Sugar's tracking has been going SO WELL, I should have known it was coming.
This week has been the tracking week from hell.
It starts off with our Tuesday night make-up class, since we missed our Sunday class while I was away showing Tiffany. Training at home has been going fine though, so all is hunky dory. I brag (aka an invitation to the gods for an immediate slap-down) to the instructor about the last track I laid for her, a tough one, and she aced it. Yes, we are hot stuff!
Not so fast.
We each lay a track in a different part of the field and she comes over to watch me do mine. She looks at my markers and says "what did you do with your track?...the turn legs are too short and too close together". Hmmm. She has a point. Well, I didn't take out enough bait for the food drops so I decided to make the legs shorter before I ran out of food, but ...yeah....it looks pretty nasty. Add to this it's HOT out. Really hot. And the field has really grown since the last time we were there, Sugar is way down in the grass. We start. Kinda. She has trouble when the track starts to scrunch up. She is scenting but also sneezing in the long grass. I can tell it's really HARD for her and it's my fault! I'm ruining my dog! Finally she does get to the end. This can't have been good for her! So the instructor says to try her on the track she has just laid for her dog. I don't know if it was too old, too hard, too hot, too soon, but the long and the short of it, Sugar gave up. This was going from bad to worse! The instructor wants to know where my termination article is, give it to her now (the spare article you carry if you have to terminate the track for any reason...so the dog is always successful). Termination article...I have several of those!!...back in the van. Luckily the instructor has one and we terminate the track. I feel like you do when your new show hopeful freaks out at a show! Just sick. I wish I hadn't gone out at all. Sometimes it is better to just stay home and watch TV.
Not to worry, these things happen in training and you have to learn from your mistakes (I can hope!) and move forward. (I tell myself). I give Sugar a day off and then lay a nice, easy track for her. It's very easy and she does it, but I can tell heat is going to be a problem for her. I haven't got my dog back yet.
In the meantime I'm reading the Tracking "bible" and trying to pick up all I can. He gets into tracklaying and how it's not as easy as people think, most people can't walk a straight line, etc. He gives some examples like the tracklayer who used a car as a landmark and then someone reparked the same car in the same lot (ppffft...moron I'm thinking...). And how important it is to KNOW FOR CERTAIN exactly where that track is at all times, otherwise you will be pulling the dog off the real track and/or praising the dog for following nothing, just going for a walk, and HOW CONFUSING IS THAT? to the dog. And I couldn't agree more! This makes total sense!
But I don't need to draw physical maps yet, I'm still using flags and my tracks are relatively short. Right?
So today I set off in the a.m. to set the perfect track, using a different (much further away) part of the field. I get it all laid out, two turns, properly spaced, nice jackpot at the end. Back in the house I go, age it just a little, then go get Sugar and we head across the field. The track is set quite a ways back in the field, I've got four flags out there for the start, turns and end (I don't need a directional flag...) and I've taken mental note of the terrain, starts between those two pine trees going just right of that twig thingy. Or it is that other twig thingy and those pines there? I CAN'T FIND THE START. I don't see the start flag, there IS no directional flag, I can see a turn flag, but that's it. THIS ISN'T GOOD. We wander around a bit and I still CAN'T FIND THE START!! How can this be happening? THIS ISN'T GOOD AT ALL. (My instructor's voice "you need taller markers now, the grass is longer" plays in my head. Apparently she knows what she's talking about). So I decide to go to one of the turn flags, start there instead, and get to the finish that way. Half a track is better than the wandering we are doing, probably over part of the track! When I get there I see ahead what I am sure is the start (the directional flag I didn't use would have told me) so I decide to head for it instead, only to realize it's the FINISH and the START is W-A-A-A-Y over there. So I say "find it" five feet from the article and that's our session. WHAT AM I DOING TO MY DOG!!??
I head to the store, I am going to remedy this flag problem so this never happens again. Everything is obviously going to have to be as idiot-proof as possible. Our instructor is always showing us the neat items she picks up, always from the dollar store, so we all refer to the dollar store as the "tracking supply store".
So don't I find these long yellow metal stakes with a big red reflector on top at the tracking supply store (Dollarama) for $1.25. There's even a little ring on top so I can tie something obvious to it to distinguish my start flag.
What they look like in the field. The red reflector, the red reflector with a bright yellow bag tied to it (aka a start flag for dummies) and my original little orange harder-to-see flag. Yeah, this might work.
Satisfied with my purchases, I leave the store. I can't find my car in the parking lot!! Should I keep looking or just start banging my head on the nearest wall?! Honestly!