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.