Race Against Fate
Just like their human counterparts, competition dogs require preventative healthcare and body conditioning. They are truly athletes and their muscles and inner workings must be in top shape enable for them to give you their all.
On an afternoon appointment at the veterinarian’s office for gastro complications, I was not prepared to discover such shocking news: my first agility dog, Ace, had hip dysplasia, a degenerative eroding of the ball and socket joints of the hips or no defined ball and socket hip joints at all – the latter of which he was unfortunate to have. My heart slowed down to ingest the devastation. My stomach was wrought with stress and worries. My head was bombarded with the idea that this could not be true. In fact, it was true and could not be clearer than black and white. Life took a sharp and abrupt turn. Ace was still at a tender age and had been competing only for six months. Countless questions raced through my head: Will he always be able to compete? Will he always be able to even walk? Will he ever live a normal dog life? This was as much my problem as it was Ace’s.
Upon hearing the news, emotions ran wild and resulted in days of lament and sorrow. I had invested countless hours into him, teaching him a game of his liking, but more importantly, I may never see him live a complete and joyous life. Every tear shed from my eyes signified our immense bond. His ebullient spirit was trapped in a feeble body. The news was taking its emotional toll now; its physical toll lay just on the horizon. It was very possible that in the pursuing days, weeks, months, or years, Ace’s mobility and vibrancy would be violently ripped away from him.
A plan of action was essential to at least prolong the time this pernicious disease would stop masking itself and begin to reveal its symptoms. From that day forward Ace’s life would never be normal, but the challenge rested in making it as normal as possible. Each day we focused on both maintaining and strengthening his posterior muscles to an extent that they would substitute for the lack of their development in the hips. In the domestic world, life should not be a struggle for mobility, let alone existence. We would prevail. We swam. We ran. We hiked. We conquered the odds through an intense conditioning program while continuing the sport of agility. Life has its little way of throwing hardships and challenges at us when we least expect it – Ace was at his prime, just developing into one of the best dogs in Florida. We did not succumb to this incurable but treatable disease.
Through our constant effort and determination, Ace persisted headstrong in the competition circuit, reaching his zenith. Going head to head with top dogs, Ace’s impressive performance took us to the national championships where he continued his rhythmic beat. Finishing in the top ten of the world’s agility dogs for his height class, Ace served as an enlightening example that life is too precious to yield to anything that impedes your quest for success. One day life will not be so sweet for Ace. In the meantime, we are propelled forward everyday in knowing that through hope and much work, we have dealt with and lessened the impact of a debilitating disease.