“Back” At It!

Posted on 09/13/10 42 Comments

I have been away from the blog for the past week or so — mostly a forced absence.  My back decided it was a good time for me to “take a break.” My back has dictated forced “downtime” in my life in the past. Of course with this lay up coming only a few days after my week of fitness fun, John blames me over working it in the gym. I am convinced that was not the cause. My back, when it “goes out” can often be traced to an emotional cause –stress related– more than a physical issue.

Truly you could say “It is all in my head”, in my opinion. Neither icing nor drugs had any effect on the pain and discomfort and the painful spots would move around. Plus I felt it come on gradually while I typed at the computer; hence my conclusion it was a mental rather than a physical issue with my dear old back. Either way, it was trips to the chiropractor and my osteopath with energy work by Carol Smorch adding the final touches to the healing process at the trial.

It likely didn’t help that during the month of August I was at the computer a lot for my e-course. Some days up to 16 hours without a break. Not the norm for me and certainly that could have played a role. Whatever the reason, my incapacitation had John dressing and undressing me everyday for the better part of ten days and I had to resort to using a cane to get around the house.  There was no comfort sitting or standing so I spend most of the last two weeks lying in bed. Forced bed rest – – I was not amused!

Very frurstrating since I have FCI Worlds around the corner and last weekend had the USDAA Regionals. In spite of the fact I could not break out of a walk on Thursday I convinced John to drive me to Michigan so I could try to compete.  He was not impressed and after watching two classes on Friday he announced “you are screwing up those dogs trying to handle them around a course when you can’t even break out of a jog.” Of course he was right, luckily I only entered those two classes on Friday. By Saturday I was much better and could run; albeit without much extension of my legs in front.  I felt like a well dressed lady from the fifties in a tight A line skirt trying to run for a bus.

I think I would have been okay had it not started to rain on Saturday:(. Cold and rain not good for an ailing back. My goal in going to the regional was to get some handling under pressure before worlds but really I was hoping to get a “bye” in Steeplechase and Grand Prix for Feature for the USDAA Finals in October (Encore already has hers). Sadly, I we did not get our “byes” – – just not meant to be for Featchy and I. She had a perfect Grand Prix finals — the fastest time and I have watched and re-watched the video and still can not see where she touches a bar on the double, yet one fell down:(.

However I still think it was a good weekend.  Since this was the last regional event of the year, there were competitors from all across the USA (and some from Canada as well). Even with me running half speed (and if you have seen me run, half of my speed is close to going in reverse!) we managed some nice runs. Feature and Encore came first and second in Team Standard, Feature won Team Jumpers, Encore won the Steeplechase finals and Feature (with our teammates Terry Smorch with Presto and Kim Cullen with Recess) won the all around Team Championship.


This week as I add the final touches to our preparations before heading off to Germany for the worlds, I get so emotional thinking about my dogs. I always do during final prep for the worlds.

How much I love them, how grateful I am to own each of them, how far they have come since coming home with me when they were 7 weeks old.

How much they give to me and what they tolerate . . . especially during weekends like this one where I was limping around the courses– relying on my dog even more than normal.

Wow, do I ever love my dogs. I can’t imagine a life without a dog, can you?

Here are some highlights from the weekend, with me running like I have been hobbled and my dogs doing what they do so well.

Today I am grateful for Encore and Feature, not because of what they do inside of the agility ring, but because of how much each of them add to my life outside of the sport of  agility.


  1. Patricia says:
    Tuesday, September 21, 2010 at 10:05pm

    Susan, I agree with your suspicions: Try giving the gluten the heave-ho again. The pain I used to experience “wandered” like yours, all over the place, although always gradually coming on via my back.

    Since it eventually became excruciating, I finally tried an anti-inflammatory diet that was exclusionary in nature, and when I started adding foods back in, found the culprit seemed to be gluten.

    Now, as you know, I’m sure, it could be some other dietary villain, as we are all different. But getting rid of the gluten is probably a good starting point.


