I am so glad that we were able to combine our family visits with the Sporting Detection Dogs Association’s inaugural National Challenge Cup. We had a blast meeting so many wonderful people,talking dogs and sniffing.
The festivities started on Friday with a lovely wedding. Esteemed Judge Doug Teeft and his fiancé Cathy tied the knot. Their cake was appropriately topped with German Shepherds.
The Games trial came next. Originally I had signed Brodie up for all 4 games but since that time he has earned all 4 titles. I substituted Spirit in the Speed component since she needs two more Speed Q’s to get her title and championship. Since we had already paid, Brodie ran in the remaining 3 games for the heck of it. Spirit nailed Speed and Brodie Q’d in Aerial and Distance (18 seconds WTG).
Then came the Team component. We didn’t have a pre-arranged partner so Stacy Barnett and I partnered up. She wanted to split the areas up and not call a hide until the other dog came in and confirmed it. Since we already have our title I was happy to follow her plan. Unfortunately that ate up a lot of time. We had successfully called 3, Brodie had sourced the 4th hide but Brava couldn’t confirm it so we timed out. Oh so close. In NACSW they don’t have to be as exact as SDDA when they call their hides. Brava was able to say there is something somewhere around here but I had to bring Brodie in to pinpoint the exact location before I was able to call each of the hides. Although we didn’t Q (only one team did) it was an honour and pleasure to search with such a well known and respected participant, Judge and international nose work instructor.
The Nationals started Saturday morning with each team doing 4 searches (exterior containers, interior and 2 interior/exterior combos). In 3 of the 4 searches we found all the hides for full points plus bonus points. We only found two of the 4 hides in the last interior/exterior combo but since we found the two hardest hides we still earned decent points. Our two afternoon searches weren’t quite as successful. We nailed the exterior search but NQ’d on the vehicle search which cost us a maximum of 30 points. At the end of the first day we had 182 points which put us in 9th place overall
Saturday night was the banquet. We shared a table with Jane book and several of her students and had a wonderful evening. There was a very interesting speaker with 40+ years experience training dogs and handlers all over the world. He talked about how scent behaves and how he approaches a search.
Sunday morning we had 3 searches. They upped the ante by reducing our search time to only 2 minutes each. My amazing boy nailed all 3. Watching him work just made my heart sing. How lucky am I that I get to play sports and share my life with this smart, athletic, goofy and handsome boy. I could have gone home at that point completely happy with our performance.
All of a sudden people where hugging and congratulating me and I didn’t know what was happening until I actually saw the official results. Much to my utter shock, we ended up placing 4th overall. Holy cow….completely unexpected.
The top 12 teams got to participate in the finals. The dogs ran in reverse order of score so we were the 9th team to search. There were 2 search areas, 3 hides in each and only 2 minutes per search. We all started fresh with zero points.
I listened to lots of clapping and cheers for the previous competitors. By the time it was our turn my mouth was dry, my palms and forehead were sweaty and my stomach was doing flip flops. We were way out of our league competing against scent work teachers, judges and some of the best in our sport. When I walked up to the vehicle search and saw the crowd of spectators my hands started shaking. Scent detection is usually a solo sport with just you, your dog, the timer and Judge.
Our first search was not stellar. We missed the first hide right at the front corner of the trailer, found the second inside the bed of the trailer and then moved on to the second vehicle. Brodie picked up the odour and worked it back to source but we timed out just as I called alert.
Thank goodness we had a couple of minutes to wait before we started the exterior search. I was able to sit down, stroke Brodie’s sweet soft forehead and practice some deep breathing to try and relax. I told myself to calm down and forget about who else is searching and how many people are watching and judging us. Just focus on my boy and enjoy ourselves. It worked. We nailed all 3 hides. So proud of Brodie. He is the heart and soul of this team.
We ended up finishing in 7th place, way exceeding any of my dreams. We got a lovely ribbon and a bag of swag.
I wish I could have had a do-over on the first search but that’s how it goes. Valuable lesson learned. Forget about everything else and most importantly trust your dog!!!!