An Impressive Search: Nosework Report

Two Bird Searches Side Room

It was raining when it was time to go to nosework this week, and Rain was reluctant but I got her in the car without too much fuss. When we arrived at the gun club, she could barely contain her excitement! Fortunately the rain had died for the rest of the evening as well, so she didn’t have to wait outside in misery.

The class before ours had a couple of unexpected attendees so when their class ran late, I presumed we’d get home pretty late too. This was unfortunate as I had been battling a headache all day long. We ended up with a light class though, just four dogs and three handlers. Since we didn’t have class last week Rain was very excited each time I got her out to do a search…she was well-rested and full! of! energy!

Kristina was chatting while setting up our first search, when I realized what she had just done and said “um, did you really just put that up there?” Kristina had placed a hide on top of the molding of a tall windowsill, roughly 7 feet off the floor. Kristina explained how the odor cone would work in the room. It seemed like a challenge, but soon it was Rain’s turn inside the room.

Rain finding that super inaccessible hide, and in a relatively fast amount of time, is one of the most impressive searches I think she has done. That said, since her energy was dialed up to eleven I suspect that impacted her speed, at least a little. Normally I keep her on leash for searches but I felt like it would be a good evening to let her search off-leash and really let her go for it.

Wyatt Finds Window Hide

Our second search consisted of three hides inside the great room. Because the prior class ran a bit behind I got to watch three dogs do this search before our class, yet I had forgotten the exact placement of one of the hides.

Here’s Two Bird finding that fireplace hide. He has really come a long way in his nosework! He seems to be more confident in class, too.

Two Bird Finds the Fireplace Hide

Earlier in the day I had realized that our ORTs are just two weeks away, so between dogs I asked Kristina some detailed questions that had crossed my mind. (I’ll probably have more later.) Theoretically I might start getting nervous for our upcoming “big day,” but given that Rain is finding odor that’s seven feet up a wall, I sort of feel like it may not be necessary. Even so, I’m thinking through details early to be sufficiently prepped for the day as a whole and the test itself. Just in case…


At Long Last…

Smiling Rain

Agility class starts back up this week, so we’ll be back to having TWO classes most weeks! Rain can hardly wait—she was getting a little extra crazy over the last week!

Church Chairs: Nosework Report

Beavercreek Church Historic Building

Our weather didn’t quite cooperate again this week, and we were back at the church instead of the big box home improvement store! We had some thunderstorms in the forecast again, and I’d much rather be safe inside rather than have Rain be scared outside. Even so, I don’t think we’ve done any vehicle searches this year and they can be tricky so it’d have been nice to get some practice, plus get exposed to another new search location.

Sunset from Beavercreek Church

It was a pleasant evening, though. The sun was sinking in the sky and the clouds made the light get really dramatic during sunset. People were even commenting on it during class, and there was only a modest sliding glass door across the room, making the sunset not that easily seen.

Kristina Preps the Class

There were ten dogs in class again, including a couple of new dogs. The four red merle Aussies were back, too. When I told the Aussie people how their dogs remind me of Rain’s Uncle Atticus, they told me that the one female (Tayla) was the mother of the three boys (Parker, Sid, and Rudy). I still haven’t had a chance to pet them with my hands, but I pet them with my eyes every chance I get. 🙂

Hawker Searches the Flat Chairs

Our searches this evening largely involved a bunch of unfurled folding chairs. It was a lot of detailing work—really examining every nook and cranny in order to find an odor source. In the first search, the chairs were configured in two straight rows. “Don’t worry,” Kristina said, “I know which ones have odor. I’m not telling you how.”

When Kristina told us to pick up a chair or two and help move them into a more catawampus new formation, she reminded us that she had a way of telling which chairs had the odor source.

Rudy Searches Lines of Chairs

As I watched the dogs before Rain, like Rudy above, I noticed that multiple dogs had to stray outside the search area in one spot to find the edge of an odor cone and then work backward to the source. That was probably about the only reason I wasn’t nervous at all when Rain strayed and then hung out in the further area when it was her turn.

Once all ten dogs did this search, Kristina wanted to pick up and stack the chairs by herself. She picked one up and rubbed a metal portion of the chair vigorously, then sighing in relief, told us that she had put a mark on the odor chairs using a dry erase marker—it’d be just her luck if if left a stain of some sort, but she had just managed to erase her mark.

We had a real change of pace for the third search of the evening. We did a two-hide search in the small meeting room, and Rain found the second trickier hide a lot faster than some of the other dogs I watched.

We had observers inside and outside the search room this time, unlike our first class here about a month ago.

Two people watch nosework searches from outside

Kristina said she’d be out of town next week, and agility starts up again the week after, which means this is probably our last class at the church for the foreseeable future. Too bad, that, because I enjoy coming to this location more than heading to the gun club.

