Ed Presnall Trainer

Ch. Kay N Dee Hiddenbrook Rampage CD, TD, VST
Wheaton, Illinois
June 22, 1997

The Dog Nobody Wanted ..
(c) 1997 by Ed Presnall
All Rights Reserved

As we trained down here in the tropics, with high heat and even higher humidity, I looked forward to some cool weather and an opportunity to work with JJ somewhere other than in a steam bath.

We made the long drive from Houston to Chicago for the Glenbard All Breed Obedience Club, Inc. VST test on Sunday, June 22. When we arrived, it was hotter in Chicago than it had been in Houston. So much for planning.

The site for the test was a County Government complex in Wheaton, IL. As we arrived, I thought it was actually a college campus, divided by a large, “not lightly traveled” road. About eight buildings and a small lake on one side of the road and seven buildings and two large ponds on the other side. The entire site is about 150 acres of tracking heaven.

Large expanses of manicured grass and multiple blacktop parking lots, divided by islands filled with mulch, wood chips and some plants faced the entrants. Stone, gravel, dirt and concrete were also available for the various surfaces. Just for fun, the planners of this complex threw in a few hundred geese and ducks to entice the sporting dogs which might venture to this lovely site. It is a beautiful location suitable for five long tracks, and is to me, an example of what “urban tracking” is all about. Hopefully more clubs will find similar locations to expand this sport.

We drew track three which was located near the headquarters building. The first two tracks were across the road, so while the Welsh Corgi Pembroke owned by Linda McKee of Stone Mountain, Georgia and the Doberman owned by Linda Suligoy of Joilet, Illinois ran, we sat in the heat, baking like chicken on a grill, and waited for the judges to return. By the time it was our turn, the sweat was pouring off of me and JJ was very hot and had lost most of his motivation. As we walked to the start, he looked up at me as if to say, “but you promised me cool weather”.

We approached the start, I put on his harness and led him to the start flag which was located three feet from a sidewalk. He downed at the flag and we went through our routine of allowing him to settle in and sniff the article, while I took several deep breaths. When we were ready, he strongly indicated the track direction for about ten feet. Then, he proceeded to put on the worst display of a start I have ever seen. He came back and sat at my feet. Re-scented … he started again and came back and laid down … it was the longest three minutes of my life and for a moment I really though it was just too hot for him to work.

Since we have been working large asphalt expanses, his grass work has become somewhat questionable, but I trust him. When he gives me a direction, I believe him, so even though he had only gone ten feet, I felt he was right. I knelt down and told him that we had come a long way and even if it was hot, we needed to get going. JJ is a very soft temperament dog, who we took in as his eighth owners, four years ago. I looked down and told him that he knew where the start was, he had told me the direction and if he wanted to track down the sidewalk instead of on the grass it was OK with me.

He put his nose down and tracked confidently down the sidewalk while I followed like the “dope at the end of the rope”. He checked the grass twice during the first 24 yards, then crossed a blacktop road and progressed up the sidewalk in front of the county jail building. It was visiting hours and a mother and child were walking across a parking
lot towards us. At about 110 yards, JJ indicated a turn into the parking lot and looked left to see people were coming out of the jail building and right to be faced with the
woman and child. The woman confidently told her child that it was “OK to pet the nice doggie”. I held my breath and prayed for him to remember his show ring training.
He walked into a perfect stack, wagged his tail and acted like a proper show dog, while the child hugged and petted him. Finally they walked on and I took another breath.

I knelt down again to help give him motivation and gave him a small drink of water and re-scented him. He looked left again and then started ofT right into the parking lot. We crossed 18 yards of blacktop and went up on a 6 yard island filled with mulch. He shifted right a few yards and continued on across another 22 yards of blacktop to another island. This was a wide mulch filled island with a large sidewalk about 15 feet wide down the middle of it. He sharply turned left and headed down the sidewalk for 130 yards. The farther we went on the non vegetated surfaces, the stronger he pulled and the more determined he became. At the end of the sidewalk, we crossed a blacktop street to the grass in front of the courthouse building. He checked right, around an evergreen tree, and then went left behind a bus stop shelter and up a wheelchair ramp to the front doors of the courthouse.

