On Tuesday we went to the field for the second time of the season. I set up part of a sequence from the "Backyard Dogs" article in the May 2013 issue of Clean Run, for Wall-e. I also lined up two sets of 6 weaves, about 15 feet away from each other, because Wall-e popped out of 12 weaves at our trial last weekend, and I'd hoped this exercise would help. (His entries were fantastic at the trial though, really happy with those!)
We did more work on the weaves then I'd planned (just 3 reps, but I'm trying to keep sessions short with Wall-e because he's been less drivey lately), so I opted not to do the sequence and instead end the session.
Then I took Mika out. I've been resting her because I noticed a couple weeks ago that she was bearing weight unevenly; she was very slightly lame in her front right leg. It's probably a sore shoulder; I gently felt around her shoulder and she started blinking when I felt the part of her shoulder near her elbow.
But after training Wall-e this day, I took her out of the car and let her explore the field. It was her first time on the field this season, and the look on her face was awesome. She was just so, so happy to be out there. I loved watching her cheerfully galloping around the field (a slow gallop, not a frantic race that would re-injure her shoulder), around the 16" jumps that Wall-e had been using, then turn, smiling, towards me, with the sun shining behind her and lighting her fur. That was all it took to fully convince me that no matter what Mika's age, I'm never going to stop doing agility with her as long as she wants to do it too, and as long as it isn't hurting her. I want her to feel young for as long as she possibly can, and agility does that for her like nothing else.
The only thing that I'm unsure about is trialing. I've entered her in a lot more trials this year in the hopes of making her feel important. I just want to keep this dog with me as long as possible while still being happy and healthy. If I thought that trialing was bad for her, I wouldn't enter her in any more ever again. I just want to do what's best for her, and I'm still not exactly sure what that is.
On one hand, trialing is stressful and involves a lot of waiting around between runs (and before and after). But then I think of how, although Mika is dog-reactive, her reactivity lessens at trials. She knows she's there for agility and that's what she's focused on. And trials get her out of her familiar environments, which is a good thing? Maybe? I don't know, there's just so much to think about and I'm hoping the answers will come to me.