How things can change in the world of dog training. Only a few months ago I was wondering if I was ever going to be able to get Cassie in a trial. I couldn't even run a sequence with her at training because she'd take off at any given moment. Catching her was even harder! So I spent most of my time teaching Cassie the skills at home and everything we did at training was on lead. As outgoing as she is I had problems with her confidence after she got bitten by an ant at training and any time she went near that area she shut down and refused to do anything. When she was going through that phase I could get to training and not be able to get her over more than a couple of obstacles. It felt like every time I got through one struggle there would be another.
But somehow we have worked through it. Every single time I put a smile on my face, felt the love and worked through it piece by piece mustering as much patience as I could find. It was all about breaking it down and using the power of positive reinforcement. I've always known how much talent she has and all I've ever wanted to do is do that talent justice. Not to mention that she's my bestest little friend and I love her to bits. I also noticed things changed with her at home. She started to find hanging out with me more rewarding than being with my other dogs. When I took her for runs around the property she comes back to me to check in all the time and often just trots along beside me instead of chasing the others. Even when the other borders are charging around the backyard I can play retrieve games with her. Things that I never would have dreamed we could do only six months ago. And so I salute the value of reinforcement.
I entered her in her first trial in March and then we've only competed a few times since then as I've been working on building her skills and confidence in the ring as there were some pretty big holes. Then yesterday at the Sheltie Club trial I can finally say that things are truly coming together. It's not perfect of course but she is just getting so close. Her running contacts were fantastic, her weavers lovely and she handled really well. Even with a little zoomie thrown in! And of course a super run in novice jumping for her second quallie. I truly can't wait for the future in front of this dog. She is one special little girl.
But of course with all the highs come the lows.
I've had huge issues keeping Sonic sound for the last 18 months or so. No matter what I tried signs of soreness would keep appearing when he was doing agility and had gotten progressively worse this year. He's really struggled with power off the ground and even after getting the all clear from physio treatments I was not seeing any great improvement when he was jumping. So I decided that when I got back from Europe that I would get his hips and lower back x-rayed to try and find what the underlying cause could be. So that's what I did and as soon as the hip x-rays were done it was clear that the cause is hips dysplasia.
It's pretty crushing to hear news like that. That the dog that you love, who loves agility and who you love doing agility with is going to have a very limited time in the sport and will never reach his true potential. Not to mention knowing how much it's going to affect his later life. I am optimistic that with some rehab and a few months working on specific muscle areas to build up more strength to support his hips will allow me to continue with at least a little agility with him. I'm working on a plan for him that will do just that. Obviously his life in the sport will be significantly shortened but hopefully it's not the end. Sonic lives to run and run fast so I have to balance out his quality of life against wrapping him in cotton wool.
I've always felt very strongly about how important both x-raying hips and genetic testing is before breeding dogs. Certainly all my other border collies come from generations of health checked and hip scored dogs. Before Riot was used at stud he had the whole lot done and I'm very proud to say that he is genetically clear of everything and has a 0:1 hip score. With Sonic I was well aware of the risks as there is little health history back through any of his parentage. As is the world of agility I was starry eyed and dreaming of having that magical super fast border collie that wins everything and I made a conscious decision that I would take the risk. I had no plans to breed from him so who was I hurting? As it happens it is my beloved dog who will suffer. For the rest of his life. I adore this dog and wouldn't change having him for anything. But I will certainly never again consider bringing another puppy into my life without having at least parents who have had their hips x-rayed and cleared for HD. It is unfortunate that the disease is polygenetic, therefore can skip generations and there is never any certainty that a puppy won't have HD however there has to be some responsibility taken so that every measure to prevent producing puppies with hips dysplasia is taken. My eyes are certainly forever open.