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We had a choice of leaving Århus already at 8.02 or not until 12.17. Prior to the test Mr Schwartz had informed me that Berlin was suffering from a heat wave and that the Berlin-Tegel area where the test was to take place was teeming with wild boar. So in order to get a good long night for Milloup to relax and recharge his batteries before the tracking test the next day I chose the early departure.
As wild boar are not to be found in Denmark we had not - as had been suggested - been able to prepare ourselves for the meeting with this type of game. But the final practice 2 weeks prior to the test had run above all expectations. Milloup had worked a 1000 meter 72 hours old trail in just below one hour and without putting a foot wrong, so it was as good as could be.
|In Denmark the weather was mixed, but the further south we came the hotter it became. At 13.19 the train rolled into the Hamburger Hauptbahnhof, and we set out for a walk in the teeming maelstroem that was Hamburg in order to give Milloup the opportunity to leave his mark before travelling on towards Berlin. Gasping with heat we returned to the station and fount the correct platform. Finding the correct waggon, too, turned out to be more of a problem.|
| Finally, I discovered that we were going to travel in the last waggon, the one furthest away from the stairs, so we hurried along to get the right waggon - that had a totally different number from the one on my ticket - before the train left.
Milloup was left in his box while I scurried the waggon for our seat. Of course this turned out to be at the other end of the waggon, so we had to fight our way through a meat loaf of other travellers and over and around suitcases and bags. In our compartment 4 of the 6 seats had already been taken up by ladies in their 40'ies, but the two window seats were still free. However, once Milloup's box had been placed on the floor, my backpack on one empty seat, and I myself on the other there was no more room left in that compartment.
Fortunately, our travel companions were definitely fond of dogs. They were very thrilled by "der kleine Waldi" - a German nickname for dachshunds, I've since discovered. The thrill was absolutely reciprocal - especilally when the ladies started unpacking their lunch - and afterwards Milloup squeezed himself into the slot between our backpack and the lady sitting next to it. I offered to remove him, but she didn't see any reason why.
Halfways between Hamburg and Berlin the train drove through a hefty thunder shower, but when we reached Berlin-Spandau at 16.11, the sun was again out in full force and it was very hot. I hardly recognized the station. When we left Berlin through that station in August of 1998 it was one big construction site; everywhere was raw concrete, hardly a sign to be seen, the platforms were uncovered, and there were no shops whatsoever inside the station. Now, 10 months later, we stepped from the train onto a covered platform beautifully tessellated with natural stone. But Mr. Schwartz was there all right, so it had to be the right place. In the hall underneath the platforms there were now shops in plenty, and Mr Schwartz and Milloup kept each other company while I raided a newsagent for the most recent German internet magazines.
On the way to the car Milloup had the opportunity of lifting his leg a couple of times, and then we set out for Schönwalde. As we drove Mr Schwartz told me what he had arranged for us regarding the tracking test the next day. As it turned out, we were to get up very early, as the test was to start at 8 o'clock, and we, the competitors, had to be there at half past 7. We would be picked up at about half past 6 by Mr Ruttkowski, who was also to take part in the test with his wirehaired dachshund.
When we reached Mrs Wenzel's house in Ackerstraße Mr Schwartz immediately left again to go home and pack his car in preparation for the next day. Our group, Berlin X, was responsible for the provisioning at the tracking test, and this meant loads of preparations for the head of the group. Milloup celebrated an enthusiastic reunion with the garden, that had already been added to the collection of "his" gardens. He scurried around to see if everything was as he had left it. Mrs Wenzel went to get the key and I suggested we settle the bill immediately, so that I didn't have to carry too much cash around with me.
|As soon as I had unpacked our things we hurried out to take a walk and get rid of the stiffness from travelling. Our convenient field right outside the garden hadn't been harvested yet, so we had to make a detour around the new semis at the entrace to Ackerstraße in order to get to the dirt track at the other side of the field.|
|Despite the heat Milloup tore along excitedly and poked his nose into anything remotely interesting. On both sides of the dirt track the corn stood tall, and suddenly a deer sprang across the dirt track and disappeared into the field. It all went so fast that we didn't have time to react, but when we reached the spot, Milloup clearly indicated that there was a new and interesting smell about. Besides, it was possible to see where the deer had entered the field.|
|We continued along the track, but when we ended up on a field we turned around and went back to have som supper. At this time of the day it was nice and shady outside our appartment, so I sat down to study my new magazines while Milloup threw himself on the coolness of the lawn in order to relax. Later on we settled in the sofa and let the TV take over the entertainment, while Milloup snoozed quietly with his head on my thigh. Already at ten o'clock, however, we were off to bed - seeing that we had an early start in the morning.|
I had wondered a little, when Mr Schwartz told me we would be picked up at half past six already, because I imagined that the tracking test was to take place in the part of Berlin-Tegel adjacent to the road to Schönwalde - a maximum of 15 minutes' driving from our abode. However, that was not the case, we were going to another part of the wood. And on Friday night Mr Ruttkowski had even called to say that we would be leaving at 6 already.. I wondered: Surely the Tegel area couldn't be that big?
