This past weekend of our State Agility titles here in WA has brought home to me like no other just how emotionally invested I am in the dogs I share in this game with and with the game itself…experiencing the fantastic highs and the absolutely devastating lows. Saturday after 5 weeks off and with full vet clearance to run my young boy, Colt and I competed – I was judging too so we only had a couple runs. The first one was wild and we stopped quite early on, he was a little over aroused and keen. I completed my judging then went back to do my Open Jumping run with him. He played the game with me and I was determined to be connected the whole way and it was such a thrill to run clean and into second place and a finals spot on Sunday afternoon.
The course wasn’t hard and it was easier than what we usually train but I didn’t realise till I had finished and was celebrating with Colt how much of a mental confidence boost it was to me. Then the second qualifying trial Saturday afternoon – and some nice teamwork in Masters Jumping and Open Agility just a couple oops moments from both of us. Onto the Excellent Agility class – lovely flowing course with some close handling needed for the middle. He ran it clear and nailed all his contacts perfectly gaining a first place and another spot in the finals. Saturday night I drove home floating – his Excellent pass also meant that we had finally, after several YEARS, attained our last card needed to move into the Masters Agility level.
Here is his JDO run from that morning.
Sunday morning I was super excited and amped for the trial, I had run my older girl Savvy in just one Masters class the day before and we had run it so in sync with just a call on the dogwalk contact the only fault. I was looking forward to running both Savvy and Colt at the last qualifying trial that morning. Trial started at 9am by 9.15am I was in tears and carrying young Colt out the ring. He had been turning on take off for a jump (#11) and he let out this very loud scream/yelp and was on three legs when he came down. There is video of it. Two vets on the grounds immediately attended him. We thought initially it was that hock and perhaps a partial ligament tear. But on further investigation and testing it turns out Colt has fully ruptured his right cranial cruciate ligament. We go for an orthopedic surgical consult tomorrow with surgery either tomorrow or Wednesday. He will have a TPLO surgery. At the age of 5, just as we are finally being a team after over a year off trialling due to various reasons, he is now out for at least 9 to 12 months.
I left the grounds at around 10.30am yesterday. I just wanted to go home, get pain meds into my boy and ice his knee and hide my tears. I wanted to speak to the ortho specialists straight away – but it was a Sunday and today is a public holiday Monday. I have guilt every time I replay the event in my mind, guilt about running him, maybe he wasn’t ready despite all physical signs to the contrary. Did I cause it with the way I handled? Did I ask too much? Celebrate too soon? It’s Monday now and I have an appointment first thing tomorrow. Colt is resting and comfortable as a dog with a ruptured CCL can be, his pain is being managed. I know we will get through this. I know others have been through this. Hell I’ve been through it once already with Colt’s grandma Spryte although hers was not a trauma but a disease and she was at the end of her trialling career. She’s doing just fine two years post TPLO. No agility but enjoying her retirement years, turning a sprightly 12 years old next month. But Colt is young, we were just finding our tempo together, he is one of the most challenging and rewarding dogs I’ve ever had. He has skills that make me go wow and make me want to be better for him. And that’s the other thing, I’ve been working on that so hard, on being better for him and for myself – I feel like I’m getting so close to being that handler that deserves him. And now the cosmos has decreed it shall not be so, at least, not in the next nine to twelve months.
I was just saying to a friend and student of mine on Saturday – when she had gone through a particularly negative experience with her young first trialling dog – at some point everyone who loves this game and the dogs we get to play it with as much as we do, will have that moment where agility makes you cry and utterly distraught. You cannot have the highs and the thrills and the adrenaline or dopamine fixes that we do and not experience the opposite end of that spectrum at some point in time. And mine happened the very next day. And it’s hard….so hard. I’m heart broken for my boy and yet ecstatic about how we did on Saturday. And I am still so proud and pleased for my friends and students who did well, who achieved their goals, who are so proud of themselves and their dogs for their results and accomplishments. Every single one has such a unique journey behind it. I was so happy with the way our small hardworking team ran this big event, so quietly pleased by every single person in our small WA agility community who chipped in and helped out so that the event was a success. And for pretty much everyone it was, beautiful weather, happy judges, nice courses, smiling volunteers, and competitors jumping in and helping out where they could. A fantastically healthy number of entries in Novice saw many of the community spectating and cheering on around the Novice rings. It is good to see the sport flourishing. The atmosphere was really supportive and positive. Yet my heart right now aches so badly. And I don’t wish it wouldn’t, and I don’t try and stop the tears because I know that where ever I am right now, whatever I am feeling is where I should be and what I should be feeling. I love this sport, this game with a passion, and the special dogs I get to play it with even more…they keep me sane and moving every day. I know Colt will get through this with my help. And I know I have two other teammates I cannot let down – Savvy, my experienced and comfortable partner, and Kili, who I hope will be ready to start competing by the end of trialling season or the start of it, she’s already all kinds of fun to train.
I hope everything goes smoothly with Colt’s surgery and his recovery. I hope that he comes back stronger than ever. I know that I cannot predict what will happen or even try to guess really. But I do know that when I ask myself the question, which has crossed my mind more than once in the last 24 hours “Why don’t you just walk away from it all?” that such an option is inconceivable. The dogs and this game, own my heart.