  2. Jo-Anne says:
    Friday, September 17, 2010 at 11:33am

    Hi, Susan,
    What an exhilarating and passionate accompaniment to honour your feelings towards the sport that you love the most and especially dedicated to your two wonderful team mates….
    Best of luck in the worlds….stay well…
    Jo-Anne Tarren and McTaggart


  3. myirish2 says:
    Thursday, September 16, 2010 at 10:16pm

    Healing wishes sent your way. Best wishes for great runs and lots of fun at Worlds. . . . .


  4. Jim says:
    Thursday, September 16, 2010 at 2:56pm

    Hi Susan
    Any thoughts on Brendan Brazier’s “Thrive Fitness”?


  5. Michelle says:
    Thursday, September 16, 2010 at 12:13pm

    BOOK you may be interested in – I was reading in the Globe today about a book, not sure if you have it called “Thrive – The Vegan Nutrition Guide to Optimnal Performance in Sports and Life” (written by triathlete Brendan Brazier) and acknowledged by Hugh Jackman (X-Men Actor Wolverine). The write up goes on to state that the right Vegan diet helped reducing his recovery time!! Worth a read, might check it out myself.


  6. Debbie says:
    Thursday, September 16, 2010 at 2:19am

    Thanks for sharing your troubles…it just goes to show what true dedication, perserverance, good mental health and proper care can accomplish. I sure hope you back is better in no time.

    The video is wonderful and shows what wonderful team work you have with the “red heads”. The love and devotion you have with your furry friends is a real inspiration to the rest of us.

    Keep the faith and best wishes for a wonderful trip/competition at Worlds.


  7. Alison says:
    Thursday, September 16, 2010 at 1:22am

    I injured my back over 10 years ago, and every so often it gets really stiff and sore.

    The best thing I have found to help it is – don’t stop moving. The best way to do that is through swimming. It works wonders, and is probably cheaper than any of the therapies!


  8. Blaze says:
    Wednesday, September 15, 2010 at 8:06pm

    It almost goes without sayin that you’re seeking Chiropractic help, eh? That’s what I’d do for a dog with back pain, so why not for humans too.


  9. Caroline McKinney says:
    Wednesday, September 15, 2010 at 8:03pm


    As someone also injured and looking for relief–I have just borrowed and tried nikken power mag. Made me believe enough to go buy one. You can decide for your self. Whether it is emotional in origin–it ends up being physical and we can learn from the emotional but we have to deal with the physical fall out.


    Hope you get relief one way or another


  10. Gale says:
    Wednesday, September 15, 2010 at 1:53pm

    Wow! too bad for the dropped bar. I have only competed in Novice, but I have only had a dropped bar once … in a gamble final and my dog had crossed the finish line with the front of him and the back legs, but his tail hit the bar and the judge said no good gamble… I was crushed, but over 5 people when to talk to the judge, some showing video and others saying they had told the ring crew the bar support on one side was crooked and not supporting the bar except by a hair, but they hadn’t fixed it.., so I got my gamble! Yippee!

    I hope your back feels better soon and that Canada takes the worlds.

    I am gong to teach my dog to read the numbers so that I can stand in the middle of the ring and just say “do 2, 3, 4….” LOL.


  11. Angela says:
    Wednesday, September 15, 2010 at 1:47pm

    Thank you for sharing this amazing video. I cannot imagine my life without the beautiful moments and precious gifts my dogs have given me.

    Good luck in Germany!!

    Blessings~ Angela and Baylor


  12. Elizabeth says:
    Tuesday, September 14, 2010 at 11:09pm

    Your video and thoughts just emphasize the reasons that I love to work and play and compete with my dogs as well as the time that I spend with my older dogs getting kisses and giving massages.
    Thank you for the video and for sharing a piece of who you are.
    Best of health to you when you travel and compete.


  13. brittsdeux says:
    Tuesday, September 14, 2010 at 10:30pm

    Susan, I hope you are on the mend and send you my best wishes. My back aches too — from jumping for joy! HAHA Jason, we need a “brags” blog. After taking 2 months off from agility class, we started again tonight. My formerly wild-eyed, take off my leash and I bolt for the far corners and cannot hear my mamma brittany has been completely transformed. Tonight at class we started practice with a 5-jump mini-course. She held her start-line stay like a rock, released on cue, then bypassed all the jumps, running along beside me the entire way, staying right by my hip, in the RZ, looking at my face. HAHA I was so thrilled that she stuck by my side the entire way, outdoors, with smells, 6 other barking dogs and people milling about, I nearly cried! The second time around she remembered to take the jumps!! 🙂 WOO HOO!


