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Monday, November 3, 2008

Sally and Petey - a deer tracking team from Vermont

I was away for 2.5 days at field trials in PA, and it will take a day or two to catch up with all the e-mails in my inbox. This message from Sally M. in Vermont caught my eye so I will share it with you. For a number of years Sally tried to track wounded deer with her beagle but things were not going as well as she wished. In summer 2007 she got from us a male pup from a Buster and Keena litter. She calls him Petey, and he is now a year and a half old. Messages like this one keep us going!

This is Sally's message:

"Hi Jolanta and John -

Now that bow season is over for us, I thought you'd like to hear that Petey has done an absolutely beautiful job this year.

We had a pretty discouraging summer as far as training was concerned - he had plenty of enthusiasm, but just seemed to be all over the place and wasn't able to finish even a simple line by himself. When we started taking calls, I couldn't believe what I was seeing. Every time we went out, he was all business and did exactly what he was supposed to do and did it well. He was enthusiastic, focused and determined, wasn't distracted by squirrels or chipmunks, would swim a brook without hesitation and never gave up. We had 6 finds out of 15 calls plus 1 we kicked up and let go. I can't tell you how thrilled and proud of him I am.

One night he tracked steadily for 2 hours before we found the deer. It had been shot through the butt so it went a long way. He got stuck a couple of times but figured it out for himself and never showed any signs of slowing down. Another night, Tom DiPietro got a call but Musket was exhausted so we took Petey and their puppy, Scout, so he could follow along. We found that one too, and since Petey got to follow Musket a few times last year, I felt pretty good about being able to return the favor. They are really happy with both of their puppies by the way.

We only had 1 embarrassing episode on an old track on a dry day with not much to start with. Petey didn't take us any further than the hunter, and eventually went into a hollow log and after lots of barking and thumping, came out with porcupine quills in his mouth. So, not only did the hunter not get his deer, but he ended up having to help me pull quills out of Petey's mouth. Other than that one though, on the calls where we didn't find the deer, Petey always took us further than the hunter and twice was able to find the blood when the hunter wasn't able to find any.

The only thing I don't like about his tracking is that he pulls so hard and tends to rush and get too excited. He's a very solid, strong 25 pounds and I'm not a big person. He will use up twice as much energy than is necessary. Gloves are a necessity and a collar is not an option. He will do this especially if the track is fresh and often needs to be brought back a few times before he'll settle down. Holding him back so he's not attached to the deer while the hunter drags it out of the woods is more exhausting for me than actually finding the deer. On an older track or when there's not too much blood, he's slower and more methodical. I'm assuming that as he gets older, this will get better. He also barks when he's tracking, but its only either when there's good, fresh blood and we're close to getting the deer, or if he's gone off and is after a fresh, healthy deer track. So if he's barking his head off and I'm not seeing any blood, I bring him back and this has worked so far.

I've learned an awful lot this year. I now feel confident in being able to read Petey's tracking body language and the way he feels at the end of the leash. I also feel a lot more confident about talking to the hunter - what questions to ask and telling him how he can help me. I've also learned that very often the hunter is completely mistaken about the situation and things can look very different when you get there than they sounded on the phone. I've also learned that the hunter doesn't necessarily appreciate it when your dog pulls his deer's tail off.

Other than his tracking, Petey is doing extremely well. He's gained 4 pounds since the spring when I finally found a combination of food that agrees with him. He's been healthy except for when he got squirted by a skunk directly in the face. He threw up that night and it smelled very strongly, so I'm pretty sure he swallowed some of it. It took 3 days and a trip to the vet before he would eat, but he bounced back quickly. He's active and happy, funny, smart, and has healthy relationships with my other dog and 6 cats. He has impeccable house manners and is reliable off leash in the woods. I can't begin to explain how much he means to me and how good it makes me feel to be able to give him the opportunity to do what he was born to do and obviously makes him so happy. After 4 long, frustrating years, I am finally on my way with a fantastic little dog - Thank You! Sally"

Sally M. with Petey - a great tracking team in Vermont

Tom DiPietro with Scout (left) and Sally M. with Petey (right)

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