Tango and I have been practicing Nose Work. It's a relatively new sport, and for the first time on the East Coast, the Odor Recognition Trial (ORT) was offered.
This was a little bit of a big deal. First time it's been offered waaaay over here on the East coast. It's been a West coast sport for a couple years and is finally drifting over to us.
The trial is relatively easy: there are 12 boxes and Tango just needs to indicate the box that contains the scent (birch). He'd been rippin' it up at home — finding the correct box every single time. He was good! We were ready!
Yeah, except I wasn't ready. We approached the start line and I gave Tango the "Find it" cue. Except he wasn't looking at me. Being the happy Labrador that he is, he was quite enamored with the judges. Oh, and the spectators, he liked them quite a bit as well. The boxes that might or might not contain the odor – yeah, not so interested in those. Which was NOT a good thing.
The leash got tight. Not a good thing. Tango sniffed the boxes, he sniffed the floor. He went completely off course. He wagged at the spectators. He sniffed the boxes again.
He paused at a box. I alerted. Once you alert, you're done. If your alert is correct, you "win." You get your ORT. If your alert is wrong, you're done. Finished. No second chance.
Well, Tango was wrong. Or, should I say, I was wrong. I thought I was right, but one day later (tonight), Tango proved how good his nose was. And with that proof, it was really easy for me to shift the blame from him TO me.
Here's how it went down: it was dark and I was throwing Tango's tennis ball in the back yard. He typically chases it, somehow locating it in the dark, and always brings it back to me. I throw like a girl (go figure) and I must have tossed it into the lilac bush. The lilac bush, for the record, was pretty far away. I should get points just for getting it TO the bush. Never mind the fact that I threw it into the bushes; we'll just ignore that for now, ok?
Except that I thought it went into the grass. I prompted Tango to "find it." That's the same cue we use in Nose Work. It was pitch black outside. I thought the ball rolled through the Hostas and came to rest in the Lilac Bed. Tango kept looking up into the lilac bushes.
I knew quite well that the ball was not in the lilac bush. I distinctly heard it roll through the hostas! I cued "find it" again. Still, this crazy dog is looking upward! What is his problem?!
Finally, in frustration, I turned the back flood lights on. Guess what I saw? About eye level (to me) in the stupid lilac bush?
That stupid tennis ball.
So clearly, the fact that Tango blew the ORT on Friday was on me. Not on him. He knew where his tennis ball was in the dark in the tree! Ok, so I was more than humbled.
I was a bit embarrassed. Not to mention I was crushed that *I* was the reason Tango didn't pass his ORT. It wasn't Tango. It was ME! Talk about humbled…
So. I'm not sure when our next chance at the ORT will be, but you better believe I'll train hard. I'll work my you-know-what off so I can be the handler Tango needs so he can pass the ORT. I have my marching orders: TRUST YOUR DOG!