While having Jedi's retirement discussion was hard this past week because we were not prepared for it but I was really unprepared to hear the "r" word mentioned for Tay. It is hard when we have fun doing this game with our dogs and yet they are doing much more physical work than we are out there.
To have to face the decision to retire a very high energy 4 year old dog who loves agility is something I have not had to do. Amigo's early retirement decision was not so hard because he really didn't seem to like agility (maybe because it always hurt him to do it). I have lost dogs at young ages so I am grateful that Tay is still here with me. I love her spirit - she (and Feisty) are always the first ones to volunteer to go with me. She loves doing things with me, she has boundless energy and she loves learning new things. While she has not been the most consistent agility dog, she is always fun to run because she is happy to be doing something with me.
While I love competitive agility, realistically I know it is not something I will do the rest of my life. I am pretty sure I will always have animals in my life. I don't know what is in store for Tay and me but I will have to find a way to make time for whatever it is. I do know it won't involve things that require lots of stays and self-control :)
Tay has had off and on front end lameness since the end of January. I thought she had pulled a muscle at the seminar. But after 10 days of massage and chiropractic she was still on and off lame on the left and right legs. I decided to take her for x-rays. Having learned my lesson from Spring that this could mean a broken leg, I wanted to be sure that was not the case. I also had her tested for the tick diseases. I was not at all prepared for the findings that showed she is in the early stages of arthritis on both elbows and has irritated lungs (she is asymptomatic). The elbows are due to wear and tear and dogs with straight fronts are very susceptible to this. I try to be careful about when I start jumping my dogs and where I jump them but some dogs are just more vulnerable to developing this condition.
I went to a seminar the day before the trial and I ran all of the dogs there. I was concerned with the surface because it seemed harder and slipperier than I expected. All of my dogs had sore muscles when they had massages at the trial the next day. My dogs usually are not sore unless they injure themselves in some way. So please, please, please think very carefully about where and when you run your dogs in agility. The softness of the surface is just as, if not, more important than the degree of slipperiness. I would definitely not have run an older dog on that surface. You just never know when your dog might have a condition that is going to be aggravated by running on hard surfaces and you never know what injury you could cause by running on that kind of surface. Agility is an athletic sport and the risk of injury is ALWAYS there. I try to stack the deck in my favor to minimize injury as much as possible. I'm now even more adamant than ever that I won't knowingly run my dogs on a hard surface. Sometimes even at outdoor trials the ground can be as hard as concrete.
I guess I have another adventure ahead of me and more things to learn. I just wish I knew what it was I had to learn and if the lessons could be easier...