FINALLY a mid size field is mowed. It’s a fairly rolling one with a wind that comes down off an overlooking big hill/ small mountain. It is always at least breezy here in this field that lies behind the County jail.
I have no helpers or co trackers available so on day 1 I wrangle the 15 year old nephew into track laying. Bad handler plan A.
As an added aside, we have a really stressful homelife right now so we are all a bit stressed most of the time. NOT a help to tracking serenity.
The field is a rectangle and it’s fairly restrictive of what you can do if you are a novice so I made it easy. I wanted a semi blind track because I need to work on my dog trust. So I tell nephew who has laid tracks partnered with my step daughter before, to go straight that way at least 150 steps and turn left then to make 5 more legs just like that. He needs to count steps and record them on his map and make sure he’s not closer to a leg he’s already laid then this much (demonstrating). He has a start article to leave, 2 track articles and a finish article. Off goes nephew and I walk away. Bad handler plan B. I come back just as he is exiting the field where I told him and “assume” all is well. We go back home to let the track age. It is sunny with a strong breeze and 95 degrees at 4pm.
We get ready to go and track and the second we get to the vehicle Bea starts shaking her head. Great her ear is bothering her. I rub it and it seems ok, maybe just a piece of fur? Not knowing if this field has ticks I spray her lightly with marigold spray. It’s fairly strong smelling but she’s tracked with it before. It’s now 80 degrees and 6 pm.
Get geared up and out on the field. Bea starts grazing like a frantic cow. NEVER a good sign. Note to self: IF you are just at a practice track and the dog starts grazing like a cow. Pack up said dog and go get the articles yourself. DO NOT track… Bad handler plan C being I decide to track because it was so much work to get the track laid and aged….
Bea noses the start article and continues grazing, a very bad sign. What do I do? I send her off. What does Bea do? Graze and not track <sigh> I finally convice her to focus and off she’s goes doing a fairly good job aside from shaking her head from time to time. She goes pretty far and indicates scent loss. She circles and cirlces and eventually makes a left turn. I ask nephew is this the turn? He says yeah, it’s here somewhere………. Bea tracks along not too horrible but not too great. This leg runs along the crest of a hill. She periodically casts back and forth and then goes forward again. Not her norm that’s for sure. I realize things are not quite right when I see the first article to my left about 10’, she missed it AND is obviously tracking drift and NOT the actual track. I back up and call her to me and step left those 10’ and set her off again. She zip zags up the track and does find the article. Then I send her off and she acts like there’s no track. I insist and she searches til she finds something and off we go and shortly after indicates scent loss again. Circle right twice, check left, circle right then commit left.. sort of. OK is this the turn? Yeah I think so I headed with the vehicle in my sight… great. Bea heads down the hill and when she hits the gully/valley between two hills she acts nose blind again. Bad handler plan D being I don’t quit right then. Somehow we get up the hill and Bea is adamant that she need to go straight to the bushes but nephew says no there’s a turn. Well Bea wants to go ahead because why? Because nephew’s exit trail is not 25’ away… <double sigh> I back up and ask Bea to find again and she tracks very poorly to the second article which she barely noses, not at all her style. She’s hot and stupid me again forgot water. Bad handler plan E. We totally miss the next corner and nephew is not “sure” exactly where it is… A large thundar storm is coming and there’s a sense of urgency to get the heck out of an open field on a hill as we can see lightning striking in the distance (you can see the mountains in Vt from this field) Somehow we lost our way and Bea indicates to the right and straight ahead very slightly but nephew says it’s a left and THEN a right and that he did not come this far. Bea then quits and tell us we are idiots Ya know what? She is right.
I put her back in the car and we walk back to find the last article. We don’t and the storm is getting to close so we go home. After 30 minutes of a torrential downpour and serious lightning things subside and he and I go back and rewalk the whole track counting steps. Well guess what? His written count is not right. He guesses he lost count a few times. Basically we add 10-20 steps to each leg. Did we find the last article? Oh yeah about 15’ in the direction Bea wanted to go when nephew said he did not go that far……… Track was in total about 505 yards I go home and clean my dog’s ear.. nothing there
The next day I decide to try again with my more experienced track layer. 18 year old step daughter. I hand her the paper and say, go that way and give me 5 corners and don’t come anywhere near a leg you’ve already laid and don’t forget to leave the articles (her big thing is to forget). I walk away and leave her to her own creativity. Bad handler plan of the Day A. I look back just after she makes the first corner and she’s standing still thinking and making a heck of a scent pool… then she bounds like a kangaroo 6 times. I yell don’t do that! <sigh> Creativity in this form was not what I has in mind. I come back just in time to see her coming back towards the start. Hey I yell you are almost too close. So she turns and leaves the end article at the field edge. I take a quick look at the map and go what the heck is that??? We have rounded open turns, a close leg and an acute turn. Oh good Lord. But we’ll try. Bad handler plan B I should have sent the ding bat back out and picked up the things. Instead we went home for a bit. It’s 3:45 pm, mostly sunny, 80 degrees with a moderate breeze.
Somehow it’s 6:15 when we return. Bad handler plan C and we get Bea out. She grazes a little but not like yesterday. But still any grazing is out of character. This is the same field as yesterday and we are allowing nephew’s tracks to be a distraction. They actually proved to be of little consequence.
Bea is actually excited to see the start article today and brings it right to me. Then she heads off quite well. She manages the sweeping open turn pretty well with minimal issues and heads down the hill into the valley. (Picture enclosed is at this point) 5 steps later and she gets stuck in drifted/pooled scent, works back up and gets sucked in again and just cannot find the track out of it. I ask for direction and get, it’s sort of that way pointing vaguely up the opposite hill. I step left about 15’ and Bea comes with me. I let her work all of the line and she finally hits track. She finds the first article then heads out again. That lasts maybe 10 steps and it’s gone again. Finally we get to the top and Bea makes the open turn and tracks along the tall field edge at the crest of the hill and then loses all scent.. totally. Lesson from yesterday apparently did not stick because we should have just quit. Bad handler plan D. Worse yet step daughter tells me this leg runs diagonally down the hill side. Bea tries to find track charges off on scent then loses again. All of a sudden she commits hard and drags me off. But it’s not the leg we want it’s drift from the next leg. I bring her back and start her again and again she tries to go to that other leg and skip this one (which has an article). I finally smarten up and we quit. Bea is tired (although I did bring her water) and she is frustrated. I stupidly do not toss an article for her we just go back to the car and load up while stepdaughter retrieves those last articles. Bad handler plan E
We go home and I take a shower, Bea gets sprayed down with cool mist. I feel bad for being a moron not one day but two in a row and now Bea had two frustrating tracks in a row. Oh that’s good for training and confidence for both of us. I don’t think we’ll be entering a test this fall unless a miracle occurs. I really wish other trackers lived close. But everyone is an hour or more away
I am so sorry Bea