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Posted by Jean McCord on June 3, 2011 at 9:22 AM

Once again, I have proven the (perhaps general) suspicion that I’m certifiable by, well, being certified.

On Memorial Day I fulfilled the final requirements to become a Certified Nose Work Instructor (CNWI) through the National Association of Canine Scent Work (NACSW). I actually started on this path in March 2010 when I attended an Introduction to Nose Work seminar given by two of the K9 Nose Work founders, Jill Marie O’Brien and Amy Herot.

I was hooked before the first break. This amuses me, because several months earlier when I’d first seen a brochure about the activity I thought - well, I have no interest in THAT! I was attending a Dogs of Course workshop during which host Dana Crevling announced that she was bringing the K9 Nose Work founders out to introduce this new dog sport to the east coast. Something about Dana’s description and some subsequent comments piqued my curiosity so I signed up.

And almost immediately became certifiable.

I jumped in with both feet, starting as both co-instructor and student (with my shy Tess) before the month was over. When Jill Marie and Amy came back in May to offer the Intro to Odor workshop, I was there with bells on to learn about this next step - even though it would be weeks before we first students introduced our own dogs to birch scent (the essential oil we use in level one NW).

Dana was a whirlwind of activity that spring, hosting K9 Nose Work workshops up and down the east coast. While they were at it, she and the founders put together the very first Nose Work Camp - to be held in Pennsylvania over the Labor Day Weekend with an optional 4th day for those who wanted to become instructors.

Needless to say, Tess and I were there, where we met third founder Ron Gaunt and many other generous and knowledgable CNWIs: Barbara Schwerdt from California, Jacy Kelley from Virginia, Gail McCarthy from the Massachusetts town that abuts my own.

And then there were the other campers - like-minded folks who loved their dogs as much as I love mine, and who had similarly developed a passion for the sport of nose work. I’ve been fortunate enough to see all these wonderful people on several occasions since, as we’ve journeyed together through the certification process. There was a NW workshop weekend held during a chilly December weekend in Maryland, and then days two through four of the required instructor’s workshops in New Jersey in March.

We all returned to NJ again over Memorial Day for days five through seven, again expertly guided by Amy and Ron with Jill Marie back in California keeping track of all of our fulfilled and still-needed requirements. We sat for our two hour certification exam on Monday morning as the Madison NJ Memorial Day parade marched to bagpipes and drums past the front window of the St. Hubert’s training center. When everyone was done, we exchanged exams and went through each question with Ron and Amy explaining the correct answers and listening with interest to our explanations of answers that deviated from the expected.

By the lunch break we knew - all had passed with the required 85% or better and about a dozen of us would be CNWIs by June 1st. I’m happy and proud to report that I, Carolyn Barney and Dana Crevling were all within that first group.

This has been an amazing journey for me, moving swiftly from disinterest to passion. It has changed me, and greatly improved life for Tess, who over the last year has made enormous improvement in confidence level and sense of personal security. I owe so much to so many for guiding me to and through this journey - Dana for hosting K9 Nose Work events in New England; Amy, Ron and Jill Marie for their patient coaching and incredible knowledge base; Carolyn for taking me on as both co-instructor and student and being (once again) friend and mentor throughout; Jacy, Barbara and Gail for continued help and support; students and fellow instructors-in-training for sharing their experiences and their dogs with the rest of us.

Tess searches the exterior area at a recent mock nose work trial

And, of course - the dogs. The dogs are always the best teachers of all. The dogs are why I began, why I got sucked in, why I love it, why I can’t wait for this year’s camp to begin so I can once again immerse myself in all they have to show me. When it comes to scent work, they will always be the experts and I will be the eager student.

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