Cindy and Rigel’s NW3 Adventure

What follows is Cindy Franke’s report on her NW3 experience with her English Bull Dog Rigel Orion. Cindy is a fantastic student of K9 Nose Work. She really studies her dog and his movements and has worked hard to get to this high level of trialing. I’m incredibly proud of her and of Rigel as well. Cindy also spent 5 full days at the trial site, helping set up, break down, and being there to work first thing in the morning, every day of the trial, even working between her runs [not recommended but she pulled it off very well]!

There is no one on this planet higher than I after this weekend at the first NW3 trial in the northwest. I am one end of a most amazing K9 Nose Work team. My partner, the incredibull Rigel Orion is the smart end of our team. For those few people in this universe that don’t know, Rigel is an incredible English Bulldog; typical in his mannerisms, focus, and gait, but remarkable in his loyalty and generosity of spirit and cooperation.

Rigel and I earned our NW2 title in late February this year in Enumclaw, WA. Knowing of all the complexities and criteria of NW3 trials made me unsure of our readiness for this level but the opportunity to trial in our own backyard and gain invaluable trial experience overruled my cautiousness, so enter we did.

The weather was cool and wet, and we were the first team in the running order of 21 dogs which eliminated all the waiting at queue up stations which typically cuts into Rigel’s enthusiasm.

Our first element was the Interior. Three rooms. The first was a storage closet about 7×9 feet and cluttered with storage items. Rigel and I bravely entered the room behind the judge, timer, and videographer and began our search. After a solid alert on one find, I called “finish” and we exited that room. We worked the second room (classroom full of tables and chairs) off leash and Rigel did a great job of covering the entire room and letting me know there wasn’t anything of interest there so I called “clear” and we were politely escorted from there to the third room. I chose to work the third room on-leash to assure that I could get Rigel around to all parts of the room. He quickly alerted on one hide which I called successfully, and we continued to search. After covering the entire room pretty well, Rigel started to show some disinterest so I chose to end on our high
note and called “finish” to end the search. There was another hide so we didn’t qualify in that element but we were enormously successful just by the fact that we covered the room so well. I was thrilled beyond words in our effort.

Our next element was the Vehicle search. Two cars, a horse trailer, and two utility trailers were in this search. I let Rigel choose his search direction from the start line. He headed along the passenger side of one of the cars where his head snapped in passing and he quickly alerted on the first hide (on the hinged seam of the door that was revealing odor from inside the car). After the “yes” from the judge, we moved around that car to the second car and then on to the small utility trailer. He alerted on the trailer and again, we heard “yes” from the judge. After working around the remaining sides of the utility trailers and cars we started to work around the horse trailer when Rigel alerted on the hitch.

Hearing “yes” again, I gave Rigel his reward and called “finish” to end the search. The only vehicle that we didn’t end up searching was the horse trailer so again I was ecstatic about our ability to get around the search area within our allotted time. We had successfully passed the Vehicle element.

Our third element was Containers. There were 31 bags (luggage) arranged in rows and in one pile of about 5 bags. I approached the start line with Rigel on my right side (nearest the containers). He chose his direction from the start line and I kept moving him along that direction to start a search pattern. After searching about three rows of bags Rigel alerted on a piece of luggage. We got the “yes” and moved on. With two rows of bags left I heard the 30 second warning and started walking backward and “presenting” bags to Rigel on both sides of the walkway. We heard the ten second warning with about four bags to
go. I continued to keep Rigel moving toward the last bag as I counted down from “10”. At the last bag and with about 2 seconds remaining in my countdown, I called “finish” to end the search. Of the 21 competing teams, seven (7) passed the container element. Rigel was among those seven AND we earned a “P” for pronounced. JOY! Most teams false alerted on the distracters (a muffin and some toys).

From the Containers we moved directly to the Exterior element. This element was conducted in a considerably sized, bark-dusted playground area. Time limit was 5 minutes and the area was secured which allowed handlers to work off leash if desired. I chose to keep Rigel on leash and again let him choose to start his own direction. From there, I continued on to a perimeter search. We quickly covered ground and Rigel successfully alerted on a swing set seat. After checking the last two swing seats Rigel snapped his head upwind and followed an odor back to a play structure shaped as a fire engine. There he alerted on a second odor which we also “got”. I continued to move Rigel around the search area and “presented” several areas to him that he dutifully “sniffed”. After covering most of the ground in the search area Rigel began to show less enthusiasm so I ended our search with a “finish”. I was SO happy with our ability to cover so much ground and keep motivated that I really didn’t care if there was another hide; which there was.

From that moment, I was on a high that I still haven’t begun to come down from. In the overall standings Rigel actually ranked a remarkable 11th of the 21 teams.

NW3 turned out to be very liberating for me. I am finally “getting it”. Not knowing how many hides there were in an element forced me to have to turn total control over to my dog. I gave him the reins and put my total trust in him for the first time ever. Though I had thought I was already trusting my dog and not trying to “think” during our searches, I realized how much chaos had been going on in my mind before that. My confidence in my dog and clearness of mind transferred to Rigel and he responded remarkably.

Although we did not “title” in NW3 this weekend, in this handler’s heart, Rigel earned a title of heart worth much more to me.