It has been real...wintery around here! Winter is my least favorite season and unlike least year, we seem to be having a real winter. Steady cold, precipitation regularly coating the ground up. At least we have not had any blizzards!
I made a big decision this year to commit to weekly training with my agility club for the duration of 2018. It was a large financial and time commitment for me but I am very excited about it. Molly and I will have regular access to consistent training. I was terrified of any number of health issues coming up, between the lymphoma, GI issues and lameness...anything could happen. But still, I wanted to enjoy what training I could with my girl! Here is a clip of us enjoying a tunnel-tastic course.
We had a lovely two weeks. And with Molly in a regular training class, it gave me access to an agility ring to work with Perri. We worked on ring entrances when I could, with a lot of success. I am giving a whole lot of thought once again to the impact that the equipment has on Perri. Last year I noticed a marked difference in her attitude when we moved away from the martingale collar-over-the-head-situation. We are working hard on the slip lead removal being no big deal. We are working on her feelings about the slip lead being dropped on the ground. These are things that matter to Perri and I cannot take them lightly.
I have also incorporated a "snuffle mat" into our routine, Perri is a complete addict! We do a ring entrance and ring exit and straight to the snuffle mat. I also let her use her snuffle mat before we go into the ring. The snuffle mat keeps her from bugging out about the environment and it relaxes her to enjoy rooting and sniffing while we are waiting for our turn in the ring. I think the snuffle mat is going to be extremely valuable, as instead of me asking for tricks and giving Perri food and doing "busy work", she is able to sniff her snuffle mat and engage in an instinctually relaxing activity. We will see how it goes! (I ordered our snuffle mat from Rooting Co on Etsy.com.)
Since my bad luck has decided to not stay confined to 2017, Molly went lame after one powerhouse run in our UKI agility trial last Sunday. We scratched the rest of the day and went home early. We ran at the same place we did when she went lame on New Year's Eve, so we are definitely not going to be running there again. The plan at this time is strict rest for two weeks. When I look back to February of last year, we got to enjoy our "one last hurrah!" trial at Dream Park and the very next day Molly went in for her lymph node removal/biopsy surgery. At that time I did not know if it would be her last trial. And it is the same this year. Molly is entered in a trial at Dream Park on the 18th. I have scheduled a consult at VOSM for Molly on February 19th. Once again, nearly one year later, Molly will enjoy what could very well be her last agility trial ever and we will go for this orthopedic consult and find out what the true issue is with her foot. She was very tender in her medial wrist and not at all in her toe, which is something I just noticed this time. All of the times she has gone lame I have never felt she had any pain response in her wrist. It is time to confront exactly what is going on, and make hard decisions. This sucks.
I took this video when we returned home from the agility trial. It is sad for me to watch but I wanted to have a video, since Molly is not likely to be acutely lame when we see the ortho for her appointment. I notice not just the limping but Molly is pulling her left foot medially instead of having any forward reach (as she does with her right foot.)
I get a chance, in this new year, to not resent Perri for being my only sound agility dog. I get a second chance. We had this exact chance last year and I failed miserably. This past Monday we went to our agility class piled high with liverwurst, the snuffle mat, tiny tiny toys I knew she would like and three bags of other treats. I am a poodle slave. But most of all, I let myself feel excited about the opportunity rather than resentful of "Plan B". Rather than "You're all I've got so let's try to do this."
We had a first run where Perri was fast and full of drive which made me happy enough! but where I got scolded for losing connection multiple times. It was an honest assessment. A lightbulb went off in my head. Perhaps my way of running and losing connection with Perri is also causing a stress increase for her. I focus so much on keeping her motivated and happy it is hard to devote my mind to anything else. I foolishly asked my instructor to help me handle Perri in a way that would maintain a tighter connection. I got my ass beat, I was required to walk the course again and again, I was told I could not use my hands so that I would pay attention to what the rest of my body was doing - it helped a lot. I felt like a circus poodle. And it worked. I could tell Perri felt flatter for that second run but something about what I was doing appealed to her and that girl dug in there and ran with me and responded to what our slave drivin' instructor was making me do. I drove home giddy with joy. Me and my poodle worked on a thing and made progress with that thing. Learning and doing together.
And that is about all for this catch up post, but I have one more thing. This morning Perri went out into the yard and stood on the porch and started her hypervigilance scanning. It did not last long. She flutter wagged her tail and snapped out of it, and she went out in the yard and peed. Like a Normal Poodle. It was adorable and it made my heart feel big. One day at at time.