Gem City Earthdog a Jewel of a Trial

Gem City Agility Club

By Nick Critelli & the “Troutster”

On June 3rd Trout and I headed for a four day Earthdog Trial hosted by the Gem City Agility Club of Dayton, Ohio. The main purpose of the trip was for me to apprentice and continue to complete the requirements on my AKC Earthdog judging application. The drive up to Dayton took almost 16 hours on I-75 through some really pretty country once you got into the mountains north of Atlanta; but, that’s another story. The Gem City Trials started the next day, Thursday, June 4th and would run until Sunday, June 7th with some special events in between. I arrived at the trial site on Thursday at 7 AM and almost immediately started meeting some of the nicest people. You just can’t imagine the warm reception I received from the members responsible for planning, preparing, and managing the trials. Chris Burger and his wife Jeannette along with Curt and Linda Givens made me feel right at home and when I told them I wasn’t afraid of a little work the next thing I know we were in the field mending fences and filling up ground hog holes. We continued to prepare the trial site for the exhibitors, who started arriving around 9 AM. The camping spots filled rapidly and the space around the secretary’s table and the coffee machine became packed with happy terrier owners. In talking with some of the participants I found out that some had come from as far as Arizona and Oregon. I was absolutely delighted to learn that there was a 14 year old Dachshund entered in Senior Earthdog all 4 days of the trial, what a sport! The Masters class started at 10 AM with the first of 9 braces taking to the field and exhibiting some excellent field work. Senior and Junior started after the last Masters brace left the field and the number of entries was out of this world, with 24 teams in Senior and 25 teams in Junior. Introductory to Quarry or IQ, a non-titling class, is a simple instinct test requiring no training or previous exposure to earthwork began 30 minutes after Masters started. The IQ test with 30 exhibitors, many with dogs that have never had the experience of working underground through the 9”x 9” tunnels to a quarry box containing live rats, were supportive and enthusiastic of each other and this enthusiasm was both electric and contagious. My assignment on Thursday was to apprentice Junior Earthdog, the first titling class in Earthdog, under Judge Bill Kasting. The Junior Earthdog test is designed to help evaluate the dog’s willingness to enter a scented tunnel, drive to proceed through the darkness, to recognize quarry, and the desire to work it strongly and persistently. Bill absolutely loves Judging Earthdog and helping the exhibitors. His stated goal is to make this a positive experience for both the dog and handler. I was fortunate to have him take me under his wing and show me what he feels Earthdog is all about. What a great family these Earthdoggers! When we finally got everyone in from the field and the ribbons handed out it was 6 PM and I was ready for some dinner and bed.

On Friday Trout and I arrived at the trial site and helped get the site ready for the exhibitors which included working on the runs and scenting the tunnels for Masters and Seniors. Today my assignment will be Senior Earthdog, which is the next step up from Juniors and is also a titling class, with Bill Kasting. We judged 30 Senior teams and had a wonderful time doing it. The Senior Earthdog Test is designed to evaluate the dog’s ability to use its nose to locate the entrance; follow the trail of the quarry into and through the den; the willingness to enter a steeply sloping tunnel; the dog’s ability to identify if the quarry is present or absent; its persistence to keep working the quarry; and the dog’s willingness to cooperate with the handler when the quarry is gone. We finished the paperwork and handed out ribbons to the qualifiers who thanked us for helping them and their dogs. Trout and I were invited to a farm in the country east of Dayton for what is called a barn hunt. I did not know what to expect so I just headed out into the country with the Troutster by my side and said a silent prayer for the unsuspecting vermin he would encounter. It turned out to be a wonderful time and great exercise for the dogs running around, over and under the large bales of hay. The barn hunt was follow by a country dinner spread that I am still trying to recover from; they sure know how to relax in Ohio. On the Drive back to Dayton I couldn’t help thinking about all the new friends Trout and I are making and because of our good behavior, we were invited back.

Saturday morning dawned clear and hot and it wasn’t long after 8 AM when the exhibitors started showing up in even greater numbers than the previous two days. Everyone was discussing how nice the Gem City 8 acres Earthdog site was and how their dogs were working in the Masters test. The Masters Earthdog test is designed to evaluate the dog’s willingness to work cooperatively with a bracemate; to search over an extended distance; to be responsive to the handler’s direction; to locate and alert the handler to a heavily scented den entrance; to work through a den with differing and challenging dimensions; to allow itself to be handled in the face of quarry; and to remain under control while another dog works. The Masters Earthdog is the final titling class in Earthdog and is both challenging and fulfilling to the dog and handler team. The first of 11 braces in Masters walked out at 9 AM and the day was on. I apprenticed under Judge Susan Chapman in Junior Earthdog and was able to observe some special kindness and respect extended to the teams that showed under her. It was a lovely day. Susan and I are also scheduled to judge together on Sunday in Seniors. The numbers for Saturday were off the charts with 35 Junior teams, 32 Senior teams, 11 Master braces and IQ with almost 40 teams. The number of entries was wonderful and with the positive feedback from the exhibitors, next year is going to be even bigger. The last ribbon was handed out around 6 PM so Trout and I headed for the farm and an outdoor BBQ consisting of farm raised chicken and fresh vegetables. The whole affair was finished off by a huge chocolate cake with raspberry filling. Life is good. Later that night while driving back to Dayton, I couldn’t help reflect back on how quickly the past three days had gone and what wonderful people these Earthdoggers are. I was excited about Sunday and looking forward to heading home.

Sunday was a mirror image of Saturday with the weather and the excitement of the exhibitors. The numbers of exhibitors were down just a little from our high on Saturday and I was told that this is normal with people returning to work on Monday and having to drive great distances. We still had a wonderful variety of terriers including Norfolk, Dachshunds, Westies, Border, Welsh, Parson, Standard Manchester, Cairn, Russell, and Miniature Schnauzer just to name a few. For a complete listing of the breeds eligible to participate in AKC Earthdog events, visit the AKC website at http://www.akc.org/events/earthdog/eligible_breeds.cfm. The first Masters brace was in the field at 9 AM and the last day of Earthdog was off and running. Judge Susan Chapman and I had the Seniors run set and ready in no time at all and with the exhibitors briefed our last day of judging had begun. The afternoon went very quickly with many teams qualifying and those that came up a little short getting some great advice and help with their dogs. On Friday, June 8th at 4 PM the last of the ribbons were handed out and with all the goodbyes said Trout and I, tired but very excited, heading home. Trout was an excellent travel companion on this long trip. He curled up next to me in his crate and promptly went to sleep only to awaken for gas stops and to greet everyone at home when we arrived around 8 AM the next morning. I hope this article helps to inform and create interest for all terrier owners looking to have fun with their dogs. This spectacular and addictive sport is called Earthdog, you have to try it!

I would like to thank the following people for all their help and patience during this 4 day trial: Chris & Jeannette Burger, Kurt & Linda Givens, Judge Bill Kasting, Judge Susan Chapman, AKC Rep Barbara Teigen, and all the members of the Gem City Agility Club who helped make my experience so wonderful.

Gas $400.00, Food $100.00, Entry Fees $48.00, Time with Trout Priceless and yes we will be back”.

Click on image for larger view.