In October 2012, Tigger and I competed in our first NW1 Trial. If you’ve read about Tigger’s first Nose Work class, or his Birch ORT, you know that he has some serious behavioral issues. I worked very hard to prepare Tigger to survive his very first competition. I was so proud that he somehow made it through the entire day. Earning placement ribbons in two searches, in addition to the NW1 Title, was a very happy surprise. I was completely astounded when they announced Tigger as the winner of the Harry Award!
In early 2014, I wrote an article about Tigger’s Harry Award, and I’ve reprinted it below. The article first appeared in the NACSW Newsletter. You can find it on the NACSW website (without the pictures you see here).
Tigger’s Harry Award inspired us to keep working, to help Tigger cope with the Trial environment. The skills he mastered have helped him succeed at numerous Trials, and enjoy a better quality of life as well.
What have Tigger and I done, since Tigger’s Harry Award? Tigger now loves going to Elite level Trials, where he gets to search, nap, make new human friends — and where he knows dogs will keep a safe distance. I still volunteer at every Trial I can. I am a Certified Nose Work Instructor, and share the joy of Nose Work with other dogs and their handlers.
The inspiring origin and meaning of the Harry Award are described on the NACSW website. In summary, “the Harry Award is given to the most outstanding rescue dog that demonstrates extraordinary ability and spirit in nose work at the NW1 level.”
Tigger came to me through Golden Gate Labrador Retriever Rescue. They had pulled him from a very over-crowded shelter in rural Texas. The Rescue flew him to San Francisco Airport, took him for a vet check, and drove him straight to our house. He was six months old.
At that age, he had some signs that trouble could be coming as he grew up, and sure enough, by the time he reached adulthood, he had developed several serious issues that made him hard to live with and hard to take out in public. He had grown into a very high- maintenance dog!
In the meantime, my husband’s “good” mellow Labrador, Bodie, was getting ignored as problem-dog Tigger needed so much attention. I looked around for a sport Bodie might enjoy, and found the very first Nose Work class offered in our area. When I spoke to the instructor, Pam Behrens, she encouraged me to sign up Tigger too. I was skeptical because despite all of our training, he had become much too unmanageable to take to other kinds of dog classes. But I signed up – I thought, if it doesn’t work out, I can just drop out.
Well, both Bodie and Tigger took to Nose Work instantly. Nose Work changed the course of Tigger’s life. It was the first activity we found for him that could tire him out, in a safe environment, and keep him in a healthy mental state. Because it’s the best way to keep him well-behaved, we practice Nose Work with both dogs several days a week. When the scent box comes out, the Labrador tails start wagging!
When other members of our original Nose Work class started competing, I decided to get Tigger ready. For Tigger, this meant learning how to be travel in the car over long distances, wait calmly for long periods for his turn despite noisy distractions, walk from the car without melting down at seeing other dogs, etc. While this is not so hard for most dogs, this was very difficult for Tigger, and took months of patient work and lots of cookies and calming massage. But it’s been worth it!
With lots of help, Tigger managed the drive, the parking lot, the wait, and other dogs, at his Birch ORT. By the time of his NW1 Trial, he had improved some more, although I still worried. But he managed and so did I.
The searches were the easy part! And they were so fun! When they announced the Harry Award, I couldn’t believe it was us! I was asked to say a few words about Tigger’s history, but I was too choked up to speak. When you have a dog who has difficulty just getting through a normal day, even the little victories mean so much. And the Harry Award is MAJOR! I will always treasure that moment, and remember that he’s been recognized as “most outstanding rescue dog that demonstrates extraordinary ability and spirit in nose work.” I am so proud of the Award, and of how far Tigger and I have come together.
Nose Work is by far the best thing that has ever happened to Tigger. Owning a difficult dog can be lonely and isolating; but the Nose Work community has been wonderfully supportive to me, and I don’t know what I’d do without my Nose Work friends.
So what do I do for K9 Nose Work? I volunteer at every Trial I can, and I love to see all the happy dogs sniffing away. I pester every dog-owner I meet to give their dogs the gift of Nosework. I assist Pam Behrens with her beginning Nose Work classes. In the future, I plan to volunteer for the local Nosework Shelter Project, so I can share the benefits of Nose Work with the dogs that need it the most.
And of course, Tigger and I will continue to play Nose Work games every chance we get. Just last week, Tigger participated in his first NW2 Trial. The day had its challenges for him, but the searches were pure joy! He earned his NW2 Title on his first try, and won third place overall! Good boy!
I am so incredibly grateful to the founders of K9 Nose Work for bringing this wonderful sport to pet dogs everywhere. It brings so much joy to any dog; and so much peace, confidence, healing, and life skills, to dogs with special needs. I am incredibly grateful for Tigger’s Harry Award, which reminds me that my dog has extraordinary ability and spirit for Nose Work, and keeps me going when progress seems slow.
Original Article: Copyright Linda Fletcher, 2014
New Introduction: Copyright Linda Fletcher, 2017
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