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.