What I am about to say may come across as haughty and please forgive me if it does, as it is not my intention. I want to describe for you the relationship that develops with a dog when you compete at the highest level of competition. By doing so I hope not to minimize the special relationship each of you share with your own dog. I by no means am implying something that is better, stronger or fuller, only different.
A dog – human relationship is a special one. We love our family pets, we laugh at them and share pizza crusts with them. This bond is further strengthened when we become a team by getting involved in a performance sport such as agility.
In order to compete we need to train, more time together, more laughs; a stronger bond.
Moving along to the highest level of competition in this sport requires an even more intense commitment. When, at this World Team level of performance, you are now training hours together, flying all over the world, hanging out as pals in hotel rooms. Calming each other down before the big run and consoling one another after disappointments. When you get to this level, the unity you have with your dog gives the impression of one body mirroring another’s actions on the field.
You never tire of the feeling of oneness you get when you and your dog pull off the run of your lives on the National or World Championship level. You recognize and are grateful to your creator for what seems to be that “once in a lifetime dog.” I don’t know if it is all of the adrenaline highs and lows that you sustained together over your dog’s career or just the thrill of being there as a team when the pressure is on, but this dog becomes more special to you than you could have ever thought any dog could ever be.
Once the “prime” of the dog’s career is over, if you are fortunate and your dog remains healthy, you continue to enjoy running the dog even though the criteria may have slipped a bit and the speed isn’t quite what it used to be. It is the partnership, and that remains the same. Each time you lead out at the start line you have a sense of gratitude, both for what you have accomplished together over the years and also for each bonus run you share as your dog advances in years.
After this comes the retirement, where the dog becomes even more special learning to adapt to a new role as the house general and your official greeter when you return home from a trip. Although leaving for a cross country trial without her is always heart wrenching, your dog lets you know that she understands and will be waiting when you get back. I love the retirement years with my dogs. They make me laugh so much. Sadly though, not everyone is allowed the chance to share in those retirement years.
In June of this year Craig and Robin Eagleson lost their former Canadian World Team Border Collie Bogey to cancer, he was 8 years old. Amazingly Bogey had just placed 4th at the Ontario Regionals less than a month before he died.
This week Mike and Sally Murphy’s amazing little Jack Russell Terrier, Bailey was lost to Leptospirosis. She was just 11 years old. Bailey and Mike where an awesome team to watch both at home and when they represented the USA at World Championships. Mike’s infectious smile and Bailey’s speed and naughtiness made this a team everyone waited to see run. Time after time they pulled it off in the big events winning multiple US National and World Championship titles. Bailey currently is in first place for all 5 classes of the USDAA top ten life time rankings. Truly they are a team for the history books.
Losing a dog is difficult, losing a dog that has grown to be part of the way you eat, sleep and breathe is heartbreaking, but losing such a dog years before their time just is not fair.
It can often be said of those special dogs, that “there will never be another like them.” Over time what we learn is that each of our dogs becomes a “once in a lifetime dog” . . . and we wouldn’t want it any other way.
Today I am grateful to have been amazed and entertained by Craig & Bogey’s and Mike & Bailey’s performances over the years, thank you all for the thrills.