0 Comments | May 27, 2012

The trial, part one

Our first Nose Work trial is about to begin and I am excited.  And nervous.  It’s being held at a school in Fife, Washington, which is about an hour and a half drive for us.  We got here at about 8:40 am for check in and met up with our trainer and some classmates, who are also competing, and we are eager to begin.

The first two elements, the container search and the interior search, are held in the morning, and back to back.  After a walkthrough, we start with the container search. True and I are 4th in the running order, so no time to dally.   A room full of boxes is laid out, with the odor somewhere in one of them.  True is excited, and eager to search.  We practiced on the warmup boxes just before coming in, so she knows why we’re here and can’t wait to start.  She blasts off the start line and to the boxes.  It takes her nineteen seconds to pinpoint the right box—she checks several before veering across the room to one on the edge of the search area and giving a clear signal.  I call alert and the judge says yes—she got it! 

The interior search is set up in a classroom.  There are desks, backpacks, garbage cans…I’m a little nervous about this one.  We stand at the door, take a moment to prepare, and head in.  True briefly checks all three trash cans, but doesn’t linger on any.  Phew.   She heads right through the middle of the room, ignoring all of the people inside—the judge, the steward, the timer, the videographer, and several others whose function was unclear.  The room is crowded!  She heads quickly to the filing cabinet, where she alerts on the handle.  I call it—I can’t see anything, but she is sure.  And according to the judge, she’s right!  This one took thirty-eight seconds.

The first half of our search day is over, just that quick.  That’s two out of four elements down, and I breathe a sigh of relief.  I was pretty confident True was ready for the trial, but having never tested our teamwork in this type of situation, you never know.  For now, it is lunch break, and True and I hang out in the shade together, chatting with nose works friends and enjoying the sunshine.  There are much worse ways to spend an afternoon.

Everyone compares notes once the first half of the trial is finished.  Until then, mums the word. Sharing details can accidentally give away the location of the hides, so until everyone has had their turn, we’re only allowed to give a thumbs up or down.  Of the dogs we know at the trial, so far only one didn’t pass.  The handler alerted a little too quickly, before the dog had finished detailing the area, and she called alert beside the filing cabinet, rather than on the handle.  She’s upbeat, however.  Lesson learned, and she’s looking forward to the afternoon searches.

Several dogs had a hard time with the number of the people in the room.  One spent time greeting each person before starting his search, others were nervous or overly interested.  For the most part everyone came through just fine, and there is a lot of support and strategizing for future training to better prepare for the next trial.  The mood is positive, the people are friendly, and we are all eager for the afternoon session to start.  Read ‘The trial, part two’ here.