Sunday, April 26, 2015

Laddie injured

Yesterday, I wrote a post describing the first day in a five day retriever training seminar that Laddie and I were participating in. It was brief, and I didn't post links to it on Twitter and Facebook, because time was so short last night before getting to bed. Time was short partially because, after hundreds of miles of driving in the wee hours followed by the first day of the seminar, I had to check into a hotel, get unpacked, and take care of food for Laddie and myself. It was also short because of some terrible news I'd received about the sudden and unexpected death of a dear friend, leading to hours of emotional phone calls to various family and friends.

Today was the second day of the seminar, and before I withdrew Laddie from continuing, it contained the following, listed here for completeness of this blog as a training journal:

  • Three tune-up blinds for whistle sits, but with no Walk Outs needed.
  • Three all-age scale land blinds, in which Laddie had mostly excellent whistle sits but also some unusual lapses of performance, including a couple of poor initial lines, sometimes eating grass after turning on whistle sits, and a pop (when Laddie pops, it's normally on confusing marks, not on blinds). He also tried to carry his last bird to the parking lot rather than bringing it back to me on his return.
  • Three all-age land marks, in which Laddie did OK, I guess, but hardly put on the kind of marking performance he's shown so often in the past. Again, he also had some especially unusual behavior, such as arriving at the area of the fall and then circling the gunner before going to pick up the bird, which he did twice. His last return also started with a detour to the gate that led to the parking lot.
All of this had me in distress, though it's hard to know how much of my emotional state was due to Laddie's performance, which is what I thought was causing it, and how much might have been the continued effects of learning about the tragic loss of an old friend. Certainly I felt distressed because I needed the pro who was conducting the seminar to get a picture of Laddie's strengths and weaknesses so that he could help me, over the five day seminar and with guidance going forward beyond. Instead he was seeing was a dog doing so many odd things that whatever he happened to do exceptionally well couldn't make up for the array of erratic behaviors.

That's what had me distressed, but I realize now that that's not what should have been causing me distress. It wasn't until we got to the next series of work in today's session -- six water blinds escalating in difficulty -- that it finally became clear that Laddie was injured. Although he wasn't limping, his gait seemed cramped when he first got up from lying in the grass. As he moved around, that went away, but when I then tried to run him on the drill, his behavior was so erratic -- I was finally able to see that he was exhibiting one avoidance behavior after another -- that I called it off before he even got into the water on the first blind.

And then I began to remember some isolated incidents over the last several days that I had barely noted, but were floating around in my memory. A few days ago, there was an incident where he had difficulty jumping up into his crate in the back of our van. Then, when I picked up a rental car for our trip, I remembered an incident now where he had difficulty jumping up into the back seat. And finally, last night, when I invited him into bed with me in the hotel, he put his front feet up on the bed but didn't seem interested in getting all the way up. I realize now that it wasn't that he wasn't interested. He just wasn't able to.

Consider, too, that Carol, our holistic vet, had noticed some general pain around Laddie's rear during an appointment just last weekend, including noting that Laddie might not be carrying his tail as high as he normally does. Carol's observations weren't definitive enough to take any action, but she said I should keep my eye on Laddie especially after swimming, in case it was a condition known as dead tail. That night, I researched dead tail and it didn't really match up with Laddie's symptoms. But the vague symptoms she was seeing were one more data point.

By now, you must be asking yourself, what in the world was the matter with Lindsay? How could he have all that information and not have realized long before this afternoon that Laddie was injured, and had no business running across the lawn, much less running a pair of triple retrieves at all-age distances? Believe me, I'm asking myself the same question.

I have no answer. Perhaps the difficult personal circumstances -- the long drive, the lack of sleep, the sad news about an old friend -- made it hard to pull all the Laddie info together in a cohesive way. Or perhaps it was similar to motivated reasoning: my desire for Laddie and me to benefit from this seminar and then perform well in our next competition next Friday may have overwhelmed my ability to notice that we had no business participating in either the seminar or the competition.

It is so clear to me at this moment that what Laddie needs now is rest and an opportunity to heal. But the timing is so unfortunate that I just could not see it until he behavior became so striking that I simply had to sit back and figure out what was going on.

Now I'll pack up and drive us back home, and perhaps Carol will take another look at Laddie in the light of the info I've gathered and be able to determine what's causing the problem and what, other than a couple of weeks of rest, might be called for. I'll post again when I know more, and when Laddie is able to resume his training and competition.

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