Agility is good for dogs


When I started doing agility back in 1992, nobody gave any thought to a possibility that this might hurt our dogs. Back then, jumps were at 75cm and that’s the height that my Samoyed was jumping for half of his career (FCI lowered the jumps to 65cm then). He was 54cm high and was diagnosed with severe hip dysplasia at age of one year, way before he saw his first jump. Since he never showed any pain, I of course went on with agility with him. When he was 8, I started to read on how stressful agility is for the joints. Stupid, naïve me, believed it and retired him at age of 9 when he was still jumping 65cm with no problems. This was my biggest mistake. That was the beginning of the end. Rear end muscles were visibly disappearing and after two years, he couldn’t keep up with us when going into the mountains anymore. So I started to leave him at home… Another mistake. He was still coming with us for two and more hours walks every day till the day he died at age 16 (kidney failure), but I’m really, really sorry for all the years he was left home when we were out in the nature that he loved so much… I think I did a terrible thing to him, he changed and was never the same wild child again after I started to see him old and dysplastic despite he never showed any sign of either of the two before. I’m really, really sorry for that and I promised to him then that I’ll never ever again retire another dog before she shows me that’s what she wants.


When people ask me when good old Lo will deserve retirement, I always tell that good old Lo certainly deserved to never be retired. She is in agility since her 7th week, she is over 10 years old now and still easily beats much younger dogs on grass. Apart from her epilepsy, she is as healthy as it goes, but let me tell her epilepsy story too: she had her first seizure at age of 5 years, in my exam period at University. I was told that seizures are provoked by stress and that agility might be seen as stress. Stupid, naïve me again believed that and stopped with agility on the very same day. But things only became worse. When she had seizures every day for several days, we put her on medication. Seizures stopped, but she became strange, absent, with no fire in her eyes. It was just not her anymore. I was thinking and thinking and came to the conclusion that I prefer to spent one more year with Lo to spending 10 more years with that strange black dog. Lo is way too cool dog that I would be ready to trade her for that. I put her off medication, took her on training, next day to hiking, then to training again, we did something every day, I tried to make it up for the weeks that she was on medications. And every next day, she was happier and healthier. She didn’t have another seizure for next 10 months. Then, it started again: it was long, long winter with lots of snow and she again started to seizure… The only thing in common with first case was that she didn’t do agility for several weeks before her first seizure. So I put her in a car and worked her on snow and ice and cold every day, I preferred to risk an injury to another seizure. She got neither of the two. She got her next seizure in summer, when we were traveling and not doing agility for three weeks. She was having seizures till we started to train again… The same thing happened two more times. Enough to make me believe that agility is her drug against epilepsy. If she doesn’t get her dose for two weeks, a seizure can happen any day. When she doesn’t do agility for three weeks, you can bet she’ll have a seizure the very next day. That’s another reason she will never be retired.


Anyway, to talk some more about terrible stress that my dogs’ joints are under: I admit, I’m guilty, their joints are terribly stressed. They run in the woods every day for hours, go to the mountains for a whole-day running every weekend and spend two times for 3 weeks climbing mountains every summer. And oh, yes, they do some jumps two, three times a weeks for 5 minutes or so. Hardly worth mentioning. Yeah, when they do agility, their joints think they're on vacation. Still, average age at what my dogs die is  17,5 years and they go for a two hour walk every day till the day they die.


Apart from one car accident and one dog attack, neither of them was ever injured in their life. Apart from those two cases, you could never see any of my dogs limp one single step. La did have some kind of discomfort last September: she wasn’t actually limping and was totally normal in normal life, but I noticed she is slower in agility. I thought she is just tired from preparations for WC, so I gave her three days rest before WC, but she was still slow (6-seconds-faster-than-the-rest-of-the-world-slow, but slow in her terms…) and also knocked her “one in a lifetime” bar. So I knew something was wrong, put her on rest for a month after WC, but it wasn’t better at all after it, so I took her to a vet, X-rayed her from toes to ears and all her joints looked perfect… A vet did find some discomfort when moving her left shoulder, but from that day on, after all the stretching a vet did when trying to locate her pain, she is good old La again. My guess is that something was a little out of place (probably thanks to Bu that sometimes bumps into poor little La with full speed and send her flying for several meters… See La, time to get some weight on you!), but was accidentally moved back in right position after that vet check.


To discuss my two other encounters with vets (vaccinations not included, I don’t want to bore you with THAT!): when Aiken ran on a street, chasing a cat, he was hit by a car and  his bone in front left leg was not only broken, but smashed, just above the elbow joint. It was ugly open fracture and after seeing x-rays, vets advised me to put him to sleep. They said operation would cost a fortune and that he probably wouldn't be able to use the leg after it anyway. He was 3 years old and he meant everything to me. So I said no, I didn’t care if he didn’t use the leg again as long as he stays with me. He was back to competition 3 months after operation and he not only walked, but also ran and jumped for next 13 years of his life without a limp.


When Lo's joint was badly hurt in dog-attack, she was said to limp for the rest of her life. She stopped limping after 10 days and ran her NINTH (!!!) World Championships one month later.


Yeap, they’re fighters. They will fight as hard as it’s needed to go back to things they love. Luckily, they have something they love. They’re passionate enough for their Thing that they will fight. Remember that I think that dreams always come true when we’re really passionate about something? That’s how my dogs keep proving vets wrong. They’re passionate enough to overcome problems that might look impossible to scientific look.


You can check my vet’s record: apart from the cases described, they’re all clear. No illness, no injuries, no soreness. Sorry vets, I know you can’t make much money on my dogs! I always joke that it’s vets’ mafia, saying to not exercise the dogs too much. They would get out of their business otherwise! Can you imagine how many vet clinics would go bankrupted if everyone’s dog would live for 17,5 years and would visited them on average 0,6 times in all those 17,5 years (if we don’t count vaccinations)?!? That’s once in 29 years!


Yes, if I count in a little mix that I picked up from the street when I was 6, average age at which my dogs die is almost 17,5 years… And both of them were coming with us for long walks 'till the day they died… And from those 5 dogs, only 3 EVER visited a vet from any other reason as vaccination! Now, aren’t my dogs every vet’s nightmare?!?


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