By now I was already in love with agility, so technically speaking this post is not part of the series, but I thought it would be good to document the rest of Ruby’s story. So here it goes…
We didn’t do just running contacts for those eight months of course (though it often felt like that). Once in a blue moon we also did a sequence or two, some Cik&Cap training and weaves. Ruby started loving agility more than anything else and developed a strong working ethic. He happily repeated exercises over and over to the point that it was hard to tell when we did too much.
Whenever we arrived at agility club he was shaking with excitement. Sometimes we had to burn this adrenaline with other exercises before doing any dogwalks because he was shaking so much that he would fall off. There was a period when he was absolutely unable to think around equipment, but since if he didn’t think he didn’t get to play, he eventually learned to think while overaroused. Or at least pretend he was thinking.
We had a great connection on agility field, but not so much during normal life. I decided it’s time to do something about his unreliable recall and signed him up for Susan Garrett’s Recallers course. We were working diligently and started getting some really good results. And then an accident happened. The boyfriend took Ruby for a walk and let him loose even though we supposedly agreed to keep him leashed. (Well, I suspected that he is letting him off leash, but had no way of proving it until that day.)
Ruby chased another dog and ran right into the oncoming car, then slid between front tires and his harness got stuck underneath the car. Luckily the driver saw him and was breaking, so the impact was not so great and since he got stuck he couldn’t run away in panic. He only required a few stitches on his forehead, but was in shock for two days. Afterwards he didn’t seem to remember that he was hit by a car, because he wasn’t afraid of them. Instead, he became suspicious of many, many things, but particularly afraid of dogs, presumably because that’s what he last remembered before getting hit.
This is the story of our recall:
Next few months were dedicated to getting Ruby comfortable around other dogs again. Like most things with Ruby this was quite challenging in everyday life, but easy near agility equipment, so we were able to continue training. This is one of our trainings just before the first trial. A very raw video, with mistakes and all and no music, so you can hear Ruby barking when he’s running 🙂 Skip to 0:37 (there’s RC training in the beginning). Video ends with another session of RC because he had problems with DW-tunnel combinations.
I signed us up for our first trial in August 2011, not because we were ready, but because I couldn’t wait any longer 🙂 It’s a good thing that this was a two-day trial so we got to run 4 times, otherwise all I would remember from that first competition would be Ruby clinging to me and running past jumps.
When our 4th run came around we had to go to the startline right past a spectator relaxing in the grass. Ruby usually alarm barked at people lying on the ground (well, who wouldn’t find THAT suspicious? 🙂 ) and I was thinking this run he is going to be even more clingy than on the previous runs or perhaps unable to run altogether. Well, he did break the startline, but then he was running like crazy!
That fall we went to a few more trials, me trying to shake my trial nerves and Ruby developing confidence to take obstacles away from me. However two times after comming back home from a trial he looked unsound for a few minutes, so I set out to investigate what was the matter. The two orthopeadists I took him to couldn’t agree on which shoulder was the tender one, but they both thought the issue might be bicipital tenosynovitis while a physiotherapist thought it was due to muscle tension.
I gave him two months of complete rest with some physiotherapy sessions and a gradual return to exercise. However, this second part was easier said than done. Ruby’s fears from the car accident came back with a vengeance. Without lots of exercise to release his tension he could not cope with walks and without coping with walks he could not get his exercise. He would freak out at normal sights, like a bag on the floor, a family enjoying nature or seeing our car from an unexpected angle. Not to mention dogs, though we were mostly able to avoid those. The BAT method from Grisha Steward helped a lot, but our progress was slow.
As soon as we progressed to the point where I could let him run free in a fenced area we started doing short agility exercises. It’s amazing how with even a little agility his problems started resolving much faster (and no, playing without equipment doesn’t have the same effect). Soon I was able to do it with other dogs present and then dogs on walks weren’t such a huge problem anymore.
I was determined to build up his fitness gradually and to not do any real agility until I would be confident that his shoulders can take it. Seven months after our ordeal started, when I was just about ready to let him do some agility, he badly bruised a shoulder while fetching a ball. After that healed we did a couple of easy agility trainings (no jumping or weaving) and then he slipped while running in the woods, pulling a muscle. Small injuries like this continued for the rest of 2012, most recently a sprained toe (and torn webbing) that just cannot seem to get well. He has been confined to leashed walks and at times complete rest since October. 😦
Here’s to the end of 2012 and to beginning of 2013, hopefully an injury-free year for my brindle boy!
Previous post: How I Fell In Love With Agility – Part 3
This is the last post from the “How I Fell In Love With Agility” series. Ruby finally started running agility courses again in September 2013: Agility Ruby