As this is also the last training day for the year for this regional group, the idea was to make it simple and fun for the dogs, especially those going for the test next weekend.
A group of German canine USAR teams also joined us to 'look over the shoulder' of the REDOG people to see how they do things. The Germans came from a variety of groups, one coming from as far away as Berlin. They were a great bunch of people with a variety of dogs of all shapes and sizes, from the tiny to the large - a 2 1/2 year-old Newfoundland who was gorgeous. There was also a dog that reminded me of Lynne Finch's (Perth) dog Reg, both in looks and work - a very good worker.
As is always the case and is quite normal, their dogs were at various levels of training and most showed really good potential, some in fact doing very good search work. The 'problems' as such as per usual lay with the handlers who need more training in reading their dogs, understanding thermals and air currents and of course that real chestnut - tactics and management. Exactly the reason why I wanted to spend time with my dog here.
The Germans have the same problems we do in Australia - fragmentation instead of unification, finally a united standard that people still play around with and add their own slant to, and nowhere near sufficient facilities.
I am afraid I have experienced the opposite in such combined training days in the land of Oz on occasion.
JOCHEN'S & MY FINAL TRAINING DAY
I asked for specific play with Jochen in front of the alert pipe in the way we play with our dogs back home. I got what I wanted and Jochen did a very good alert, just what I wanted to see. His face lit up like a Christmas tree and we played all the way back to the car.
Elias organised a two-person search for those dogs at that level. Included was a briefing and I was pleased to note that I had that pretty much organised in German. My issue has been that I know it off-by heart in English but found myself on occasion falling between two languages when asking the requisite questions in German. There is no time to fluff around at the test. Every minute counts.
I made the right tactical decision and sent Jochen off to search. He detached well, was confident on the rubble but did not find in what appeared to be the primary search area. This is where my human brain crept in and I wasted a bit of time in this area. I KNOW that if someone is there, Jochen will find and alert. As he did not, then most likely the primary search area was a red herring. And so it was.
He found the first figurant in the middle of the pile and did a very good alert. I called it and rewarded Jochen. But Elias wanted to know more specifically where the figurant might be and so I had to encourage Jochen to jump down and show me whether the person was to the left or right of the hole.
And here I had yet again the example of the lack of facilities in Australia. He really wanted to jump down but was unsure. He needed me to encourage him to do so. The problem also was that the concrete slabs were very wet and slippery , as were the planks on which I even slipped. However, he trusts me and he did jump down and disappear into the labyrinth. He did another beautiful alert in the depths of the pile.
In continuing to search, he re-found that person and on his own disappeared into that hole again. His fast learning on the subject was commented on. He found the second figurant and again alerted really well.
Well guys, that is the end of almost three months of training with Jochen in Switzerland. It is very hard to comprehend that it is almost over. I have so much enjoyed the journey with him, the highs, the lows, the learning, the comradeship, the support and the fact that I was able to successfully overcome the polite scepticism Jochen faced at the beginning. I feel very proud of the fact that I never lost faith in my dog and never will, regardless of the outcome of the test will be.
All that crazy travelling by bus and train, all those different rooms, cars, crates, packing, unpacking, carrying heavy back packs for the two of us, training with different groups and training grounds -
it was a gas and now it is at an end. Peter is in Singapore in transit and will arrive in Zurich Sunday afternoon. From here on we will travel in a hire car and I will not have to carry a backpack again. In a way I regret that. Call me mad.
Next stop Geneva.