The Real Time Canine II

After spending 2 years writing the Real Time Canine, the adventure continues with The Real Time Canine II. Read along as I look for just the right puppy to continue the experience. After false starts with Tim and Jed, I am currently training young Tam, and Spot, which are both off to a strong start. Please visit the RTC II to read about training sessions as they occur.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Laddie sustained a career-ending injury a few months back, and I've come to accept that I have to retire him from trialing. Just 2 years after he made the trip from Wales and his home on Richard and Lisa Millichap's Hendre-Owen Farm, it's over. In this top photo, taken 2 days after the accident, he had complete paralysis in his right hind leg, and was unable to stand or walk without being supported in a sling. His buoyant personality and invincible joy in spite of adversity has made me love him all the more. I didn't see the accident, I only heard the result, when, out of pain and fear, Laddie started screaming. When I got to him he was writhing on the ground, virtually spinning in circles trying and failing to stand and run with one hind leg at an odd angle to his body flopping hideously. I thought he had broken his femur. I had 2 dogs in for training, all the dogs were loose and the excitement was causing them to interfere. Before I could help him, I had to kennel them. Once it was done, I layed him flat on the ground. Whimpering and shaking, he allowed me to quiet him. I've had my share of emergency veterinary hospital visits and this one was going to be just like all the others, long, scary, inconclusive and expensive. 8 hours and 2 hospitals later a neurologist armed with a $2,000 MRI determined that Lad had ruptured a disc in his back and the emerging disc material under pressure had bruised his spinal cord causing paralysis that may or may not ever heal. Even if it did heal, they said, it could not be known to what degree.

Within a week Lad was walking and, over my protests, jogging. Pacing now with each side of his body moving in unison instead of opposite, his hips swung awkwardly to create motion in the compromised leg. 2 weeks later he could bear weight on the bad leg and lift the good one to pee. I dared to hope. Sooner than later he was running and jumping, when I couldn't stop him, and helping me do chores. I gave him a chance and started working him... just a little. So keen, so happy to work for me, so precise and willing and, in spite of compromised mobility, so blindingly quick.

A couple days after 2 days of light work, Lad had muscle spasms that caused his bad leg and paw to contract and tremble invountarily. He was obviously in pain and overnight had licked hair off that leg. Muscle relaxers and a couple doses of Metacam erased the symptoms, but the realization that his career is over became apparent.

That's when the regrets started.
What if I would have just left him on the Welsh hill farm where he fit like a head rope in Doyle Gellerman's right hand? What if I'd been more careful when I let the dogs out that night? What if I had done a better job of rehabilitation? What if I had whistled him out on the cast when I ran him at Meeker? What if the set out crew had known what the ***k they were doing the last time I'll ever trial him? What if I'd had the opportunity to run him both days? What difference does it make now anyway?

This morning when I let the dogs out to go with me and feed, Lad was outwardly the happiest to see me. I got up early, while it was still cool and Lad played hard, like a puppy. Front paws spread, head down, jumping straight up and down, continually grabbing at my pant leg just so joyful and glad to be alive.

He's got lots of faults. When I'm late letting the dogs out in the morning, he protests loudly. He pees on everthing, and I mean everything. People's feet. 6 When I brought him across, I just wasn't willing to do what was necessary to create change. I exchanged his faults and lots of resulting criticism for the pure adrenalin rush of working him.

Once when I had Lad in a small pen with some sheep, a woman standing nearby said "that's a lot of dog for that little pen." Austin Bennett had this to say about him in the July/August, 2006 edition of ISN; "It was lad who drew the awkward ewe, and given no chance. Not that lad was bothered overmuch; he went on that day to win at Libanus."

The year before I owned him, I saw Richard run him at the World Trial in Tullamore. I made a point of catching his run from start to finish. The dog never put a foot wrong and simply watching gave me goose bumps. I remember being slack jawed when I realized that the dog stopped so hard and so fast that, even though his feet weren't moving, momentum carried his body forward. I never really caught up to him at the pen where I have stood with lead feet watching very testy ewes literally jump in and me just holding the rope not quick enough to be useful. And, oh can the dog shed. The dog simply loves to shed. Through the tiniest hole with complete confidence and absolute authority. Amanda Milliken snapped the second picture above an instant before Lad shot through a rapidly diminishing hole for a difficult 10-point single at the Milberg's Oak Springs Trial earlier this year.

I've thought maybe I could find him a suitable pet home, but I don't think Lad wants to be a pet. I think he just wants to be with me. I feel as though I owe him a debt of lifetime allegiance after forcibly wrenching him off the hill in Wales. I'll never know what happened the night of the accident. I just know that me and Laddie have to make the best of it and he's so much better at that than I am.

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