Saturday morning at the park where we run the dogs, there was a thin layer of snow on top of a 6″ layer of crusty, aerated ice. Sometimes, when I stepped on it, my foot would crunch down several inches. Sometimes, my foot would sink only an inch. All times, it was slippery.
Obviously not good terrain for tracking practice. I often have to run behind my dog while tracking, and no way was I going to run on that stuff. Mr. 4-Footed-and-Low-to-the-Ground wouldn’t mind, but I didn’t really relish falling.
It hadn’t been snowing, though, so on Saturday, my tracking friend D. and I resolved to find a parking lot on Sunday morning to practice urban tracking (i.e., on non-vegetated ground, also known as gravel, sand, asphalt, concrete, etc.).
But overnight, it started to snow again. The parking lots we found on Sunday morning were coated with patches of ice hidden by fresh snow. Way too slippery. But luckily we found a small parking lot that must have been heated. It had snow plow loads of snow on the dividers, but was totally clear of ice and snow on the asphalt. (And funnily enough, it was the parking lot of an orthopedics clinic…)
So — conditions:
- Temperatures, cold, probably about 10 degrees as the highest
- Winds, light but swirling around from all directions, bouncing off the surrounding buildings
- Tracks, short with one 90 degree turn. At most, each leg was 50 yards (like I said, a small parking lot). My friend, D., laid Carlin’s track right next to a curb, which paralleled a sidewalk, and then turned 90 degrees to follow along another curb. Curbs were separated from the sidewalk by a 18″ high pile of snow.
- D. also laid down several pieces of dried liver along the curb to encourage searching. This turned out to be totally unnecessary, as Carlin ignored the liver.
Carlin’s track was over in just a few minutes. Carlin took off from the start by following the curb for a few feet, then hopping over the pile of snow to the sidewalk. I stopped while he searched the sidewalk, and then went forward again as soon as he hopped back over and was following the curb.
At one point, he hopped over to the sidewalk again and thought briefly about peeing on a tree in the parking strip. But I told him “No!” and “Go track”, and he was happy to come back to work.
And then he just did it. He got back to the curb, followed it to the corner and made the turn, and then ran along the second curb to the glove. My friend had left a closed container of liver treats at the glove, so I was able to rip off my glove, give him a handful, and tell him what an amazing job he’d done.
He picked up the glove and we walked (or rather, I walked and Carlin strutted) back to the start. What a good boy. He’s doing so well. Now I’m thinking that I’m going to have to get someone else to lay a track for us, so Carlin doesn’t get the idea that tracking is always following D’s scent.