Expectations are only a window. Keep an open mind to find the door.
Updated: Jul 8, 2019
Wide open. The image that comes into my head when typing those words is a seemingly endless highway as viewed thru the windshield of my Candy Apple Red Mustang GT/CS. The pavement stretches before me, empty and inviting as I press the throttle down giving life to 8 cylinders dying to combust some gasoline into the three-hundred plus horses in the transfer of power to the wheels where the rubber meets the road. Wide open.
The next image is a tree lined trail to the summit of a Sierra Nevada Mountain peak. Wide open, the trail expands where the pines end and before us is a heart pumping climb that beckons with the promise of a breath-taking view. Wide open is understood when imagining race cars, or snow boarding. Even in dog sports such as agility or FAST cat it’s easy to figure out what wide open would mean. But what about Scent Work?
In Nose Work, nothing seems wide open. The areas are coned in, we have boundaries where blue tape indicates. We search containers close together in rows or circles, and cars parked end to end and side by side. Our eyes are pointing down, we watch our dogs, and I admit most of the time I see nothing of our surroundings. In fact I don't even notice objects in a search area unless it turns out to be where the odor is hidden.
When we search, Winnie and I are tuned in to each other, and here's where wide open comes into play. I watch and listen for her rhythm, foot steps and breathing. I wait for a sudden sharp turn left or right, notice a turn of her head. She senses my rhythm, too and reads my feet and shoulders gauging the direction of my focus. Winnie knows without looking where I am and can read my feelings, emotions. Winnie is wide open to all communication, I however am not.
When I am in my head, Winnie senses my tensing if I fear she's about to paw at a container of sand wether or not there is odor in it. When Winnie is puzzling an odor trail that may be converging or pooling and feels me wanting to call "alert" before she's finished figuring it out, she turns to me for input and looses her "train of thought". When we miss an odor, or call it falsely, it is my fault. I am working with my mind closed. Closed to any input besides what I preconceive. Closed to the communication Winnie is honestly giving replacing it with what I think she should be saying. Not at all wide open.
So here's my advice to myself and all the Scent Work fans: get outta our heads, and open our minds. Let's imagine the open highway or trail and allow ourselves into a two way communication with our dogs. Let's apply wide open to searching like we would to any other sport. Let's sniff with our minds wide open.