work practices today. I did one at a strip mall, a park and containers in my drive way. The Container search enabled me to work all three of my dogs.

        The little strip mall i went to isn't very big and isn't very busy. It has a huge church that has services Saturday night and Sunday. So today, Wednesday, not much was there. There are a few businesses but they don't generate a lot of traffic. I set 6 hides. One behind a brick wall. One  6 feet high (or higher) in a tree, 6 feet on a pole and three hides along the front of the church (Window sill, door and cubby hole on the ground). Mickey had a great search. While working him, I realized I did not have my hearing aids on. I usually listen for his gush of air to tell me he found the odor. My response time to him was different and I could tell he was a little frustrated when I didn't respond instantly when he did his gush of air. I simply don't hear it at all. But it gave me a new way to look at Mickey. I never looked at him closing his mouth, as Fred, an instructor, mentioned many times. Sometimes it is hard for me to see, so I looked for it this time. Today, I was working on visual cues rather than sound. I did know where the hides where so when he looked at me, I knew why, but that is a bit of a delay from his burst of air. Interesting to see his response that I was not responding normally.

      The second place I went to was a park. I did six hides. One in a latch of a chain link fence. One in the crack in the cement. One by a pillar, one behind a railing, one between grass and the walk way and one in the middle of the grass in a sprinkler cover. There was probably an hour between these searches. Mickey just was distracted, probably because just as I started to do my searches, a few  families came out of their cars to get ready to play soccer. That is one of the hardest things about practicing at parks is sometimes no one is around and then when you want to do the searches, you get distractions. We worked through them. He found them all.

          Then I came home and didn't feel like going to any other parks or strip malls so I put out a bunch of containers in my drive way. I increased the difficulties and always did two odors. I ran all three dogs and all three really loved the game. I did use a distraction by putting toys and pine cones in a bag, but Mickey didn't seem to be phased by it. A few weeks ago when I went to the Halloween search, Mickey went straight for the bag that had a lot of distractions in it. Really hitting the bag hard. Which is odd since Mickey usually leaves bags with distractions alone. Well today he left it alone. We are back in the game.

       

Sunday, November 8, 2015

A Wokrshop with Fred Helfer, a smaller group

     I have waited a long time to have a smaller group with Fred. We had 6 working teams today with one host and two helpers. Perfect size. Everything went really well and smooth today.

     It is two weeks before Mickey's two element trials and three weeks before Mickey's NW3 trial. I'm trying to get back into the swing of things and working with Fred was a great opportunity to get my skills going.


......First Search.....Interior, Men's Bathroom
      Our first search was in a bathroom. I was relieved when I went in and saw the lighting good enough I could see. There were two hides. The bathroom goes in to the left, then right where there are sinks to the left. Another right goes into another section with the stalls and Urinals. The hides were placed in the corner next to a sink on a broom, and the second odor underneath the second sink. These hides were rather close to create a converging odor problem for the dog. We also had the fan in the bathroom moving air around.

     I opt to have Mickey off leash, let him in, he caught the general area of the first odor, but got stuck under the first sink. I did call it, but knew it wasn't strong enough. I almost think Mickey knew it was on the broom, but doesn't like moving objects like brooms. After some waiting out, he eventually got the odor on the broom. Then he got the second hide under the second sink. We went to the stall area to let him check out everything. he did not find odor.

        I did have a little bit of a "deer in headlights" episode. I froze and my brain didn't think. I just let Mickey go and I follow when I do this. I don't do it all the time. When I am mindful, I do much better directing and presenting areas to Mickey. it is like getting back into an old habit that I have to work my way out of it again.

         What I need to get back into is when I walk in, (or during the walk through) what are my goals and what are the goals for the dog. Think about having fun. Be observant of my surroundings, watch the dog, but don't be so fixated you are not seeing the whole picture. Step back, don't crowd your dog.

------Interior, Conference Room---------
      this is a fairly small conference room. Three hides very close together. This room has an air current from the air conditioning.

