Get A Clue On the Light Brush Practice
Grom and I are doing a dry run of our light brush assessment.
We take a right turn and shoot straight up the drainage to the stream, all the while I’m telling my operational handler/coach/escort that I’d be marking my boundry here and here and on the corner I’d put two flags out. Grom has a more singular purpose today, someone is out here with his toy and he will find them. Needless to say he pays no attention to boundaries, or flags, or our pretend test. He shoots in and out of drainages, and up logs on the off chance his toy has been stolen by a beaver or a woodpecker.
Even with the fake testing, it’s a low pressure day, and all is going pretty well. I’m letting him work and making sure that his focus is on the job. We work down the stream to the next drainage and back south to the road where we go back the way we came and dive back into the woods going north. The intention is to let him work for at least 45 minutes, so I’m concentrating keeping us to The Plan. So after a couple of passes I’m thinking about my subject and which bush she might be in. I’m also yammering away about what I would be doing on a real search and as we walk along one of the ridges I see him follow his nose down into the drainage and circle a couple of times. Then he reaches into his bag of tricks and does his best cat imitation by trying to climb a tree.
It’s a bird, it’s a plane….
Actually it’s a jacket. My walker watched him try to climb this tree and asks out loud, mostly to herself I’m sure, “is she up a tree?” To which the reply was, “no, I’d never do that. ” Now there’s something you need to understand, we don’t get sarcasm where I’m from so I’m not completely convinced by that answer. My response is to wait, hoping that if she is indeed up that tree, he will return to me and indicate. We were very careful to make sure that Grom was exposed to and would indicate on people that had climbed things like trees. (We were also careful to make sure that he would indicate to us if we happened to be up a tree….. It was a long winter.)
He’s not coming back to indicate, but he is really interested in what ever is down there. Normally, I would be talking the situation out in my head trying to figure out what to do next. That’s exactly what I did on my trail test and it got me a boot full of mud so this time I do it out loud and my faux evaluator and I have a little talk about the right process and steps to follow before we get our wander on, down to the tree Grom is still circling.
In the tree, I find the jacket and exclaim “A HA! A Clue!” which turns into a long conversation about how to mark clues in the woods, on the maps, and what gets radioed into base. We talk about the difference between how dog handlers mark clues and sign cutters would mark it. What you would do if you were on a walking team comes up and we dissect the nuance between a well marked clue and just wasting flagging.
Meanwhile my dog is running up and down hills, through bushes and over logs. But he sees that we are clearly not as excited as he is about the jacket. I’m certain he felt like we spent 2 hours talking about the jacket, and we’re not throwing a party so he calms down a little bit. This is when I hear my subject calling over the radio, telling me that not only has my dog been into see her, but he’s done it twice.
My heart is in my throat. This is a day of firsts for Grom, he’s never found a clue this big. Such a big thing even a handler should be able to smell it. And he’s never gone into a subject twice and not indicated. I have visions of going all the way back and doing nothing but indication work with him for months. Working long problems and testing would have to wait for cooler weather in the fall. But I have to fix this situation first.
Any time you find a clue, it calls for the search of the area immediately around the clue. This means I have to pull Grom out to circle about 25 to 30 meters around the clue, but since we’re just not excited right now I decide to we’re going to walk out 25 and restart him to begin our loop around the clue.
The restart hardly seemed needed because as soon as I let him go he crashed through the bushes and returned to give me his indication without getting any prompts or guidance. I did make him bark a couple of extra times before I let him go play though. Hopefully when it comes to his light brush test he will remember the part of this day where he indicated and got jackpot play, and not the part where he found her and I just yapped.
So it was a day of lessons for me. I’m certain that finding a clue that was so “oh my god” big threw him off for a minute. I’m absolutely certain that if I’d dropped everything else and immediately started to circle around the clue, he would have indicated the first time. In short, There is a time for talking, and then there is a time for being just as excited as your dog and running around in circles.