Monday, October 1, 2012

ECS Workshop!!

What a way to spend three days.

Scott talks about manhole covers....
Never in a million years would I have anticipated learning so much about watersheds, storm drains and sewage lines!  It was all part of an Environmental Canine Services workshop, conducted by Scott R., from Michigan. 

We spent Friday morning in Howarth Park, working eight dogs through various nose-work exercises...including walking as a group down noisy traffic-filled streets and across various wide intersections.  Riff was great, walking with the group.  Neither traffic nor dogs bothered him at all.  He was also very good at the nosework.  Sweet Riffle Goombah...!    By Friday afternoon we were sitting in a warehouse in Roseland, after touring the neighborhood "outfalls" and reviewing key points regarding water management.  We held "mock interviews" with potential "clients"...and discussed exactly what it takes to get a dog/handler certified for the work.  The requirements confirmed - at least in my mind - that it takes quite a while to train for this kind of service. 

ECS is looking forward to certifying and hiring at least some us as part-time employees by next spring/summer.  They are working on getting contracts in three different California locations....all southern California beaches.  And they're looking for more.  The ECS company believes the west is going to be a great area for expansion in the years to come.  They will pay travel and lodging expenses, in addition to a percent of their contracted hourly price.  I wish I'd asked "What percent?" but for some strange reason, I didn't think of it.  Scott presented a number of "case studies from the field" - from his experiences in Michigan, Maine and California.  Scott is incredibly knowledgable, and super it seems like a pretty cool project, at this point. 

PowerPoint.  Takes me back to "corporate" / "collegiate" days...
We spent Saturday morning in the biology lab at Napa Valley College...humans taking notes, dogs resting in crates.  Dustin and I stayed with the dogs during the lunch break.  Riff enjoyed getting out for some playtime.  It was a great opportunity to explore all the cool stuff on display in the lab, too. 

Dustin and friend

After lunch we finally went out and about with our dogs.  Scott set up a variety of nose-work exercises on the campus, and I'm happy to report that Riff was very successful with all of them.  Yay!  It was an amazingly long day, though.  And we had homework!  Wowsers.  Thankfully, the homework was fun (a GoogleEarth project). 

By Sunday morning I was TIRED.  Perhaps I shouldn't have gone to that theatre party on Friday night.  Perhaps I shouldn't have spent so long trying to explore GoogleEarth on Saturday night.

We didn't have far to drive, though.  We met at a local high school, where all the dogs went through "bucket sample" training exercises in the parking lot.  Scott kept saying "really good" when Riff had his turn, so I felt proud.  Riffle rocks!  After a pizza lunch, the group toured a Windsor neighborhood, during which handlers actually peered down manholes, identifying and counting pipes - both storm drains and sanitation lines.  I'll never look at any neighborhood the same as I did before, after that little tour. 


All of the dogs had a chance to look down a storm drain, too.  Some of them were completely unafraid. 
Brave Molly at the storm drain manhole.
A couple of the dogs were cautious when they first approached it.  Riff seemed a bit worried...but only for about 15 seconds.  After that, he was - "Hey, yeah!  Whatever you want!  I'm good!"  Even when Scott started tapping a sledge hammer on a nearby grate, causing the sound to come up through the storm drain...Riff wasn't bothered.  He still did his nose-work exercise, and alerted when it was positive.  Each of the dogs had multiple turns approaching the manhole, and nearly all of them got used to it.  By the time the "manhole session" ended, Riff didn't even mind when Scott slammed the hammer harder on the grate, with lots of noise echoing up the storm drain.  Good boy!

Back home Sunday evening, I was ready for bed EARLY.  Where did all my energy go?  I used to do a lot more than this and still be able to function.  Somehow, not this weekend. 

Riff, on the other hand, wished he could run a few agility courses....just to top off the weekend! 


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