a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: The Right Attitude

Friday, June 08, 2012

The Right Attitude

SUMMARY: It's all about the dog.
Missed the official Bloggers Posting Day about attitude--that was Wednesday, and you can read some awesome posts from other agility bloggers starting here.

Earlier this week I was in no position to be blogging about attitude, so let it slide. But something happened today: I'll Have Another, who won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, was scratched from the Belmont Stakes due to a swelling in his left front tendon. The on-call vet for Belmont "compared the problem to an Achilles tendon injury, which usually keeps a person off his feet for six weeks. 'This one to the horse is nowhere near that severity,' he said, 'but it takes the same amount of time to rehab it.'"

Can you imagine the pressure to find some way to compete? Horse racing isn't known for thinking first of the horse--I hear periodically about doping scandals and such, and there's always a suspicion that more's going on than you know about. There hasn't been a triple-crown winner in 35 years, and if I'll Have Another were to win, he'd join a very, VERY short list of triple crown winners among all the hundreds of thousands of horses who have raced through the years.

This was probably a once-in-a-lifetime chance for any horse owner, and they voluntarily pulled the horse rather than trying to hide it and get by with the swelling.

I'm sure that his stud fees will be very high now, but they'd have been even higher if he were to have won.

Of course, there's the risk that you could kill him now by running him, and then you'd have nothing. They must be thinking of that, too.

But what it reminded me of was an agility handler who, several years back, had made it onto the World Team. This is no easy feat. You have to practice--a lot. You have to improve yourself over and over as the competition level rises. You have to travel to the appropriate competitions. You and your dog have to be in fabulous shape. And you have to win again and again for an entire year. But only eight dogs a year out of all the dogs in the US make it onto the team. Sure, there are some handlers or dogs who are good enough and determined enough to get more than one shot at one of those slots, but really, you have to think of every one of those opportunities as a once-in-a-lifetime thing. Because there might not be a next year to try again--dogs get older, or you get injured, or come what may.

Then, after being selected, there were more team practices and focusing on what needed to be honed for the trip overseas.

But, not long before leaving for Europe for the world competition, this handler's dog came up with a little, tiny, itty bitty soreness. Maybe nothing that most of us would notice. But she noticed, and that was that; after careful evaluation of the dog's injury and determining that it would probably heal with a few week's rest, she scratched from the world team and stayed home. It must've been a bitter pill to swallow, especially for someone as skilled and determined as she is. And I don't know what she said in the privacy of her home or to her closest friends, but I never, ever, heard a single public bitter or self-pitying word about it. She was always matter-of-fact that it was the right thing to do.

And of course, it was.

And all together, that's the attitude to have in dog agility.


  1. Wow, a bitter pill for sure. I bet she has no regrets about it though. Good for her for not only doing the right thing, but being so gracious about it too.

  2. Your dog comes first is an important attitude; that's for sure. Thanks for sharing this story.

    It is easy to get caught up in reaching for a goal (we have the goals - not our dogs). I've wanted to run a sore dog sometimes, and it can be hard not to, but I've also spent enough time rehabbing injured dogs to know it is never the right thing to do to our dogs.... thanks!