Sunday, November 8, 2015

OUR TDX ADVENTURE, Thank goodness for happy endings!

I haven't posted very much lately on Facebook or on my blog about tracking, but Rigby and I have continued to work and train consistently. 

I quit reporting on our tracking because I made the decision to enter Rigby in a TDX test.  Wasn't sure if she was ready, but knew she could do all the aspects of a TDX.  Thought it was time to get our feet wet and try our first test.  I knew our only weakness was experience, and I felt that even if we entered a test and didn't pass that we could learn valuable lessons and see what we needed to concentrate on in the future.

First I entered the Mt. Nittany tracking test.  We ended up 2nd alternate and Dan and I drove over with Rigby the day of the test in case someone backed out or didn't show.  The 1st alternate would get the backup track if it wasn't needed to replace another track and so we were just one dog away from a having a testing track.  But it was not to be for us that day, everyone showed up and we sadly watched all 6 dogs fail.

So I entered the Buckeye Tracking Club test and anxiously awaited the closing date and the draw.  Lo and behold, we got chosen first in the draw and were in our first TDX test!  I was happy that one of the judges was Ken Barna, a judge for Rigby's TD and one of our club's judges last year, so I knew I'd see at least one familiar face.

With the Mt. Nittany test one weekend and my local club's test the following weekend, Rigby didn't get to track for 2 weeks.  One of my tracking buddies was kind enough to go out with me on Monday, November 2nd, and lay a track for Rigby to give her a chance to stay sharp.  Rigby ran that 2-hour track beautifully and gave me hope for the weekend test.

This morning we headed out at 7:30, a 2 and a half hour drive, an 11:30 draw time.  The test was held at the Notre Dame Education Center, in Chardon, Ohio.  The location is a school and a convent (the premium mentioned that we might have a nun walk across our tracks).  It's a lovely site with a pond, orchards, a creek, mowed grass and higher cover in some areas.

When we came upon the test site we missed the driveway to the pre-school across the road where the test headquarters was located, so we drove a bit up the road, through a light and I found a driveway to turn around in.  I put on my blinker and started turning when I heard screeching of tires and then that dreaded thud and wondered how we could be hit, we were driving slowly and I had used my blinker.  Well, two young men on the way to the Buffalo Bills game decided we were going too slowly and proceeded to pass us on a double yellow line.

We quickly checked on Rigby -- she seemed fine -- and Dan walked her to a quiet area in front of the car while I exchanged insurance information with the driver.  When I asked the driver and his passenger if they were all right, I got an odd reply -- What do you mean, have we been drinking?  Well, perhaps they had, who knows, but I didn't have time to deal with that, so I explained that I was inquiring about their well-being since we had just been in an accident.  (They were in a hurry, as the accident happened at about 10:15 and the game started at 1:00 and I believe they had at least a 3-hour drive to get to Buffalo, then get to the stadium.)

Rigby had no trouble jumping back into the car, she seemed no worse for the wear, and we got turned around and made it to the test headquarters.

The four TDX entrants all gathered in the parking lot and we passed the time talking and getting to know one another.  The time flew and it gave me a chance to settle down from the shock of the accident and I was actually relaxed when it came time for the draw.

The dogs in the TDX were a German Shepherd Dog, a German Shorthaired Pointer, a Smooth Collie and, of course, a Weimaraner.

I drew first to find our track number and I was quite pleased to draw Track 2.  The German Shorthaired Pointer ended up with Track 1, the GSD with Track 3 and the Collie had Track 4.

We formed a caravan with our vehicles and followed the judges as they drove across the road and entered the grounds of the education center, parked and prepared to watch the GSP on her track.  

The two and a half year old GSP seemed to start nicely on short grass and made it to the field, where the grass was higher and I figured the dog would really start making time.  The owner had told me her dog could be a bit timid, but I was not prepared for what we saw.  They must have started their track at about 11:45 and finished about 12:45.  There was someone using a chain saw in the area of the track and the dog was quite put off and frightened.  She'd track 10 or 15 yards and then she would run back to her handler.  This produced a very slow track.  On top of that they had a 410 yard leg and I think that played some head games with the handler.

On the next to the last leg, when the dog got far enough away from the chain saw noise, she really started tracking and it was a beautiful sight.  They made the last turn and found the glove!!  The first TDX pass of the day.

Watching and waiting took a bit of a toll on me.  I could only think how old our track was getting and wondered how Rigby would handle that.  The couple times I had checked on Rigby in the car, I heard her whine and I knew she was anxious to get out and go tracking, a very good sign.

As soon as the GSP passed her test I got Rigby and I ready to go and we met the judges at the area of my flag.  They asked if I had any questions and I said, Yes, how old is it?  We all laughed and they assured me it was a legal track.

I put Rigby's harness on, told her the track was a bit old and we'd do the best we could and that I'd go as far as she would, we'd give it our best.

She literally jumped to the flag, checked out the start article and immediately started down the first leg -- what a trooper!!

