Lots of signs that Jake is getting old, and I really started putting them together this weekend.
Arthritis: In August of 2001, Jake's back became suddenly extremely painful, and xrays confirmed that he had some arthritis in his lower spine. A month of rest and anti-inflammatory meds, and he seemed completely recovered. Have seen no signs of recurring pain or disability. I did notice at the early January trial that he didn't want to jump up into my arms at the end of a run like we've always done, and I thought maybe he was just a little tired. Actually I'm trying to remember whether he was doing that occasionally at a trial or 2 late in the fall, but I don't remember clearly. In any case, this weekend he didn't even look like he was thinking that jumping up was an option--just wiggled around all happy dog with all 4 feet on the ground, every time.
Anyway, I've also noticed that, in the morning, when he always leaps into my lap at the end of breakfast for a little snuggly, lately (how long?) he's been approaching slowly instead of dashing up, jumping barely high enough instead of flying into my lap, and often not propelling his back parts high enough, so especially in the last couple of weeks I've started preparing to catch his backside so it doesn't fall back to the floor.
Another morning ritual has always been that, as soon as I show signs of being awake, Jake pops up, stretches a little, and comes wagging right up into my ear to nuzzle and push and then roll immediately onto his back and wriggle around making snorking and moofing sounds. Last couple or 3 (how long?) weeks I've finally noticed that he doesn't do that any more. Lifts his head but doesn't immediately get up. Rolls over onto his side and lifts his paw to allow some stomach rubbing. Gets up casually and comes over to say hi. Maybe a little rolling around but not as much or as enthusiastically.
At the trial this weekend, where he usually leaps into my lap on the chair when we return to our set-up after a run, he didn't want to leap onto my lap. Got onto the chair itself, carefully. And once, when he started to leap, he yelped and stopped.
As for the foot that disabled him for a couple of months in Oct & Nov, the bone spur is still there but I've seen no signs of pain or limping since then. Still, in class Wed. night a couple of people said they thought he was holding back when he was running, not reaching out all the way. When I started watching, then and this weekend, I'm pretty sure I noticed it some of the time myself.
Decisions: So what to do about agility? I've been entering him in more veterans classes, where he jumps 12" or 16" depending on the organization (compare this to the 24" he started at in USDAA and earned his ADCH at!). But in a couple of the upcoming trials, when I sent in the entry forms last month, I entered him at full height because he had seemed to be doing so well. I know that I need to contact the trial secretaries and ask them to move him to all vets, but the bigger question is--should he be doing agility at all?
You'd never know that there's anything going on to watch him chase he squeaky, or a ball, or a frisbee. (Note to self: he did some jumping for frisbees this weekend even though I was trying to keep it low--I'll bet that's what made his back more sore.) He still can rev up spectacularly for the agility courses, too, and he did very well this weekend, earning 1st, a couple of seconds, and a couple of thirds--sometimes only a second or so behind a couple of much younger, very fast shelties. He's so wiggly and cheerful after a run.
And I worry about the same thing about NOT entering him that I do with Rem--if we're at an agility trial, and other dogs (i.e., Tika), are running, he'll want to come out and run. I probably need to scale back--not enter him in everything possible like I usually do because he's always had the energy and enthusiasm to do as many runs as *I* could handle.
But I also believe that being as active as he's been has helped to keep him as active as he's been, if you know what I mean. I know that some sources think that agility causes some of the problems, but I've seen more healthier dogs doing agility & being active longer than many couch potato dogs. I dunno. Hard to say. Amber started showing signs of arthritis & slowing down I think when she was around 10 or 11, although I don't remember any more, and she of course never did agility. Sheba didn't show it til 13 or 14 or maybe later.
To the best of our knowledge, Jake turned 11 around November 1. A lot of dogs are retiring from agility much earlier, so he's had a darned good run, so to speak.
Getting old sucks.