a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: Agility in the Autumn Recap

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Agility in the Autumn Recap

SUMMARY: Sometimes nothing goes the way you expect it to.

Picking up from where I left off--Tika again coughed most of the night Friday night, so even though I had no trouble drifting off because I was so tired from lack of sleep Thursday night, when 4 a.m. rolled around, I was then operating on two nights of sleep deprivation. Still, when I headed out on the road, I felt pretty good and even looking forward to the weekend.

The trip to Turlock was uneventful and I arrived half an hour earlier than I had anticipated, so turned on my alarm and napped in MUTT MVR for half an hour. First time I think I've ever done *that* (although I have often stopped & napped on my way home from trials).

The weather cooperated nicely. Cold and crisp on Saturday, with no rain at all. Tika in particular likes the cooler weather, so I figured that we might get some good fast runs. (Sunday was a bit warmer but still nicely cool for the dogs.)

We started the morning with Pairs Relay. Boost and her partner did great--her partner (a half sister) knocked a bar, but Boost was spot on perfect and I felt great running, knee again not bothering me, felt faster than I've felt in a long time. We had THE fastest running time of all 16 teams, wooohooo! but the 5-second penalty for the bar knocked us into 2nd place. That's very cool; Boost very seldom finishes with a placement ribbon even when we Q.

Tika and her partner did good, although once again Tika stunned me by popping out of the middle of the poles. I always made a high-pitched "brrrrrrrrr!" noise as she did the poles, and so now I'm wondering whether she's not hearing it so is thinking she's in the wrong place. But we still Qed and placed 2nd of 6 teams! A great way to start the morning, and Tika looked quite happy to be out there.

Next up, Standard, and OMG OMG OMG Boost and I had *another* spot-on perfect run! I felt fleet and fit; she did everything right, and placed 4th of 26 dog with a Q! Like, truly, WOW! On only 4 other weekends, ever, has she placed in the ribbons in 2 runs the same weekend! Happy happy happy, we both looked pretty pleased coming off the course. I also decided this weekend to do quick releases off all the contacts rather than stopped and telling her she's good. I liked that.

I'm thinkin'--oooh, this COULD be our day for a Super-Q in Snooker! Everything is clicking!

In Standard, Tika took the first jump and started coughing. I kept going, because on the few times she's coughed while running, it's gone within 3 or 4 coughs. She kept going, doing everything perfectly, but still coughing coughing. By the 10th obstacle--a chute (collapsed tunnel), she was obviously slowing. Next up, the dogwalk, and I decided that if she was still coughing on the dogwalk, I was stopping. But, you know, Tika doesn't stop on the dogwalk.

She didn't this time, either, but she was very slow, took a couple steps off the end, stopped completely, and stood there silently with her head down as I moved quickly in.

She took a step and staggered. I grabbed her. Head still down. I gently tried to turn her around to leave the course, and she stumbled against me. I held her still for a moment, scared down to the pit of my soul. She took another step, stumbled, then another step, and another, and her head came up, and her ears came up, and she trotted off the field like nothing had happened.

I checked her gums, and they were white.

White gums was how I always knew that Remington's tumor was bleeding internally, so I know about white gums. And, because of Remington, I have checked Tika's gums occasionally since she started the coughing, and they've never been white.

Much quick consulting with the many season vet techs who are also agility addicts around here. Tika still acting like a completely normal Tika, ready to go, eager to eat, bright-eyed. Got info about the 24/7 emergency clinic and headed off with both dogs.


By the time we got there, Tika's gums had a little pink to them. They did a triage check and said, nope, her gums are fine, and so we went on the end of the queue of not-in-immediate-danger pets spending their Saturday at the emergency clinic.

Eventually, we met with the vet. By that time, Tika's gums were the usual bright pink. And aside from occasional coughing, looked and acted completely normal, including being quite stressed about being at the vet's.

They did a blood test at my request, and her blood cells were normal, no sign of anemia. The vet also kept listening to her chest over and over, and we finally decided to do chest x-rays (w/out sedation--Tika was very good!). Now, I've known for a couple of years that Tika had a heart murmur, and that it had gotten slightly worse by this summer;  at our most recent visit, our vet discussed a little bit about how Tika was likely headed down the road sometime to congestive heart failure. He said to let him know if she started coughing. She had been for several months at that point, but he seemed to think that what I was reporting wasn't significant. But it did prepare me for this diagnosis confirmed by Saturday's x-rays: Congestive heart failure.