       Mickey comes in the room and instantly turns right, hits the trash can. I walk in the door, and my body pulled him away from the trash can. he moved away and started to search the room. he later came back to the trash can but tipped it over. For me this was confusing because Mickey likes to tip over trash cans for fun. Fred told me that is where the odor is and reset the trash can. Mickey went up to the trash can and appropriately alerted. Then he went back into the room, wandered a bit then went to an area where a chair was in a corner next to a filing cabinet. Mickey showed interest but I could tell he did not find source. Fred had me move the chair and Mickey sourced the odor.

      Then we wandered a bit, Fred said where haven't you been. My brain froze. There was a corner that Mickey brushed over. It was between the trash can and the odor behind the filing cabinet blocked by the chair. It was up on a picture on the wall. took Mickey awhile to source this odor. It was in a challenging spot.

      We need to remember to check our corners. They are important. When I thought they were covered, they weren't. I have seen Mickey in the past not cover corners well, but in a trial we got everything. So I'm not sure what that connection is, whey we get it in a trial, not in a workshop. I'm wondering if it has to do with my mindfulness. I'm not that mindful in a workshop as I am in a trial (if my head is on right).

       Don't forget to ask if you can move an object.

------small containers---------

We then had our search on small little boxes. It was fun and Mickey did get all the boxes. However, towards the end he was just bouncing around to boxes and I was feeling a bit frazzled, not knowing he got them all. I did get a little lost at the end of where have I been and what did he missed. However, Fred did point out that Mickey didn't hit all the boxes because he didn't have to, as he could tell which ones had odor coming out of them. He probably was hitting the boxes because I gave the body language of, keep looking! This had so many boxes, about 50? That this is more on Elite Division level, not NW3.

---------some pointers----------

What is my purpose?
-present an area for the dog

Watch the environment. Pay attention to what the wind is doing. Use the wind to your advantage. Use a loose leash, and don't crowd your dog.

-----Exterior, two pipe corrals, first one just an outside corral, a second one went partially into a barn----

First corral.....

       We went in, circled a few times, Mickey did hit odor, then he went down a channel, jumped up, i called it too quickly, not odor. Just pooling odor from a channel.

Second corral......

       Went in, Mickey went straight for the balls that they put in corrals for horses. They were soft and Mickey could bite into it and carried it around a bit with him. I discouraged it and got him back into searching mode, sort of. he was still thinking about the balls that when he went to an area, he went right past odor. I just knew he wasn't paying attention. He eventually went into the stall, found the high hide. Then came out, then we went along the corral, he found the odor he breezed by due to the balls. Then we worked the barn wall. and he eventually sourced the odor and got it. this was a bit more difficult mostly due to the balls that were distracting him. I certainly do need to practice with more balls.

-----Vehicle Search-------

Three vehicles, two odors.

zig zag of perpendicular configuration.  Mickey got the first hide fairly fast. I went around that vehicle to clear it. Then we kind of got stuck on finding the second odor. Fred noted it seemed Mickey was getting tired. It was at the end of the day. Mickey found odor by really going under neath the car, but was about 1 1/2 feet from source. We then worked him to source.

----------------

Things to remember.....
Watch for when mouth closes.
What is the behavior before the change of behavior?
Pay attention to the wind. The Wind is your friend.


I really did think I was moving along, It just seemed today I stepped a few steps backwards. Probably because I'm not practicing 3-4 times a week. With health issues, it is really hard to keep up with it and I tried to trial two other dogs. It really is difficult for me to work more than one dog. Makes it hard to focus. But I do have to remember these were difficult problems. They were set up for a purpose, and I think some hard for NW3 level. I have three weeks until our NW3. I need to get my head calm and have fun with this. If I don't, I will blow the trial. 


Tuesday, November 3, 2015

A Weekend of practice

      I was fortunate to participate in a Halloween Mystery Nose Work style. Our dogs searched and then we picked a clue.

     The area was a place I've never been before, Frog Field Dog Sports in Ramona. There are old stalls, an agility field, a nice size dirt parking lot and a house. A dog person's dream house.

      We had three different search areas, a pretend dining room, luggage room and cutlery. Uniquely designed to simulate an Old  English murder area. the parking lot had three vehicles and was also where the murder took place. Next to the agility field was the cemetery, another search area for the dogs.

