A Step Above...
 
Gullwing Labradors
 
 
Gullwing PTs Penelope Cruiser, AKC TDX, CKC/ASCA TD
 
 

Cruiser's AKC Tracking Dog Excellent Titling Track

On April 18, 2010, Cruiser successfully ran her track at Hudson Valley Tracking Club's TDX test. The conditions were almost perfect - 50°, cloudy, damp and almost no wind. The grass was just the right height-deep enough to hold the scent, but not too deep to slow us down. The day before saw some sleet in the area, which did a good job at soaking the ground.

We drew track number 5 of 6, 985 yards long with 7 legs. She diddled around just a bit at the start, which she always seems to do. Once she started tracking, she looked great. The first leg ran parallel and close to a row of trees. Had the wind been blowing, this can lead to the scent whirling around, but it wasn't a problem today.

The second leg was 200 yards long and went toward the road. A couple was walking their dog on the road, but Cruiser had her nose buried and probably never saw that (unintended) distraction.

She found the second article on the third leg, then continued on to a ditch stream. She jumped into it, investigated it, took a drink from the stream, then climbed out of it. She went left, then right to rule out those directions. I thought there was a cross-track there, but what I saw wasn't layed by the test personnel. It was probably an animal path. Once Cruiser ruled out those directions, she jumped back into the stream, crossed it and continued on.

Legs 2 and 4 had the cross-tracks on them, but she blew right past those. The fifth leg had the third article, which she also got. At that point, the clouds opened up and the sun hit us. I started sweating, so I threw off my coat. I've never done that before on track, so Cruiser had to look over my coat to see what was going on. One command to get back to work and she headed for the woods.

The woods were short, only 25 yards. As soon as she lead me into them, we went over a small stone wall. We were going so fast, I don't even remember crossing it. Then, a small fork, with two options on where to cross the second stream. With no hesitation, she went for the left fork, which was correct. This stream had a lot less muck to it, but the water was deeper. She had practiced stream crossings and this one was no problem. She went right through it and into a field of high, thorny cover.

As soon as we exited the high cover, there was one last turn toward a horse corral. If the horses were out at the time, she again didn't notice, as she zipped the last 50 yards to the final article. She ran the course in 15 minutes, which is her usual speedy pace.


Perseverance

For those of you considering quitting tracking, let me tell you how long of a journey it has been for Cruiser's TDX. Keep in mind that I never had any doubt about either her ability to do this or her enthusiasm. All of the problems we ran into were just dumb luck - wind, ground or weather conditions, her pulling off in some seemingly random direction, or sometimes it was me holding her back from going the right way. Over two and a half years, here's how it all added up:

  • Fifteen tests - 12 AKC and 3 ASCA, covering 10 different venues across 5 states
  • A total of $1,490 in entry fees (for an average of $99.33 per test)
  • 6,406 miles of traveling
  • 4 days, 17 hours and 58 minutes of travel time
  • The longest single-day trip was to Tidewater Tracking Club in Yorktown, Virginia, 351 miles each way, just over 12 hours of driving
  • My pick for the best food - Golden Triangle Dog Training Club in southwestern PA


Quality in Quantity

In an unprecedented show of tracking expertise, all four dogs running prior to Cruiser passed. Overall, five of the six that ran that day passed, which is almost unheard of in a TDX test. The dogs passing included two other Labradors. Together, the three represented all Labrador colors - black, yellow and chocolate.

Pictured are (left to right, kneeling) Ilene Morgan of Grand Isle, VT with Island Paws Dancing with the Stars, TDX, RN, Cheryl Matthews of Bloomingdale, NJ with U-CD Rocky Creek's Making the Grade, TDX, ASCA TD, CD, RA, CD-H, NTS and Chuck Shultz of Freehold, NJ with Gullwing PT's Penelope Cruiser, TDX, Can/ASCA TD. Standing are the two judges of the event, Ray Desmarais of Barrington, NH and Stephanie Crawford of Binghamton, NY.