Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Thoughts on Winning the Harry Award by Barbara Schwerdt, CNWI

Barbara & Landis earned their Harry Award at the first official titling trial in Van Nuys, CA on January 25, 2009. The story behind this team is not only inspiring, but it shows how the activity and sport of K9 Nose Work really bring out the best qualities in dogs and their handlers. Landis is a top K9 Nose Work dog, one of thirteen dogs invited to the first NACSW National Competition, a two day trial event in Rialto, CA this June. Barbara is a top handler in K9 Nose Work, one of the seven founding instructors for the sport, NACSW faculty, trial judge, and an NACSW Certifying Official. Barbara & Landis have found the perfect expression of their talents through K9 Nose Work, and together, they've helped to make the activity and sport of K9 Nose Work truly exceptional.


by Barbara Schwerdt, CNWI

When I first met Landis at the Pet Orphans Shelter, I had no idea just how much our lives would impact each other. He was one of five German Shepherd puppies born to a mother who had a reputation for being very sweet with people, yet reactive toward other dogs. Landis proved to be very much like her. From the first day I brought him home, he seemed like a dog that would need lots of stimulation, both physical and mental. Playing ball with him and encouraging him to run around the yard was only one way I could tire him out. Later came dog treat puzzles and obedience training, which helped some. But he still had a lot of pent-up energy to release, and at that point I knew that he needed even more mental stimulation. Soon after, I learned of a new dog sport that sounded like it was exactly what I was looking for. It was perfect, since it enabled Landis to work alone (and therefore not be affected by other dogs in the nearby vicinity), and to use his mental abilities in a new way.

From the day we brought him home, Landis loved to play ball. We soon found out that he was even more motivated to play with it when he had to search for it first. Then, as our practice sessions progressed, and he was exposed to the various odors, my instructors told me that he was a natural at this. The foundation we were laying was soon to pay off, for Landis earned a few ribbons and took second place overall at the first Canine Nose Work Inaugural Trial in 2008. From then on, his skills (and mine as a handler) steadily improved. He would soon earn his NW1 Title, and I couldn’t have been more proud of this dog who had a very shaky background (including recurring sicknesses that slowed him down early on as a puppy). I had rescued dogs before, but none of them seemed to possess the special qualities that I was watching develop in Landis. He had what seemed to be an inborn skill, the drive to use that skill, and most of all, the capacity to enjoy himself to the point where he didn’t seem to care about the competition aspect of the sport. Landis just wanted to have some fun, and getting his ball as a reward was just icing on the cake! I have learned to have fun, too, and the sport of Canine Nose Work has not only provided that, but also has helped me to develop a special relationship with this rescue dog. People who meet him for the first time are astounded that he is from a shelter, and not from a breeder. It has become apparent that when rescuing a dog, one never knows what potential lies within that dog. With lots of love, attention, and hard work, a dog can blossom and become very successful. Not only that, but a shelter dog can be an inspiration to other dog owners, as well as people who are considering adopting a dog of their own. It seems as if Landis has come to epitomize what the Harry Award is all about. For me, earning the Harry Award was for me analogous to what it must feel like to win an Oscar, an Emmy, or a Grammy. You’re up against the best of the best, and you’re the one who gets to take home the trophy, or in our case, the certificate. It was even better for us when it was Penny herself who presented the certificate to us! I hope we have made Penny and Harry proud.

Next week, we'll post about bringing the K9 Nose Work heat wave from California to Minnesota: K9 Nose Work in nine states over three days (well, seven states - we blinked and missed a few). We'll talk about what it's like to go from fire to ice, and share how hot K9 Nose Work is in each of the states we passed through.

Happy Sniffing! 

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