       I noticed that doing the searches in the barn were a bit difficult for me, they were dark. I'm seeing this pattern. Mickey also wasn't right on like he normally is. His alerts were subdued, not crisp like they normally are presented.He missed one in the vehicle area and one in one of the barn rooms. He did really well in the cemetery even though the little baby Skeleton jumped up when Mickey rand over the grave. Thus, that is where the odor was! Mickey did startle, but did return. GOOD BOY! he got the other two odors really well.

         It was a good practice. Afterwards we had to solve the mystery. I was wrong on everything, but I don't read mystery novels.

         The next day I got to do a lot of interiors. A medical group is moving out of their building and Smrt Dogs was able to have a practice mock interior search there. Mickey did ok. He did miss a few hides and he just wasn't crisp. Having this happen again, I started to realize I think it is time to see the chiropractor. When he is not that focused, misses odors and doesn't give a clear alert, it usually means he just isn't quite comfortable. I wouldn't say he's in pain, just not comfortable. Fortunately he has an appointment before my all day workshop I have this coming weekend.

        

Saturday, October 24, 2015

We finally Titled L1I (Interior) element.

      Way back in February, when the starts of Mickey's leg injury was becoming apparent, I thought he only needed a chiropractic adjustment.  He had gotten his adjustment the day before his Level 1 Interior element trial. But at that trial, he was showing weakness in his hinds after we did our run. We didn't get them all. Three out of four. 75%. But what was more depressing was seeing how he was walking. I was perplexed what was wrong with him. I felt horribly guilty that my dog did not look happy afterwards. i started to think my boy's Nose Work career might be coming to an end.

         As time went on, he just didn't heal and I had to take him to the vet. She said he had a border line cruciate injury. I had laser treatment and acupuncture, but he wasn't getting better. Mickey was looking like he was aging fast and looking like an old dog. This was devastating to see this dog who has had so much life becoming depressed. I took him to a board certified surgeon to see if he would need surgery. he didn't. He had a pulled muscle in a group of muscles called the iliopsoas. For the next several months Mickey went under acupuncture, more focused laser treatment and more frequent chiropractic adjustments. He started to get better. I then later put him into swim therapy. Slowly and surely that twinkle in his eye came back. My boy was coming back! In June he competed in NW3 and got his second NW3 title and October 24th, he competed in L1I again.

        This trial was packed away in the San Bernardino Mountains near Angeles National Forest. The smell of pine was evident and we were at higher than 5,500 ft of elevation. When i was a park ranger for Kings Canyon National Park, Mickey was 4 months old and they allowed me to have Mickey there in the ranger housing. So Mickey was use to pine smell and high elevation. Me? i huff and puffed then as a ranger and huff and puff now.

        Thank you Java K9 for allowing us to play today. Mikey's spirit is still stronger as ever! 

        The more I trial with my dogs, the more people I seem to know at these trials. I remember the days when I knew no one, and now I know either 30% or more. Walking up to our interior rooms I knew about 75% of the volunteers as they saw me huffing and puffing up the hill and Mickey at the end of his lead pacing back and forth in front of me because I wasn't walking fast enough. Mickey was ready!

            The practice boxes were beautifully placed. At the parking lot as we left and up near where the interior rooms were located. I didn't even have to cue Mickey into searching the second set of boxes, Boom he was there and he's like "This one mom!" While I'm trying to catch my breath.

           Yes, we were at a true mountain YMCA camp! 

       There were four rooms, level 1 hide which means one hide per room. Just like Divine's NW2 last week, I had a hard time seeing in the darker rooms. The good news however, I have more mileage with Mickey and I read him much better. I also hear this burst of air through his nose, that my hearing aids pick up crystal clear. Ahh yes "ALERT!" and I was right. With the 6 weekends of doing nose work in a row I have coming up, this was a great start in gearing up. I'm already feeling good about our NW3, going for our Elite, trial on Thanksgiving. What I would like to do is figure out a way to practice hides in a dark room or where I cannot see as well.

        What I found with today's trial, as with Divine's, when I don't see the room very well, I don't remember what happened very well. I don't see the details of the room. People will start talking about details, like objects which I didn't notice. I just feel like an idiot in not remembering anything. I do know today's trial was easy for Mickey. The only blip is when Mickey bumped a wide broom on the floor. It made a noise and moved, he didn't want to go back. It happened to be where the hide was located. But after resending Mickey around the room, he went back to it and alerted. YAY he got it!He did fantastic on all his searches. I can't wait until they are uploaded to the NACSW web site so i can see his times.

