The Trial of Schrödinger's Dog
Updated: Nov 24, 2019
"(The) whole universe can be thought of as a delayed-choice experiment in which the existence of observers who notice what is going on is what imparts tangible reality to the origin of everything."--John Gribbin, In Search of Schrödinger's Cat: Quantum Physics And Reality
Winnie and I participated in our first NW3 Trial hosted by Anne Campbell and Haute Dogs Agility Group with Teah Anders overseeing for NACSW and judged by Chris Oliver and Roly Canales at Live Oak Waldorf School in Meadow Vista, CA.
The seemingly perfect day began with a smooth 2 1/2 hours drive on a sunny and calm morning, the Autumn sun quickly chased away the pockets of cool air in the morning shadows as we arrived to see the other competitors setting up "camp" for the day. Our luck continued when I realized we were parked next to my good friend, Carol and her lovely little Aussie Shepherd, Misty. Tho it had been nearly a year since Winnie and I had done an NACSW event, I was delighted to recognize many familiar faces. After check in, then walk thru and the briefing, I sat back by the cars to visit with Carol and to await our turn to search. My brain began to circle; how many hides were in NW3 searches? How many areas could be blank (free of planted odor)? Easy conversation with Carol flowed washing away with it downstream all my brain garble about the searches as we chatted about everything and nothing at the same time. The waiting passed by quickly and much more pleasantly than I could have asked for.
Winnie's number came up for our first element, Interiors, and Winnie was excited to get started. As we moved from cue to cue, my mind was remarkably clear: three rooms, 0-3 hides in each, I had no expectations, Winnie was relaxed as usual and so was I. Winnie was so clear on her signs and signaled one hide in the first room, a classroom, and showed no interest anywhere else, Finish. On to the next room, girls bathroom, again Winnie signaled one hide then "said" nothing else here and I called Finish. On to the final room, another classroom and one hide. Winnie was telling me that's all there was but she humored me while I asked her to look some more. Thirty second warning came and Winnie still showed nothing else of interest so, Finish, I called it. I felt very confident, the searches were so much fun, but with the hint of doubt I wondered. Had we found all the hides? Or had we left odor behind?
I decided to be happy with what we had done regardless. We had worked like a team, I honored my dog and it all had felt so good. We celebrated our way back to the car to wait for the next elements.
The sniffing conditions for the vehicle search were enhanced by gentle breezes that spiked into the occasional stronger gusts, but were only noted and not even significant enough to affect my psyche. Winnie went to work and detected odor on the passenger side front wheel of one car, Alert, yes! Onward went Winnie to the next car where she poked her nose curiously into the square of the hitch receiver then moved on. Whew, I swallowed the Alert, no false call. Winnie continued, swinging wide around the back of the third car as the odor must have began swirling along a building wall. She caught the trail and followed it to the front wheel passenger side of the third car, and clearly said, "here it is". Alert, yes! I felt the urge to call "finish", Winnie had been thorough, but we hadn't approached the search from the middle and had only swung around the perimeter. Back to the vehicle with the interesting trailer hitch, and again with the poke of her nose, Winnie was interested in the receiver but her body language seemed to say, "This would be a great place for odor, and we've found odor on cars like this before." But Winnie's eyes said, "no Ma, there is no odor here today." Finish.
On to the Containers search, a circle of assorted boxes and paint cans with very little space around the edges. Winnie took off to the left after glancing to the right and indicated on the third container, Alert, yes! We continued all the way around then back tracked the circle in the other direction when Winnie came to the one she had already found and shoved it almost angrily out of the way as if to say, "I know this one won't pay again, so what are we still doing here?" I heard the judge or the timer, someone in the room laughed in reaction to Winnie's antics as I called Finish. Walking back to the car, I felt less like celebrating as more doubt crept in. The vehicle search felt real good, but the containers search seemed to have ended in chaos. I sat at the car and began to question our searches. I couldn't remember, had I called Finish? Would we get a fault for Winnie shoving the container three feet behind her? In my haste to distract her from further molestation of the container, I had dropped a treat on our way out which Winnie quickly snatched up and swallowed almost before it hit the floor. Was that a fault? Yikes!
