A few days ago, I distributed flyers in my neighborhood advertising for dog training assistants, and within a few hours, got a phone call from a young woman named Genny, a high school student planning on animal studies when she goes to college.
A few days later, another young woman named Annette called, with a friend, Liza, also interested in participating.
Just like that, Laddie and I no longer needed to train alone every day. All three girls are juniors in high school and live within half a block of me. I don't know how I'd have found them without the flyers.
Some days only one or two are available, sometimes we have all three and can actually run Field Trial-scale triples with real human throwers. I believe this will be an improvement in our training arrangements.
On top of that, about the same time, I also located new training grounds, 15-20 mins from home. Like many of the best local places I've found for training, this location is a construction site, where someday hundreds of houses will be built. Not long ago, it was private farm land and woods, not available or useful for field training. Now it's cleared, cross-crossed with dirt roads and drainage ditches, and covered with a variety of surfaces including bare ground, grass, strips of high cover, and rocks filling some of the ditches. The grounds are naturally somewhat hilly, and the bulldozers have helped us out even further, creating mounds, ridges, and depressions with steep embankments. The place is so big that we have many potential lines for marks and blinds. No one is around when we train in late afternoon, county leash laws do not apply because we're on private property, and the gun stations I set up are far enough from nearby housing that, at least so far, our pistol fire has drawn minimal attention and no complaints.
Training with inexperienced assistants on a construction site with no water doesn't put us on an even footing with many of the teams we compete against, who routinely train with field trial groups on actual field trial properties. I say this not so much to complain, but to help any reader learning the sport understand how important it is to train with a group whenever possible. That said, I think having human throwers is still a big step up from training alone, and I'm grateful to have found new training grounds so close to home.
Now we'll have to see whether it all starts to translate into more success in competition.