I ran Laddie in the Maryland Gun Dog Championship last Sunday, and had him entered in a Super Singles competition tomorrow, because both events would be opportunities to work on Laddie's steadiness with flyers.
For training this week, I ran Laddie on three singles, all around 300y, on Tuesday, ran him on six blinds of around 180y on Thursday, and also brought him to an excellent training group we're lucky enough to be able to train with, which was meeting this morning.
The first setup today was a tight ABCD drill, plus a 150y+ blind, featuring a hay-bale keyhole and suction to wrap behind a wooded section near the end.
Unfortunately, we never got that far. Laddie raced out on the first single, but began limping badly on his return, and halfway back stopped, sat down, and dropped the bird. I came out and lifted him into my arms, intending to carry him to the van. But halfway there he began struggling, and when I put him down, he did not seem to be limping any more.
I checked his paws for foreign objects at the suggestion of another trainer, and then decided to try him out on another single. Again he raced to the bird, and again he began to limp badly on his return. He limped to an area of shadow behind a hay bale near the second fall and lay down with the bird. I again walked out to him, but rather than picking him up this time, in deference to my recently injured back, I slipped his lead over his head and slowly walked him back to the van.
Luckily, our holistic vet, Carol Lundquist, who lives less than an hour from where we were training, was able to make a few minutes to check Laddie out. First I walked him around outside, expecting to show Carol either that Laddie was not limping, or that he was limping on his chronically injured right foreleg. Instead, he seemed to be limping on his left foreleg, which he's never injured before as far as I can remember.
Carol then examined him in her office, and discovered that two of the toes on his left foot were badly swollen. She told me that it made sense he could run out on his retrieves without seeming to limp but would limp on the way back in. That's because when a dog canters or gallops, if one foot is sore, the dog can lead with the other side and not appear to limp. But trotting back, the dog needs to put weight on both front legs alternately and an injury shows as limping.
Carol gave me guidance such as icing and various pain meds, and no training for at least a week, which will hold us until our scheduled appointment next Saturday for both Lumi and Laddie. Of course Laddie won't be able to run in the event tomorrow either.
How did the injury occur? Carol mentioned several possibilities, such as a misstep that resulted in a sprain, or banging his foot against a rock or tree root. She said the injury also could have occurred earlier, such as when I aired him, but wasn't painful enough to cause limping till he ran hard on the first, and then the second, send outs.
It's unfortunate we'll have to miss the event tomorrow, but the timing and/or the injury could have been a lot worse.