The Demise of Veterans
Honeybear (my first golden retriever, my first competition obedience dog) finished her OTCH at the age of nine years, nine months and 25 days. The first thing I did, right outside the ring gate, was drop to my knees, put my arm around her and tell her, "Honeybear, you'll never have to jump again."
Our road had been rocky as we entered the home stretch on our quest for the Holy Grail of dog sports. Seven months earlier HB had had her right knee rebuilt following a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament. Then, eleven points from the finish line, she had mysteriously sustained a hairline fracture in a back paw. And with 199 points -- one stinkin' lousy point from our goal -- she began refusing the jumps. I credit acupuncture treatments by veterinarian Alice Blazer for getting her back on track to finish our OTCH
Clearly, then, on that glorious Sunday morning in Las Cruces, New Mexico, it was time to pull the plug on jumping. But was it time, also, to terminate Honeybear's career in the ring? NO! She loved working with me far too much for me to sentence her to couch potato status. So for the ensuing three years and seven months, until she was well into her 14th year, we showed in Veterans.
When it finally became obvious that she was laboring -- and it came suddenly, in San Juan Capistrano on May 10, 2003 -- she retired . . .again. She had shown in Veterans 28 times. She had won the class 24 times, finished second three times and gotten up on the down once. During her "second career" in Veterans, HB had averaged 197.8.
I hadn't been just pulling her off the couch and taking her to shows. We had trained. For Honeybear it had been as if nothing had changed . . . except now she was no longer jumping. She was still "in there." And she loved it.
During that period, we noticed an interesting phenomenon locally. Entries in Veterans increased (from one or two to five or six). People saw what was going on with Honeybear and they wanted to bring their dogs out, too.
Fast-forward to the present. Since January of this year I've received 28 premium lists from dog clubs here in the far west -- Arizona, California, Nevada. Twenty-one offered obedience. Only one -- Vegas Valley Dog Obedience Club -- offered Veterans. Clubs are now offering the new optional titling classes, which are attracting more entries than Veterans would. It's a matter of time and money. There's just no room for the old dogs anymore.
The Demise of Obedience
This is hardly new news, but it is what it is. And what it is is troubling for one who has a wonderful puppy prepping to debut in competition obedience in the not-too-distant future.
Of the 28 premium lists I referred to above, seven contained unhappy surprises. Those seven clubs had offered obedience as recently as 2012. But not here in 2013. That's 25 percent attrition among the clubs in the random sample I have in my file.
That's sad, too. And scary.
The Lonliness of the Novice A Handler
I have a student who has recently brought her golden retriever out in Novice A. Cole is well into his ninth year. And happy, happy, happy. I don't know how far we'll be able to go with Cole, but for right now it's pure joy to watch him frisk around the ring.
That's the good news. The bad news is that with one exception Angie and Cole (who's a low-190s dog) have been the only team entered in their Novice A classes (here in America's sixth largest city).