Last Sunday the family went up to Werrington with George (Ch Yarrowfell Intaglio CD) [now CDX TDX ET] for the Endurance Test. Perhaps the readers might like to know a little about the day, it being the first to be held in NSW.
6.30 a.m. at Werrington Park near Penrith. Cold even for we hardy Southern Tablelands souls. Jane and I had driven up from Bungendore the night before and stayed with Tim who now lives in Sydney. After the months of training George for the Endurance Test we didn't want to miss out by being late.
During training we started by running him, his Mum Lilac (Ch Yarrowfell Delovely) and his Grandmother Branston (Ch Vickma Anthea) about six kilometres around our local unmade roads. They all thought it was a great lark. Sniffing at the hedgerows; George marking most of the trees at the edge of the road (where do they get it all from?). They must have run twice the distance shown on the odometer by the time we finished. Even at that stage it was obvious that arriving was not important, it was the running that they enjoyed. On the days when I had other things on and couldn't take them out, they mooched around all day, hanging around the ute in the carport determined not to be left behind in case I changed my mind. (I hasten to add, the dogs did the running while I drove the ute!)
The few cars we met courteously slowed down while I pulled to the side of the road and called the dogs to sit at the side of the ute until the car had passed. In the end they were carrying out this manoeuvre almost automatically when they realised a car was coming. Many people stopped, admired the dogs, asked what we were doing, and seemed genuinely interested. The local postie, whom we met many times, appeared to think we were a little mad though.
I gradually increased the distance when I thought they were ready. The state of their pads and how stiff they were the next day being good indicators. As the actual Test is in three sections (6 km, 8km and 6 km) I always gave them a break in the middle of each run. Initially I insisted they rest in the car, but eventually gave up and took them down to the river for a swim instead. As the distance increased I made Branston stay in the car with me after the first break. I think six or eight kilometres is quite sufficient for a twelve year old. She didn't agree with me but I didn't budge, putting up with the wittering from the back seat as we drove along.
I'd discussed the training program with other more knowledgeable dog people in the area and, mindful of dire prophecies of pulled tendons, torn muscles, bleeding pads and ruined dogs, spent a few minutes after each training session going over them carefully. I massaged their leg muscles with Penetrine and rubbed Animol into their pads to keep them supple. Animol is a cream I use on the teats of the house cow but it seemed to work. The superficial pad damage they get from running on unmade roads never became a real problem. After the longer sessions I'd give them a hot bath to relax the muscles. That they didn't appreciate.
By the time for the Test arrived they were both running 20 to 25km one day, 6km the next and say 10km the next and then back to 20/25km again. I know it may be difficult to believe, but they never showed any signs if distress, stopping panting within two or three minutes of coming into a rest period. Actually they would arrive home and immediately jump into the dam and chase a few ducks away! Unfortunately Lilac, being eight years and two days old on the day of the Test, was too old to compete otherwise I could see no reason why she would not have qualified as well. Tim came home a couple of times during the training to get used to riding a bike while George ran at his side on the two meter lead. Fortunately everything went well. Eventually the dog appeared to watch the front wheel to keep his position while going around corners.
Forty dogs and their handlers, with strappers in attendance appeared on the day of the test. There appeared to be almost an equal number of helpers as well, for what with a pacer and a judge for each group of twenty entrants, stewards all around the course (on a radio net to assist with control), one vet for each two dogs, marshalling stewards, administrators, and even a Nursing Sister, there was a cast of thousands. Werrington Park is a very pleasant area. Well treed and flat with a creek running through the middle and criss-crossed with paths, the organisers had laid out a 1.5 kilometre course that provided a variety of surfaces from short grass, to bitumen with some gravel. It even had a little bridge to add variety. Most of the entrants were accompanying their dogs on bicycle but some jogged, keeping up the regulation 10 kilometres per hour. Only two fell by the way side, handlers I mean, the dogs took it in their stride. One lady appeared to hurt her knee, while another on a bike, had a difference of opinion with a wooden post and by the time she had sorted herself out decided she was too far behind to catch up with the rest of her group.
After the Marshals had got the Entrants sorted out, which took a little time for it was all new to most, the dogs were given the first of the veterinary checks. Temperature, heart beat, pads and the physical fitness of the dogs were assessed and recorded. This was repeated between each road section and again at the end. It was the only time that George's tail stopped wagging during the whole morning. I think it was the indignity of having his temperature taken in public that was the main problem. Then we all moved across to watch the next phase, a short obedience test. This was repeated at the end of the Test, I understand to judge that the dogs were still willing participants. With the obedience test out of the way, the Entrants were briefed by the Judges on what to do in an emergency, like the dog wishing to attend to the call of nature, the requirement to keep position in the Group and some pithy advice about settling down to a steady pace. Then it was, line up, off and away!
After all the excitement, most of the pit staff, headed to the refreshment stall for breakfast, idly munching bacon and egg rolls while watching the line dogs and handlers circle in and out of the trees with ballet like precision. Many were the comment of how lucky the handlers were, to be riding or jogging with their dogs on such a beautiful morning, while we poor things had to stand by and sup cups of hot tea. There was a brief flurry of activity when each Group was called in for the vet check at the end of each phase but other than that it was back to more cups of tea.
At the end of the road phase everybody gave them a big cheer as they wheeled into the car park for the last time. Congratulations were given to one and all, while the handlers forgot their sore bottoms for a little while to bask in the reflected glory of their dogs. I especially remember a little Jack Russell Terrier that had run all the way to keep up with the larger dogs. He was just as bouncy and full of life as when he started! I wish I had that constitution.
All in all, a most enjoyable and successful day. I cannot praise sufficiently all those people who had obviously worked so hard behind the scenes to provide George and Tim, and indeed all the other dogs and owners, a marvellous opportunity to do some performance testing on our breeding in such well-controlled conditions. I certainly learned more about what those long unused words in our Breed Standard mean while watching my dogs in their training than I had ever learned from the Show Ring. When they repeat the Test, try it for yourself, I'm sure you'll find out what I mean.
Neil Hurst, July 1994
Published in "News Spots", the Newsletter of the Dalmatian Club Inc, August 1994
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