  14. denise says:
    Tuesday, September 14, 2010 at 7:42pm

    Sorry to hear about your back pain especially as it was not helped by the brilliant e course that you’ve been running that I’ve absolutely loved!!!…..feel a bit guilty knowing you’ve spent SO many hours putting it together for us….extremely generous of you.

    I for one never want to live without dogs in my life….they enrich my life so much and it’s really hard to explain to people who don’t feel the same love for animals.

    All the best for you, Linda and the girls in Germany….I’ll be watching and cheering for you from Australia.


  15. Melissa Blazak says:
    Tuesday, September 14, 2010 at 7:42pm

    Susan you NEED this chair! My dad bought one a few years ago. It was recommended by a few friends, plus a doctor and chiropractor.

    It shipped fine from out West and is easy peasy to put together.

    The Zero G chair.



  16. Shelley says:
    Tuesday, September 14, 2010 at 6:32pm

    16hrs with no break at the computer – all of us e course people should come over and through you in your lake for that! Whilst we admire your dedication to the e course – we kind of want you well and not hurting too!

    Chiropractic work has done wonders for me and pilates really helps…..but honestly 16hrs at a computer……….

    Encore and Feature still look like poetry in motion to me….sorry didn’t really notice you as I couldn’t take my eyes of them!

    Goodluck in Germany !



  17. MicheleA says:
    Tuesday, September 14, 2010 at 6:21pm

    What a wonderful song to go with the video…dogs sure our “special best friends”….take care of the back.


  18. Pat Burroughs says:
    Tuesday, September 14, 2010 at 5:43pm

    I hope your back pain gets better soon your runs were great thank you for sharing both the video and the love you have for your dogs . My dogs and I have alot of issues in agility well mostly my issues they are fast I am not and when something goes wrong in a trial I always try to pick out what went right and if everything fell apart in a run they still get treats they still get to come home with me ,I still love them no matter what .I have 5 shelties and 1 border and they all have different personalties we have Dallas “the serious 1”,Beetle “the fun police”,Tex “the class clown”,Dustee “girls just wanna have fun”,Viper “I think you need a hug” and Jovi “the lover” I would not trade any of them in even when they are naughty : 0


  19. Mary M says:
    Tuesday, September 14, 2010 at 5:20pm


    Very nice runs, sorry your back was out….you pushed through the pain well.

    Wanted to give a shout out about the Back-On-Track gear, we use for our dogs (and I have thought about the human shirts, leggings, etc.) might not be a bad idea for a last ditch effort prior to Worlds…thought I would just put that out there for you.

    Good luck at Worlds!!!



  20. Kea Grace says:
    Tuesday, September 14, 2010 at 4:22pm


    Here’s to wishing you and your team the best of luck in Germany!

    I sincerely hope that your back pain vanishes, never to return. 🙂 Have you ever used Tiger Balm? It’s a SE Asian product that works miracles on muscles and ligaments. I used to a grappling style of martial art that was intensive in wrenched joints and ligaments . . . . and Tiger Balm could soothe all but the worst.

    You’ll be in Louisville in October? For the USDAA finals?

    Kea Grace


  21. Jenny Yasi says:
    Tuesday, September 14, 2010 at 1:31pm

    Bummer about the back pain! I have had back problems off and on for the past 6 years, since I tried to show off my horseback riding after not having ridden for a few decades. I have two things that help me tons. My $175 inversion table, for gentle gut strengthening and gentle spinal circulation stimulating exercises( Just rocking *gently* back and forth to stretch and compress and decompress between vertebra really loosens things up); a $12 car seat cushion that is supposed to take weight off the tailbone. I got it at Walmart, and it makes long car rides SO MUCH BETTER. I can actually get out of the car and then STAND UP STRAIGHT!!! It’s a foam pad in sort of a horse-shoe shape. It is unreal how much it helps me. Oh well, life is not for sissies! It was apparently just the wind in her sails that knocked the bar! Great that you got to go! I remember this girl crying because her dog refused a teeter and I thought, boy, there are lots of real reasons in this world to cry, and I am NEVER going to cry about that! Hahaha! Could be worse! haha. In the on-line recallers seminar everyone kept asking, “what do you do when something goes wrong? what do you do when there is a failure or disappointment?” I love the way you rest your back and reflect and do the next thing.