      We titled this day with 4 out of 4, 100%. A great kick off for or practice spree for the next 6 weeks and a victory that he got over his injury and nailed this trial. I'm so proud of my boy! He really is an awesome dog!!!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

NW3: Gearing up for the Elite

    Mickey is certainly my heart dog he has these wonderful brown eyes that sparkle with excitement. He doesn't act or look 10 years old. So much life left.

    Mickey is entered in a NW3 trial, the Saturday after Thanksgiving. We are up for our Elite. He got his second NW3 last June. Mickey's leg has healed, and has been doing regular swim therapy. His body is lean and fit. The next 6 weeks Mickey and Ih ave a big training regime.

1. Oct 24 - Interior Level 1 Element
2, Nov, 1 - Mock event
3. Nov. 8 - Fred Helfers workshop with 6 handlers. Nice small group.
4. Nov. 14 - workshop.
5. Nov. 21 - Two elements, Exteriors Level 1 and Containers Level 2.
6. Nov,. 28 - NW3 - up for Elite 

     Mickey and I will practice during the week, I want to increase his endurance to get him in good shape. We did take a little rest, but looking at our schedule, we will be back in sync in no time. It is going to be a fun 6 weeks.

     

Sunday, July 12, 2015

I Danced with Mickey Today

     I attended a Fred Helfers' workshop today. It was a two day event, but I only attended the second day. With last time at his workshop I was so wiped out it took me a few weeks to recover, I didn't want to over exert myself again.

      I was able to bring Mickey, my most advanced dog in Nose Work. We started out with the box drills. I have done these with Divine, but we didn't get a chance to do the U shape. Today we got that drill which is moving quickly on your feet like dance steps keeping up with your dog. I was really happy with how I "danced" around the boxes today. I knew that in the past several months my steps and feet movement had improved and it showed in this drill. Many people think foundation drills are so boring but I always go back to my piano days doing scales and several variations with different rhythmic patterns. I earned the better I know my scales the better I could think quickly what keys would play well together and with practicing a variety of rhythms, I learned different tempos and sounds of music. I do beleive foundation drills are extremely important no matter what it is, music, sports, dog sports, dancing etc. If you want to get good, you do those foundations.

            Then the next search was an exterior hide. I really learned a lot from this search and what a thought process I went through on this one. As I walked Mickey behind the spectators to the search area, I started sabotaging myself by what I was thinking. I thought, all these people are going to watch me? Can I have them cover their eyes? Reflecting later, what we say really does have a huge profound affect on us. I also was a bit nervous that it was unknown hides and now I need to show this skill. MIckey must have felt my anxiety as he didn't charge out and get busy finding odor. He kind of dilly dallied and wandered around. Looking like he was trying to search but not really. He does this when he knows I am experiencing anxiety. As he went to the jungle gym, he weaved between the legs and structure getting his leash tangled up. After a few times I started getting exasperated. I started going into freeze brain mode. Mickey gave a light indication while underneath the Jungle Gym, where I couldn't really see him well. I was hunched over looking between bars, I called it and Fred said, "No!" That "No!" stung my brain to more frozen for a few seconds. It took me about 5 seconds before my brain engaged with my conscious.  I had to mentally recover and move on. I was stiff and mind frozen, like I wasn't really there. My brain zoning out. I was not thinking well on my feet. After a bit of wandering, Mickey found a hide, "alert?" I said and Fred said, "Yes!" ok, some confidence has regained. Prior to finding this hide, it showed on the video a beautiful zigzag and change of body movement. I don't remember seeing that. I just remember seeing him dig his nose in the ground and curb, then look at me. I called it right.