But anyway, it was only 5 when the alarm went and we tumbled out of bed and went outside to see what the weather was like. Outside the fog lay thick and woolly. Outside the garden fence it stood like a white wall, and the trees in the neighbouring garden looked like somewhat darker ghosts hiding in all the whiteness. I silently crossed my fingers and hoped that Milloup wouldn't feel inclined to bark at the bushes hovering in the fog - something he is entirely capable of doing, and this wouldn't be such a good idea at 5 o'clock on a Saturday morning.
A few minutes before 6 we stepped outside the garden gate and found Mr Ruttkowski already waiting for us. Milloup was put into his travelling box so that he shouldn't pick a fight with Unkas, Mr Ruttkowski's wirehaired dachshund, who was sitting in the back of the car. And then we set out on a drive that turned out to be far longer than I had imagined even in my most fertile imagination. First we drove North, far into the former DDR. Then East and finally we took a motorway South through the Tegel area. This detour was necessary because there are very few roads going West-East through the area.
|When we reached the rendezvous in the woods - Konradshöher Str., second parking lot on the left - the place was already bustling with activity. Several cars were parked on the parking lot, and a huge banner had been hung from a couple of poles. Furthermore, a trestle table had been set up and members of our own group, Berlin X, were ready to fulfil their duties as provisioners, selling coffee, tee and sundry foods ranging from sandwiches to the most delicious-looking of cakes.|
|Unfortunately, there's nothing like nervousness before a tracking test to deprive me entirely of my appetite, so I wasn't buying for the time being. We were told that we could walk freely on this side of the asphalt road, the trails were on the other side. So Milloup and I joined a lady with her two longhairs for a walk down the forest road. However, the walk was not a long one, as we must be back at the parking lot at 8 sharp.
By and by the atmosphere grew denser. The judges had arrived, and the tracking test was opened by a group of hornblowers. Then we had to draw lots in order to decide the starting order, and this was done by putting 4 identical little porcelain vases with hunting motifs on them on the bonnet of a car. Under the bottom of each vase there was a number which was the starting number - and the little vases we could keep as souvenir. We drew lots according to our numbers in the catalogue and that meant I had to draw third. At that stage the choise was either to go first or go last, and to my heartfelt relief I drew number 1. Our wait would be the briefest possible.
I hurried to Mr Ruttkowski's car and started pulling things out of my backpack and throwing them into my little bag - tracking line, bag of goodies, water bottle and bowl were all thrown in, and a single can of coke also found its way into the bag. And then we galopped after the group of judges, who were already on their way along the street to the next parking lot whence we were to cross the street in order to get to the trail. The trail maker disappeared to put out the piece of game, and once he was gone I opened my can of coke. However, I only managed to get one sip before the trail maker was back - the moment of truth had arrived. One of the ladies in the group of judges - 2 ladies and 3 gentlemen - offered to hold my coke, and we followed the trail maker.
At the other side of the street I looked around and discovered that the area looked like a very downtrodden version of a Danish beech forest. Responsible for the downtrodden look were the multitudes of wild boar. The beginning of the trail and the flight direction were pointed out to us, and Milloup immediately set to work. Shortly after take-off it occurred to me that Milloup was probably not exactly on the trail. It felt as if he was getting closer and closer to the road instead of walking parallel to it. His work tempo was not the most impressive, either, in fact he was walking very slowly.
Only once before have I seen Milloup work so badly at a tracking test. That was in June 1997, and the conditions were similar to the ones here - in the middle of a heat wave. Back then the result of our efforts after 1½ hours on the trail was a third prize, and I still hoped that with a bit of luck we could still make it through the trail and save our reputation. Finally, we reached the first turn where extra blood had been spread. Here we could see that the ants had been there first - there was really no blood to be seen.
And after the turn things went from bad to worse. Milloup wended his way forward in circles and zigzags with me in tow. We were brought back to the trail and were given the direction. Slowly we progressed once more, but there were many other interesting smells to be investigated on the way, so we were still crisscrossing. And then Milloup walked right through the next turn and down a slope. At that stage I was just about ready to go home and feel ashamed on behalf of my dog. We were again given directions by the judge, but I misunderstood and almost pulled Milloup off the trail when he finally took it up (thereby giving myself something to be ashamed of, too..).
Updated on 12-8-03