Changing of the guard

Moss shed

It’s a decision that eventually has to made by all of us if we run dogs long enough. Not something to look forward to but something to accept  – no matter how much we try not to think about it or put it off. It’s part of the responsibility of working dogs.

Moss is 10 years old. It’s “hard” decision time – should I retire him or keep running him for a bit longer? I don’t want to give up running a dog that has won so many trials for me – and I don’t want to “cut his career” short. But again I don’t want to run him if he can’t do the job. He deserves all my respect and to make sure he retires with honor.

It’s just so difficult to “let go” of what we had … I say “had” because sometimes I’ve watched him trying to take a fast flank and not be able to react like the Moss I’ve handled for all these years. Then, of course, my timing is off because he can’t respond as quickly as he use to – tending to frustrate us both. Then “other times” he’s “dead on”. So, I go back and forth – trying to balance the “two sides”.

I’ve got some nice young ones coming up but we aren’t (yet) on the same wavelength that Moss and I were. The young ones are fun and exciting to run as you never know what they are going to do. I have two sons of his that I’m enjoying very much … and I’ve been known to say if I could combine them … I would have Moss all over again :@) However, that’s not the way to look at it. I need to alter the way I handle – not expect them to become Moss.

When you have been “connected” to a dog for a long time it’s hard to remember it wasn’t always “that way”. It took hours and hours of working together before we started working stock “as one”. So, I need to focus on the old adage “time and miles” instead of what I’m losing. It’s just so difficult to let go of something that was special and so very comfortable. Time to “step out: of my comfort zone” and try to bring the young ones up to Moss’ level. Not an easy task as he was/is a special one.

These dogs give so much that we need to acknowledge that they will keep “giving” even when they physically aren’t able to live up to our expectations. It’s up to us to watch and make sure we don’t demand more than their bodies can give because we all know their hearts never stop giving.

14 Comments Add yours

  1. Jan says:

    So difficult to do, Candy. Sending some strength your way.

    1. Thanks … it is difficult (I think both for us and the dogs … they seem to know when they are #1 :@(

  2. ragtimelil says:

    That brought tears to my eyes. Even though we’ve never reached the upper stratosphere of training, I’ve still faced dogs growing old.

    1. We all face it if we love our dogs and it’s hard on all of us.

  3. kittyherder says:

    It sucks that just as they’re hitting their prime in work, they’re starting on the downhill slide to old age. Dogs just don’t live long enough. I feel for you, Candy.

    1. That’s the hardest part – how little time we have with them in their prime. Thanks.

  4. Carol says:

    Such a hard decision to make. Prayers for wisdom for you as you make decisions for your partner and friend. And you are right-their hearts are bottomless. What an amazing gift.

    1. Thanks … no matter how many times we go through it … never gets easier.

  5. Lin Neumann says:

    Can the old man train the very young pups. when I ran sled dogs, it was the old leaders who trained the up and comers…no need for speed at that point, just how to use their brains, the BEST dog trainer I ever saw was “Topeka ” an older leader, her timing was so great and when to let the young one try it on her own, and back her up if needed, then to let her try on her own, but be there just incase a miss turn( gee or haw) was made…..Topeka felt good about getting to run ,just not as fast and hard and when she was a 4 yr. old crack leader on a FAST dog team……I think there are some things that are so subtle that only another dog can school to the young ones…..Lin

    1. That would be VERY nice but it’s the interaction between sheep and dogs and you that you train for in working Border Collies. If you work two … the young one learns to connect to the other dog (not you).

      Love to watch the sledding dogs (but too cold a sport for me :@)

  6. I always appreciate your posts and you insight. I could so relate to this post. Though, I’ve only been trialing a few years (4) and I only ran one dog (Tate) we worked as “one” not just on the trial field, but more importantly on the ranch. Many times it was just the two of us gathering 300+ goats from a brushy pasture, or sorting off nannies and kids to move to another trap or to bring into the pens. He was my “right hand man”! But I lost Tate in June, so the two young dogs have had to “fill” his “paws” on the ranch – they aren’t ready for the trial field – but we’re all learning to become a team!

    Blessings on you, Moss and all your dog endeavors!

  7. Glad you enjoy the posts. Hearing that makes writing worthwhile as does reading about everyone’s special dogs and how hard it is to lose them. A work dog is a special dog!

  8. chas hamilton says:

    Nice post Candy,I enjoy a ‘reminiscing around the hearth’; You know, dogs and people gathered around a mellow fire talking of ‘time and dogs’! Moss is only ‘retired’! He has years of ‘tending and watching’ in him; just ‘helping out’ move sheep or watching a gate! He, like use, still have desires and obsessions, but, time and gravity has given us “limits”. Moss will always be ready to “lend-a-hand”. I find joy watching old dogs ‘work’ with skill and precision. He is an old violin, the tone is gone, but, the music still rings and the music makes us happy.
    And keep writing. Your style has become more ‘illustrative’. Pictures begin to appear!!

  9. He won’t be going anywhere – he’s happy under my Desk listening to me type :@)

    Thanks … appreciate it :@)

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