Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The rest of the story - Paid in Full

Soon after writing about our journey seeking the NW3 Elite title (last blog post Paid in Full ) I had accepted that it would come one day, and super excited for the next trial. Did it happen at the next trial? No. To the contrary the next trial was one of those experiences that left me wondering again if it would. I've had days like that before, fireworks come to mind, an experience I was not looking to repeat. Well we didn't encounter any fireworks, but the roofers across the street using rapid fire nail guns was an added stress that totaled up to it not being our day.
Atlas handled it okay to start, he was concerned for sure, jumping around when the nails starting firing and looking off into the distance in "Alert" mode. Not the kind of alert I was planning for the day. I tried to comfort him and tried to not let my emotions get the better of me, worrying about him.
Into the first interior room and boom, snap called on the first object he showed interest in and got a "No". I was not successful in keeping my emotions in check and I had lost my concentration. It took every bit of me to regain my composer in the hall before going into the second room. The 2nd room was a good search, found 2 hides and was feeling confident we had found everything in the room. The 3rd room however went south, when Atlas stood up on a plastic cabinet and it rocked forward. He did not cope well, jumping back and he seemed very startled. I told him it was okay, but I had trouble getting him to focus. I tried to get him to search in the stalls of the bathroom. Atlas was having none of it and when he started searching high onto the counter I called finish (for a clear room).
All in all the interior search was not the end of the world, I had messed up but I had a lot of searching left for the day, and having some success would mean overcoming a big distraction, the nail guns. Ah but that was not completely the case either. The vehicle search was several minutes of agony for the handler. I had not seen Atlas out for a walk during a search in a long time, poor guy was just not focused on the task at hand. We did our best and around the time of the 30 second call Atlas ran into some odor and worked it out. Two and a half minutes of walking around the vehicles showed that some distractions have an unknowable effect. He recovered on exteriors and solved the puzzles like a champ, a great success for the day. 
Containers was last and once again the handler needed to be reminded of an age old lesson. Proof that when things go sideways it accumulates sometimes. Atlas is the one with the expert nose and when he says we are done finding all the odor, don't try to convince him otherwise. "No, lets go check this corner bag because you haven't check it to my satisfaction." Ok said Atlas, you want me to find the food in this bag and tell you about it, happy to comply Mr. treat dispenser. Handler rewarded with a "No", Doh!
It was a beautiful day, sunny in the mountains of Colorado. I had humble pie for lunch and dinner, Atlas still got lots of treats and a day of searching. He didn't die from the noise of the nail gun and was not crushed by a plastic cabinet. I would later realize that the cabinet reaction was very telling. It seemed at the time like a big overreaction, but if there was odor in the room he probably wouldn't have acted that way. I have had many experiences where Atlas had run into objects, crashing is a better description, but in the presence of odor he didn't react. No odor resulted in a big worried reaction, when not in search mode being concerned about ones surroundings can be all consuming.
I was discouraged, yep no getting around it. Something totally out of my control had distracted me and broke my concentration. Mainly I was irritated with myself for letting it get the best of me. The result, it was time to take a break, focus on having some fun. I pulled from the next trial, which was just before the 4th of July. I didn't wish to have another fireworks experience, not worth the additional stress on Atlas.
A couple months later we tried again, drove 3 days to Oregon to have some fun. It only took 14 - NW3 trials for Atlas and I to get all 3 NW3 titles required for the Elite. And 4 trials for each of NW1 and NW2. Seems like a lot doesn't it? Maybe, I'll steal a comment from a fellow Shiba handler when they told me it is a big accomplishment to title a Shiba in anything. Atlas is the first Shiba to get his Elite title, but that doesn't mean as much as the miles I've traveled with him to get there. More fun to come now the NACSW had Elite trials. Whoo hoo!