The end of a dog’s working career is always extremely difficult for me to face, in ways that might be hard for a non-trainer to understand. For years, usually from puppyhood, any particular dog I’m training will work with me several days a week. I’ll plan out her daily training carefully, take her to classes, assess and take joy in her progress, ponder over difficulties, make sure she stays in good physical shape, and after 2 to 3 years of preparation, ride the roller coaster of dog showing with her, a roller coaster that we hope to ride for many more years as she progresses up through the classes. It’s a whole life that is at the center of both of our lives. My dogs love to train and run to the training building door whenever I head in that direction.
Rozzie, now 9.5, has had this life from 8 weeks old. But earlier this year, I noticed her difficulties with jumping on the couch and bed (she’s the one who gets to sleep with us), and twice I had to cancel show plans with her because of various health issues, worrisome but fixable.
With her utility titled earned in November, it was now time to return to training for both Open and Utility classes. I was excited and hopeful for this coming year of competition. But early in working the broad jump, she started refusing, pulling up and not being willing to attempt the jump. The broad jump calls for different skills than jumping over a high or bar jump:
The dog has to fully extend across the boards, and there is more push off of the rear legs to achieve this extension. Rozzie never had a problem with this jump before, so the refusal was worrisome.
A visit with a physical therapist (licensed for humans and canines) confirmed my fears: Rozzie should no longer be jumping. She appears to be quite able and happy to do many of the activities required in obedience, like heeling, retrieving, coming to front, etc., but the upper classes require a lot of jumping.
So Rozzie is now retired from competitive obedience. This decision did not come without some tears, but I knew the clock was ticking with her, as it still is with Journey. My hope is to have many, many more years with her as my companion. And this year, we will do some rally (although the upper levels do have jumps that are much shorter, so we’ll see how that goes), and right now, freestyle! Some years ago I worked up a routine with her to a jazz song by Stan Getz and Astrud Gilberto. We’ll perform it as a demo for the first time at the Seattle Kennel Club, and then later at a freestyle show in May. She’s really having fun with the practicing, and doing this means she still gets to run to the training building with the other dogs.
So you see, it’s not really the end of the story. Not at all.