We wrapped up after dark—’tis the season, now that it’s September. Rain and I headed home as I fought hard against my desire to doze. All in all there was a lot of detail work in class on this night, which hasn’t traditionally been Rain’s forte, but she did great! And we promptly got to sleep upon arriving home, so I think we both had a decent workout that day.

Container Practice for the ORT: Nosework Report

Beavercreek Cemetery at Sunset

Readers who are attentive to details may remember that our nosework class was supposed to meet up this week at a big box home improvement store to do vehicle searches. We had a big thunderstorm come through overnight and Kristina decided to play things safe weather-wise, so she decided to convene at the church again and postpone the big box home improvement store until next time.

Turns out the weather was great the next day though. So before class started Rain and I explored the cemetery on the south side of the church property. I had just read an interesting article online about how people used to have social activities in cemeteries, so I had cemeteries on the brain.

Rain stands on cemetery bench

The bulk of cemetery occupants seem to have died post-1978, but we made our way to an older patch, working backwards in time. Eventually we found the earliest headstones from the 1870s, looking aged but generally beautiful.

Rain Stands Beside Cemetery Headstone
Catharine Zetas Headstone

Once Rain was safely crated and the prior class cleared out of the building I discovered that we would be having class inside the fellowship hall, a large room where we humans could sit and watch if we weren’t searching, unlike our last visit.

Beavercreek Church Fellowship Hall

We had fewer dogs and ended up doing container searches, which was great prep for Rain as our odor recognition test (ORT) is starting to get closer. Among the six dogs we had Nami starting to learn to search plus a different Izzy! We had seen Izzy the German Shepherd from time to time at the gun club last year, but this Izzy is a border collie who is being adopted by the woman who brings Hector and Two Bird to class. This evening she had Hector and Izzy, but no Two Bird.

Nami Searches Open Containers

Rain’s first search went pretty well, but it turns out that I was doing what Kristina referred to as “around the world” in the second search area, which she says can have disastrous consequences. I thought I was being efficient in movement by staying in the middle of the containers while Rain walked the area around me, but turns out no. Rain still did okay though.

Technical note: The video got tilted on its side and I did my best to fix it in post.

Here’s Reuben and his person doing one of the evening’s searches. Reuben is really energetic when he’s searching, and when he finds the odor he starts barking and jumping up and down, awaiting his reward. His person doesn’t like that, but I think it’s adorable, and Reuben is a cute dog. At one point I would have feared that Rain might behave like that while doing these kinds of activities. One of the reasons I enjoy nosework so much is that Rain actually gets quiet when she has to use her brain.

Reuben Searches Containers

Here’s our second search:

Here’s Trini, the German shepherd, searching. Izzy the German shepherd is her packmate, who is now retired, as it turns out.

Trini Searching Open Containers

Rain found the hide SO FAST during the third search!

It was getting close to the end of class but all the dogs were doing so well that Kristina had one last lightning round. Rain didn’t find everything quite as fast, but we certainly didn’t slow the group down.

Rain was silent all the way home, and happy to climb into bed right away after we arrived. If our performance during this class session was any guide, I think we’re going to do okay at our ORTs in early October! Even so, fully expect to hear about getting worried about it closer to the actual date.

Hopefully things go to plan and we’re able to meet up for vehicle searches next time!

Beavercreek Church: View from Cemetery

Corners! Nosework Report

Sabia Finds a Wall Hide

We were back at the gun club this week because Kristina wasn’t having class at the church in Beavercreek. Rather than miss class, we just went back to our normal night for the week. It was nice to run into Jackie (with dog Emily) before class, since we probably won’t see her again until agility starts up again in late September.

Compared to the ten(!) dogs last time, things seemed downright reasonable with six dogs. We started with Rain, Hector, Two Bird, and Wyatt, but Sabia and Rei came fashionably late as usual.

Hector Searches the Dining Area

Our theme for the evening was corners. We started off in the dining area where four odor sources were hidden. Rain was second in the line-up which meant I entered the room with no idea where the hides were. It was a pretty tough search though, and there was one particular hide stuck in the corner between banks of windows that almost every dog found difficult to pinpoint.

Next we moved out to the side room on the opposite side of the building. I spotted one of the hides before I needed to go fetch Rain but otherwise I didn’t know where anything was placed. After the first search I felt like Rain’s drive was a little low, but I think she had more success in the second search.

Two Bird Finds a Hide in the Side Room

Since Sabia and Rei came late, Rei was the last dog up in the lineup. I don’t think I’ve seen her for several months…she’s not a tiny puppy anymore! And while she’s not quite as excitable as Sabia is about coming into a search room, she’s still very fast and doing a great job at her searches.

