Thursday, September 13, 2012

Doing the right thing

Doing the right thing isn't always easy. That's a life lesson most of us have learned somewhere along the line.

Sometimes doing the right thing is difficult, embarrassing, causes a hit to our pride, or causes us to be out of our comfort zone. In dog sports, opportunities to make the choice to do the right thing present themselves regularly. For instance, when your dog doesn't respond in the way you expect or wish on course. You are presented with an opportunity to respond in a way that respects your partner, respects other competitors, respects the judge, and shows positive sportsmanship.

So what got me rambling about this topic? With Vegas' injury, it got me thinking about how many dogs out there are performing with some degree of pain or possible injury. How many are persevering simply out of pure heart? Dogs that would do anything you asked just because they are that loyal. Competitive dog sports offer us, as handlers, many benefits. They enrich our lives. We become closer to our dog through training. They give us an outlet for our collective energies. They give us an opportunity to shine, to showcase our skills, progress, teamwork, and to earn recognition. Our dogs may love the sport, but they do it because we ask it of them. They could, in theory, hit the agility course and take obstacles for fun. But they - most of them - would soon tire of the game by themselves. When they're not running with you, racing you, looking to you for "What next? What next?" the game is less rewarding. So they do it for us. They do it with us.

So when they are hurt, no matter how slight, they give us an opportunity to do the right thing. The right thing is to give up whatever our hopes and dreams and goals are with our sport, and make sure they are well. First and foremost, they are our partner and our family. The dog walk, the jump, the teeter - they are tools of our trade. The slip lead, chicken hearts, and tug, nothing but tools and aids. But our dog is our partner, our friend, our loyal companion. He or she has been and can be with us for many, many years. So we owe it to him or her to stop, seek medical attention as applicable, pursue diagnostics, follow-up treatment, acupuncture, chiropractic, surgery (Dog forbid!), massage, hydrotherapy, and rehabilitation - whatever it takes to help him or her regain wellness.

This is the time to showcase love and not blind competition. And if that means retirement, that small potatoes compared to continued damage and harm to the one who will give it all.

Vegas would give it all unless she couldn't. She has run not feeling well for me before. She has run, and tried, and forgiven me for asking it of her. While I face down uncertainty until we see the doc and get a diagnosis and treatment plan, I accept that she could have to retire just before affirmed greatness. But it is the right thing to do. It is the right thing because she is already a hero. She is already a star. And she loves me so much, so uncompromisingly. I want her with me for many, many more years. I want her with me happy, comfortable, functional, and alive in the way that her indomitable spirit shines each day. Doing the right thing doesn't have to be painful when you think of it as an act of love to the one who gives it unfailingly.

I don't know what I'll find out Monday. I don't know whether we will be a success story ranked by MACH points and titles but I know we'll be a success story in that I made the choice to do what I had to do for her so that I could have her healthy with me as long as possible. And as I look over at her crashed out on the couch, snoring softly, the right decision is really easy.

1 comment:

  1. Ugh, I am struggling with this so much with my own dog right now. He is currently recovering from his second groin pull in two years. The first one was a freak accident (he got run over by a Leonberger while playing flyball), and this second time it was caused by a slip off the dogwalk. He spent the entire summer on strict crate rest. Which is a lousy way for a high-strung Border Collie to live.

    And now that he is nearly recovered, I am struggling so much with what the right answer for him is. Agility is a high risk game for a dog pre-disposed to iliopsoas injuries. I've not even gotten to the point of trialing him yet, so I can't say I'm that in love with or committed to the sport (he's a flyball dog, mostly, with some rally on the side).

    I care so much more that he can function as a high energy pet dog- hiking and swimming and running in the backyard- than I care if he ever runs in an agility trial. And yet I hate to walk away from it based on my own paranoia.

    Good luck with your decision. Retiring a dog for an injury is a heart-breaking thing, especially when you and she both love the game. But knowing you put your dog's well-being before everything else, before pride, before sport goals, before titles and ribbons and all of it? That's what being a good dog owner is all about, and that's the thing we should be most proud of.