Sunday, August 15, 2010

Lumi's Field Career

Although Lumi is only six years old, relatively young for a field dog, I doubt she will be earning any more field titles. According to her pedigree on, she is the first dog in at least five generations of her line to earn a title of any kind. I feel that her string of titles, especially her GRCA WCX and her AKC SH, as well as First Place in a number of competitions, represent a remarkable record of accomplishment.

In addition, because advanced US field retrievers are invariably trained with ecollars these days, and have always been trained with aversive stimuli, she may be the first positive-trained dog ever to earn either a Golden's WCX or US retriever's SH.

At our most recent visit to Carol Lundquist, our holistic vet, I mentioned to Carol that these days, Lumi looks as though she's picking her way thru landmines when she returns from retrieves, carefully eyeing every step and taking many detours around patches of terrain she apparently deems too risky. Carol handled Lumi's feet for a few moments, then commented: "Well, Lindsay, you could get X-rays if you want, but I think I can tell you what they'd show. Lumi's toe joints are now becoming knobby. I'm pretty sure her arthritis, which X-rays have previously shown in her hips and wrist, is now in her feet as well. We could give her something for the pain, but we'd risk damaging her internal organs. With all the supplements, injections, special diet, and therapy that she's already been getting for years, I think she's already receiving the best care we can give her."

So now I'll describe the sort of thing Lumi is up to these days.

When we are at home in Maryland, Laddie and I continue to train pretty much every day. As I head for the front door, Laddie is there ahead of me. Lumi may also be on her feet and ready to join us. More often, she's lying down somewhere, either in sight or in another room. In that case, I say something like, "Lumi, training," and in some cases she takes that as a cue to get up and join us. Other times, she looks up at me but makes no effort to get up, as if to say, "You guys go ahead and train, I'll be waiting for you here." Currently, she comes with Laddie and me about half the time. If I know we'll be training with flyers, I use a non-optional recall cue to bring her along, since I know she'd make that choice if she knew.

When Lumi does join us in the van, she usually rides in front, either in the shotgun seat or in my lap, while Laddie prefers the back area, often on the floor behind me. When I'm out in the field with the dogs in the van, I generally leave Lumi in the passenger area, while I put Laddie in the single crate I keep in the back of the van. Lumi occasionally jumps out of the window to come to me if I leave it down too far, and she'll get into food if I accidentally leave any around, but aside from that, she's fine in the passenger compartment. By contrast, Laddie did a lot of damage to my previous van and I don't want it to happen to the new one.

When it's time for Lumi to take a turn in the field, I mostly run her on single or double marks up to about 100 yards. She is no longer steady at the line and often breaks, but I make no effort to discourage that. Her pick-ups, once a weak point, are now excellent, better than they've ever been. Her outruns are filled with enthusiasm, and she's still likely to nail every mark. She looks like a rocking horse when she runs, which I've always found pleasantly distinctive, but I recently learned it's something that dogs with hip pain do to compensate. Her returns tend to be painfully slow, though sometimes she does run back. I believe it depends on the terrain. She has about the sweetest face I've ever seen on a dog as she brings me the bird or bumper. I don't ask her to honor and rarely run her on blinds, though she often lines them when I do. She seems to place great value on being permitted to carry a bird when we return to the van. I give her a treat or two when she hops in, as I have her whole life.

In New York, where we spend four days out of every two weeks, our routine is different. I walk both dogs together three times a day, and I also take each dog on a separate walk twice a day, leaving the other dog in our room. That gives me some time alone with each dog.

Other than field work, I plan to go on training Lumi in various activities, to keep her mind active and to enjoy our relationship. Currently I'm working on her "hold", which was adequate for her field career but which I'd like to have more reliable for re-training an old trick she used to do, rolling herself up in a blanket by grabbing the corner as she rolls over.

We also go on frequent hikes. Sometimes we hike with Laddie, sometimes we all hike with Renee and Gabriel, and sometimes I take Lumi by herself.

Lumi and I have recently added something new to our life together. Sometimes I lie down on the living room floor, and for some reason this has become highly exciting to Lumi, and she begins wrestling with me, even play-biting. If I don't close Laddie in a separate room, he quickly joins us, and soon Lumi and Laddie are tussling like puppies. This is a side of Lumi I haven't seen in years. It's a pleasant counterpoint to her quiet side, lying on the couch with her head in my lap as I watch TV with Renee, or sleeping with her back against me in bed.

I think that gives a reasonable picture of Lumi's life these days, hopefully bringing some closure for readers of this blog to Lumi's field career. I doubt her field work in the future will be particularly instructive, and I expect that I'll make little reference to her in future posts on this blog.

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