          I had been all around the search area and I was drawing a blank as to what to try. Was there another odor? Wandering with a zoned out brain. Fred did say to go down wind as the wind was going about 15 mph, which can push odor out of a search area. There was a small pole at the very edge of the search area. It was down wind, What was happening is odor was blowing out of the search area. Moving horizontal, then dropping down. I took Mickey to that area under Fred's direction and let Mickey get out of the search area to catch anything he could. He didn't. He only went out about 4 feet but he really needed to go more 8 feet out. When odor blows hard at a certain speed, it can blow right over the head if the hide is above the dog's head. This is what was happening. So Fred had me go further out, Mickey caught the odor and found it.

        Becaue of my anxiety, I walked off feeling rather unsuccessful. I don't like the feeling of a frozen brain or zoning out. I'm not productive and I don't think on my feet. I can't problem solve in that mode. However, When I saw the video. It wasn't that bad. You could not tell that I was nervous. or even showing any kind of anxiety. Fred explained about the wind patterns which made it difficult for Mickey to catch the odor. This made me feel much better and I realized, I didn't do as bad as I thought. That psyching myself out before doing the search is what went wrong. I've struggled with this for awhile and well aware of it. It is just taking a long time to retrain myself from this self defeating thinking.

        If I would have followed my formula that has been successful for me the last two trials, I probably would have done much better and Mickey would have walked in a bit more serious. It is crucial that I do my routine before I do any search area. Any search is about making Mickey happy. Don't worry about people. Keep focus on task, not all the peripherals. People watching me is not a threat, even if they are not impressed, it is still not a threat. Everyone really wants you to succeed and this is the truth.   

           As I watched other people do their searches, I also saw some anxiety kick in or waver in and out from time to time. I'm not alone. We all do it. It is tough to get out there in front of people and we all did it. Fred is rather positive so it makes it easier. We all learned and had a good learning experience.

Things I learned:
1. watch your thinking and remember it is about Mickey having fun.
2. Wind is your friend. Go way out of the search area if you need. Pay attention to wind. IT tells you a lot.
3. When you go into a search area, let your dog go, if they don't find something on their own, then get down wind and work your search area.
4. If Mickey goes too fast, pace yourself and not go to fast with him. He needs to pace himself so he doesn't miss any hides.

Great learning day! 

Monday, June 29, 2015

Making Mickey Happy

     Mickey and I danced yesterday. We trialed in Newbury Park, CA (Thousand Oaks). The temperature did get up to 87 degrees and there was some humidity. I love the coastal chaparral of the Conejo Valley area.
 
      I had such success with my mind set at my last NW3 trial, I needed to get into that mental mode again. it is about making Mickey happy. At the trial, I couldn't be too animated because it was warm, but I did have an occasional whoop whoop, which always gets Mickey's spirit up. Mickey is an awesome dog. He always did what I told him to do, even when I'm pushing him. He is such a compliant dog. He tries so hard. I'm so blessed to be partnered with this fantastic dog. 

       For the last six months, Mickey has been recuperating from his Ilioposas injury. He has had laser, acupuncture, chiropractic adjustment and aqua swimming. Two weeks ago he stopped limping after doing nose work searches. So my hope yesterday was him not to limp and Mickey to have a good time. If Mickey can learn that trials are ok and fun, he will look forward to them. If he learns I am stressed out, and not attentitive to his needs, he will learn to dislike trials.

         When I first come to a trial in the morning, I like to see who is there. I also like walking around to see who needs help with their canopy. This interaction and chatting with folks gets me in an upbeat mood. The more trials I attend, the more people I know. I got there early, so I had plenty of time to set up my "stuff" and time to help others.

       The morning we started off with vehicles. We had to have it in a quad area of the school since a group doing an NFL challenge took the area they were going to do vehicles. So our trial got squeezed in a much smaller area. My attitude was, show me where to search and I'm OK. It was about 11:00am when we did our run . It was hot. There were four vehicles between two buildings on concrete. There was a light breeze.

       As I stood at the start line, allowing Mickey to get a whiff of the odor, I let him go. He did start drifting to the sides, but I brought him back to the vehicles. I tried to cover all my vehicles best I could. Mickey did want to go in the shade or over to a bush. "Drat" I thought, he is getting too hot. Eventually I got him to one car and he started sourcing odor. He alerted, and it wasn't as strong as he normally does it. The past week I've noticed his alerts have been not as distinct. I took him away and brought him back, he alerted again, I called, "Alert" and the judge said, "Yes". I tried to cover the other vehicles but Mickey wasn't showing any interest what so ever. I couldn't tell if he was hot and not interested, or there was no odor. It is a hard call to know when your dog is checking a vehicle.

