We were divided into groups and each group designated a team leader. As it was raining, we all scrambled to find a place to tie up our dogs and keep our gear dry. I found a place for Jochen down a flight of stairs and tied him up to a heavy iron door. He was isolated but at least he was dry.
Part of the reason for the time taken is to ensure (a) safety for dogs and people and (b) make sure that there is a point to where the holes are prepared. What is the purpose? What is the aim of the exercise?
I remember this 1st site from my visit last year when an excellent demonstration of thermals and air currents was given. It was fascinating to see how today's conditions almost exactly replicated the conditions last year. Given the wind conditions I elected to send Jochen down the left side of the site. He immediately showed interest at a shaft right behind the site and also at the large, open windows. He settled for the shaft and did a lovely alert.
MY LEARNING CURVE
However, I was not allowed to just call it an alert and leave it at that. These guys wanted more. And this is when it became very interesting as I was struggling to give more. Jochen had done his job but now I had to do mine. The resultant 'lesson' was super for me and that alone proved to me that it was so important to make this journey as a dog handler and not yet again as an observer.
The figurant was actually way down in the basement in a corner on the same side as a very heavy steel door. Just like in the demonstration, the air currents had worked the scent through the various layers and shafts and came out through the windows and shaft that was almost at ground level behind the building.
The way to think and interpret the possible situation and what information to give to the assessors was a great lesson for me. Jochen had it sorted.
EYESIGHT IN THE DARK
I learned something very interesting. There was a lot of emphasis on giving the dog light when s/he is going down into the darkness. It very quickly gets very dark bordering on black down in these basements. That dogs see well in the dark is considered an old wives tale by a very highly qualified vet and that the older a dog gets, the less well their eyes are able to adjust. Not blinding the dog with a head lamp but using a hand torch to light up the ceiling or walls was the preferred method and really looked for.
I was figurant (victim) for the first five teams in one of the basement holes in this site in the photo. When it was our turn to search, and as was agreed for safety reasons for al the dogs, I had to keep Jochen on the lead whilst we scrambled between two layers and past a potential safety issue for the dog even though this had been adequately blocked off.
I released Jochen and he went down the stairs and into the dark much more quickly than he had in the first site. I was jumped on because I was too slow to get my lighting organised for him.
After the 1st find which did not take Jochen long at all, I must have stood there looking indecisive as I was asked what I proposed to do next. Ah, what indeed! And this is where I learned my next lesson. I had been very clearly told that we were to search the basement area. I have to admit that in the drama and excitement of the moment, that message/cue went straight past me to the keeper.
So the answer was - keep searching the basement of course. What was there to look indecisive about? If we were as straightforward as our dogs, we would do so much better. Jochen located the 2nd figurant very quickly and again did a lovely alert. We then crawled through a long shaft and ended up back in daylight at the back of the site.
Once all that time had been spent on building hides, then it actually went very quickly. Each group moved around the various sites using each other's prepared holes and by the end of the day we all had searched four sites. In fact, the last search was actually a compilation of several sites for one person right at the end who was very cleverly hidden down in yet another basement.
I could not have been more happy with Jochen's work as he detached really well, his nose was in tune and his alert work was just what I am used to from him. For my part, it is exactly what I wanted and needed and had my head spinning with all the notes I was going to take.