Her heart is enlarged, and her chest had accrued extra fluid, all putting pressure on her blood vessels and bronchial tubes, which is what causes the coughing (same in people as in dogs). Most likely what happened on the field was that she simply was not getting enough oxygen to her brain.

Why she was fine during frisbee that morning and during her pairs relay run, but then started coughing during Standard, dunno.

But obviously in those preceding 48 hours, her body had crossed some kind of threshold that had made everything suddenly quite worse.

Do you know how strange it is to think, "Oh, thank Dog, she only has congestive heart failure!" ??!

Got some diuretics for her to reduce the fluid in her chest (standard treatment for humans, too). And returned to the trial, 4 hours after we'd left.


Scratched Tika from the rest of the weekend.

When we got back, Steeplechase Round 1 was in progress, so we had completely missed Gamblers and Snooker, dagnabbit. Everyone was very nice and let me get a quick walk-through at a jump-height change so that I could still run Boost in the Steeplechase.

I still felt fast and fit, but Boost ran past two jumps, wasting too much time when I had to take her back to fix them, so no Q. But parts of the run felt brilliant.

We also were able to run Jumpers. It was a gnarly course (in the negative sense) and the Q rate was low: Only 6 of the 28 dogs in Boost's height Qualified... including Boost! That's Jumpers Qs two trials in a row! Holy mackerel! AND a fourth-place ribbon! (It wasn't a pretty run, way too many turns in the wrong direction, but she kept all her bars up and didn't run past anything.)

So three Qs and three placement ribbons out of four runs! That has never happened before!

Took Tika out of her crate about every half hour and she peed a lot each time, so the diuretic was doing its job, I hoped. Dreaded the night, though--

I was in bed and asleep by 8:30, SO tired from 2 nights of interrupted sleep and the stress of the day. Had to set the alarm for 10:30 p.m. to give Tika her next pill, took her out then for one last pee--

--and then we all slept straight through until the alarm went off at 7. Blissful sleep! And no coughing from Tika! Yay!

On Sunday, Tika and I: 
  • Spent time together with her just out of the crate, visiting people, getting treats and affection.
  • Wandered around the grounds looking for molecules of goodies in the grass.
  • Worked at the score table together--well, I worked the score sheets and she worked the food.
  • Played tug-of-war. Vet said no running for a week, keep her fairly quiet. Tug probably isn't quiet, but she was SO happy to get some playing in! And I stopped at the first sign of a cough each time.
Everyone at agility is SO nice; I can't tell you how many people helped me after Tika's meltdown in the ring, even offering to go with me to the emergency room (I declined), or came by later that day or today to ask how she was, share their knowledge or their lessons from their own similar experiences, and to wish us well. I hope I said thank you often enough--you all out there were wonderful, and I'm grateful beyond words.

On Sunday, Boost and I:
  • Had a not-quite perfect jumpers run--she knocked the 2nd bar, I got in a late front cross for an off course after #4, and then--were brilliant! Oh, what a fun dog to run when everything is clicking!
  • Had a PERFECT PERFECT PERFECT Standard run with the 2nd fastest time of all 30 dogs in her class--oh, except for that one little bit where she ran past the first jump instead of taking it. I didn't go back and fix it, no point to that. So we E'ed but I was SO happy with that run!
  • Had a SUPER Grand Prix run; 7th fastest out of 29 dogs but 4 of the others had faults and we didn't, so she Qed AND placed 3rd!  In Grand Prix! OMG all over again! The highest she had ever placed before was 5th, and that only twice ever!
  • Had...well...a not-so perfect Snooker run. OK, she kept all her bars up! But we had to have discussions about 2 different jumps that she didn't go over, so we ran out of time partway through the #7 in the closing, but the bits between that were SO much fun! Turns out that even if we'd made it, we'd have been 1 point shy of a Super-Q, but still, at least it was a regular Q.
And my knee continued to feel great... oh, except now it's popping every time I take a step. Doesn't hurt (much), though, and it hasn't felt this good in a very long time as it has these last couple of months.  And I've felt like I've really been hauling my own butt around the course, which maybe is why she's doing better. It's inexplicable.