At the first turn, she seemed to be playing, I didn't realize it was the turn and I told her to get to tracking.  So she went straight, instead of turning.  I quickly realized our mistake and we backed up, she found the turn to the left and off we went (the first leg was 80 yards).  

We went 80 yards on the second leg and had to cross a two-lane road. 

Another 65 yards and we had our first set of cross tracks as we entered an apple orchard.  She barely indicated the cross tracks and we went on to a right turn to the third leg, 245 yards of straight tracking.  55 yards down the third leg we crossed the other set of cross tracks and she was really moving out now, tracking with confidence.

But then I happened to look up towards where we were going and my confidence was shattered!  There in front of us was a tracking flag and I could see a start article laying at the bottom of the flag.  I waited for the whistle, they'd have to blow us off before we ruined someone else's track, right?  No whistle, no whistle.  I didn't want to ruin another entrant's track, but Rigby wanted to keep going, so I was now totally upset.

I called to the judges and said that there was a flag.  No answer.  Again, I said, there's a flag, and the answer was, SO WHAT.  So forward we went.  Rigby picked up the start article and when I didn't call her to me she put it back down and we tracked on.  My mind was screaming, no track is to be within 50 yards of another track.  How could this happen??

We came to a change of cover and Rigby dove in with no hesitation to some brown, rough weedy grass.  She made a right turn, another change of cover to short grass, 25 yards to another change of cover back to the brown growth and at the end of that 85 yard leg she made another right turn and back to the short grass on a 95 yard leg where we found an article, a knit hat.  I took the time to give Rigby some water and then she was off again.  

35 yards after the article Rigby made a left turn.  She tracked a nice 105 yards and we encountered the road again.  This time there was a car coming and I had to hold Rigby back and wait for the car to go past.

She had a nice restart and crossed the road and made a left turn following the curve of the road, but very close to the road.  Another car came towards us and I inadvertently pulled Rigby off the track when I shortened the tracking line to be sure she didn't dart into the road.  Since she didn't seem sure, I thought we had gone the wrong way, and we backed up again.

Rigby did not seem sure at all at this point and this is where we almost failed.  She ended up choosing to go into some woods and it went immediately downhill and the tracking line became tangled.  I tried to give her water to buy some time, but my nerves and my hands wouldn't cooperate and I couldn't get the water bottle open.  

My mind was really working now and I realized that we needed to get back out of the woods.  We were able to work backwards and then she started out and I was able to turn around and follow her out.

Now is when my little bit of tracking knowledge really paid off.  When we came out of the woods I saw that the judges were just on the other side of the road. They wouldn't be that close unless we had been right and on the track at some point.  I realized we need to go back down along the road to the left, but I needed Rigby to show me.  I pulled out one of the articles I had and rescented Rigby, told her to find her track.  I held the tracking line above my head to make sure that I didn't guide her in any way, but as soon as she started to go to the left I went with her.  

It was a very short 45 yards to where we found the final article, THE GLOVE.

We must have been so close to the glove the first time we headed down that leg and we had drawn the judges close to see the end of our track.

The judges started clapping, signifying a pass, but I turned toward them and shook my head.  I was asked, How many articles do you have, and I replied, We're one short, we only have 3.  Then they explained that we left the other article at the flag, but they knew we had found it so we were being credited for that article since the tracklayer had inadverently left the flag when she walked the track and the article was not a START article, but our article.

Oh, my, lessons learned even in a pass!!

What a happy day this was, to see my Rigby work so hard and do such a great job and to have Dan there to witness it was even nicer.  Together we took Rigby back to the car where we gave her steak and salmon as special treats, well-deserved treats!

The only photos I took today were of the damage to the vehicles at our car accident, but one of the judges was taking photos and so I'm hoping soon to have some photos of Rigby tracking that I can share and add to this post.

Tracks are awarded randomly at the test to the dogs who were lucky enough to be entered.  For the draw for tracks each handler, in order of catalog listing, chose a Kong key chain with a folded piece of paper with a track number -- we got Track 2.
 For passing the TDX we were awarded the green ribbon and a TDX patch.

Oh, and the answer to my question of the judges about how old the track was?   3 hours and 45 minutes!

Rigby has passed both her tests in Ohio and these are the handmade key chain/crate decorations she has received from each club.  Love the purple TDX one for my purple girl!

Our trip home was uneventful and we're happy to be home and have a new TDX dog at our house!!!

Here are the stats on our track:
Total Yards:  815
Articles:  Sock, Bandana, Hat, Glove
Obstacles:  Road, Change of cover, Change of cover, Road
Started track at 12:53 p.m.
Finished track at 1:18 p.m.
Track laid at 9:05 a.m.


  1. What an adventure! I know absolutely nothing about tracking, but it's a joy to hear the details of your successes with Rigby! So happy for you!

    1. Thanks, Kris!! Tracking is a totally trust your dog activity and I have a great dog that has really earned my trust.

  2. What an adventure! I know absolutely nothing about tracking, but it's a joy to hear the details of your successes with Rigby! So happy for you!