selection. Like him, I laid out my stuff before going to bed. Top half clothing included a long underwear shirt, a light and a heavier fleece coat, and my thin quilted down coat. Lower half clothing consisted of two pairs of long underwear bottoms, a pair of nylon sweat pants, and my nylon outer pants. Footgear consisted of socks and North Face boots. Lastly, I set aside a wool hat and matching gloves.
I got up at 7:30 a.m. and did outside chores. Pete got up shortly after and did inside chores. Breakfast consisted of (believe it or not) sourdough pancakes. And, amazingly, we were out the door at 9 a.m., as planned. We took Ryder with us because we don’t generally leave her alone for long periods of time. And we took Jenna because yesterday either she or Rainbow peed on the kitchen addition floor. We left Rainbow behind – we figured if it was she who peed, we’d then know it.
I checked the hand held device on Murphy Road and discovered that the search had been called off because of high winds. There was also another message that indicated that there would be a search and rescue dog practice at the Mirror Lake Middle School. So Pete and I returned home and grabbed Ryder’s SAR vest and long line.
We were both glad that we got the information about the cancelled search/impromptu search practice when we did. Otherwise, we would have driven a long ways for nothing. As Pete said “there’s no future in that.” We soon arrived at the practice site and found that others were already there.
There was considerable talk about who would do what. As it turned out, Pete, Stacey, Vicky P, and I accompanied Jim and Yukon, his herding dog mix, on his practice session. It was determined that I’d be the subject. Yukon is an air scent dog. Dogs that have training in this area are to find the subject, return to their handler, alert the handler to the fact they’ve found the subject by tugging on a rope attached to the handler, and then (along with the handler) return to the subject. The handler then touches the subject, and the subject both gives the dog a toy and plays with the dog. We did this three times, each time with me hopping off the trail and hiding behind some brush or the tree.
It was then Ryder’s turn. Vicky P. and Stacey R and I did three sessions with Ryder – all took place a ways down the groomed ski trails. These mock searches were like last Wednesday and last Saturday’s searches. Ryder sniffed the given object (a stuff sack, and then after being given the search command, she was released. I then ran behind her, spooling out the line as she took off in search of Stacey.
It was again reiterated today that it’s important to get the dog excited about taking off on a search. You hold onto the harness handle and amp the dog up by saying upbeat things. It’s also important to stay with the dog and maintain long line contact when it’s released. In search #1, Ryder sought out Stacey. In search #2, Ryder sought out Stacey but cut through the brush to get to her. (This was because there was a curve in the trail – Ryder just didn’t want to go the long way around. It was obvious here that Ryder was going more by sight than by smell. In search #3 Ryder did far better, stopping to sniff the nearby dropped object before zoning in on Stacie.
At the conclusion of each of the three searches, Stacie jumped around excitedly and then played tug with Ryder, using Cat Burglar. This time she was more animated than previously. I think she’s now got the idea that if she finds someone, there is going to be a reward afterwards.
I next followed Vikki Gross on a long search. Kathy, who was the subject, gave me the map. This search took place in a residential area. There was considerable diversity. On minute we were in woods, following the power line. And the next we were on residential streets. There were on the latter, plenty of distractions, including a rather mean looking dog. I joked that my being navigator was like the blind leading the blind. But I stayed focused – the map had specific visuals. The last one was a green dumpster. The inference was that the subject was hiding behind it. I figured that she’d be staked out behind the first dumpster we came to -- turns out that she was staked out at the second dumpster we came to. Dog was of course rewarded for having made such a protracted find.
I lastly followed Vicky P on a cadaver search, the bones being supplied by Vikki G. Bettles was to find small pieces of human bone – some rib pieces and a vertebrae. This was a difficult search because she needed to search the side of a hill – it was said that the wind was moving in an upward direction. Bettles, a large German shepherd was very focused and very methodical. No surprise, after a twenty-minute search she found the container with the bones.
All ‘n all, it was a good day. At this point in time, I can’t imagine Ryder being able to do what Bettles and Tiara are doing, which is extended searches in which they have to problem solve. But, that day will come.
Once we were back on the home front, we took Signy and Hrimmi and Rainbow for a walk around the loop. It was windy, and the road was icy. Pete had put copious amounts of sand and rock salt on the driveway, in the area going to the roadway. So we are now (again) able to get the horses out. I guess that until the terrain conditions improve, I’ll be again focused on the horses. But in the meantime, it’s a matter of “there by the grace of Dog go I.”
Next: 41. 2/10/14: A Conversation with Mr. Tinni