He was confident across 27 yards of brickwork and down the other wheelchair ramp. Suddenly he turned right into a flower bed and started crittering. We had a very brief discussion about this not being the time for him to play with a lizard and he shot left for 20 yards across the grass near a chain link fence to a white object on the ground. As I approached the potential article, I saw that it was the plastic lid to a coffee cup.

When I reached down to pick up the coffee cup lid, a door opened about fifteen feet away and a line of ten or twelve prisoners in orange jumpsuits, each shackled together, exited the building to our left. The prisoners moved along the fence, talking among themselves about JJ and stood near a waiting van. Ignoring the new distraction, JJ restarted and went about 20 yards down the fence line to a stone path under a large portico. He threw on the brakes and started indicating that an article or turn was nearby. He looked left., then right around a large post and found a leather wallet in the gravel. We had now gone 380 yards.

We continued across the grass into a tunnel of blacktop. grass and chain link fencing. Fences right and left with a blacktop road down the middle. He indicated the track was on the right side in the grass, near the curb. He was confident as he strode 75 yards down the blacktop to a open turn onto an adjoining street. To our right was a large hill with a railroad track at the top. On our left was the wide blacktop road we had just crossed and beyond it, high fencing for the jail area. JJ stepped out of the street and onto the grass next to the curb and headed down the shoulder. About 75 yards later he indicated a metal article. We had now gone 563 yards.

Off we went again for 75 yards of grass and an open left turn into the street. Twenty yards of blacktop and 18 yards of grass later JJ entered a parking garage. As I entered the dark garage from the bright sunlight, he was standing near a pile of trash. A small rope, a coffee cup and some paper. He checked each as a potential article and near the curb he located a small plastic coffee can lid with the number 4 drawn on the top. As I grabbed the article, JJ jumped into my arms.

I lifted the article above my head and clutched JJ to my chest, only then did I hear the crowd for the first time. We had gone 703 yards, officially 387 on vegetation and 316 non vegetated, but JJ had worked about 400 yards of non vegetated surfaces. I removed his harness and we strode into the sunlight to shake the judges hands and have everyone pat JJ for his achievement.

Next was Christy Bergeon and her GSD. Christy is my training partner. As I stood with the gallery, well behind Christy and the judges, Greg Sjullie, her tracklayer, described the details of the track to me as we watched Christy lead Ariel to the start. This is a young GSD with a lot of potential who only received her TD in November and has only been training for VST since early March.

They started well, had difficulty with the location of the first turn on the top of a berm and cut ofT a corner of the second turn in a large parking lot. Ariel searched intently for the track near and around the health building and eventually went around the building and picked up the track near the first article. She completed the next leg almost perfectly, passed a bus shelter and went up and around the front of the building to a flight of stairs and out into the parking lot.

Ariel continued to work the scent pools around the building, stairs and on several occasions she crossed the parking lot to check out a parked trailer and several vans. As I watched the dog indicate what could have been turns or corners, but in reality were only manhole covers or trash, which we in the gallery could not see, I was proud of them. They heard the fated whistle, after going the around the corner of the building and away from the parking lot and the turn. In her first attempt and after only a few short months of work, Christy and Ariel made it over 1/2 way through the track. They will be back this fall and I expect to see this team get their VST title then.

The final dog was a GSD bitch named “Sweetie” owned by Janice Paige July of Belvider~ Dlinois. Although the only part of this track I saw was the dog making a turn in a blacktop parking lot and locating an article, it appeared to be working well and became the seventh dog to earn the VST title. This is also a young dog, only three, and only the second TD dog to receive this title. Sweetie is the niece of the first Champion Tracker, Ann owned by Darlene Ceretto.

The 1,100 mile drive home seemed a little shorter and I’ve developed this darn grin on my face which does not seem to go away. VST is alive and well and the efforts of clubs such as GABOC and judges such as Darlene Ceretto and Mel Uoyd to put on this event were well appreciated.

Thanks for all the congratulations from everyone and it was nice to see some of you again and meet many of you in person. My sincere thanks again to all of the workers
and members of GABOC for a job well done.

By Ed Presnall and J.J. – “The First VST Spaniel”