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Reno Redux
Moc Klinkam

I'm working like a squirrel on a nutfall getting the pictures, commentaries, and interviews up onto the '99 Schutzhund 3 Nationals and International Police Dog Championships web site. You'll find commentaries from Julia Priest and pictures from the SchH3 tracking, obedience and protection and the Police Dog obedience and protection phases. Final scores and placements are up for both events, as is a new rendition of the SchH3 scores in order of placement. I've got well over a thousand photographs to review and publish on the site, so there will be plenty more where those came from.

The volume of digital shots isn't surprising considering the unprecedented number of entries for both events. There were so many outstanding dogs in Reno, I was a kid in a furry candy shop. Some of the German police dogs in particular just rang my bells -- oh my, oh yum, oh gimme, gimme, gimme. The weather cooperated beautifully throughout the event, with crisp brisk mornings warming to very comfortable 70s during the day. The altitude was a bit of a challenge for some, but getting to and from the stadium from surrounding hotels and associated event venues was a typical quick Reno jaunt down the main thoroughfare. There were no nickel slots at the host hotel so I had little to distract me, other than trying to dial out from a hotel packed with talkative out-of-town visitors trying to grab one of the six outgoing phone lines. A number of web site updates were finally accomplished at oh-dark-hundred.

I can't say enough about the Northwestern Region event hosts under the leadership of Regional Director Peggy Park and their impressive organizational skills and hospitality. These folks put in 20-hour days long before and during the event, and their friendliness and helpfulness never flagged. This event was a departure for USA events, wherein the region, rather than a single club, assumed hosting duties -- and at very short notice just prior to an international event. It went beautifully and could well be a model for future successes. I found it to be on a par with the outstanding event management provided by the multi-club hosts of the May '99 North American Championships in Gatlinburg.

It was personally very gratifying to see so many German competitors. Germany's Polizei came to Reno at great expense and effort to show some truly extraordinary police dogs. Chris Madsen was instrumental in their participation at this event and he is to be congratulated for achieving such a notable showing by our overseas working GSD friends. The professional appearance and demeanor of the German participants are noteworthy; there is much to be admired in crisp, clean attire, an impeccably groomed and conditioned dog, and attentive, respectful composure on and off the competition field.

The excitement grew exponentially as SchH3 3 National Champions Al Banuelos and his personal arsenal known as Lestat took 100 in obedience and protection on Friday. You couldn't keep me from the tracking fields on Saturday morning in high hopes of witnessing a triple jackpot. Alas, it wasn't to happen. This team turned out an impressive 91-point track that morning in some daunting conditions. The tracking fields were as promised freshly plowed, and the desert-dry particulate could be seen clouding up, around, before and behind the dogs as they tracked through the expansive acreage of the tracking venue. I was still shaking dust out of my unmentionables on Monday after my Saturday hike through the tracking fields on digital safari.

There were many outstanding tracking achievements during the event, and given the challenging conditions, each team is to be commended for exemplary training and unflappable nationals-level competitive performance. One SchH3 entrant was granted a re-track after it was determined that his track had been compromised by an inadvertent cross-track. There was some discussion at the Police Dog tracking on Sunday about a similar situation, but the judge determined that there would be no re-track and the score stood.

There were the inevitable disappointments, and by and large the competitors took these challenges in stride and either moved onto the next phase unfazed or openly celebrated the completion of their enviable turn at national and -- in the case of the Police Dog Championship -- international competition.

The judge's critique of the discovery of food on the person of one handler during obedience had a briefly stultifying effect on some entrants and observers. Fortunately, this transgression of the rules was observed and publicly identified and hopefully a productive lesson was taken by all in attendance.

The trial field itself posed some unique challenges. It was determined that the hard-packed baseball diamond dirt could not be incorporated into the overall obedience pattern, so fresh sod was trucked in to cover a good portion of the diamond. The pattern was adjusted so that the obedience field centerline was perpendicular to the grandstands, making for some difficulty in the audience's ability to clearly observe all of the finer points of handling and canine responsiveness. There was some offsides discussion early on that there may not be critiques due to the volume of entrants and the available time in which they could all be shown during the event. However, all of the judges at this event thoughtfully issued detailed and illuminating critiques. I captured many of the protection critiques on tape and will be posting them to the site once they are transcribed and prepared.

During obedience, particular attention was given by the judge to proper positioning, handler assistance, and the temperament of the dog shown. In protection, closeness to the blind during the search was a particular point-eater as was the dog's attentiveness to the helper during all engagements and, again, the temperament displayed by the dog during all exercises. The judge was in constant communication with the trial helpers to fully evaluate bite and grip of each dog, and these characteristics were critiqued with the detail that their import demanded.

Back half helper work by Chris Carr displayed his customary athletic and agile power and prowess. As he did at the Worlds in Boston, Chris was quick to intercept the occasional dog having mistaken the judge for the courage test target. The observers clutch their hearts and gasp in concern, and the judge stands there calmly as a Schutzhund 3 barrels 40mph down the field with eyes only for the lightly-garbed judge. "Calmly" may not always be as "calmly" looks -- perhaps it's all in the perception. For if it were me, I'd be shaking more than dust out of my own unmentionables.

There were some bobbles during protection phases on Friday as Tim Cruser settled into the trial helper groove and then undertook to deliver the front half helper work for three straight days. It is difficult to imagine the endurance and level of fitness required to catch dog after dog after dog over such an extended period and at such a relentless pace. Dogs make mistakes, handlers make mistakes, helpers make mistakes, even judges make mistakes. This is all part of the competitive mix and the capriciousness of Murphy's Law inexorably brings all things and all teams to a level playing field. My hat is off to the trial helpers who conducted themselves and their trial duties with unflagging drive and determination and class, and with concern and care for the dog foremost in their minds and in their actions.

Much more detailed observations and critiques by others will be forthcoming as I make my way through the accumulated data. Please stay tuned to the Northwestern Region's 1999 Schutzhund 3 Nationals and International Police Dog Championships web site for continuing coverage of an event that was truly competitive and in so many reaffirming ways met and exceeded the standards for proofing the working German Shepherd Dog.

Copyright 1999 by Moc Klinkam; ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.


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