Sunday, October 18, 2009

Cooper and the FSA that wasn't

We trained in preparation for the October 11th FSA (Foundation Skills Assessment) that was being offered by the CT USAR TF. They were offering a CSS (Canine Search Specialist) course but at a price of slightly over $1000, I opted not to attend. I have already attended two CSS courses, one at College Station, Texas and one at the same location in CT. There was a problem with communication, and apparently no one else was interested in testing and the night before I was to leave, I contacted the host and was dismayed to find there was NO TEST. Crushed. Disappointed. Angry. All those things ran through my head but I was already packed, and had also made arrangments to look at a new puppy while there. So I elected to remain positive and was offered hope that perhaps they could still put a test together for me.

I have a wonderfully supportive team, and they scrambled to put on a pre-test for me, as is required, and even to be there the morning I left on my trip to offer one final training session.

I drove straight through, stopping to let Cooper out and sleep a few hours in rest stops. Illinois oasis's are dirty and scary. Ohio has the best, with multiple offerings for food, very clean and well monitored, with good potty areas for dogs. Pennsylvania ranks highly, as well. New York has little pull-in gas station areas just off the road with no real area to rest or potty dogs. I was so blessed with good weather for my trip! Had I been traveling one week later I would have been driving in snow and rain and that 20 hour drive or so would have been purely miserable.

Once I arrived, there was still a minute chance the test might occur. On Saturday morning I showed up and learned there would not be a test after all. Instead, I spent the day training with the group there. I was able to watch the "Focused Scenting" exercises being taught by Konnie Hein and Elizabeth Kreitzler, which is their USAR adaptation of the Randy Hare detection exercises. It was quite interesting and I can see the application. Cooper was able to work on the agility elements and do a couple rubble sear ches, so it was all positive. He traveled well, eating and pottying on the road, and working once we arrived. Those are all important aspects to a dog you will expect to go on the road and work whereever you land, whether it be in schutzhund or other dog sports, or USAR. Various people expressed anger over the lack of a test and I chose to view it as a "glass half full" rather than the reverse. I had a good trip, Cooper traveled well and we got to train, so to Cooper it was all very good. If I wanted to be angry over the whole thing, it would have made for a miserable trip and potentially damaged relationships with people who may be evaluating me in the future. Do you think I have STUPID written on my forehead?!!

I am pleased with Cooper's progress and he will only get better with the time we have before the next test. I am so happy with his work and how he learns and firmly believe he is on his way to being a great dog. My team members are going to try and put together a test in the spring. I wish I could have gotten his FSA done and out of the way, but it was out of my control. Why waste energy on something I can do nothing about. Instead, we will keep training and knock the socks off our evaluators when we do test.