• suzjennifer62

Elusive Inclusion

Exclusivity. Belonging, being a member of something as are some but not all others. I understand the draw tho I do not carry that burdensome desire to possess it. I laughed almost self righteously at the episode of the '90s sitcom "Frasier" where he and his brother Niles strive to become members of a new day spa. Obsessed with joining this group of snobbish, self important rich folks, once they become members and are inside the spa, Niles and Frasier notice others surreptitiously slipping thru the "Gold Member" door. And so the two characters continue their quest to be included with the elusive exclusive. They struggle and grovel and can't enjoy the pleasures offered by the spa when they think there are others who have something even better.

Ferndale was good to us with some placement ribbons of red and a blue, plus the Element Title and Level Title. (yes, Winnie's booty is on the placemat on a dining table)

After a weekend of searching at Lost Coast Kennel Club AKC Scent Work Trial, Winnie earned membership in an exclusive club without even knowing we were trying. Winnie completed her Excellent Buried Element Title with two more successful Qualifying scores searching for buried odor the "old" way (starting on October 1st the ACK Buried element is changing from odor buried in the ground to submerged under water in containers). With this title Winnie is a member of the unofficial "buried in ground" group. This title also completed Winnie's bid for the overall Excellent Level Title which leaves her eligible to compete at Masters Level.

In a story good enough for a Hollywood movie full of challenges and tribulation leading up to the moment in the last search on the last day, Winnie triumphs.

When we first started the quest for Excellent Level Buried Element, we struggled. It is difficult to practice, a lot of time and effort is needed to set up search areas. After only a few lessons we tried it at trials. Earning only 1 Q in 5 tries, I gave up when I was concerned I would ruin my dog. We declared this rat they call Buried Element was dead. But with Winnie and I both being stubborn and "terrier" minded, like good little hunters we went back to the rat we thought we had killed to kill it again.


We started over from the beginning with odor vessels tossed around the yard then moved up to containers of sand. This video shows Winnie, a dog pawing at the containers with and without odor as if frustrated. I do not respond. When she paws at the container I know has odor, I wait til she is done pawing and looks at me before I move in to reward. With the pawing and destruction of search area, Winnie didn't look like a dog who could successfully search at and earn her Nov. or Adv. level titles, tho she had. Nor was this the picture of a confident sniffer who could handle the difficulty of searching for in-ground odor at Excellent Level. But she was searching enthusiastically so we continued.

We learned to build our own in ground search areas and used up every square inch of our place and the neighbors land as well. We set odor, forgot where we put it and found the odor again together. We plotted and built search after search. There are still a group of 4 tent stakes standing in six inch holes waiting for odor we didn't place. A search area we hadn't yet used stands like a monument in our yard.

It is good to have goals, it's ok to want something we don’t have when we see others with it. It's ok to have ambition and work hard to get there, but it's important to enjoy where you are at the moment, too. Always assess and reassess and check your balance. Thru this experience I can't even list all I've learned, about the sniffing sport and about Winnie but mostly about myself. This has been an opportunity to temper my strong drive when I could so easily become obsessed. Along with our innate desire as humans to acquire, achieve, and dream, we must make sure we are still being our best selves. Be proud of your accomplishments, but stay humble when you don't succeed and realize what you will get to learn from it all. Mostly, celebrate your dog. Make sure they always feel like a winner regardless of what standards we expect.

Winnie and I are poised on the threshold of the doorway leading to the "Gold Member" room, the Masters Level, but I'm in no hurry to go thru. I want to enjoy the pleasures in the room we are in right now for within the Gold Member room is the next doorway over which hang the words "Platinum Member". There will always be another door. Don't become like Frasier and Niles, so consumed with desire to gain access meanwhile missing out on the pleasures currently around them. Frasier and Niles go thru the Platinum Member doorway to find there is no platinum-level spa. They are outside the back of the building with the dumpsters of trash, hopelessly locked out of the spa altogether.

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