Because the test was held late in the season, there was a real fear that the weather would turn ugly. Rain was forecast and snow was a possibility.
We were fortunate that the weather held off until Friday night into Saturday. Just as Jochen and I finished our last search for the night, the heavens opened.Those searching after us were caught in the rain which continued until the morning. I pity the assessors and 'victims' in those very cold and wet conditions. The temperature dropped to about 4°C. The final night search finished about 6.00 am.
Fortunately we were able to park our hire car under cover and had Jochen's bed and a beautiful, pure wool, very thick blanket (a gift for Jochen from our Rhaezuens friends) for him to lie on so he was as warm as we could possibly make it for him.
All Saturday it was cold but mainly dry. Sunday morning we awoke to drizzle and received the news that there was snow on the road in Bern and that we should be very careful. And so it was. Not long out of Geneva and the rain turned to snow. Fortunately our car had winter tyres on but even so, at one point Peter had a little difficulty keeping the car straight as the snow and slush piled up on the road. There were a few hairy moments.
We stayed for two nights in Luzern with our friends Bruno and Yolanda. The weather stayed so cold (down to -4°) that the snow did not melt at all.
We had to have the export papers at ACE Pet Flyers by 9.00 am Wednesday morning so this meant a very early start from Luzern to get there on time.
I was able to keep Jochen with me for another 2 hours. There is a small park next to the freight area and we walked and walked and walked. It was freezing. Jochen was a good boy and produced that much desired brown, smelly heap so at least I knew he was empty for the flight. Peter and I spent a few more hours together before it was time for me to head towards the departure lounge and Peter on to Austria to catch up with his family he had not seen for 18 years.
THE END OF THREE MONTHS IN SWITZERLAND
And that was the end of 3 months of the most amazing, challenging, stimulating and exciting time I have ever spent working with any of my dogs In 45 years of dog training. Jochen was an even better travelling companion than even I could have imagined. His personality and temperament is such that he was able to cope with anything that was thrown at him. In every way he fully justified the effort, energy, time and expense it cost to take him on this journey.
Being largely itinerant, just like rolling stones for such a long time, chasing training days all over the country, very often involving hours of travel and staying overnight in yet another hotel or with other people, finding places to stay where there was super walking in the mountains in an effort to improve Jochen's fitness, was a way of life that is not for the faint-hearted, or for a dog who is not absolutely sound.
Sometimes I would step back and look at our life from a detached position and be rather amazed at the sheer audacity of what we were doing. At times it occurred to me how much strength, self-belief and utter belief in my dog I needed to maintain positive emotions; how calm I needed to be at all times so that Jochen could also stay calm. When he was asked to work, he did so without question. As someone said, he had the most comprehensive preparation for any deployment.
I was asked if I ever felt lonely or homesick - no, never. I lived the dream with one of the best dogs I have ever had the privilege to share my life with. I did the very best I could with the time and opportunities available to us and I believe Jochen and I did a super job. When others actually stopped and thought about this project and what Jochen and I were doing, they were rather amazed too.
I now need to time to absorb all those experiences and learning, discuss with Alex and Peter and then see what we can do to deliver even better canine USAR training here.
And yes, I feel very sad that it is over.
Please do keep watching out for this blog as I have not yet finished writing. After all, Jochen still has to come out of quarantine.