TRACS VSTTDU Dec 17 2023

Dec 17, 2023 VST-TDU Tracking Test

VST at Cosumnes River College, Sacramento CA, and TDU at Elk Grove Park, Elk Grove CA.
Day-of Secretary Cathy Beam
Chief Tracklayer Karey Krauter
Click HERE for Premium

I’ll just jump straight to the punch line – BEST VST EVER, for me!
Entry numbers: 3 tracks plus possible alt for VST but only 3 entries total.  3 tracks plus possible alt for TDU but only two entries total.
The weather gods were with us all weekend long – warm clear and mild on saturday plotting day (I wore shorts), LOVED having tracking volunteer virgins Rosalie Ball and Katy Robertson there, both because they were warm companionable bodies but also because they performed essential services!
Judges Meg Azevedo and Kamrin MacKnight told us we’d take hours to plot – I think they were feeling the pressure to plan their best most fair tracks ever (see punch line above); they ended up taking half the time they expected, so we were all back home again before dark (including me driving back to bay area).
Rain had been predicted all week long for Sunday – which I was happy about because it doesn’t feel like tracking season without rain – but none of us complained when the weather gods slipped the storm to sunday night.  So, instead we had PERFECT TRACKING WEATHER: cold and overcast but no wind.  There was a little lesson learned by me that during this time of year, the earliest you can lay a track in the morning is 7AM, maybe 7:15AM, because 645AM civil twilight is NOT light enough to be able to lay a track. 

Meanwhile, there’s a little bit of timeline juggling with combined tests like this.
Saturday we plotted the three VST tracks first at Cosumnes River College (CRC) just because they are harder/longer/more time consuming (600yds min length, 4-8 turns, at least 1/3rd on “non-vegetated” surface, 2 “on-track” articles to recover), then had lunch and drove the 10 minutes down the freeway to Elk Grove Park (EGP) to plot the two TDU tracks (400yds min length, 3-5 turns, at least 10% on non-veg, 1 “on-track” article). 
Sunday, the VST tracklayers started laying the VST tracks at CRC at 700AM at the same time the TDU tracks were being laid at EGP.  I felt bad for the judges – they like to (are required to if they can) watch the tracks get laid just to make sure the lonely tracklayer isn’t attacked by a bear – but they can’t be in two places at once so they watched the TDU tracks go in at EGP and we were very comfortable with our expert tracklayers up at CRC being on their own recognizance (with day-of secretary Cathy Beam there in case of bear attack).  The TDU tracks only have to age 30 minutes so we stayed at EGP and did the random track-assigning draw, and watched the tracks run!  Crossing our fingers for the competitors!

First TDU track went to a Bernese Mountain Dog dog who just turned 5yo, so adorable and puppy-like but still an experienced field tracker.  He tracked to the end of the first leg but then ran out of steam (it’s very intense work!) after working very hard to get that far.  We’ll tell you here and now that even though AKC markets its TDU tests as “entry level” – they really are not!  They have all the challenges of the highest level VST test – domesticated surfaces that have about a million odors, busy urban environment (even at the crack of dawn), plus an order of magnitude more distractions than the entry level TD field test has (including geese and goose poop, sprinklers, articles getting mowed, squirrels, plus morning dog-walkers and bicyclists on the adjacent BMX track).
Second TDU track went to a delightful high-energy Golden Retriever bitch who charged full speed over three legs of the 5 leg track but at the 3rd corner turned the wrong way and couldn’t find her way back again.  It was like a shot of caffeine to watch this dog work!
Then we all packed up and drove up the road to CRC for the VST test.  I’ll apologize now for biffing the VST track order draw time (9:15AM) when we knew the first track wouldn’t reach the required 3hr age until 10AM.  That’s a long wait, after you know which track you are running but can’t run it for another 45 minutes.  So we stood around and ate delicious snacks (Cathy Beam’s homemade-the-night-before blueberry muffins and brownies) and gossiped.  Much appreciate everyone’s patience!

First VST track went to a 6yo Bernese Mountain Dog bitch, also very sweet, who couldn’t figure out the direction of the start (that’s another additional challenge that VST has: you aren’t told which direction the track goes from the start flag).  Bless the hearts of our judges who have the patience of saints, and who are desperately trying to “think” the dog back to the track.  There is no time limit on the dog – they can take all day if they remain working throughout that time, and the distance that the dog can go “off track” depends on the judges’ observation of whether the dog is still “working”.  Many a dog has worked themselves far away from the track and then worked their way back again; it is such a difficult call to make.
Second VST track went to an 18mo border collie bitch.  The picnic areas and hedges that this dog had to work past and through, were poster-child examples of how a good dog (and handler) works their way back to the track.  She had an intense job getting past the first 4 legs of this 6 leg track, but at the 4th corner between the buildings ended up heading down an adjacent mall walkway and just couldn’t get back-to-track one more time.  Impressive endurance by the dog and patience by the handler.

Now we are finally getting to the punch line again.  Third VST track went to a 4yo golden retriever bitch.  Holy moly, they took off like lightening from the start – the judges were very cute glancing back quickly at the gallery of spectators watching, to gesture “you better hurry up if you want to see anything!”  660yard track, 5 legs, orchards and mallways and stairs-not-taken and picnic areas OH MY!  Second turn, wanted to take the stairs-not-taken but figured it out. Third turn wanted to take the mallway-not-taken but figured it out.  Fourth turn to the final leg, horror book writer Stephen King couldn’t have dished out the suspense any better, really really wanted to turn the opposite way towards where she had been on a test track the previous weekend!  Handler showing us how it’s done, waiting for the dog to figure out the puzzle and commit to the correct direction of the final leg.  Took off down the final leg like a shot – handler having no question at all about whether the dog was committed – the judges once again signaling back to the gallery “Hurry!!!”  Seconds later: BIG FINISH.  Everyone crying and laughing and hugging, and the dog throwing herself with glee onto the ground on top of her final article, aw I’m getting all teary now just writing about it!  Total time on track: 28 minutes, now we all know how long we can hold our breath.  BEST VST EVER (it was the first time many of us watching got to see a VST pass), well earned, textbook tracklaying and textbook handling, congratulations to Cindy Hult and new Tracking Champion CT Emberain Coming Full Circle VCD3 UD AX MXJ “Shelby”.  Terry Southard was her tracklayer, and it was so cool that Cindy’s closest friends got to see it happen.

Just for grins, some numbers: AKC national pass rate for VST tests is about 10%.  There were 38 CT titles earned in AKC nationwide in 2022 (2023 not tallied yet).  This is Cindy’s second? third? CT dog, including one VCCH of the 11 ever conferred.

I can’t express enough gratitude to the workers who turned out for this test, I’m so excited about how it turned out to be SO WORTH IT.  Our sainted judges Meg Azevedo and Kamrin MacKnight, our tireless day-of secretary Cathy Beam, our driver Katy Robertson who was “there” more often than many – we are such a hard group to corral! Photographer-who-doesn’t-even-need-to-be-asked Colton Meyer, TDU tracklayers Sue Larson and Rosalie Ball, VST tracklayers Sharon Prassa and Chris Fritsch and Terry Southard.  I’m so inspired, I’m gonna go out right now and train!!!

/karey, chief tracklayer

CindysTrack MARKED

New VST: Cindy’s Track


New VST: Shelby Rolling On Final Article


New VST: Final Article Hugs


New VST: Ribbon Shot