Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Agility Decisions


Warning. This is long. And mostly I am arguing with myself.

Do you think that there is such a thing as PTSD in Agility? Really. I think I have it. I still love teaching agility, I still like watching agility, and I still love learning about it. But the thought of doing it with my dogs makes me uncomfortable and stressed out. I am so worried about hurting them that I can hardly stand it.

I think there is such a thing as being too aware. A case of knowing too much. It has been pointed out to me on more than one occasion, but I am like a nazi when it comes to my dogs movement. I am watching all the time. By watching all the time I make it worse. Maybe I am even seeing things that don't exist. lol. Because I think about it all the time. In my defense there are definite problems with the dogs. Pixel's limp is not imagined. And Brit's hip and leg is not quite right.

For example Pixel hasn't done agility for a long time. We still walk, and exercise, and train other fun things (like tricks, and obedience-minus the heeling.) Sunday I took her to the barn with me to watch a seminar. We did a few recalls, some bits of sit/down/stand, nothing too fancy. That night she limped around my house for a good ten minutes. I would have videod except my house is a mess. Front left shoulder- again/still. Frustrating. Scary. And sad.  The dog CLEARLY can't even stay sound with real life activities so should not be doing agility. As I said before the risk terrifies me. I can't do it. I lost one dog young to a back problem. I would be absolutely devastated if it happened again... (and for the record it wasn't even agility that caused that dogs problem...)

Brit came to me with no muscle, and a weak rear. If you pushed her off balance she would fall over, or trip in an effort to right herself. I had her looked at by a rehab vet when I first got her. She thought a mild hip problem- not displastic in her opinion but an issue that could be resolved by muscle and exercise. That was more than a year ago. Brit is pretty fit now, good muscle, she's filled out. We do lots of conditioning. The Peanut ball, specific exercises like side passes, sit ups, back ups, leg lifts, etc. She runs like a yahoo, and can trot beside the bike comfortably for as long as I can pedal. lol. And still- that leg. She holds it out funny, and will limp if she has run too hard. I am afraid to do agility with her. I can't imagine her jumping 22", or doing the frame, or even having power to push through weaves. Am I setting myself up for the exact thing I've just gone through with two corgis? I think so. I think the next step with her is to take her to my trusted rehab vet and hear what she has to say. I've been afraid to. But maybe there are things that I can do to make it better that I'm not already doing. Or maybe there is a whole other issue.... In any case I really feel that doing agility with Brit will either give me a heart attack, or indigestion.

I do realise I am not being completely rational about this. There is risk in all things- real life included. Pixel could jump off the couch and bust a leg, or hurt her back. And I still let her jump off the couch. I know that dogs can't live in bubbles. I know that there are no perfect dogs. That all dogs can (and do) get hurt. And I also know that they are just dogs. They live in the moment. Of all my dogs, Wicca LOVED agility the most. But she is just as happy now as she was then. We just do different things. Not doing agility is of no matter for my dogs. But it matters to me. And I can't seem to shake the scared feeling I get. So it's me.. The problem I mean.

But at the same time as being scared, I am sad that I have no agility dogs. None. Five dogs and not one of them can play.  It's depressing. How can I be an instructor and not run a dog? You lose the feel, the eye, and the heart. So do I quit agility until I have a dog that can do it? How do you quit something that has been a part of your life for 10+ years? How do you quit something you've poured your heart and soul into. And how do you quit your friends, your lifestyle? It's tricky. And sad. And I am not sure I want to do it.

A week ago I had decided that I was quitting. I'd teach until I couldn't. I've been struggling with this for a year. Back and Forth. Quitting, Playing, Dog Injured, More Breaks, Playing, Quitting. Repeat. It's been ongoing. So I finally made a decision. And now it feels wrong. Part of that is now I feel inspired.  This past weekend we brought in Kathy Keats for a seminar. It was so good. It made me miss it. It made me want it. I was jealous.

 There are millions of dogs in the world that do agility. Weaving. Running. Jumping. Slamming into poles. Running off contacts. Flinging themselves over jumps. And they are sound. And healthy. I want that. I want to be able to play agility with my dog and not worry about that tight turn, or a scramble up the frame, or when they land a jump hard.

It not feasible for me to get another dog. I have five dogs. Which is plenty. Plus Leo. I live alone, in a small house (that I rent). I work full time and pay my bills, and for dog stuff and that's it. No extras. I'm still paying off Pixel's last appointment with the rehab vet and her xrays. I have two senior dogs who will need extra veterinary care in the coming years.  I absolutely can't afford another dog. And I don't have time for another dog. I do just fine with the ones I have, but any more and I'd have to quit my job so I could have time to train them all. lol.  I only have myself to blame. For having a house full of non-agility dogs. I wouldn't call them bad decisions because they were meant to be mine and I love them to bits. But certainly thinking with ones heart instead of ones head is not always the wisest. Wicca was destined to retire early, I knew that when she was young. She is c-r-a-z-y fast and reckless.  Boone can't handle the stress of life (and was that way when I got him..). Vito has a severely crooked leg, and a less than ideal work ethic. Pixel has had inury after injury and is only four years old. Brit was unsound from the start.  Everyone of my dogs has been an impulse. All of them. You'd think I'd get lucky, or learn or something.

