Thursday, April 21, 2011

Melissa: Back on Track

The snow is gone, the sun is shining, and it’s starting to feel like spring, so, even though it’s cool and windy today, it is time to TRACK again! It’s been a few months, so I decided to start the season off with a fairly easy, warm-up track. Four legs of moderate length and two articles, which for Milo is just enough to whet his appetite.

My 12 year old nephew was helping me by gathering clips and carrying items for me, and his younger brother and father were following along, so this was a family occasion, rather than my usual solitary time in the field. I laid the track, drawing my map, as usual, then let the track age while we had some lunch. After lunch I showed the map to my nephews and brother, explaining the two-points-make-a-line principle, and explaining cross tracks to my helper-nephew (next time he will lay some cross tracks for me),then we let Milo out of the car. He had already figured out what we were up to, and he was bouncing in the car as if on a pogo stick. I imagine the ticker tape in his Beagle brain was reading “SCENT-nose, tracking, scent-NOSE, tracking, scent- nose- TRACKING! LET’S GET GOING!!!

We headed up the hill to the start flag, harnessed a dancing Milo, and off we went! Milo sniffed around briefly and headed straight up the track, with me explaining what he and I were doing over my shoulder to my nephews and brother (I know Milo can handle me doing this, especially on such an easy track). I stopped a couple of times, as I often do, so that Milo will be comfortable and confident if I stop for any reason during a test. The first time I stopped, he sniffed around to make sure he was on track, then kept going with confidence. The next time he seemed to realize I was just asking if he was sure, and he surged ahead confidently. I love the communication we have as we track together!

Turns were not only not a problem for Milo; he clearly enjoyed the variety and wagged his long tail happily as he moved on with the confidence of an experienced tracking dog. In the past, Milo has sometimes seemed to view articles as insignificant detritus on the track and he has sometimes been inclined to skip over them. Not so today. Today he stopped abruptly for both articles, waiting eagerly for me to reward him and pick them up, then he quickly moved on down the track, tail wagging joyfully. A great start to a season that I hope will be filled with tracking adventures.