On the way from the airport I had mentioned that one of my prime objectives was to get Jochen as fit as possible over the next three months to ensure that he would have the stamina to manage the eleven searches he would have to do in the REDOG operational test. Elias agreed wholeheartedly and said it was quite obvious at the test which dogs were and were not fit and how a lack of fitness negatively impacts on their performance, sometimes being the difference between a pass and a fail.
Vreni and Elias had planned a fairly demanding 4-hour walk for today, Wednesday 8th August. In deference to me as I had just come off a long-haul flight, they thought that I would be sleeping in and were going to leave me a note.
But I was up at 7.00am feeling refreshed and ready to go. We agreed that I could always turn around and go back early if I felt the need. Ha, did I feel the need? Of course not. It was one of those perfect summer days in the Swiss Alps, my alpine trekking legs were in gear and Jochen was ready to go. We were here to walk and get fit, damn it!
The forest eventually opened up onto a typical Swiss alpine grazing meadow and in the distance I could hear some cowbells. It could not get more pastiche if it tried. And.... we continued to go up, and up and up. We eventually reached a height of 1, 771 metres.
Up until now I had done really well, doing more than just keeping up; Jochen walked as if he had been born in the mountains but at this point I suddenly noticed that this was really starting to challenge me whilst my canine partner just kept going. Fortunately we found these blessed mushrooms and that gave me a chance to get my second wind. We ended up picking 4 kilo of yellow mushrooms that cost an absolute fortune in the shops and are not easy to find.
All in all we walked for six, SIX!! hours. And I had thought that I would gradually ease the two of us into this kind of walking. Talk about jumping into the deep end. On the return journey in the distance we saw two marmots but unfortunately I could not take a photo because (a) they were just a bit too far away and (b) the battery had run out which should not have happened. Peter will frown over that one.
Jochen's behaviour and capacity to deal with whatever life throws at him so far is so good that I feel justified in taking such a huge and expensive step. I love this dog.
I am already champing at the bit to do some training and am making plans for this weekend and to which regional group to go to for our first official Swiss USAR training session. It will probably be in Sempach in Central Switzerland as Elias' group is otherwise engaged with some demonstration work with their dogs.