Marc & Anax Part 5: Will Dark Ever Pass Certification?
“Whittaker, you need to spend less time with Anax. If you want to pass certification next month, then you better spend some overtime with Dark. We need you to pass certification. We can’t use you or Dark with you guys not being certified. We’re getting hammered with missions to support. ”
Specialist Marc Whitaker didn’t want to spend more time with Military Working Dog Dark though. He wanted to spend his time with his best friend, Military Working Dog Anax. The dog that took a bullet for Marc in Afghanistan. The dog that lost a leg for him.
The dog Marc was awaiting for the adoption paperwork to process so he could take him home to Texas.
Marc knew better than to argue with the sergeant. He also knew the sergeant was right. He needed to do a better job of working with Dark. It wasn’t Dark’s fault that he wasn’t Anax. Plus his fellow handlers needed Marc to pull his weight.
He walked swiftly down the hall and made a quick left and proceeded down the kennel run hoping he was undetected. He was relieved not to hear Anax bark. Marc looked down at the long black-haired dog and smiled. Dark whined lightly and brushed the door softy with his paw that was far too large for his small body.
Marc felt a sharp pain shoot through his knee cap as he lowered himself to look into Dark’s eyes. Dark pressed his charcoaled snout through the metal chain link fence. Marc peered into the sauce red black eyes of his new dog and smiled. He rubbed Dark’s wet nose.
“We can do this, Darky. I’ll teach you everything you need to know, you silly puppy.”
That was exactly what Marc did. He committed everything he was capable of giving to building that critical handler/ dog bond and training Dark. They spent countless hours training and playing together. He saw rapid improvement in Dark’s narcotic-detection ability. More importantly he saw a huge rise in Dark’s detection confidence and this confidence ran up the leash to Marc. They were gelling as a team.
But he still worried.
Marc stressed the entire three-hour ride to his certification site at Baumholder, Germany. He worried about all the important things he needed to remember for certification.
The biggest concern he had with Dark was that Dark had a tendency to false sit.
A false sit means the dog isn’t sitting at the training aide. Dark’s other issue was fringing. Fringing is when a MWD sits when he hits just the initial odor cone. He is not at source of the odor but sits at a distance away.
Marc thought about the actions he needed to take if the certification official said “not at source” or “reverse” and so forth. He would have to guide Dark into the source. Dark would have to listen.
A Narcotics Dog team must certify at 90%, so that means you can have four mistakes-two misses and two false hits. Any additional mistakes and they would fail certification. This is exactly what faced Marc and Anax on the last day of certification.
“Whittaker, you have one more chance at the warehouse trial. Pass this trial and you certify,” said the certifying official.
Marc nodded. It didn’t have to be said. Marc knew what would happen if they failed.
Why couldn’t Dark to be just like Anax and have that HIGH HIGH drive to work and find the odor. High-drive working dogs have a very high drive for odor. This means that they have a really, really high drive for their reward. That is when the prey drive kicks in. That prey drives them to be an effective working dog. Dark was Marc’s third dog and he had never had a dog without a high prey drive.
Marc pulled Dark’s face to his and said, “This is important, Dark. We need this one. I need you to work hard, pal. Can you do this?”
Dark slobbered his slimy pink tongue on Marc’s stress-creased face. That wasn’t the response he had wanted. Anax would have barked in compliance. Anax would have practically pulled Marc’s shoulder out of place pulling at the leash to get working.
“Seek,” Marc commanded.
Dark strolled past Marc, tail wagging widely as if he were exploring the warehouse instead of searching it. Marc’s heart pounded and he pulled his entire lower lip into his mouth. He already knew they were through.
The drive back to Heidleberg seemed to take forever. Marc couldn’t even look at Dark.
Head down, feet shuffling Marc walked into his kennel master’s office to face the music.
“Whittaker, I am telling you this one last time. Build an even strong rapport with Dark. You are to limit your time with Anax and spend more time with Dark. You guys will go back to certification next month. “
Marc’s jaw nearly fell to the floor as his sergeant stormed out of the office.
First he couldn’t get this cherry-ass puppy Dark righted and now he had to limit his time with his son Anax? His world was quickly spinning into a world he had never known.
Can Marc fix MWD Dark?
Can they pass certification and work as a team?
Should Marc ignore his sergeant’s order to stop spending so much time with Anax?
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