Im still on cloud 9 after achieving a wee something with my eldest, Grace, this weekend. It has been on my bucket list for some time (perhaps not on Gracey's unless there's some food in said bucket) to perform in a heelwork to music routine. After eventually deciding 8 weeks ago we started training from scratch and took part in our first freestyle HTM competition!
There is a little history behind the madness. When Grace was born, the radio in the background was playing The Tymes, Ms Grace, hence her name. Her lovely breeder would sing it every day, until I took over the reins or the mic, and have sang it to her everyday since. She even sings a bit of the chorus herself! After seeing heelwork to music on TV some time ago, I put it on my bucket list to do this one day.
Now the saying goes you cant teach an old dog new tricks. Although I am in complete denial that my girl is getting older, but at 12 1/2 its been a while since she was eligible for puppy classes!. My Amazing Grace learned 8 new moves in 8 weeks, and could (almost) complete a whole 2 1/2 minute routine in time to the music. On the day a few things led to stage fright for both of us so we missed many of those moves but give Gracey her due she improvised well! We were welcomed and supported into the HTM world by some lovely people. I was overwhelmed when we were placed and absolutely honoured to also be awarded a very special special in celebration of a dog called Hope, Eternal Hope at MorgansR, a rescue who retired at this show last year and sadly passed away earlier this year. The whole experience as been uplifting and has made a marked difference to Grace's energy. After a forced retirement in 2020 from agility it has brought a twinkle into her eyes again. I also ticked off acheiving something quite out of my comfort zone. I have more of a twinkle in my eye too since doing this (if you know the lyrics :) )
I have thought for some time we shouldnt just retire dogs, or give them nothing to do but a little walk and a comfy couch just because they are older. This weekend got me thinking about this again.
Recently one of my senior visitors to clinic passed away at over 15, a grand age for his breed. I believe that it was not just his visits to me to keep him mobile, but he took part in his favourite activities (at his own pace) right up until recently, as well as having a home cooked diet and more love than you could pack into a thousand hearts!
I will also add Grace has been fed a fresh food diet since 8weeks old, she receives regular soft tissue therapy and leads as holistic a life style as I can possibly offer her. Oh and dont forget the oodles of love I have for her. Its all relevant. Ticking as many of those boxes that are part of a holistic approach to nurturing our dogs, goes a long way to a healthy lifespan. We cant forget why they are here for us too, more on this in another post in September, but listening to what they have to teach us, or remind us, perhaps what we have forgotten is another way to honour them.
I do apologies as this blog is ending up longer than I first thought but I hope you are still happily reading whilst I get to the point.
We all get wrapped up in daily chores, work, stresses etc and can end up just doing what we do as a needs must, guilty as charged your honour! Of course part of that for me is nice walks enjoying nature with my dogs. Its become a comfortable way of life. This year I am planning a few things that take me completely out of my comfort zone. More on this in another post too but one of those things was competing with miss Grace, in front of a knowledgeable crowd, and recorded. Probably why I have put it off, but I know I would have regretted not doing it. What I have learned though, that by doing this, stepping up a gear and learning something new, giving her a job has taken Grace from a lovely comfortable life and added twinkly bits!! She's loving it!
Trying to write this I am wondering who is having the senior moment!! However as I absolutely believe I am related to Peter Pan it cant be me :) So back to the point of this post. Should we not do more to enhance the life of our dogs? Im going to stick to older dogs even though I have since made a pact to find something for each of my 5 dogs (yes Buster the bulldog included) that makes them happy. Something extra, something new, something to learn, give them a job? What I will do is adapt to suit their needs and capabilities both physically and emotionally.
I dont mean we all have to go out and compete in something or climb a mountain but why not teach them a little dance move a new trick. Is your dog less mobile and only up for a slow sniff on his walks? Why not give him something to sniff out and find? Take them somewhere new (obviously if this will not cause stress) If you're a little out of touch with teaching new things I highly recommend reaching out to a good trainer, one that is aware of needs and capabilties and hopefully uses lovely techniques like shaping. If you're local to me reading this I highly recommend K9 Pursuits in Newton Aycliffe, kind supportive trainers with oodles of ideas to support your dog. It might also be worth getting you dog checked over before they take on anything more physical and any under veterinary care perhaps have a chat with your vet. Like I say we are not looking at mountain climbing, flyball or agility with our older guys but think about teaching them something new, it may just put a twinkle in their eye again.
What a lovely motto to live by
I have been around dogs all my life. My life changed when I decided to turn a passion for dogs into a career. I have never looked back except to see what the past has taught me.