We had the best of intentions. I would meet my friend Marge Bishop at Willamette Mission State Park, http://www.oregonstateparks.org/park_139.php, north of Salem, for a few hours of tracking with our dogs. By the time I made it down there, at 9:40a.m, the rain was coming down hard. I pulled up next to Marge’s SUV. “The park is closed!” I remarked to Marge as I pulled into the parking lot by the toll booth. A sign was posted on the closed barrier, “Park closed due to flooding”. She didn’t realize that there was a lot more to the park that just the lawn around the entry parking lot. There are 1680 acres of land in the park. But, as their web site advises, “Watch for seasonal flooding”. They weren’t kidding. As we pulled out of the park I looked over my shoulder. The nearby vineyards alongside the road leading further into the park were completely flooded. Marge suggested we try a possible tracking area by a local school. As we headed back to I5 and the Brooks I5 exit it started to rain harder. I turned up my windshield wipers to the second speed. The raindrops continued to come down harder. I grabbed my cell phone and called Marge who was driving her SUV in front of me. “ I don’t usually track in this kind of weather”. I laughed. Well, I was kind of wondering”, she said in her Texan twang. She told me to follow her back to her house for coffee and conversation. As we pulled onto I5 heading toward Salem I had to turn up my car’s windshield wipers to the highest level. The water was coming down so hard across my car that it was hard to see. I was getting nervous.
At her house we watched the rain from her family room window. It was now coming down in sheets. Marge put some logs in her fireplace, started a fire, and we sat down with her two Golden Retrievers. I had loaned a video from the local library, David Dikeman’s Command Performance Tape II. He had advertised heavily on TV some years ago and I was curious to see what he had to offer. It didn’t take long to see he was not teaching competition obedience as he allowed his dogs to lag and sit sloppily at heel. There was evidence of a clicker in his left hand, something he didn’t mention on the video. When a Cocker Spaniel didn’t respond to a down command he jerked down on the leash and the dog yipped. We’d seen enough. Times have changed and the methodology of dog training has progressed away from the old jerk and pull method. Dog trainers are more concerned with being in “synch” with the dog, understanding it’s feelings and teaching it to want to do something we ask. The alternative is the old way of training which is more of a “my way or the highway” attitude. There was nothing on the tape we hadn’t seen twenty years ago.
I followed Marge to a local Arby’s where we ate lunch and continued to discuss dog training, specifically tracking. Marge is just six weeks shy of a certification test, a mock tracking test to determine if she and her dog are ready for a real AKC tracking test. She is nervous that the dog is not going to be ready. I assured her that all she needs is to add length to her tracks and more time before running each track. After these components are added she needs to hit the road and track in all kinds of environments and with different people to build up her dog’s confidence. I assured her the dog would be ready for the April test. She is currently training with Jill Jones who is responsible for teaching many, many successful Northwest handlers and their dogs to their tracking titles. She is in good hands.
Marge and I parted at the restaurant. I had to stop at Copper Creek Mercantile in Keizer for some dog food. I also wanted spend time shopping at this fascinating store. When I say shop I mean poke around and see all the different things they have in their store. The first time I’d been there in November Randy was with me and all we did was buy dog food and leave. That was not enough for me. I needed some time to look at all their canine products. It is really a well-run store with something for every pet owner.
Now I’m home and the dogs are sleeping quietly beside me, even though they didn’t get any exercise. Levi hates his metal crate that is in the car, therefore I decided this morning to put him in a soft crate. It was purchased when he was a puppy to be used when we went to motels. It folds down easily and can be carried with one hand. Did I mention it weighs about 7 pounds? Levi did well in this crate and slept soundly throughout the trip.
(For more information on AKC Tracking go to www.akc.org)
Rain Cancels Dog Training