I wasn’t sure it was even possible. . .but I figured we might as well give it a try. I’d always wanted Risa to earn her championship in freestyle. We were two legs shy of it in WCFO freestyle before I parted ways with the organization. We were close in RFE and then Risa’s back went out and I wasn’t sure she’d even dance again. Once I knew she still could, I wasn’t sure she could still compete at such a high level so I tried Veteran In-Sync Entry level instead. After a decent performance in In-Sync, I decided we’d be better off back where she excels: musical freestyle. I debated whether to start her over at the Veteran level or try for her Veteran Championship. Go big or go home; I decided it was worth a shot. I entered her in Veteran Champion Musical Freestyle.
It was our first time competing at the venue so I knew she’d be more stressed than usual. I hadn’t accounted for a rough time at the hotel (for me though we all know the dogs fed off my anxiety and stress) or Kyu stressing out on the long car ride. While Risa was not overly stressed at the new location, it was still very hard for her. She performed well in the ring on Saturday and earned her first leg despite several missed cues. Saturday afternoon, she started having really bad diarrhea. This continued into Sunday. She woke me up at midnight to go out and we barely made it off the walkway. This continued all day with her having urgent, runny poo every single time I took her outside. I felt awful. Not only did she have a really upset tummy but she didn’t want to go back into the building. Usually she is not so stressed she is unwilling to go back in (though she is always happy to leave no matter how comfortable she is somewhere). Unfortunately, I didn’t have many options aside from taking her back in.
I almost pulled her from competition Sunday but she seemed willing enough that I thought we’d give it a shot. She performed better on Sunday except for a new, unexpected problem. She started balking on her cued “through” behaviors. I knew I was wearing a robe which presented a very different picture to her and I had a feeling it was a vision issue. She’s not a young dog anymore so it wasn’t surprising. Just something I hadn’t come across with her before. She’d even missed the entrance to the ring twice while we were getting ready to perform. Despite those bobbles, she managed to qualify and took home her Veteran Championship.
I should have been elated but I couldn’t help but have mixed feelings. I felt badly she was unhappy at the venue (even though freestyle events are incredibly low-key). I felt awful her gut was so upset (later found out it was the Prilosec I had given her to protect her gut from the NSAIDs she is on). And I was sad because I can finally see the end of her competitive career is fast approaching. I cried into her neck several times. . .and sniffled with my fellow competitors. Apparently, some of them had been teary already after watching us together. I think that’s the first time we’ve moved an audience like that.
We came home with lots of loot, rosettes, ribbons, and memories. I couldn’t be happier with either of my dogs (Kyu was a superstar all weekend). I’m not ready to have my competitive journey with Risa end. . .but the end is near.
I’ve had to make some decisions in regards to her competitive future. Firstly, I decided I’m not taking her anywhere new for competitions anymore. I’ve also pretty much decided she’s done with anything that isn’t freestyle. She’s welcome to dance until she dies (even if not competitively). Jury’s still out on how much longer she’s going to be willing to do anything competitive. I can already see she is less than thrilled to spend long days in her crate at the show. Even when she’s able to sleep comfortably in her crate, it takes a lot out of her. She’s exhausted.
I know she’s an old dog now. It’s not like last year where it felt more like she was broken due to her back injury but still mentally young. She’s really aged over the last year. That’s not to say she isn’t still vibrant, playful, and active. She lights up when we train and she still loves to go in the ring and perform. It just takes a lot out of her. Even walks are starting to get shorter and she comes home to nap immediately afterward.
I won’t push her. When she says she’s had enough, it’s okay. I’m thankful we got to play at all and for as long as we have. She started her performance career late (she was 6) and she’s had a great run. So many letters. So many spectacular memories. I have loved having her as my partner in canine sports. She has always been a pleasure to work with (even if it has been frustrating and challenging along the way). I will miss stepping between the gates and looking down on her smiling face looking up at me. I will miss it. . .but I’m so thankful for all the memories.
Veteran MF-CH Dancing Cavy’s Pain in the Butte W-FDM/MF MF-M Veteran InS/E R-FE/N PCD BN RAE RL1 (AoE) RNX CA CGC WCX3