Rei Pinpoints an Odor Source

It was nice to see everyone, but I’m not going to lie—I’m really looking forward to meeting at the big box home improvement store next week to do vehicle searches in yet another novel environment. I feel like I’m starting to see my own failings in observing Rain as she searches, so I think that we might see some good improvements in the coming weeks.

Blowing Rain’s Little Doggy Mind: Nosework Report

Beavercreek UCC Sign

Rain and I went to a new location for nosework this week! This was just one part of an adventurous and very lengthy week, which kicked off with Roy’s trip to DoveLewis.

Our temporary class is held in a location twice as far away as the gun club, and a few miles down the road from where our agility classes take place. When I realized we would be passing through familiar Beavercreek I suspected I might blow Rain’s little doggy mind when we went to a familiar area but didn’t go to the expected place for the expected activity. Indeed, when we passed the road where we would turn off to the park I looked at Rain in the rear view mirror and watched her head crank as we passed it.

Once we were a few miles past Beavercreek town center I was starting to think we had somehow missed the church when it came up suddenly on our right. I slowed as quickly as I could from 55 MPH to avoid missing the turn. On site there was an older traditional-looking church building, a newer building where our class was gathering, a cemetery, a small fenced-in playground, and other little treasures. The church also had rather a nice view west, overlooking all kinds of rural landscape towards the setting sun.

Front of Beavercreek UCC

We ended up arriving a few minutes late but there was another Nami love-fest happening for a bit, so I wasn’t really late at all. In fact, I got to pet Nami more than I had the previous week, when she was busy playing with her sorta-sister.

The searches that Kristina had set up for that evening were in smaller spaces inside the newer building. This meant that instead of observing all the searches, the humans congregated outside the front door and chatted as we waited. Each dog would enter in that door, perform searches in two areas, then exit the side door. This kept things moving pretty well since we had ten dogs(!) in class that evening.

Trini Enters Church Front Door

We saw familiar faces, too! Hector and his person came to class as they’re preparing for some sort of championship trial. Trini the German shepherd was there—quite a trip for her person, who lives just around the corner from the gun club. Among the unfamiliar faces there was a couple who had four red merle Australian shepherds who had me thinking of Uncle Atticus, a happy fella named Reuben whose resemblance to Bo Obama lead me to assume he was a Portuguese water dog, and a couple of people who looked familiar but I couldn’t place them. It wasn’t until the next day I realized I think they had also worked at the nosework trial I was at earlier this year.

Rain was first in the evening’s search order. We had two rounds with two searches each.

Our first round felt fairly challenging. Given that our upcoming ORT test and any future trials will be done in completely new-to-us spaces, it was much needed that Rain start to get this kind of practice. Rain was taking in so much more information through her nose in the new space that she was behaving differently than at the gun club where her brain knows to filter out certain scents. It didn’t take long for me to realize I needed the experience too, because I need to read Rain differently when we’re in a novel environment!

During our second round of searches, Rain decided to alert me about a different hide that wasn’t exactly in our designated search area…

Even though things kept moving in our run order, there was some discussion at the end of class about a recent trial that kept the group around a bit late. I was sitting in a chair at that point, and started dozing off! (The whole week had been relatively sleep-deprived, starting as it did with a trip to the emergency vet.) It worked to my benefit though, because I felt more fresh driving on the unlit country roads back toward home.

Next week we’ll be back at the gun club because Kristina won’t have class at the church. The following week, our class will meet at a big-box home improvement store in the area where we’ll do vehicle searches! With any luck we’ll get plenty of practice in new search environments over the next month, which will keep Rain depleting that glucose.

Roy be Illin’

Roy On My Desk

Our kitty friend Roy had a trip to the emergency vet just over a week ago! We had an eventful Sunday evening trip to DoveLewis where Roy was triaged and we quickly learned that he didn’t have a urinary blockage (making the matter less life-and-death).

The place was swimming with visitors though, so we didn’t end up back home until the wee hours. In the process we learned that Roy has urinary crystals and they sent us home with a cocktail of medications and some new (wet) food for him to eat.

In the subsequent evenings after our visit I spent much time closely overseeing his eating habits, medicating him, following up with our regular vet, procuring some new kitty items, and tracking down where I can buy the one fish-flavored prescription urinary cat food locally. Oh yes, and attempting to catch up on the sleep I had lost at the very beginning of the week. And attempting to convince Rain that despite giving extra attention to Roy, it didn’t mean that I didn’t still value her as well.

Sigh. Dogs…and cats!

Thursday evening Roy started to act more like himself again. The largest tell was that he was desperate to escape the house. Since then it has been increasingly difficult to give him his medications—thank goodness we only had a week’s worth to give! We’re going to be following up with a regular vet visit this week to see if this episode was related to an underlying issue, which it often is.

Think your most healing thoughts for Roy this week!