This weekend Key and I went down to Grants Pass for a nosework trial. This will be his fourth trial this year, plus the ORT in January. This time he was competing for a Nosework 2 title.

Saturday sights

We drove down early on Saturday morning because I wanted to volunteer at the NW1 trial in the afternoon (no volunteers, no trials…) We got up early and made several little pit stops along the way, seeing exotic wildlife of all sorts along the way.

We go to the trial site about noon and set up. Key did well in the car (he’s come so far), chilling out in his wire crate with the shade cloth to keep the sun out and windows open. He didn’t bark or guard, he just dozed!

While this was going on, I was a “competitor guide” telling teams when they could round a particular corner and move toward the search area. The 44 dog teams were all so cute, but these teams needed a picture.

We finished up around three and I decided to go explore a little. We drove about 30 minutes to Lake Selmac.

Of course, I did a little birding while letting Key enjoy the new sights and smells.

As you can see, I was particularly entranced with the turkeys.

We finished up and settled into the hotel where Key did MUCH better than his first experience in a hotel last year. Last year he insisted on being a guard dog and barking at everyone who walked by. This time… I brought the crate inside and that was the end of that!

Sunday – Almost!

We woke up on Sunday and took a leisurely stroll around a local park before checking in for the trial.

The Rogue River

And there Key handled himself with aplomb. I was so proud of him I could have burst.

In nosework, there are two basic types of trials: element specialties and “regular” nosework trials. At the element trials, the dog will do four “courses” of the same type; all vehicles, interiors, exteriors, or containers. At a “regular” nosework trial, the dog will do one of each type.

As the dogs move up in levels, more challenges are introduced. So at a level 1 show, the dog is just finding scent. At a level 2, the dog might be asked to find multiple hides and ignore a distractor. At level 3, there are even more hides, more distractions, and a “blank” or odorless room possibility. When they pass level 3 and move up to Elite… well, the sky is the limit.

This time, Key was competing at level 2. This was also a new challenge for me because (unlike at level 1) when we have found all the hides, I have to call, “Finish”. Fortunately, at this level I know how many hides there are (that won’t always be the case!)

And let me say again, Key rocked it!

We started out with a vehicle search. It was pretty basic. There were three vehicles and he had to find one hide. It also happened to be on the first side we searched.

3rd place: Key (American Shelter Dog) – Time: 0:18.78

Next was interiors. Now, this was a new test. There were two rooms. The first room had two hides, then you went to the other room that had one hide. The rooms were classrooms and quarters were pretty tight. I will admit I felt a little anxious!

5th place: Key (American Shelter Dog) – Time: 1:06.87

And that was with getting our leash tangled on table legs twice!

After a bit of a wait we did containers. It seemed like a simple challenge: there was one hide in 18 boxes that were arranged in three lines. But we were warned… there were distractors (think food or toys in some of the boxes.) With this in mind, I reminded myself that when Key find food he DOES NOT LOOK BACK AT ME, which is what he does when he finds scent, because that’s when he gets food.

Unfortunately, we found a food box before we found the scent box and I was not brave enough to, a) listen to the voice in my head that said, “He’s not looking back at you”, and b) Move onto another box and come back if necessary.

So… we didn’t pass. But now we could have FUN! Or even more fun?!?

We finished the day with exteriors. When we had looked at it, it had seemed pretty straightforward, though there were a lot of “items” within the search area. Shopping carts, ball bins, mops, etc. I carefully considered a plan to ensure we searched all the various item (I had been doing this all day, good for me.) Then they announced there were THREE hides to be found. Gulp!

10th place: Key (American Shelter Dog) – Time: 1:22.58

Key found the first hide in a dust pan, which took all my courage to call because in our first trial he had sniffed around one of these just for apparent enjoyment. But it was a “yes” and we trundled on. Key apparently REALLY liked the second hide and I had to pay out twice on that one because we had to go by it again (time sink). I was starting to worry however, because we were getting toward the end of my planned “path” and hadn’t found that third hide. We kept going on the plan and I looped him around a little step stool and his head turned and that was that! I called the last “finish” of the day and pranced off, each of us proud of Key.

I committed a breach of etiquette and did not stay for the awards because I was anxious to get home (work the next day.) But a friend picked up Key’s note sheets and third place ribbon, so we’ll get them later.

The shadow got progressively longer as we made our way up north, but we got home just before dark. And I know I wasn’t the only one who was tired…

But it never lasts…

If you can’t brag on your dog in your very own blog… where can you?