         I heard the 30 second warning and 15 seconds later I called, "Finish!". I tried to be happy for Mickey, but the back of my head kept thinking, "was there another odor?" That was on my mind. Surely there must have been another odor, I kept thinking! But we happily walked back to the parking lot, trying to keep Mickey's spirits up and he did get happy. Whew, ok Christy, don't over think this thing. You are not going to know until the end of the day anyway.

        Our next element was interiors. We have option off leash, and all three rooms I did off leash. At level NW3, we do three rooms. The first room was an instrument storage room. It had two sliding doors  and in the center a large storage shelf/bin. As you walked in the door to the left, there was a bunch of stuff stored to the right, so you couldn't walk through there. Mickey found the threshold hide immediately! Wow good boy! and I had him walk down to the end, then around the back to the other side of the storage shelf/bin. We walked up and no interest until we got to the front where the second door was located. So we made a U. Mickey went into the corner, and I wasn't sure if that was pooling odor from the first hide, Even though there was junk there, it is open enough odor could have pooled. Mickey alerted, It just didn't seem strong enough for me so I pulled him away, sent him back in, a strong alert, I called, "alert!" and judge said "yes"....which good call I was thinking, it wasn't pooling odor. I turned around, had Mickey check corners, when to the other side, Mickey went to the first odor he found and I called finish.

        The next room was the band or music area. Parts of the room was taped off. I sent Mickey, he found one odor, I covered the rest, he showed no sourcing behavior, went back to the first odor two times, I called "Finis!"

        Last room was the teacher's office. Just the judge and I were in the room because there was a big window in the wall and in the door. Mickey searched and I had him go in corners, he went back to the door and sniffed the crease of the door. I could tell he was getting odor but he didn't alert. I bet he was getting some odor from that other room. I didn't call alert on anything and just said "Finish!"

        Out we went and I actually felt good about these hides. Si I bounced back to the parking lot a little happy. I could tell Mickey's attitude was good. It was important that we just take everything in stride.

         I had my lunch and had a nice long sit in my chair and rested. The temperature was getting hotter. Occasionally we did have a breeze. 

         Then it was time for the exterior. Due to having a small area to do our trial because of the NFL challenge and a few other events, our exterior was right next to our vehicles. At lunch time the CO had the cars removed and then placed the odor.

        Knowing that it was hot, I wanted to have Mickey's toy with me. He sometimes gets too fixated with it, but I also wanted to get his spirits up after the hide. The problem, he smelled it on me. As we started searching in the exterior search area, Mickey kept looking back at me for that toy, I had to cue him several times to "go search." It was getting really irritating. I knew exactly what was happening. So I had to do a more mechanical search with Mickey telling him where to search. Low and behold, he found all three odors and I called finished after the last odor, and pulled out Mickey's toy. The whole idea of the toy was to keep his spirits up and I actually accomplished that. Was he focused? More on the toy than odor, but I was able to get him to search. He knew he had to search before I would give him the toy, but I was holding out after the third odor or until I called finish. Normally I would not do this, but it was hot and how he dragged on vehicles, I would say he was more engaged over all for the exteriors.

          Then containers. They were large tins, similar to what you see for popcorn gifts. Two were trash can distractors. But Mickey is rarely distracted by distractors if he knows he can't get to them. We went through, he and I (all the dogs were) tired going through this last element. There were a lot of spectators and Mickey wanted to run over and say "Hi" to everyone. I pulled him back into the search area. Found two containers he alerted, I said "Alert" and after the second one I said finish.

           Wow, what a day. No nos, all day. So now the wait to see if I got my title. This is the hardest part about trialing at NW3 level. You just don't know due to the unknown number of hides. Most people start talking to find out what others found. I didn't do that. I didn't talk to anyone. I wanted to hear from the Certifying Official (CO). The wait really isn't that long, but when your anxious, it does seem long. I did walk over to friends and they were about to tell me and I said I don't want to know. One said it would drive her nuts. I said I want the great feeling that we might have a little longer in case we didn't. I walked away and waited.