    We’re in the process of moving off an island, which is WAY more complicated now than it was when we moved on over 25 years ago. So I haven’t been “here,” but I’ve been playing the games here and there, when I get five minutes with my dogs, who are now SWATHED in blaze orange, beside our new farm pond in the Maine countryside. I am jealous of everyone who has time to do dog things, because I’m doing lots of dumpster and plumbing and electrical related things right now! But the new Whole Dog Camp is going to be so pretty, maybe someday you could come here and do a seminar, we’ve got a gorgeous field and trails and rivers and classroom and it will be a really nice place to camp and train.

    I love the way you love your dogs! I love my dogs too! Life is so amazing! I wish they could just say a few actual words sometimes, because they would surely say, “rest and feel better!” Husbands are great, sounds like John is a good one!! Feel better, feel happy, glow in your brilliance. As my Nana would say, “When you’re ninety you’ll look back at those runs and you’ll be pretty proud of your style!” and I look forward to being “back” here more often in October


  22. Trudie says:
    Tuesday, September 14, 2010 at 12:41pm

    For anyone with back problems or not, but anyone who has to sit a lot, a top of the line back support such as an “Obusform” transforms your chair anywhere: particularly at a desk, in a car.. many people take one on an airline flight….It is expensive but well worth it, don’t get anything cheaper. I used one for a long time, it was indispensable in giving me confidence my back would get better.


    • Melissa Blazak says:
      Tuesday, September 14, 2010 at 7:38pm

      When you sit at a computer for that long even the magic Obusform can’t cut it.


  23. Donna Sipe says:
    Tuesday, September 14, 2010 at 12:11pm

    Wow, just loved your video, your devotion to these two amazingly talented dogs is a powerful thing to watch.

    The best of luck in Germany, hope that your back cooperates.


  24. Helen Verte says:
    Tuesday, September 14, 2010 at 11:57am

    Back pain is one of the worst pains to deal with. 🙁 I’m sorry you’re going through it, and hope soon, you’ll be free of it, especially for Germany. Best of luck there, and it’s always such a pleasure to read about how much you love and appreciate your dogs. The bonds we have with our dogs is one of the best things in life. 🙂


  25. Amy says:
    Tuesday, September 14, 2010 at 11:52am

    Beautiful! As always, your runs inspire me to be a better trainer and handler for my dogs – thanks for sharing, Susan!

    I know that you always criticize your running but I have really noticed on the videos that you’ve posted over the last several months that your running style has improved tremendously lately. I was wondering if that’s the cellarsizer (sp?) or some other exercise that you’re doing?

    Rest up, heal well and best of luck at Worlds!!!


  26. Sandy says:
    Tuesday, September 14, 2010 at 11:40am

    Best of luck in Germany!!! Sorry to hear your back is giving you trouble, hope you have a speedy recovery.

    I am having trouble getting onto the recallers site. When it has worked fine all month but the last 2 wks it gives me an error msg. Should I contact Jason?

    Warm Regards,


  27. mtrebino says:
    Tuesday, September 14, 2010 at 11:06am

    Thanks for sharing your love of your dogs and your troubles. I will be sending good warm thoughts your way just put them right on that sore back and all will be good.


  28. MICHELLE MAURO says:
    Tuesday, September 14, 2010 at 10:05am

    Good luck at Worlds! Hope your back is better by then 🙂


  29. Judith Batchelor says:
    Tuesday, September 14, 2010 at 9:23am

    Susan- your connection, dedication an love for your dogs is inspiring.

    I am sorry you have had back problems they can be frustrating and painful. I pray you have a continued and quick recovery.


  30. Dianne Spring says:
    Tuesday, September 14, 2010 at 8:47am

    This is the third time I have watched the video and have cried every time with the love and devotion you have for your dogs and they for you. This is why I do agility.


