Springer Spaniel puppies California
Lovingly written by Marti Nickoli
My heart was in my throat as I followed behind Maddie, Donna and the judges as they very carefully inched their way across the TDX tracking field at the New Jersey National. The scenery was spectacular, rolling hills with trees to line the horizon. It isn't the kind of tracking field you'll find in Northern California, but Maddie was pulling Donna every step of the way, left turn, left turn, right turn, under a fence, and then patiently waiting for her mom to ease her way through the fence so she could pick up the article on the other side . . . off again with another right turn, then a left, as they worked their way over the hill and down into the brambles, picking up another article on the way. Finally they reached the very last leg and Maddie turned left, but with a scent several hours old, came back to double check before pulling Donna off the corner. She circled the corner checking each and every direction and decided to make sure the trail did not go back into the brambles. She went a few yards through rough undercover and was starting back - just as she had been trained to do.
The only noise we heard was that of trucks on a nearby road. Suddenly, a whistle broke the silence. One of the judges blew her off the course, an incident that I shall always consider a judge's error. Based on tracking methodologies used on the East Coast, he felt she had made an error and was anxious to move on to the next two dogs. I didn't believe it then and still don't believe that the dog erred. We simply train our dogs differently on the West Coast than they do on the East Coast. Nonetheless, the damage was done. This judge could not have known that he was watching a very young dog, barely more than a puppy, run her first TDX track with a first time handler/trainer, and that he would have the opportunity to award a TDX ribbon to one of the youngest English Springer Spaniels to ever attempt this title.
The seizures started sometime not very long after that. In the beginning they were always very small seizures, sort of like losing your place in a book, or forgetting to concentrate while driving. Nothing big, but enough to make an owner wonder what happened. Donna had her checked out and started her on light doses of medication.
Meanwhile, she went onto complete her TDX title and started her VST training. I had the pleasure of being at a seminar on the new VST test where Maddie was used as a very green demo dog. Unfortunately, Donna was called away just before it was Maddie's turn. Maddie took it all in stride as a handler other than Donna put on her harness and started her down the track. She had work to do and work she did - across a well used lawn, down a very scented concrete walkway, through a building, around garbage cans, past flower beds, over dirt - she confidently completed her track across the University of California campus pulling her handler with her every step of the way.