He sat still, looking out over the field, quiet as a church mouse. The only thing I saw moving was the twitching of his nostrils.
I inhaled to calm myself since I was starting to feel very anxious. “Deep breaths.” I said to myself, “You can do this.” I was hoping this time would be different, easier, less painful than the other times. I secretly doubted I would be so lucky.
Meanwhile, he never moved a muscle. Was waiting for the signal.
I reached over and switched his leash from his collar to his harness. In response he whipped his head around to look at me as if to say, “Come on! I got this! What are we waiting for?!”
I paused and made sure I held the leash in such a way that my gloves would provide the most protection from the burning that was soon to occur. Then, against my better judgment, I said the words he was waiting for.
Like a bullet Dawson took off and I tried very hard not to grip the leash while simultaneously holding on for dear life. “Just hold on to the leash but not too tight and let it slide through your other hand until he’s 20 feet away from you,” my tracking teacher said, “then you can move with him.”
Just so you know, it’s counterintuitive to stand still when you are all but certain that doing so will result in being pulled so suddenly that you never recover your balance. It is as if you can see the punch coming your way but you can’t move because you’re frozen with fear. So you surrender to the inevitable and hope to make it out alive.
This is tracking with Dawson. I call it, “Bullet Tracking.”
Sound a little dramatic? Well, by this point I had been through two sets of gloves that Dawson burned a hole through because he pulled so hard and fast on the leash that it simply ripped through the material. Did I mention the burning sensation that is produced as a result? Pain plus fear equals trauma.
On a brighter note, thanks to the kind and patient salesman at REI (You rock, Ryan!), I had finally found a pair of tracking footwear that was light enough to run in while providing extra ankle support in case I landed in a hole or was unable to move fast enough to keep up with Dawson. One of my fears is that he would pull me so fast that I would fall and break my ankle. This in spite of my teacher’s helpful suggestion, “Don’t let him pull you.” As if I have a choice?
So that’s where we are now, Dawson and I. A green team for sure with one of us enthusiastic beyond words and the other nursing a sore hand (but with a really cool pair of tracking shoes). It’s a good thing Dawson and I love each other like we do, since we are forever partners in our quest to, “Find it!” And I suspect we will be tracking for a long time because no matter how painful (or in Dawson’s view, slow moving), tracking can be, finding the glove at the end is a great feeling.
Even if I need a stiff drink afterward.