For 8 years now, I have been walking to the post with my good dog, Lou. But over the last winter, I noticed that he was slower to get up, that his outruns had a cantering component to them now. My big dog who used to sound like a thundering horse going up the field, was starting to break down.
We went to the vet, and x-rays showed that his right hip was an arthritic ball. Well, that would explain the lack of rear-wheel drive I'd been seeing. :-( I've put him on cartrophen, and tomorrow, we will do stem cell therapy. Still, I have to accept that his big field days are over. He is a large dog, and he turned 11 this past March.
How lucky I have been to have run this dog for 8 years! And for 8 years, he literally carried me out there. I had never run in a field trial before I got him, and after 2 trials in Pro Novice, we started running in Open, where we ran for 7 years. He always brought me the sheep, he took every flank, even the wrong ones, and did his best to do what he was told. There were trials when he would have been better off shutting out the ineffectual shouts and whistles of his person, but that is not how he rolls.
Once a year, he would cross over on the outrun. He usually ran literally over my feet, so there was no opportunity to redirect. Also once a year, he would ring the sheep on the driveaway panel. These infractions were so small compared to his handler's errors, that they were filed away as anomalies and never discussed again.
We ran in three CBCA championships, we have been to most every trial on the West Coast, we even flew to Kingston, Ontario, to see how the eastern dogs do it. Lou and I have made so many wonderful friends during this journey, and even folks who didn't like him as a working dog would admit, perhaps grudgingly, that he was a pretty nice dog to have around.
Lou will still run in the odd small arena trials and he will still putter around Rose's front field, where for whatever reason, he takes none of my whistles and just meanders around, taking the sheep hither and thither. He will still be under the handler's tent, politely asking for a bite of your sandwich. But the actual running, that will fall to Rex. He has very large paw prints to fill, and it would be unfair to compare him to Lou (though I do, often, and he always comes up short). While Rex is a lovely little dog, he is not the king. Enjoy your retirement, buddy. You've earned it.