Most of you know Bess. She’s my first attempt at fostering. You could say I failed. But you’d be wrong. I won- big time. I hit the jackpot with this girl. She’s slowly, quietly, and carefully stolen my heart. She did it unobtrusively. But I know exactly when I realized what she had done: our first barn hunt together.
I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t think she did either due to the fact that she failed the rat instinct test. That’s when your dog has 1 minute to tell you which tube contains the live rat. There are three and they aren’t even hidden. Yes, there’s a tunnel, but your dog is not required to execute the tunnel during the instinct test. Good thing, because Bess ran around the tunnel to the other side where three tubes were laying in the hay. One contained a live rat, one contained the litter from a rat cage, and one was completely empty. She sniffed all three and then went back to the middle one again. That one seemed to interest her the most, so I said, “Rat.” The judge said, “No”.
The nice thing about the instinct test is that if your dog doesn’t get it right, you’re allowed to show her the the correct tube. Bess became very excited when she realized something was in there. The judge said, “Tell her she’s a good girl.” So I did.
I was a bundle of nerves for our novice run. The brusque judge only added to my anxiety. I stood in the starting box, insides quivering, hands fumbling to remove her leash and collar- dogs must run ‘naked’- to hand them off to the leash runner. The timer starts when your dog leaves the box. In retrospect, Bess was hilarious. I was just too tense at the time to appreciate her unbridled joy for this new game. She found the rat immediately. I cajoled her to tunnel, nope- too busy running around, sniffing, working the spectators. They adored her, wagging tail, nose snuffling audibly. “She sounds like a Harley!” someone called out at one point. Bess jumped the bales of hay, still sniffing. I ran around to the other side of the tunnel, bent over, and called her name. She came through it to me and I vaguely remember someone calling “Q!” (I hadn’t a clue as to what that meant.)
“Q” means to qualify. When all the dogs had run, the judge appeared with her clipboard to notify us of the results. I was stunned when I heard Bess’s name called. There was clapping and hooting. I was shaking as the judge handed me the two ribbons and grinning like an idiot. Our first Barn Hunt and not only did Bess qualify, she came in second place with a time of 1:23:85.
On the way home, Bess soundly slept, snoring softly and twitching occasionally as she dreamed. I drove on, manic grin plastered across my face still, heart full of love and gratitude for this dog and how she’s changed me.