A Road Trip, NoseWork Trial, and A Little White Lie

Saturday 21 February, 2015
NACSW K9 NoseWork Trial, NW1
La Plata, MD

First let me point out that I am writing this as I sit here during the NoseWork Trial “down time” so I apologize if it is a little scattered. I just write what I think when I think it after I write about the actual happenings.

CJ had his 4th NW1 trial today. We all drove to Waldorf, MD last night for the event. It was about a 3 hour drive, and we made it without incident. The morning of the trial the outside temps were in the teens, but it wasn’t too windy and wasn’t raining or snowing (our last trial was in December 2014 and it rained, no, POURED for the majority of the event) so that was nice.

The trial took place at the Charles County Fair grounds. By the time we got checked in, did the walk-through and briefing it was about 10AM. The mercury had risen a few degrees, but I still am glad that I packed my snow suit and snow boots because it was pretty cold, and the ground was covered in about 6 or more inches of snow.

For the morning runs, they did both groups A & B at the same time per element; Group A did vehicles while Group B did containers, then swapped. CJ and I were B7, so our first run was containers. The room was cool, open, vinyl tile covered, and the boxes were arranged in a simple pattern of 3 per row in 4 rows. The last trial we did, the rainy one, CJ missed containers because I “jumped the gun” and didn’t even make him check out the other boxes and took his weak alert as an “ALERT!” I Blurt-Alerted, they say. Today, we crossed the start line, he zig-zagged through about half of the boxes, alerted on one but I made him move along and check out some more. He checked out the box next to the one he alerted on, then went straight back to the original box and gave me a very strong alert. I called it and…YES! Woot! Now 3 more to go.

Exteriors and Vehicles tend to be his worst, but we haven’t missed interiors in a trial yet so if we do miss an element today, that will probably be the one. We shall see!

Vehicles searches started rolling around 11:30AM for Group B. By the time it was our turn the outside temperature had risen a few more degrees, but there was a longer wait to this element than there was for the containers search, so it was pretty darn cold! I felt the worst for CJ though, since his poor paws had to be standing on the frozen ground while we waited. Then, our turn came. CJ did his usual “I have to check everything out before I can search” thing. He does. He has to scan the room, check out what’s going on here, who’s that person over there, etc. Once he gets that out of his system, he generally starts going to work. He didn’t do that in the containers search which surprised me.

Even though I know he does that, I still start to get a little anxious because 30 seconds feels like minutes and you only have a certain amount of time to find your hide (typically 3 minutes). Finally he started to actually search the vehicles. He got it! It was in the wheel well of the very last car. He gave a nice, strong alert. I was very proud of him.

CJ resting between searches

CJ catching some Zzzz’s between searches

When we got back to the car after CJ’s container search, Chris asked how he did. I told him he missed. I don’t know why, I just suddenly thought it would be fun IF CJ gets his title to surprise Chris. We’ll see how the afternoon pans out though. It might not work out as I’m hoping it does.

CJ and I just finished our last 2 elements. Exteriors first, which is typically his least successful element. Then Interiors, which he has never missed…thus far. The staging for these last elements was lengthy and cold and snowy. Poor CJ actually started shivering while we were waiting so I hugged him as we waited…I know, how sweet! The snow was getting gradually more and more heavy so that made things pretty, but wet! When we finally got up to the Exterior element CJ was ready to go! He checked out the area in general, then went straight to work. This was definitely his best exterior ever; he got it, yes, but he didn’t “lollygag” as much as he usually does. I think he was ready to be done. 3 for 3!

Then it was off to Interiors immediately following exteriors. The interior element was a room with some tables and chairs, a plastic planter on the floor, covered electrical boxes on the wall, and a table that had a bunch of stacked plastic planters with dirt and wilted plants in them. CJ does best off-leash when it comes to interiors so I let him off this time as well. He ran in the room, trotted and sniffed around then saw someone friendly over on the other side of the room and went up to greet her, but she didn’t react, so he gave up and started searching again. He sniffed one of the tables and a few chairs, then he noticed someone else on the opposite side of the room that he thought he might like to meet, but that person didn’t react either, so he went back to searching again. He showed interest in one of the covered electrical boxes on the wall, but quickly passed by it. Then he went by the chair that was up against the same wall that had the covered electrical boxes and showed some interest, sniffed it again and sat down. “Alert!” I was waiting to hear Yes! or no. Instead I heard “Where?” I thought for a second, “what do you mean ‘where’?” Then I pointed and said “on the chair.” Vague I know, but he had this! And he did indeed! 4 for 4 on the 4th try!

It was difficult to hide my excitement from Chris before the debriefing and awards ceremony, but I did. I overheard him chatting with other competitors about CJ and his many failed attempts at an NW1 title, and how he missed containers and how 75% was still a “passing grade,” and other comments. When the guy sitting next to us received 2 ribbons for his dog having the fastest times for two of the elements, Chris commented to him (in a goofy, joking manner) about how his dog (meaning CJ) will never earn one of those ribbons. I turned to him and laughed and told him “you’re going to eat those words one day!” He just shrugged and said he was just kidding. I knew he was. What he didn’t know was that I’d been “kidding” with him since 11:00 AM.

