Open Field Test with Aaron and Grom
Grom has begun his testing, and his first obstacle is a big open field.
The test criteria is pretty easy for this one. He has to work for an hour minimum, has to listen to the handler, and he has to find the subject by air scenting. The biggest obstacle for most dogs at this point is getting them to stay focused for at least an hour. The test for the me is a little more involved, but not much. We have to pretend that it’s a real search where we receive a briefing from the responsible authority (the evaluator in this case.) We have to look at the map and create our search strategy taking things like weather, wind, terrain, and the subject’s behavior and condition into consideration.
So the morning starts out at Great Meadows at 8.30am when I get there and meet my evaluator/escort.
Grom gets to come out of the truck and take care of his personal business before he goes back into the crate where he stands by while I receive his orders. We are to cover the 60 acres of three fields at Great Meadows in a search for the owner of a truck that the staff found on the grounds after an event. I ask (Hopefully) pertinent questions about all thing things I am going to need to know to construct a search strategy, I look at the map, I draws some lines that may or may not be helpful in the future and I try to talk too much so the evaluator actually has something to do other than sit there and watch me sweat.
After we have a strategy worked out, I go to the truck, get my gear together and strap on my pack.
This is where I realize that 1) the dog is still in the crate and 2) that it’s next to impossible to climb in there with a giant pack strapped on. This is where the my evalutator starts to wish he had a camera out and that he could cue the 3 stooges music. But it doesn’t take long before Grom is out and ready to work. I am geared up and ready to work.
Since the wind is coming out of the southwest, we take go through the north east gate and begin our grid pattern into the wind. It’s a beautiful day and we have a nice strong 5mph wind right in our faces. Since this is actually a closely cut equestrian grounds we don’t really need to cut short grids through the field to cover everything, but in the interest of showing off how good my navigation skills are we’re cutting grids about every 35 meters, and we’re making sure they’re STRAIGHT!
The black lines are the borders around our area of responsibility and the red line, starting in the top right side, is the path we took. The first part of that line with the three narrow grids is pretty boring, but we soon cut south into the area with the creek running through it. Grom has a great time checking out the sides of the creek as I and my escort/evaluator pretend to talk on the radio, discuss what would actually happen in a real search with the large trailers full of chairs and tables stacked next to the creek, and check the wind to see if the wind still favors the search strategy.
Now the one thing about testing is that they try to make similar to actual searches, but some things you just can’t plan.
That’s right, out of nowhere a 7 month old black lab/dachund mix came screaming up to me and laid a vicious Puppy Kiss Attack on me! Luckily my evaluator/escort was on top of his game and tried to grab and control Mystery Puppy. Unfortunately by this time Grom had returned from scouting the creek and bushes only to discover that his skills as Puppy negotiator were needed. So he inserted himself and sternly asked some serious questions. Loosely translated from Puppy Body language they were “Who are you?” and “What do you think you’re doing with my people?”. Followed by the most important question, delivered after a piercing stare and some sniffing “…… Do you want to PLAY?”
As handler, at this point, I figure the test is wrecked.
We have to get Grom back on task and his head back into the game. After we corral Mystery Puppy and give him back to the woman who was chasing him, Grom goes back on the lead, and walked to the other side of the creek where we take a moment to call out for the subject, and restart the search. I silently hope that Grom doesn’t just go back to the puppy and play . Luckily Grom has his game face on and gets back to work. We finish up the big field in about 10 minutes, doing another cross before heading to the south gate where we can cross some marshy banks and get over to the east field.
Unfortunately the east field has a pond that we have to pass which is filled with geese and nests.
Grom has the 1000 yard stare, looking up a hill he can’t see what he can smell, but he knows it’s out there.
As I reach the top of the hill I can see Grom working the scent in a cone pattern that could have come out of a book as he closes the 60 meter gap to find his reward. When he gets to her, he sticks his nose into the subjects arm pit and comes screaming back to me to deliver a three bark indication like he’s just found the coolest thing ever. I give him the go ahead to lead me to her. Only problem is that he’s four times faster than me and I’m only 30 meters closer when he gets to her, so he runs back to me and delivers another loud and proud indication and makes me swell with pride. With my permission he continues to lead me to the subject.