So, for Boost's weekend: Qed 5 out of 8--62%! She has NEVER Qed more than 35% in a USDAA weekend, EVER! *AND* four of them placing in the top 4 out of a large class, when she'd only ever had 2 placements in a weekend before.

Don't tell me that Boost and I are figuring out how to do agility as she's approaching her 8th birthday and Tika is unexpectedly retiring?! That's just ridiculous!

So, is Tika retired from agility? Most likely, yes. Did I really believe that this weekend would be her last weekend of agility, ever? Not really. I expected to have some time to think about it, for her to gradually still get older and slower and more frail, and that I would then make a decision and have a nice retirement agility trial with her, but hopefully not until we'd gotten those last 20 Qs for her Platinum Lifetime.

But today she felt fine all day; annoyed that i wouldn't let her play frisbee; almost no coughing. Tomorrow, we'll meet with our regular vet and talk about the future.

The future-- yes, sometimes, nothing goes the way you expect it to.


  1. My 8 1/2 year old Doberman is now fully into CHF. Have your Vet look at using Pimobendan (also called Vetmedin) and along with Lasix (aka Furosemide), and that can great help a dogs lifespan. We have seen some nice improvements. Lots of urinating on the diuretic. Contact me if you do start using the Pimobendan as I can point you to a cheaper source, as it's reasonably expensive at most pharmacies. I really priced it everywhere.

    classichits1 & g mail.com

    1. Thanks, Carla, I'll keep that in mind. How's your Doberman doing with normal sorts of dog activities?

    2. BTW, Carla, Tika has been on vetmedin, disal, and enalapril since then.

  2. I feel sad for you and for Tika. Yet, look how happy she is to just be with you. So I know I should not be sad just because she will retire. She's a great dog. Hugs.

    1. Thanks. I'm pretty sure that Tika doesn't care about retiring as long as she gets attention and food. It's just me that's sad about it. She has continued to compete quite a bit longer than I originally thought she would when I moved her to the lower heights in performance 3+ years ago.

  3. Poor Tika, I hope she gets better with the meds. and some rest. Still lots of stuff you can do with retired dogs, I'm sure she'll adjust. I think these decisions are harder on us than the dogs.

    1. You're right about that. I'm now particularly glad that I signed up both dogs for a 2-day nosework seminar over thanksgiving. Maybe that'll be Tika's next thing.

  4. Oh Ellen, I had no idea :( I am so sorry for you. It is heartbreaking not being able to run your dog. I hope that Tika has many more years with you and that the heart can hang in there. Hugs.

    1. Thanks, Vici. Our run was over pretty quickly so if someone wasn't watching right at that moment, they wouldn't have known anything was going on. Thanks for the note; appreciate it.

  5. Sorry about Tika. That must have been so scary. Congrats on your successfull Qing weekend with Boost even with the stress.

    1. Thanks. Fortunately Boost's successful weekend started before Tika's major problem, so I didn't have to start second-guessing whether I did better when I was under terrible stress. ;-) Actually I think I do badly when under stress about agility itself; I already know that. Anyway, we all ended up having fun except when I didn't let Tika play frisbee.

  6. I'm so glad Boost had such a good weekend -and like you was relieved to hear congestive heart failure for Tika girl... hang in there!!

    1. Thanks. Boost's wonderful weekend is another reason I think I'm more accepting of Tika's impending retirement.

  7. So sorry about Tika I hope you have many more adventures together even if it isn't running agility. And congrats on Boost's weekend. Such a mixed weekend of highs and lows.


    1. Thanks. All things considered, guess I'd rather have it be a combination of highs and lows than all lows. :-)

  8. Wow, I go away for a week and.....sigh, so sad that you both have to go through this. Adjusting to all this I am sure isn't easy, but know you will find a super fun way for both of you to keep having fun together.

    1. Thanks; we're trying. She's a little confused by what's going on (or what's not going on), poor girl.

  9. "Do you know how strange it is to think, "Oh, thank Dog, she only has congestive heart failure!" ??!"

    TOTALLY get this. We all were fearing the alternative - so good to see her back at the site and breaking the trend.

    1. Thanks, Holly. Turns out that it's not a very good heart at this point, but it mostly doesn't seem to have bothered her before, so I guess we'll keep on going sans agility.