Our names were called and Nemo and I walked toward the start line. Our first element was Vehicles. There was a nice breeze and Nemo’s nose was working long before it was our turn to come from behind the visual barrier and begin working the hide.
We got the go-ahead sign. Nose twitching, Nemo took off. Past the first vehicle. Past the second vehicle. I was having a hard time keeping up with him! He came to the third vehicle, nose glued to the body of the car, and he nailed the hide in the wheel well.
“Alert!” I called. It seemed like forever before the judge said “Yes! Pay your dog.”
Whew! One element down, three more to go.
Nemo and I were a team in a K9 Nose Work Trial. We were going after the first level: our goal was the title of NW1. The only route to an NW1 title is through four correct “finds.”
Our second element was Exteriors. The hide — birch scented cotton swabs — was somewhere on the outside of a cabin. Our search area included the cabin’s exterior, the sidewalk, and the ramp/porch. It didn’t take Nemo very long to find that birch scent under a dandelion in the crack of the sidewalk. Another successful alert.
Two down, two to go.
Our third hide was Containers. Our nemesis. Nemo had falsely alerted in practice sessions quite a bit in this element. I did my best to stamp out my nerves, took a deep breath and gave Neems the “find it” cue. Two steps in, three steps to the left, Nemo gave me the tell-tale signal that he’d found the birch yet again. Another “Alert!” and “Pay your dog!” scenario.
Just one more and we’d have our NW1. Pressure was really on (on me, of course, this is all just a fun game for Neems).
The last hide was in the Interior element. The search area was inside a kids cabin at a 4-H Camp. Nemo got “in odor” almost right away, and it took him several seconds to really pin it down. In a Nose Work Trial, the dog’s nose has to be on the odor. I need to be able to tell the judge, if asked, exactly where the hide is. The judges are excellent at their job — you can’t see the hide no matter your angle. The only clue you have is where your dog’s nose is.
I made the call when Nemo’s nose stopped moving and his head went up and under. Our last hide and another success!
We had so much fun together — we were really a team and really on it that day. The whole day (and it was a long day — from 8:30a to about 5:30p) felt good. I knew Nemo’s body language, I was confident when I called alert and he was rock-solid on his finds.
At the award ceremony, I picked up Nemo’s very handsome NW1 ribbon. Our first ribbon ever for anything! It was thrilling.
In addition to the NW1 title ribbons, there are also ribbons awarded for exceptional teamwork between dog and handler. These “Pronounced” ribbons are given for the teams that earn their title and only if every judge independently deems the team outstanding. When Nemo and I were presented with our NW1 ribbon, we were also given the Pronounced ribbon! I was floored. The NW runs felt good to me, but I was taken by surprise with the nod from the judges.
In that Vehicle search, the one where Nemo blasted past the first two cars with nary a glance, he was the second fastest dog of the day! We collected a 2nd place Vehicles ribbon!
His quick work on all four elements was somehow fast enough to earn him the Third Place Overall ribbon! He was the third fastest dog of the day!
We left with a lot more than we came for. And a lot more than we ever expected. I was full of pride for Neems — and happy that we spent a good day together. The best thing about the day — and about the entire sport of K9 Nose Work — is the camaraderie. All the judges, competitors, and volunteers are all rooting for the teams. It’s not a win or lose sport — everyone and every dog can come out a winner. Which is the best thing of all.