The Story of the VST Track of
CT Sagebrush Molly Brown,

–as posted by Alicia Keegan to the tracking list, December 2000–



Subject: Re-. New VST

You'll all have to put up with my bragging a little–or a lot. I'm still floating in the stratosphere over Molly's VST pass. It wasn't clean, it wasn't pretty, it wasn't fun, it certainly wasn't the best tracking she's ever done, but she hung in there for me, and managed to get through it. Molly arrived at this test as the second alternate, and although it was pretty certain that the first alternate would get to run, I didn't know until almost draw time that Molly had a chance. She drew the third track. It took her 2 hours and 3 minutes according to the judges' charts. The track was 3 hours and 48 minutes old when she started, and as judge Carole Blanz later commented, it was nearly 6 hours old when we finished.

Molly after her successful VST track with Judge Carole Blanz, Alicia Keegan, Judge Barbara Adcock, AKC Rep Betty Winthers

Molly's start was clean and true, she worked a few yards off the first leg, choosing to work the edge where the grass met a paved drive. This put her in a good position to make the first turn, left onto the asphalt, although she spent a little time exploring possible alternatives. The second leg paralleled the back side of the gymnasium. Fifty yards down that leg, she started searching for an article, and found the plastic lid of a CD case without problem. She restarted very well, although I had to stop her when a car came driving by. Then she continued on until she reached the next turn–her "moment of truth" turn. After a little exploring a few yards ahead, she made the right turn on the asphalt without difficulty and continued down that leg until she reached the grass at the edge of the soccer field.

That's when the trouble began. (One thing I've learned in six years of tracking Shelties is that what the judges think will be difficult has NOTHING to do with what the dog finds difficult.) She completely lost the scent at the edge of the grass, circled endlessly on the grass, circled back to where the first article had been, and re-executed the non-vegetated turn at least twice. (One person in the gallery asked, "Does she get extra credit if she does it more than once?") She was getting visibly discouraged when she finally caught the scent, put her head down and headed off across the grass to the left. It was a long leg, and she was paralleling the track downwind. When she broke off and started circling, I though perhaps there was another article, but she was simply trying to get back on the actual track. Which she did, and continued a little further, until she came to a dirt road in what looked like an old construction area. Molly spent an unbelievably long time exploring the old pallets and other junk, that had obviously collected scent, then she went up onto an old berm beyond the junk, and spent some time exploring a ditch that ran lengthwise along the top of the berm. At one point, while up on the berm, she caught the scent of the track down below to the left, but when she got down to the gravel drive at the bottom, she couldn't find it. Once again, she started getting discouraged, but when I asked her to track she started circling again. After an eternity or so, she worked a little farther down the dirt road, then came back along a chain link fence on the far side of the road, and followed the fence up along the short gravel drive below the berm. She had searched this before and found nothing. But this time, following the edge of the fence, she went just far enough, caught the scent on the asphalt parking area at the end of the gravel, and took off again.

Down she went through an asphalt alley, with the fence on the left and a building on the right, and me watching paranoidly for articles. When we came to the end of the alley, a broad sidewalk went across our path of travel, with a large lawn beyond. She indicated loss of track, and managed to make the left hand turn with a lot of circling, but no particular problem. Thirty yards down the leg, circling the whole time, she started pawing at a flattened tin can in the grass–her second article.

Molly and Alicia
at the end of Molly's successful VST track.

I had trouble getting her to start again at that point. She was very tired, and clearly thought she had been tracking long enough (if the truth be known, so did I). But she started searching again, and continued straight ahead until she entered a courtyard formed by a cluster of buildings. There we encountered a couple of young boys practicing skateboard jumping maneuvers off to our right. She showed interest in that direction, but was reluctant to go near the rather loud skateboards. So she went forward a little more and started working around them. To my relief, the judges pointed out to the kids that skateboarding was not permitted on the campus, and the boys left the area. Molly continued to work the whole time, but, unknown to me she was now off the track. So she had to search the whole courtyard complex. There were about six ways to get out, and all of them (except the way we came in) were roofed breezeways. By this time, both of us were exhausted. She was searching at a slow walk. "Please, Molly, just a little bit longer," I kept begging. She searched every inch of the courtyard and every exit several times. She stopped to visit three workmen who were taking a break, and asked what she was doing. I explained and then we went back to work. The men about five minutes later took their pickup truck, and left through one of the breezeways. Molly searched the area where the pickup had been, and then went out in that direction to search an small sidewalk-edged grassy area sandwiched between two buildings. There we ran into judge Barbara Alcock. It is rarely a good sign when the judges have to split up to keep the dog in view. But after checking out Barbara, whom she knows, Molly worked her way back along the edge of the building to return to the big courtyard. I noted with some amusement that by this time the gallery had crowded up almost on top of the judges. I am told that our tracklayer was a complete wreck.

At long last, when her little nose was completely worn out and I thought she would never make it, she went back to one breezeway that she had investigated before. This time, she caught the scent, and started pulling. When she came out of the breezeway, she made a hard left and searched a long narrow strip of grass. Nothing there. But she clearly had the scent at this time. Then she turned around and searched in the opposite direction, into a dead end, where the building entrance was recessed. Nothing there. Then she went straight out down a sidewalk adjacent to a parking lot. When I looked forward, I could see across the parking lot all the tracking people who hadn't followed her track lined up in front of the cars. When I looked behind me, the breezeway was nearly blocked by all the people who had followed her track for 2 hours. All I could think was, "I hope this is the end, because if the track turns onto the asphalt at this point, we're dead." Suddenly Molly swung hard right around one of the bushes that edged the building. I had to stop her and untangle her line which was wrapped around the bush. But she knew what she was doing. She backtracked a few yards, and there on the sidewalk, where we had both overlooked it the first time, was the most beautiful square of leather in the whole world. I knew we had made it even before she started pawing at it.

I was crying. Molly was extremely pleased with herself. I found myself hugging people I'd never met before. This was the first VST test that either of us had run, and she is the first Sheltie ever to earn the VST. I knew when we went into this track that she wasn't tracking as well as she was last spring, but I thought we had as good a chance as anyone. She fulfilled my every expectation, and more. I have never asked a dog to work this hard for such a long unbroken stretch of time, and I hope I never have to again. Being the truly unsinkable Molly Brown, she was willing, even though tired and discouraged, to give me everything she could. Fortunately, it was enough. I would have been just as proud of her even if she hadn't passed.

Alicia Keegan
and the tracking Sagebrush Shelties:
Raven, TDX, PT, OA, HRD-IIs
Kerry, HCT
and in our memory, Sagebrush Little Britches, UD, TDX

The successful VST track of
 CT Sagebrush Molly Brown, VCD2 UD HS AX OAJ, HTD-IIs, HRD-IIIs


Back To Top Of Page