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.

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