  31. barrie says:
    Tuesday, September 14, 2010 at 8:19am

    Okay, my clients and I want to know if your back trouble predates Crate Games? For me there is nothing that hurts my back more than doing that first solid hour of CG! I always have small dog owners put the crate up on something but that specific bend to open and shut a 400 vari kennel over and over just kills me!


  32. Janet in Oz says:
    Tuesday, September 14, 2010 at 7:46am

    Computer – 16 hours a day? Muscle fatigue, the same as you’d get if you tried anything for much longer than your body is used to. The emotion/stress side, adrenaline is what makes it possible for you to ignore what you’re doing to your body, but as soon as the pressure lets up, you feel every bit of it.

    I just tried to visit every art museum in Europe in four weeks, so was walking and standing up all day and then some, and despite being accustomed to walking my dog every day for a hour in the morning and again in the evening – I hurt. Especially every muscle used when walking.

    Sleep is good for healing. Also try sitting on a fit ball for some of the time at computer. It works more muscles, so you stay/get fitter and stronger. But it also hurts if you use it too long when you’re not used to it.

    And for after the first couple of games of the field hockey season (painful) – a long hot bath with crushed rosemary clipped straight from the bush in the garden is great – or nearest you can get – put it in a (stocking) wash bag – stops it from escaping.


  33. Blaze says:
    Tuesday, September 14, 2010 at 7:31am

    All the best to you. Be assured that those of us in the E-Course REALLY appreciate your effort and sacrifice. And so do our dogs! This course went well beyond dog training – you’ve brought many families closer together.

    Viel Gluck in Germany.


  34. Paolo says:
    Tuesday, September 14, 2010 at 5:06am

    Susan, hope you’ll get better in time for the Germany runs… I’ll be there cheering for you and am sure you’ll mesmerize us as usual! Best of luck!


  35. denise crook says:
    Tuesday, September 14, 2010 at 2:09am

    Thanks for sharing – you’ve captured why I love my dogs SO much – Best of luck at the worlds


  36. Jason says:
    Tuesday, September 14, 2010 at 12:46am

    Aww.. sorry you have to struggle through back pain… next e-course we will make sure you dont have 16 hour days at the computer…

    Be well and best of luck to you and the team in Germany.


    • Michelle says:
      Tuesday, September 14, 2010 at 12:21pm

      If Susan put in that many hours, I cringe at how many you put in, great job on the e-course, it really did run smoothly


  37. Tori Self says:
    Tuesday, September 14, 2010 at 12:42am

    Susan, I don’t know if you’re familiar with macrobiotic cooking, but my mom has been studying the ‘lifestyle’ for many years now. She also has gotten into various Chinese medicines (forgive me for lack of clarity, it’s not I who has done all of the studying ;)). Anyways, the tidbits I get from her everyday are very intriguing. When my back was bothering me a few months ago (at 18… seriously??) she immediately went to my diet (which happened to consist of a lot of salt at the time, uh, oops). We hypothesized that my kidneys were playing a role in my pain. Focusing on whole grains and vegetables never tasted so good (not to mention fast results). 😉

    I thought of this because you said your back pain can often be traced to an emotional cause. Since both food and emotion are major energy sources, you could probably use food to your advantage… sort of to balance out your body’s energies.

    Food for thought; I don’t really know what I’m talking about, but it all sounds very nice. haha 🙂 Food is definitely magical, if anything! 🙂 (though from what I’ve read in your posts previously you do eat very healthy foods!)

    You girls had some awesome runs though- best of luck at the World Championships!!


    • Susan says:
      Tuesday, September 14, 2010 at 7:03am

      Hey Tori v-e-r-r-y interesting! As a matter of fact my diet had changed slightly. Since January I have not been eating gluten but I do admit I had been getting sloppy, and not worrying about it here and there . . . .hhhmmmmm I think record keeping is in order here! Thanks for the tip!


      • Alison says:
        Tuesday, September 14, 2010 at 6:02pm

        Hmmm… Perhaps rather than the emotions/stress causing the issue, it is emotions/stress causing a slightly different eating habit which in turn causes the back pain…

  38. Jan DeMello says:
    Tuesday, September 14, 2010 at 12:12am

    true champions push on no matter…you and the red girls looked wonderful and I particularly loved how you handled the ending sequence in the GP. wishing you a pain free back for WC in Germany!


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