But at the last trial where I tried to jump him at 22" (he's been jumping 16 in the veterans class) in October, he went around a couple of jumps. For a dog who was capable of clearing 48" a few years back, and who completed his USDAA championship (ADCH) jumping 24", that's a bit worrisome.
Then there's been the question whether he's going deaf or what.
Eye problems?I've noticed that his right eye seems to be weepy and oddly shiny a lot--maybe for weeks, not sure whether it's up to "for months" yet. Maybe his problem with turning the wrong way or not responding to me isn't that he's deaf, it's that he's having vision problems? When he's on the sidelines in class while I'm walking a course, he watches me with the strangest fixed intensity--something about the way he hold his head that I can't put my finger on. And there was the trial 2 weeks ago, where he blasted out of a tunnel and ran towards the judge (clearly thinking it was me) although I was way in the opposite direction, right where I'd been when he went in, calling his name.
Body problems?Then yesterday I thought there was something odd about his body language. After playing squeakie-fetch, while just rather trotting around the yard, a couple of times it looked like his rear feet were tripping over each other. We went to agility class, but I annouced at the beginning of class that I wanted to run him for only half a class. Near the middle of class, when he was in a sit-stay in front of a jump that was angled about 45 degrees in front of him, he went around the jump when I released him--3 times straight. This is so unlike an experienced hand (paw?) like him.
I finally set him up so that the jump looked straight on to him, and he went over it fine. So I started thinking about that--an angled jump presents a very wide area for the dog to jump over; picture standing in front of a raised bar that's close to you on the left but farther away on the right--you have to either step farther or start farther if you go over the leftmost part--but what if you're going over it with 4 feet in stride? One side of your body has to handle it a little differently from your other side, so if you're uncomfortable with it at all, it suddenly becomes a difficult jump.
If he's having vision problems so he has trouble judging the depth, or if his jumping stride is painful, he might want to avoid a difficult jump.
To the vetAnyway, I have a vet's appointment for him on Monday.
Please gods let him be able to continueI so don't want to retire him from agility. He loves being out there (you should've seen his "face" when I put him back in the car and got Tika out). He loves running on the course and playing with me. OK, probably he loves playing with me is the baseline. So the other truth is that he's SO close to making the top-200-lifetime-point-earners in USDAA and I'd love to just squeeze him over the top if I could--AND he's only 2 gambles away from his Performance (like veterans) championship in USDAA--AND he's only 5 legs away from his CPE championship (CATCH) (we could get 4 of them at the trial at the end of March--won't have another stab at finishing until May) and depending on when he'd finish them, he could be only the 2nd dog in CA to earn that title. So *I* want him to keep going.
I know it has to end someday--but I see him racing across the park at top speed after a frisbee, and doing so for quite a long while without exhausting himself, and I still see an active, healthy dog.