Monday, June 3, 2013

Agility Second Chances

Despite an entirely injury-free career, Maggie came up lame the Sunday before we left for Nationals.  She ran well on her first run of the day, but when I got her out for the second run, she was short-striding her left rear.  I hoped that it was a one-time thing, like a leg cramp, and I pulled her from the second run and gave her lots of rest that week.  We made the drive to Tulsa and I ran her on the warm up run where she ran very nice.  But on the long walk back to her crate, it began again.  Maggie was pulled from the rest of Nationals, and I held her and cried, thinking that I had hurt her, asking her to run. But also selfishly feeling sorry for myself that we were missing an opportunity.
Assuming that she was a victim of the oh-so-insideous iliopsoas injury, we made an appointment at the University of Missouri as soon as we returned home.  Fearing the worst, I tried to think of what Maggie and I would do with ourselves if her agility career were over.  But our worst fears were not realized when Dr. Cook told us that it was not an iliopsoas injury, but rather her back.   He sent us home with directions for 2 months of exercises and core conditioning, and a lecture about keeping her fit. (I had given her over two months of 'time off' over the winter- thinking that was a good thing).
Our first time on the line was nerve wracking.  I put her down to 20" preferred thinking it would be easier on her, but it just made her run faster, and slide more, so, uh, not good.  Nevertheless, she ran well and had no signs of pain or soreness.
We just finished our third trial back at our 24" full height, and she seems back to her game. I, on the other hand, am more out of shape than ever, and even my timing seems to be out of whack, but she saves me more often than not.
But the whole point of this post is that we got a second chance to run again.  Something I only hoped for back in March.  It has changed the way that we walk to the line and changed the way I feel about the results. A younger, very fast dog and handler took most of the blue ribbons this weekend and left us with mostly second place finishes.  A year ago, I would have been disappointed.  But now, I'm just glad to get out and back with a sound dog.  Don't get me wrong- when the day comes that Maggie is slowing down to the point that she is falling out of the placements entirely, then I will know that she is not feeling well and it will be time to find a new sport.  But until then, we are taking this second chance as far as we can and making a special effort to appreciate every trip to the start line.  Because all of us- even those with the youngest and fittest dogs- all of us have days that are numbered and you never know when that last run will be. 
So take a moment the next time you are out with your dog to savor the 'now' and forgive yourself in advance for the disappointment you will feel when they cannot participate in your favorite activities anymore.  And make them a promise that as much as they are giving you today, that you will give them this much back in their golden years.  For the time for all of us- even those lucky enough to get second chances- is much too short.

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