        Everyone started to slowly walked up near the room we were going to have the debriefing. The CO posted where the hides were located. People were looking and I waited. When the group cleared away, I walked up, went through each block and OH MY GOSH!! I got all the hides!!! People congratulated me, I got a few hugs....but I said, we have to make sure I didn't get more than 3 faults. They laughed. I was thinking there were two places I could have faulted.

          We went to the debriefing and hearing the CO and judges, It started to sink in that I most likely titled. They gave out all the ribbons. I got an element title for Exteriors and vehicles. Then they were handing out titles. They kept calling names and not mine. The table was becoming more and more bare. Do they have a title ribbon left? I started getting anxious thinking, maybe I didn't title, then the last name they called was "Christy and Mickey' I was so elated! We did it. Our second NW3 title. Now the next big hurdle is to get into a trial, then title!

          The biggest thing that didn't happen in this trial is I didn't go blank. I have had issues of going blank I don't know what to do. I wasn't overly anxious or nervous. Yes, I had a little nerves going, but those are the good nerves that keep you on edge. I had the right amount. I have suffered from trial anxiety in the past. I have been worked up over a trial, which sabotages me. What helped me get over this is what a Sport Psychologist taught me. She is certified to counsel and coach the Olympic Equestrian team. I wanted her over any other sport psychologist because she knew how to coach when you have an animal involved. Most top sport psychologist are for football, softball and other big popular sports that they don't have to deal with a living animal. What my Sport Psychologist taught me was to have compassion for Mickey. While waiting between searches, I sat and wrote how much I love Mickey and what a wonderful dog he is. I didn't do it a lot, just enough to bring a different set of hormones out in me, not my fear, but my oxytocin. I really think this helped Mickey a lot. I even noticed walking to our last two searches he was Mr. Happy. And I embraced this and connected with him during our walk to the last two elements. I kept it in my mind that It was about him and him being happy.

        I remember one trial I was so upset I blew an element, Mickey really went downhill after that and I saw what my disappointment did to him. It broke my heart. I also told myself, it isn't fair to him. I did this at twho trials and after that, I changed my outlook and it has work.

        I was proud to find out I did not get any faults. I will have to find out later our ranking. I'm never really fast, but my goal was to title the whole trial and get the two element titles.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Finally not afraid, now I can really learn......

     Today was a rather exciting workshop again. I started Nose Work 4 years ago, and it is fun going to an instructor that keeps you learning new things.

       Our lesson was inside where there were several chairs, a few carts, hand truck, a few boxes etc. The Instructor would place about 5 hides, then go behind us, pick up the old hides and add new ones. When Mickey first started searching, you could see by his search patterns that a lot of odor has pooled in certain areas and there was residual odor from hides being placed previously. Mickey worked hard and sourced about 9 different hides.

     The could cover was thick and during our session it did rain outside. That made the inside darker than normal. It was hard for me to see. The instructor would tell me to pay quickly. I didn't even have time to register that Mickey found the odor, when the instructor said "PAY!" But this exercise was to pay fast and help with sourcing. As the exercise continued, the instructor allowed me to say "alert!" and she would say yes. She had the hides so people could see them, but I couldn't see them. I probably only saw about 2 or 3 of the hides out of the whole exercise. I think my instructor is finally realizing the significance of my vision loss.

         As I was watching other dogs, it was hard for me to see since the room was dark. It brought back memories of when I first started Nose Work, where observations were difficult for me. I kept my struggles to myself since I didn't want any of the key people in this sport to discourage me in the beginning because I couldn't see well enough. I got that when I was in Law Enforcement and many people convinced management that I was too disabled to be a handler. I didn't want this to happen again, so I kept my mouth shut. Even in my instructor's training, I couldn't see the dogs well enough to learn. Again, my fear of "then you probably can't do this" surfaced. I kept quiet. But I worked through it. Four years later, I have titled once in NW3 and I'm going to continue. I have done a superb job of compensating, I'm not going to stop now. Since I have proven myself, I'm not so afraid to be honest about my vision loss.