This trial was a very successful trial for about two-thirds of the competitors, and 7 competitors and their dogs were Pronounced! The judge for the exterior search was amazed because there was a 100% pass rate for exteriors. The teams at this trial were amazing, and, as usual, we met some more really fun and interesting people. We even saw a few people we have met at previous trials. This is why I love the sport; it’s a great way to have fun with your dog, it teaches you how to read your dog’s body language in ways you never considered, and the NoseWork community is pretty wonderful.

When they started presenting the award ribbons for the dogs that titled, CJ and I were the second team called. Chris gave a little bit of a confused look and when I looked at him while I was getting my picture taken with CJ’s ribbon I couldn’t control my laughter. The rest of the people in the room must have thought I was nuts. When I sat back down, still laughing, Chris said “I thought you had to get all 4 elements to get a title.” I said through my laughter “that’s right.” Then got myself together enough to explain to him how I’ve been misleading him all day. He then nodded his head and said how it all (the events of the day) made sense now. It was all in good fun, and now he’s got something to use against me when he needs it!

Allow me to go back in history for a moment. Our second NoseWork trial was in Cobleskill, NY in May of 2014. CJ missed both vehicles and exteriors at that trial. All NACSW registered dogs have a scorebook where all of their ORT (Odor Recognition Test) and Trial results are logged. At the end of each trial all competitors receive score sheets, one for each element, that has the result of the element (Pass/Miss), the judge’s notes and the time it took for the dog to find the hide. Competitors also get their updated scorebook returned to them at this time. I always look over my score sheets because it is very useful to read what the judges thought of how you and your dog worked as a team, and it’s neat to see how much time it took for your dog to find the hide (because 3 minutes feels like an eternity when you’re searching in a trial!). I don’t usually look at my scorebook because, well, I know whether or not my dog passed. A few days after the Cobleskill trial I happened to look at my scorebook. I had to do a double-take when I saw that it was written “Yes” in the “Qualified” box and that his score was 100% with 0 faults. Ummmm. My dog 1) did NOT qualify, his score was 50% and he had 2 faults. The scorebook isn’t anything really “official,” the score sheets are what gets sent to NACSW to record your dog’s trial results. So I just laughed and was later able to have my scorebook corrected.

This is what the score sheets and scorebooks look like

This is what the score sheets and scorebooks look like

Why am I telling you all of this?

When they called “CJ and Beth,” part of Chris’ puzzled look was due to the fact that he thought they (the NoseWork score room) screwed up again. This made the entire ruse that much more amusing. And it made my trying to convince Chris that CJ actually did title that much more difficult.

After the post-trial festivities, we found a PetCo on our way back to the hotel.  We had to stop and let CJ pick out whatever he wanted. He got a whole pound of biscuits, that he will graciously share with his brother Chompers when we get home, and 2 plush squeaky toys.

CJ didn’t get Pronounced, and he didn’t get the fastest time for anything. What he did get is a PR for him. And that is pretty awesome! He got his fastest overall time, and did remarkably better with both interiors and exteriors. I’m so proud of him!

CJ resting in the truck on the way back to the hotel after successfully earning his NW1 title

CJ resting in the truck on the way back to the hotel after successfully earning his NW1 title

AFTERWARDthis was written by Chris after he was informed of the day’s tomfoolery and after I allowed him to read what I had already written…

From Chris…

All I know is that I was busy doing my crossword puzzle as I always do during these things when Beth came back to the truck full of “Good puppy!” and “Way to go!!!” but also slipped in “He missed on containers!” Why would I question it?

She still showered him with attention even though they weren’t going to title, but I chalked it up to over-doing the positive reinforcement after a failure. Plus I was trying to figure out a tricky twist in the crossword I was doing at the time – I can get selfishly OCD that way with puzzles.

After that I did talk to other folks at the trial, and since ‘containers’ were in the first half, I was under the impression that CJ could, at best, get a 75% on this ‘test’. So i made comments like, “It’s OK CJ, 75% is better than I ever did in school!” and even consoling others who also had a dog that didn’t pass this time.

Then the debriefing came along, some guy who’s dog (and him, of course) didn’t title still won TWO awards for fastest finds, though they only got 50% of the finds at all. I said, “I doubt our dog will ever be up there for an award.” I was referring to the timing, not that I thought CJ wouldn’t ever be able to title, but either way Beth said, “You’ll eat those words someday.”

Then I hear a name called for “CJ” and I looked around, thinking someone had named their dog the same as us. Of course that was followed with an, “and Beth…” and before I could think of anything, my own Beth hopped up and got her ribbon.

Because of a previous mixup from the NoseWork group in Beth’s booklet, all I thought was that they’d screwed up again. But I was confused as to why Beth would get an award since CJ missed containers, but when I finally realized she’d been f’ing with me since 11:00 am, I had to admit she got me good.

On a personal note, which doesn’t have to make any blog, when I look back on the whole thing and examine the ‘details’ of the ruse, I note:

1) She initially fibbed, which i didn’t question
2) She got very secretive about her blog that she was typing up, though she didn’t upload real-time. She hid it but I didn’t press her for info.
When she got the ribbon, I thought there was a mistake, which means I didn’t believe:
3A) The NoseWork people could get it right, or…
3B) CJ could go 4-for-4, or…

Well, there was no 3C – it didn’t even occur to me that Beth would keep up a lie for even 4 hours like that. Now how’s that for blind faith from a non-four-legged y-chromosome-having companion in this day and age?

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