Plan B? Nah, This is Definitely Plan C…

Well, damn.

I’ve seen more than enough MRIs of the lower spine to know that the one I was looking at had a pretty screwed up L5-S1 disc.  The problem was that the image on the screen was, for the third time, of my own back.

This is just the latest chapter of a losing 13 year battle with this disc, including two previous back surgeries, and I was fresh out of options.  So, in mid December, I’m having spinal fusion surgery.

In the span of an hour, my plans for the next six months to a year have changed drastically. Instead of debuting my brilliant little boy, Des, I’m going to instead be inventing Rube Goldberg-like devices to be able to tie my own shoelaces.  The cool (and disturbing) part is that I’ll soon have titanium parts: screws, rods and bionic thing-a-ma-doodles.  You can bet the first time I run post surgery I’ll be making ‘na-na-na-na6 Million Dollar Man sound effects.  The not so cool part is that I won’t be able to even shuffle around outside with the Merlie Boys for a couple months, and if all goes well, not back to running at all until sometime next summer.  Gah.  I haven’t gone three days without working Des in a year.   Mr. Neurosurgeon, I think you’ve officially taken away my birthday.

How did I get here?  Well, if I had a nickel for every time I’ve been told “you’re too young to have xxx back surgery…”, (as if that fixes things) I could buy you lunch.  But since I’m a few years shy of 40…

Some would hazard a guess that it came from the years of hanging my arse over the side of a boat, my unofficial major in college.

That’s my said arse in front, in the blue lifejacket. San Diego Thistle Midwinters, January, 1997.

Others may speculate it came from hauling 1/3 of my (then) bodyweight across the countryside for weeks on end and spending days bent over digging as my means of employment with the St. Joe Hotshots?

A few years after my hotshot days, I guess the crew didn’t stop digging <ahem>to take pictures.

Or years later, dragging almost that much weight around for fun?

Mmmm….red rock canyons!  How I long to have red grit in my ears again!

Or maybe I’ve just been too stubborn to slow down combined with a bad draw in the joint lottery?  Whatever.

If you’ve read this blog before or know me peronally, you might think I lean towards a little ‘too’ positive (at least where agility is concerned and after I’ve had my coffee).  Well, now you know why.  Every time I’ve stepped to the line in the three years since my last surgery I’ve known two things:  to cherish each and every run with my amazing teammate, and that each day that my body carries me around the course is a gift.  Life is too short, too good and running Merlies too much fun to let this slow me down permanently.  So let’s screw this problem down (literally), and get on with things!  With luck, Des’s debut will only be delayed a few months, and I’ll be running harder and faster than ever come summer.  Because if you’ve seen the DesMan lately you’ll understand why that’s gonna be a requirement!

I have a few weeks left before my surgery, so I’m putting my time and mobility to good use.  I’m aiming to get Des to full height on his dogwalk, and his channel weave poles closed.  If we don’t make it, that’s okay, but goals are good.  Stay tuned for video progress!

I’ll apologize now, in the coming months, I may be posting a little more about surgery and recovery than about agility.  But I’ve learned there’s that there’s a huge lack of positive stories about surgery and a return to athletic pursuits on the internet to help others facing the same situation.  So I plan on documenting mine.  Because I’m determined that I’ll be back out there Running Happy as soon as the doc says it’s safe to do so.

Thanks, C for finding this, and you and G for getting this picture! It’s Dunc’s mantra!

It’s been a while since I was a professional dirt thrower, but some of the lessons learned on the line become ingrained for life.  Hotshots have a pretty straightforward mentality on tough assignments. Here’s the PG-13 rated version:

“The hill is steep.  So the heck what.  Quit your bitching and get going”.

I know this isn’t going to be a walk in the park.  But I’m going to get going, and keep going.

Advertisements

Happy Birthday, Desmond!

DuncanDes…Des one year old.  Dude!  You got big!

One year ago, on the night of a monster full moon, little Desmond was the first of seven blue merle pups in his litter to arrive.  This once in a blue moon boy is a funky mix of sweet and funny, and so full of himself he makes me laugh out loud every single day.  I adore him with a capital “A”.