 At the end of this first exercise, Mickey was a bit exhausted and was getting a bit frustrated. The Instructor saw this and we concluded with about 9 hides. This exercise enabled me to not reward Mickey when there was residual or pooling odor. More discrimination exercises the better. Mickey is learning better how to source odor. Mickey worked about 6 1/2 minutes. Yes, I need to condition Mickey better.

During the Element Specialty for interiors last weekend, pooling odor is what messed us up. Mickey dawdled on the chair with pooling odor. I got anxious, and I called it. We hadn't worked for over a month and went into that first room cold.

        Then the next search for today's workshop was containers. The Instructor took folding chairs and made a very small area with about 12 containers.  It was rather tight. When I started, after a few seconds I started getting a bit claustrophobic, wondering how I was going to dance with Mickey and not trample over the boxes. I froze in a tense fashion. Kim noted later that Mickey was getting a bit frantic. Usually when I freeze with a slight panic of what to do, Mickey will get a bit frantic. Having no depth perception, and the fluorescence lighting makes it really difficult to assess my area appropriately. Especially when I know the clock is going. We had 3 minutes, but Mickey did the hides in less than 2 minutes. We actually h ad plenty of time for me to gather myself, visually assess the area and dance with the right steps. I was fortunate that Mickey found both hides and if we were trialing, we would have passed this element.

           Both of these exercises gave me excellent feedback of, 1. I need to condition Mickey more and 2. I need to do more containers in tight areas.

           Always something new to learn and practice. 

Monday, February 16, 2015

You learn more when you don't title

     This past weekend I was in an element specialty trial, Level 1. Mickey has already gotten his first Nose Work level 3 (NW3) title, so this should have been an easy test. All one hide, quick and easy.

     I did two elements, the first was interiors and the second was containers. In interiors, we did 4 rooms. One hide each. I was a little concerned since it had been a month since Mickey and I had any decent practice. As I walked into the first room, the change in light concerned me and I a bit tense wondering if I was going to see well enough to call the alert. I let Mickey search the room off leash. The first two rooms we had option of on or off leash. The first search was in a larger room, I let Mickey go and he searched the area, then fixated on a chair. He dawdled and I didn't call it, because it just didn't seem right. But when he dawdled, I started to look at him more intensely to see if he was going to call it. He stuck his head a certain way and I figured that was it, called it and it was a "NO!".

     First of the day and a "NO!" Mickey and I haven't practice for a month and we were certainly out of sync. When I have been practicing with him consistently, I usually can tell if he is dawdling. He also didn't give the gush of air I hear in his nose when he found it. Whew, was I out of practice in reading my dog!

     The biggest issue for me is, getting the very first odor wrong, it has in the past broken my spirit. I was crushed and had to work on my psyche to not let it get to me to ruin the rest of the element. You could tell my body slumped slightly and I spun around to figure out where to leave the area, since I know once we get that "NO!" it is all over. Fortunately, the judge, Chris Busch told me which chair it was on and wanted me to leave on a good note for both Mickey and I.  This did a world of good. I was so crushed that finding the odor changed my spirit, and it enabled me to be happy with Mickey he found the odor. it worked. The following three we got the odor correctly.

      Of course after this element I was thinking, how on earth can an NW3 dog blow it? Others who have gotten their NW3 title have also "blown it." But it was so hard to shake. I do believe learning how to deal with the disappointment and work through it is what makes a strong team. But, what is even excellent is I was able to come back the last three searches and get a leg towards the title. And even better, when I did the element for the containers, we got them all and succeeded. In my two NW3 trials I didn't title, when I "lost my title" I went down hill. But this time I didn't. This tells me all the sport psychology training I have been working on is helping. This also means I will be psychologically stronger during difficult times. I am learning well how to focus.

    Between the two elements I went back to my chair and slumped. I had to mentally work through not getting the title on an EASY element. A fellow practice partner just happened to arrived and gave me a cute little NW3 clip. It really brought my spirits up, reminding me that we have achieved that level and Mickey and I are a good team. That I'm not letting all the chaos and crap in my life getting me and I am over coming incredible challenges that I really am rising above. This friend really reminded me that we are ok, and we had a silly little opps. We were out of sync, not practicing for about a month. but nailed the rest of the day. Yee ha what a come back, and how many people can say they did that? Not many.