09 November 2011

Gustavo and the Stress.

It's not that Gustavo can't do agility. He does pretty well. Every Tuesday night he runs in a class full of border collies at Power Paws. We run hard sequences, things that have straight tunnels that blast dogs out to a turn into poles where you have to dash into a daring rear cross. Sequences where your timing and position need to be just right to get through. Many opportunities for bad handling induced stress attacks. He does great! Super speedy and accurate. He's learned to deal with the stress there.

He does bark, it's one of the only places he barks. It's a class full of very fast border collies and that gets him wound up. Some dogs are happy barkers, barking is not a good thing for Gustavo. But he hasn't had a meltdown there in a very long time, even if we miss a pole entry, he just stays in gear, whirls around and back in he goes. He is afraid to lay down on a startline near the Hedge sometimes. It's dark and the Hedge is huge, a massive, black, leafy monster on the field. Sometimes with screaming unknown animal noises coming down from the hillside above it. Last night it was freezing cold and windy, and by the end of class he could even lay down next to the hedge and let me lead out quite a ways on to the course.

With Gustavo, when the freakout attacks do come, it's just so very hard to talk him down out of the tree. In terms of keeping my sanity to the point of not quitting agility, I'm glad they rarely occurr in class, but in some ways, if he's going to have one, I wish it was when there was professional help like Nancy there to talk us both down out of the tree. He has ended up in trees before, although I think that was in a forest and not during agility. He can meltdown in the forest as well, which is why he always stays attached to me now.

He goes to class every week, and to trials very rarely. So this weekend is a trial in a place where he has had some really crazy meltdowns. I don't think he's ever run well in Turlock. Boy I wished I could have taken him to Power Paws camp there and had 3 days of seminars to build a reward history. If wishes were fishes, fishes would do the dishes. And make artisan pizzas in the backyard on demand. All trials seem to have this effect on him, though.

Knowing Gustavo likely has brain damage from all the years of constant ammonia induced focal seizures of course is always the tiny elephant in my brain room that makes me wonder. But the fact that he has enough training to remember to always hit his feet in the yellow on his running dogwalk, or that he actually finally learned to do weave poles and serpentines means that he is trainable. He knows tricks! I have no way of knowing would his brain work differently if he had a liver that actually worked. Most of the time I try not to think about it, and make sure he takes his medicines and eats his vegetables.

I just hate it when he has those freakouts though. It can't be good for his already taxed liver. Or his very taxed brain. So not only does seeing him unravel make me feel like my training has failed him, I also want to keep him alive and healthy for a very long time and I worry every time he goes over the top I am shortening his already shortened little life some more. Not cool. No way to know, says the vet, just watch the numbers in his blood work.

Gustavo is 5 years old now. Probably. Maybe. We don't know. I don't even know if he's actually a dog. I just want him to stay healthy enough that he's with us for a very, very long time having a fun and normal life. Maybe laying down on tables on an agility course just isn't normal. And maybe not worth it for keeping him here as long as I can.


manymuddypaws said...

agility is hard for a worried, afraid of invisible creatures in the woods, sort of dog. I have one (in a pyr shep form, minus the ammonia problems) and although a talented dog who used to love agility at home, sometimes training, and just sometimes at trials has turned into a quivering mass of nerves the second I ask him to do anything agility related. (except at home where the goblins are chased away by the corgis..).

I take what he can give me and after a few months of torture and invisible scaries, we only play agility now when he feels like it. It makes us both happy. And although I miss playing agility with my little fuzzy dog, I enjoy him much more now that we are both not stressed.

I guess my point is that I don't have one, except I understand where you are coming from.

Ruby Rose and the Big Little Angels 3 said...

Keep working at it Gustavo. It may take more work but when you get there it will be even more rewarding.

Anonymous said...

it will be what it will be. are you not totally sick of hearing that? not one bit of anything that can be put into practice.
but still the dude abides. and so do you.