He was a cute little bugger when he came home to us.  Duncan wasn’t convinced of his charms, but Des just jumps into your world and heart (and up to your eyebrows) with unapologetic zeal.  Even serious Dunc decided he was okay and plays with him…as long as he doesn’t see anyone watching.

Desmond, 8 weeks

That cute little baby has turned into a handsome young man.  I find his sticky-uppy, slightly floppy ears about the most adorable thing ever invented and hope they are here to stay.  He will tilt them forward when he’s curious or happy, and they slam straight back for aerodynamic advantage when racing Duncan.

Des has one heck of a sense of humor.  At least once a day he turns into a nuclear powered freakazoid and may just slow the spin of the Earth with his lapping of the yard.  He’s a well-traveled road warrior, able to turn magazines into Des-origami, and a power shopper of any unsupervised bag of dog toys and goodies.  He can silently leap onto the counter, delicately removing whatever forbidden booty he can abscond with.  Des-Cat, indeed.

 

In the past year, Des and I have spent many hours out in the field, learning to become a team, and laughing together (sometimes with me on my butt and him flying into my lap) when I don’t hold up that end of the bargain.  He attacks every new thing I throw at him with good humor and nothing less than 100% supercharged attitude.  We’re pretty sure Lucy shared her sass and zeal with him, and it’s so nice to still have that Attitude in the house.

Here’s a video of some of our recent work:

Happy Birthday baby Des!  May you have many, MANY more!  I can’t wait to see what the next year brings!

Des-es still have springs!

 

 

And We Have Liftoff…

Summer has arrived.  With it has come the heat and the bugs, the sunscreen and the dorky wide-brimmed hats.  And the glorious long evenings.  Dunc and Des are putting them to good use.

Des doing Des stuff.

Since Desmond was a fall baby, and missed last summer’s heat,  I’ve been slowly introducing him to water.  After an inaugural run through the sprinklers, Des, following puppy tradition, quickly found the nearest towel to dry off with.  Too bad the towel was in the form of my shirt, and I was wearing it at the time.  That was refreshing!

Is there nothing better than a good roll in the wet grass?

The Double D’s love a good game of fetch.  Several months ago, I observed that Desmond, while full of unbridled initiative at trying to catch a thrown ball, lacks a little something in the accuracy department.  While he’s certainly breaking free of the earth’s gravitational field while launching himself into orbit, he’s still not entering the same solar system as the ball he’s aiming at.  Duncan, who just earned his 8th degree black belt in catching is not fooled by the acrobatic insanity of his baby brother.

We have liftoff!

Houston, we have a problem…

In the meantime, Duncan and I have some pretty exciting times in our near future.  Twenty six points now stand between us and our MACH, with our next trial swiftly approaching.  I feel so honored to have this brilliant little boy as my teammate and teacher, who has taught me boatloads along the way.  Thank you, Super D.

Double Q # 20

Over the weekend, Duncan reached a milestone in his AKC agility career, and earned his 20th Double Q.   We finished those 20 QQs about 14 months after moving into Excellent B and becoming eligible to start earning them.

For my non-agility friends, in AKC agility, a Double Q is earned when you qualify on both the Standard and Jumpers With Weaves courses on the same day.  One speed point is earned for every second under standard course time you finish a course.  To earn your Master of Agility Champion (MACH, or AKC Agility Champion) title, you must earn 20 QQs and rack up 750 speed points.  It’s a long road, no matter how you drive it, and daily double perfection on the agility field is an exercise in practice, focus and determination.

Photo by Randy Gaines

We’re not quite done yet.  Dunc has exactly 100 speed points left to go before he earns his MACH title.  But completing the QQ requirement was a huge accomplishment/relief for me.  Now, we’ll step to the line together with speed and fun as our goal (because if Dunc is having fun, he’s pretty darned speedy).  Doesn’t it look like he has a big Dunkie grin on his face in the picture below?

And another fantastic pic from Randy Gaines

To brag on my little boy a bit more, over a three day trial last weekend he earned three QQs (bringing the total to 21) and 2 QQQs, having qualified in the FAST distance class twice.  I am so proud of my Teammate, and best buddy, Duncan.

