Rather than wax philosophical about being on the water and trailing orcas for more than 11 hours in two days, I think I'll focus on why Tucker is so "amazing."
A very special working relationship has been cultivated with Tucker over the past few years. His innate olfactory abilities have been honed to detect orca fecal matter - or scat - and to "direct" the people working with him to the floating poop.
From the recovered samples, scientists can measure hormone levels, assess health indicators, identify toxins and other very useful data in the fight to save Southern Resident Killer Whales. What is truly amazing is that this seemingly strange methodology is the least invasive way to obtain the whale scat and analyze their contents. From the extrapolated data researchers can also accurately determine age, sexual maturity and diet.
"Tuck," as he is known in close circles, is the only dog in the world trained to hunt down orca scat. He will also alert and direct the scientists to find other useful orca bodily fluids, such as whale blow.
For our part, Shari and I tried to remain "flies on the wall." We really just wanted to film Tucker working and get a feel for the process. We actually got the majority of the footage we wanted in the first three hours of the first day.
The thing is; Tucker works on the water. With the exception of time to drink water, play with his ball as a reward for finding scat and rest in his on-board kennel, he - and his big twitching nose - remain on the job. It wasn't hard to film him doing what he does.
I had wondered about his curiosity about the orcas. Sometimes, the whales made close passes (though the method of "trailing" the orcas was predominantly parallel and/or behind them as they traveled for obvious, strategic reasons). I wasn't sure if he would watch them swim by or when they breached. Maybe even wag his tail at them. In reality, the 10-year-old working dog maintained his focus, nose to the grindstone...pardon the pun.
Sniffing poop, saving whales.