posted on Monday
A week ago, we had our first agility trial since last fall. That means we missed a number of good opportunities, but…hey. You move for the second time in a year and see how fast you get your act back together…
Especially when moving into deep winter and utter mud. Bleagh.
However, I’ve finally gotten some practices in, and reached the trial past the one where my entry was lost in the mail (*sob*), and hoo boy did we have some nice weather for it!
Miss Belle thought so, too.
In fact, I got to thinking about the fact that she’s ten and a half now–a venerable age for a competitive agility dog. And I got to thinking about how amazing that is, under the circumstances.
What circumstances, you ask? (Okay, if you didn’t, just go with me on this one.)
Here’s an abridged version of a blog I wrote for Belle back in ’08…
Of all my dogs, Belle is the quiet one. While Connery Beagle bays his Song of Self at agility course start and finish–everyone knows when the Beagle is running!–Belle often gets the job done before anyone quite notices the trial has even started (short-legged Belle is commonly the first dog on the line for the entire trial). Everyone else is still setting up, still settling in…not paying much attention. And off she goes, sticking the course and bringing it in at fifteen to twenty seconds under time, along with the blue ribbons and “high score in class” ribbons (fastest dog of any jump height in her class) to prove it.
When she runs, I rarely raise my voice loud enough for anyone outside the course to hear. There are no gasping call-offs, no last-minute saves, no dramatic windmilling gestures on the course. She’s smooth and accurate, and her tail often wags madly in the fashion that earned her “Propeller Butt” nickname. As long as I do my job as a handler, she does her job as an athlete; she’s a reliable Double Q dog.
What makes this all the more remarkable is that Belle, a Cardigan Welsh Corgi, has spinal disk disease. It’s not from the agility–it’s because she’s a dwarf breed, and all dwarf dogs are prone to this calcification of the spinal disks. Not most of them, of course. But some of them.
Belle first went down when she was just shy of six years old.
The agility probably saved her–because when you’ve got a dog in regular training, you know instantly when something’s not quite right. Still, due to a substitute vet, diagnosis was slow in coming–resulting in partial paralysis and sending us off on an adventure of slow, slow rehab, with absolutely no expectations. That she might return to competition was theoretically possible–even desirable, as it would keep her strong and protect her–but no one knew of a dog who had come back to full activity from this disease.
So I added supplements, and I found a massage therapist, and I cried a lot. Not just for me…for Belle, who so loved to run agility that she, too, sobbed in confinement whenever I trained young Connery. But with the crate rest and rehab…slowly…very slowly…Belle came back.
Six months later, as Connery debuted in his first trial ever, she returned to competition and finished her AKC Excellent Jumpers title with a High Score in Class.
Not that it was all easy from there. She needs a very specific regiment to to avoid muscle cramps and reoccurences: supplements, exercise, massage, specific padding in her beds. It was a full two years before she was running a regular trial schedule alongside Connery. Until then, she ran a minimal schedule with flare-ups that lost us months of time in additional rehab.
But finally, she was running two days of two courses each, which gave her the opportunity to gather Double Qs for her PAX title (the highest title she can earn, an accumulation of Double Qs at the highest level of competition)–and she started racking up the necessary Double Qs–qualifying in both courses on the same day with a perfect score under course time.
However, every trial I went to, I told myself it could be the last. I told myself I was lucky to have her there. I prepared myself. And indeed, as she approached the 20th Double Q, she went down again, and hard. A middle-aged dog, looking for another miracle…wailing with grief from her mandated crate rest as Connery practiced outside…
What I wrote at the time, when I first dedicated this blog to Belle:
“So here’s to Belle, and everything she’s given me, and all the glee and little blue dog giggles she’s put into our time together so far. We may not get a second miracle, but if anyone deserves one, it’s my little blue Belle.”
But you know what?
We did get it.
Belle came back, and she ran straight through to her PAX. And since then? She’s had flares, but nothing major. I’ve got them at her first wince and treated her aggressively, but I’m not sure that’s the only reason. I think that beyond all expectation, she’s stuck with it long enough so the calcification period has calmed. Damage was done, but I think agility kept her strong enough to make it through.
I hope I’m right. I was kind of afraid to say that out loud.
And hey, guess what!
We’re more than halfway to her PAX2. I wasn’t expecting it–I even took time off from that goal to earn some FAST titles (an AKC agility game). But whether she earns it or not, as she reaches the middle of her 10th year and starts to slow…
Well, every trial we go to, I tell myself I’m lucky she’s there…
However, as you can see…Connery’s got no respect!
That is wonderful! She is so beautiful and has so much courage to get this far.
Wishing you both a very good year.
Thank you, Ruby! She is a good girl. She has a lot of confidence issues due to the pain she’s been through (and her nature as a naturally soft dog), but I try to take it one day at a time…
Liked it! Go Belle!
Such a wonder-dog, Miss Belle, and I love both her fierceness and seriousness, and the way you write about her.
Yes, Belle is truly wonderful despite her physical problems. It’s amazing how a dog could have such courage. But you’re also amazing how you trained her. I read from http://www.trainpetdog.com/ that Cardigan Welsh Corgis are highly intelligent, obedient, protective, steady, active, loyal, loving, and willing to please. Belle surely wants to please you and she is determined despite the obstacles.
Oh, this post goes to such lengths to be pleasantly appropriate as a commercial that I let it through. Any lab lover is welcome here! But let’s keep the commercial less blatant on a return post, yes?