So now I am completely overwhelmed with the whole thing. Agility is not my whole life. But it has been a big part of it. My dogs are first and foremost my pets. Rehoming any of them is absolutely not an option. Ever. So there isn't really that many options left for me. Stop being a baby I suppose. Just make a decision. Leaving agility now doesn't mean I couldn't come back in five or six years when I have a dog that is sound enough for it. Or maybe I just do what I can with the dogs I have. Pixel could probably do jumpers no problem. She isn't crazy fast. It's 6", and in moderation maybe she can stay sound? But am I really going to take her to practice every week to do a few jumps? Is that little bit worth it? I just don't know.  Brit knows a fair amount of stuff already. Maybe we could just play, and see where we get to. Or I obsessively stare at her leg and think horrible things the whole time she is on the dogwalk, or jumping, or whatever.

All those things swirling around in my head. I have no idea what to do. Where to go from here. So much for my "year of doing!" I'm already stalling on the very first thing.


Taryn said...

Amanda, you did a great job of expressing your apprehensions. And I am sure you know from my previous comments that I completely understand where you are coming from. I definitely feel the same kind of worry you do about possibly injuring my dog. I do think if something really awful were to happen, it would not be agility that caused it, but just the dogs being dogs. Playing too rough, Jimmy flying at the TV at breakneck speed every time he sees an animal, jumping off of something. The agility is more likely to add aches and pains to an old dog later on from all the repetition.

A couple of things to consider....I am 53 and on any given day a knee hurts ( I had to ice mine after agility class last night), my back is achy, an ankle is really tight. I notice these things, but I get up and go about my day. The discomfort I feel is not enough to make me want to sit on the couch and not move. The joy of getting out and about, playing w/ the dogs, running agility, overrides the aches and pains. I have a feeling our dogs feel the same way. That's not to say anybody should run a truly lame dog in agility, but I surely don't think you need to obsess about every misstep or stiffness you see.

Another thought...Over the summer, Jimmy was out due to his iliopsoas strain and Wilson really shouldn't fill in too often since he's got a list of his own problems, so my instructor offered to let me run her young up and coming BCs. One week I got to run a small 16 incher and then the next week a huge 24 incher. I had never run anything but my Cardis ever, so this was both delightful and enlightening! How fun to run dogs already trained by a former world team member/several time Nat'l champ! I digressed a little there :-) , but why not volunteer to run someone else's dog. You won't be quite as emotionally invested, you won't have to own another dog, just maybe pay entry fees if you compete, and you might also help out someone who can't run agility, has a dog that needs an outlet, etc. If I had to stop running Jimmy, I would definitely volunteer to bring my instructor's dogs up through the lower ranks. It would be a win/win for both of us.

I hope you can come to a level of comfort with where all this soul searching takes you.

manymuddypaws said...

Thanks Taryn!

I really do need to stop obsessing about the dogs, and injury. It is one of the first things I need to do. Because when you stare at something long enough you see only what you are looking for. Stiffness can be a normal thing. I tend to overreact and think the worst. I am pessimistic at the best of times. lol. So your words are very true, and something I've already started working on.

I have thought about running someone elses dogs. I've had friends offer them to me. I think I need to get Brit sorted out first. And then I can make an informed decision, instead of going with my gut and insecurities...

In the mean time I am changing my attitude. Sticking with my "doing" for 2013. lol. Just keep on.

Thanks for the thoughts and suggestions. The whole point of my post was to help me sort through some options and ideas. I've had quite a few emails this morning already. The general consensus is I'm overthinking. lol. Which is something I need to hear. Over, and over, and over again.

onecollie said...

maybe you could run Kort in July on one day :), I can barely run & he might just run for you, maybe, if we practice, it might be fun for you both!
You run one day, I'll run one :)
I would think about Brit in jumpers if she gets a clear from Veronica, Pixel, hmm, if she is limping just from that little stuff you did, I don't know, HOWEVER, like Taryn said, she hurts everyday, I hurt everyday, but we still walk/run & are fine, maybe Pixel can do little things like play in jumpers just one day, & be just fine.
You are not crazy, you are not obsessing, your concerns are valid concerns! Your dogs are lucky to have you :)

Border Collie Mom said...

Wow, you are echoing a lot of the thoughts I have had lately. We have 4 dogs now- only one agility dog who will be nine this year. I really don't want 5 dogs, but I worry that I will run Maggie too long... and what happens when she retires? Well I could go on and on, but I would just be repeating your thoughts.
Glad to know it isn't just me...

Nicki said...

I also don't want another dog right now. But Legend has the weird contact issue, Lyric is hot and cold and I'm just not motivated to spend every weekend at a trial when I don't know how my dogs will do, especially when we have accomplished most of our goals. I don't really want to quit because I do enjoy it, but I stress over if my dogs are going to stress. If I had a dog that LOVED agility all the time I think I'd be more motivated. I think it's ok to just cut back, or take a break. Someday we will all have new dogs (sadly, they don't live forever). There is nothing wrong with doing other sports, or activities-like you said the dogs are just as happy, and I have been too.

For us, we are cutting back some, and I am moving Legend to preferred and just plan to have fun and what happens, happens. She is sound, but she is 7 and we have been doing agility for 6 years and now she is running with me as well. So I want to keep her healthy as long as possible.