Back at the car with Winnie contentedly resting, a satisfied look on her face, Carol and I sat together and chatted while waiting for the final element, Exteriors. We told each other funny stories and talked about our dogs, past and current. The camaraderie was so appreciated and Carol shared memories of being on competitive teams in high school where she can't remember whether they won games or not but surely remembers the fun times spent with friends and teammates. I realized the meaning behind her words and let go the creeping insecurity that was threatening to ruin what was turning out to be a very good day. Our searches had felt so good, Winnie and I were so in sync. I could hear the voices of many instructors I have had the pleasure of learning from, at seminars and regular lessons, explaining tidbits of odor behavior and canine behavior. Advice about controlling the wrong voices in my head and mostly just reminding us to cherish and treasure the time with our dogs. It all began to feel again like we were just out for a fun day of sniffing in a very dynamic environment full of interesting places to see and sniff. The Exterior search was going to be icing on the cake.
A rather large area as indicated by orange soccer cones seemed manageable with my new attitude adjustment, Winnie entered and after a brief distracted sniff at the planter area in front of her, she made a B-line straight in and a little to the right before she turned sharply to the left and began some intense sniffing. She indicated on a bench, Alert, Yes! Winnie continued on to the left side of the area and began enthusiastically working another source, I followed the imaginary lines she painted with her nose as she zeroed in on a little chair, Alert, Yes! Now, we kinda back tracked thru the area we had covered and passed by the first area but I could see Winnie was puzzling something out and remembered she had been heading to the right side of the area before she made that sharp left to the first source she indicated on. Winnie's nose worked hard as she sourced back and forth and then moved deliberately to the far right and circled around a little red wagon where she then rested her nose and raised a paw, Alert, Yes, Finish. Oh my gosh. What a beautiful thrill it was! An exhilarating charge went thru me, the same feeling that caused me to erupt into a silly, squealing happy dance when Winnie got her third Q in AKC Excellent Buried, the in-ground way! Like the dome on a dormant volcano, I kept in the emotional lava that threatened to spew. Keeping on the lid so as not to frighten Winnie again like I had at the AKC trial and also not to embarrass myself in front of my way more serious peers, I was the epitome of control.
Now, we were done searching, nothing else but to wait for results. I almost didn't want to know. Winnie and I had been having so much fun, I wanted to go home with this feeling and worried the results would cast a shadow. It seemed out of place to know had we been right or wrong? Had we found all the hides throughout the day or had we left some behind? I knew we hadn't false-alerted, we hadn't heard a single No. But had we got it right? Had we earned a perfect score?
Then I realized it didn't matter. It was a classic paradox, a thought experiment like Schrödinger's Cat where not knowing the results means we were neither right nor wrong. The hypothetical cat is both dead and alive, and the quantum superposition that ends when reality directs me to one possibility or the other could be avoided by choice. I could choose not to know. Or better yet, I could choose to know and still be happy. The knowing wouldn't change the experience we had had, that would remain as real and to be interpreted as I wanted.
We said goodbye to friends after the de-briefing with judges Chris and Roly, and complimentary comments by CO Teah who made us all feel good about how we had handled our dogs and how skilled our dogs were.
Winnie and I left Meadow Vista with the truck seeming to move towards the west, towards home, as if on it's own as we navigated our way into the setting sun. Winnie spent the ride looking lazily around at the scenery from her securely fastened crate atop the platform we built. The relaxed expression on her face mirrored my mood and I began singing to the song by Paper Lace on the XM radio, "Billy, don't be a hero, Don't be a fool with your life." It was a whimsically sad song but I sang the words as if the song was "I'm Walking on Sunshine" by Katrina and the Waves which better matched my mood. I was still choosing to be happy.
Blog dedicated with thanks to the judges and CO for putting together a fantastic day's worth of searches. Also, to the Live Oak Waldorf School for letting us use their campus and to the host club and Anne Campbell. And finally to the best parking lot buddies, Carol and Misty for their friendship.