With three more trials scheduled in the next month, I think the Little Dog that Could is going to become the Little Dog that Did!  Stay tuned…

I hope to cease being the absent blogger soon.  If I were a UPS driver, it would be the holiday shipping season, if I were an accountant, it would be April 15th…my season of training baby firefighters how to throw dirt is a lot longer and busier than you’d think it should be!  But once they go off and do what they are trained to do, I’ll return to my rambling ways.

But in the meantime, we’re celebrating each milestone as it comes!

Thanks for the bubbly, my Big Aussie friend. Now, to find some Peeps to go with…

The DesMan At Work

Des and I began Sylvia Trkman’s Agility Foundation course last month.  It’s been a good experience so far, albeit at a pace I’d describe as slightly faster than frenetic.  Part of my lack of posting lately is because I come home from my job and then go to work.  Des and I will go through a skill, then I’ll edit video and catch up on course reading.  Somewhere in there, Dunc and I try to stir up a little dust in the field, and then I spend some time reminding the rest of my family what I look like!  Thank goodness my husband understands time-consuming hobbies.  (By the way, Sweetie, I think the mail guy kicked another 70 lb block of lead out in our driveway…)

Until recently, Des had never done more than three obstacles in a row.  I’ve spent most of our time working mainly on foundation and focus, just with me.  I haven’t shared a lot of Des video to date mainly because I wanted to allow him the time to find his feet, to help him decide if chasing around a field of obstacles was his idea of fun.  This short sequence was part of our current lesson.  I think my boy may have found his feet!

Snow, Sunshine and Dog Toys…it Must Be Spring!

It’s spring in Idaho.  Just two days ago, the wind blew snow sideways most of the day.  It didn’t stick to the ground, or the trees, or the roads…just the side of my face while I was walking Des.  He didn’t mind until the wind filled his ears with icy, white flakes. (Hey, when you have ears that look like satellite dishes…)  And now, two days later…

It’s the other kind of spring!

Just a boy, some newly green grass and a fuzzy-tailed squeaky ball.  After grabbing the toy, lighting up the afterburners and taking a dozen hot laps around the yard, he flopped down to enjoy his prize.

Duncan, in the meantime, did his best superhero pose.  Part-time agility star, full-time protector of the yard, defender of our flock of quail from prowling cats, and our UPS guy alarm system.  Little dog, big heart.  As it turns out, perhaps quite literally.

Later, Des got to play with a friend.  They compared baby brother notes and found they have a lot in common.  I fear we may endure some back seat hijinks later this summer if they get to ride next to each other.  Watch out varsity, the JV squad is pretty cute, too!

What a lovely afternoon…the Merlies and I are awfully happy to share the day with our Boston friends!  Next stop…Reno!!!

February and We’re Off to the Races!

Duncan and I would like to share a few of our favorite runs from the February Lizard Butte KC AKC agility trial from about a week ago.  I’d meant to post these earlier, but the Plague of 2012 (AKA a common cold) took me down for several days.  On a positive note, I caught up on my backlog of National Geographics.  Nothing like a mega-dose of geo-nerdy goodness to pass a semi-concious afternoon!

Our judge for the weekend, Debby Wheeler, will also be a judge at Nationals in Reno.  She threw a few ‘national level’ challenges into each course.  Friday’s Standard course had a fun little twist at the end with a back-side finish jump.  Many, many dogs had successful runs and thundered around the last bend to the finish, only to fall victim to that last jump by taking it in the wrong direction.

Here is our run on that course…Dunc fired up as soon as his feet left the table.  I knew I needed to buckle my seat belt and tighten my shoelaces for the dogwalk-to-finish section, and Dunc didn’t disappoint.  I ran this section flat-out to encourage him to go, and GO he did!

Friday’s JWW course had a nice flow to it.  Dunc ran it smoothly, at a nice speed, and I believe we got a first.  What I like most is I managed to stay out of his way and not do any crosses to cause him to hesitate.   He did puzzle a bit over my blind cross at the beginning, but like a seasoned competitor, chalked it up to handler randomness and kept going.

Our running contacts still have some way to go, but there was definite progress at this trial.  Dunc is driving harder than he did just a few months ago, and as a result is learning to adjust his striding.  Retraining contacts has definitely been an exercise in patience (and quite possibly sheer stubbornness) but has definitely been one heck of an interesting ride.