JENNIFER JACKSON'S PORT TOWNSEND NEIGHBOR COLUMN: Disease doesn't slow dog down
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Jennifer Jackson/for Peninsula Daily News
Despite having degenerative myelopathy and competing in a two-wheeled appliance that supports his back legs, Bosun aced the exterior search challenge and came in second overall at the Nose Works I Trials held at the Clallam County Fairgrounds in June.

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GIVEN THE “READY, search” command, Bosun was off like a shot down the steep hill.

Eschewing the concrete steps, he went straight down the grassy slope to the building, wheeled around once, then indicated to his handler the location of the scent: in the ground under a rock.

His time: 20.03 seconds.

“The judges were floored,” said Karla Kimmey, a Sequim dog trainer.

Bosun was not in training for the K-9 police corps, but a family pet who was competing in Nose Works, a new sport for dogs based on police dog scent training.

And Bosun excelled, taking first place in the exterior search and second in the trial overall, despite not having the use of his back legs.

Bosun may be the first dog to qualify in Nose Works I certification in a two-wheeled cart, according to Kimmey and owner Kate Rambo of Port Townsend.

“He is the first to start training in a wheeled cart,” Rambo said.

Training recommended

It was a therapist, Cindy Horsefall, at La Paw Spa in Sequim that recommended Nose Works training for Bosun.

The corgi, which turned 12 years old last month, was diagnosed with degenerative myelopathy, a disease that affects the use of the back legs.

Bosun got his wheels — a two-wheeled cart that supports his back legs — in December.

In January, he started Nose Works training classes with Kimmey at Hanalei Training Center near Agnew.

“It was a leap of faith for her to take on a dog in a cart and had seizures,” Rambo said. “She believes in quality of life.”

Nose Works training was recommended for Bosun because it helps maintain muscle tone.

It is beneficial for dogs who are older, convalescing from an illness or have sight or hearing impediments.

It also keeps working dogs who have retired from service or competition happy by giving them a job to do.

In April, Bosun passed the ORT, or Odor Recognition Test, qualifying him to compete in the Nose Works I Trial.

Held at the Clallam County Fairgrounds the last weekend in June, it was the first Nose Works trial in the state organized by a Washington group.

Of the 66 entrants at the trial, 20 received Nose Works I titles, meaning they completed four different searches in three minutes or less.

Like K-9 police dogs, the dogs work as a team with their handlers.

When Bosun finds the scent, he signals his owner, who must correctly “read” the signal, raise her hand and shout “alert” to stop the clock.

“If he's right and I'm wrong or he's wrong and I'm right, we're done,” Rambo said.

But Bosun was always right, racking up the second best combined times for the event.

Second best times

In addition to acing the building exterior search, he zoomed in on the location of the scent hidden in a box, around vehicles in a parking lot and in a room set up like a kitchen with a table and chairs.

“For a dog working in a cart, there was a lot of stuff to hang up on,” Rambo said. “He beat his little feet and went right to the source.”

Kimmey said Bosun's energy that day was amazing. But it was questionable at first whether he would even be able to do the training.

At first, she said, he couldn't always get through a tight space, so Rambo would help him by lifting the cart. But it wasn't long before Bosun was backing up on his own if he got stuck, Kimmey said.

“He learned to maneuver better in his cart,” Kimmey said. “It was phenomenal to watch.”

Nose Works training also helps dogs who are “reactive,” i.e., bark at other dogs or people.

That was the case with Batman, a 14-year-old springer spaniel cross owned by Peyjen Wu of Sequim.

Wu brought the dog to a Nose Works seminar that Kimmey hosted led by the sport's founder, Ron Gaunt.

Through Nose Works training, Batman settled down and focused on the job at hand.

Batman was one of only eight dogs out of 33 entrants who qualified on the first day of the trial, getting all four elements and earning a Nose Works 1 title, Kimmey said.

Then there was Annie, a cavalier King Charles spaniel owned by Nancy Ortowski of Sequim. Annie would not put her head in a box, under a chair or anywhere when she started training, Kimmey said.

Now the little dog, who also qualified at the trials, is a hunting machine, she said.

Another classmate, Tootsie, a rescue golden retriever owned by Kathe Roat of Sequim, overcame her fear of being locked in a crate. Having a task to perform and a goal — in the first training classes, a dog treat — takes the dog's mind off distractions.

“It hugely builds confidence,” Kimmey said.

It also strengthens the bond between owner and dog, creating a relationship of mutual trust.

Kaisa, a rescue Australian shepherd owned by Fran Sisson of Port Angeles, came in third overall in the Nose Works 1 trial and was the judges' choice for the Harry Award, named for a rescue dog who was in Nose Works training.

Two days before his first trial, Harry jumped in front of his owner, who was about to be bitten by a rattlesnake, and died of the bite.

The Harry Award is presented at each Nose Works trial to the rescue dog who best demonstrates the bond between handler and dog, Kimmey said.

Kimmey said scent training has changed the way she views her environment — she “sees” odors when outside with her dogs — and made her aware of the finer details of their reactions, down to changes in breathing or tail set.

“I've been working with dogs since 1978, and of the things I've gotten into, this is closest thing to understanding what it's like to be a dog,” she said.

Along with Annie and Kaisa, Bosun was one of 12 dogs that qualified on Day 2 of the trials. Because of the distances between search sites, Bosun traveled to the starting lines in his all-terrain pet stroller.

“He didn't have the royal wave down, but he was grinning from ear to ear,” Rambo said. “He was having a ball. It was a lot of fun, a fabulous day.”

Almost withdrew

But when she first saw the steep steps of the exterior search site, Rambo said she almost withdrew Bosun from the competition.

Instead, she asked if she could help him if he got stuck on the steps, which she could, thinking Bosun would have to zigzag his way down.

Nothing prepared her for the zest with which Bosun took off down the hill.

“He was so on,” Rambo said. “It was like he knew it was his last chance.”

Rambo said that never in her wildest dreams did she expect Bosun to do so well at the trial.

She and spouse Forrest Rambo hoped the corgi would continue to compete in the sport but a week ago learned that Bosun's brain cancer had returned.

Less than two weeks after the trial, Bosun was having seizures and was blind in one eye from the pressure of a tumor.

He passed away last Saturday in his owners' arms, a gallant little dog with a nose for life.

Hanalei Training Center is starting another series of Nose Works training in September.

For more information, visit http://tinyurl.com/6x3xxbl or contact Karla Kimmey at troydog@olypen.com or 360-460-1724.

________

Jennifer Jackson writes about Port Townsend and Jefferson County every Wednesday. To contact her with items for this column, phone 360-379-5688 or email jjackson@olypen.com.

Last modified: July 12. 2011 10:01PM
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