SG posted a video of two spills Swagger had on the warm up day at Ontario East Regionals. They weren’t fun to watch – in one clip he wiped out as he came blasting off the dog walk in the other he lost his footing as he took off for a jump and somersaulted through it. In both cases he jumps right up and is, as far as I can tell, ready for more. She clearly states that spills like this are why she hates doing agility in the rain. But she needs to do agility in the rain. If she’s representing Canada and flown half way around the world and it’s raining she has a responsibility to run. (She also has a responsibility to keep her dogs safe – and I am quite sure if she knew conditions crossed from unpleasant to unsafe she would pull them no matter where she was).

Conditions and equipment weren’t unsafe in this case. They were wet and unpleasant and Swagger is a young dog who doesn’t let a little something like wet grass slow him down. He may have learned a valuable lesson about how to keep his balance on Friday. I am sure SG will be doing more rain work with him this summer too.  SG is an athlete who knows her dogs are athletes. She keeps herself in good shape, working with a trainer, paying attention to what she eats. She does the same for her dogs. 

She is NOT a weekend warrior who only runs in the rain if she paid an entry fee. Her dogs work in all conditions, on varied surfaces and they need to. Should she have pulled Swagger? No more than any other dog there should have been pulled, perhaps much less than many should have been. I wasn’t there. I was an hour away thinking “Yuck today is gross I am glad I am not playing agility today”. The trial hosts have lots of experience with agility and I haven’t heard a whisper that they thought about stopping the event. 

Were there other dogs there that maybe should have been pulled? I’m going out on a limb here and guessing yes – there were probably dogs running there who shouldn’t have been running no matter the weather conditions. Urban dictionary suggests a weekend warrior is “a person who holds a regular job during the week which restricts their ability to party/go on trips/partake in awesome activities, and thus plans epic weekend adventures to compensate.”  in terms of agility I worry that weekend warrior dogs go to class/training once a week and get leashed walks once or twice a day with little opportunity to truly build fitness or muscle memory for the obstacles we expect them to do.

 It’s pretty hard emotionally to withdraw from any competition. You’ve paid your entry (not cheap for our sport), changed your schedule, perhaps traveled a long distance and then you realize  you shouldn’t be there. Peer pressure is likely going to come into play. I have heard people say “she doesn’t look that bad” and “maybe he’ll work out of it”  to people with a sore dog. Nobody wants to be the one to say “Why would you run that dog now? You may do irreparable damage if you do”. Being negative is no fun. We have huge demands placed on us to “suck it up” “be tough” and “get the job done”.  Pulling out runs counter to all of those things. Last year when I had to withdraw from Regionals to work I felt enormous pressure to do it all somehow  – and that was actually physically impossible!

I totally get why people want to play – and I think they should play. I also believe that they should not cast stones without a good  hard look in the mirror.  There is a very big difference in asking “Why didn’t you pull your dog?” and “You have completely lost my respect” (just one of a slew of frankly hostile comments on the SG video). We are all human. SG made the same choice everyone else did on Friday. Swagger fell, twice. With games and sports comes risk. Would I be terribly upset if it had been my dog? Yes. Was SG upset? It sure seems she was. Was Swagger upset? Not so much – he won the gambler’s class yesterday and was second in standard. I have every confidence that SG will get him the best care and work out a solid plan of action to help him recover from any trauma (physical or mental) he may have suffered and learn to deal with varied conditions better. While she may be sorry she posted the video I am glad she did. It’s provoked conversation and thinking – and perhaps more weekend warriors will actually think and withdraw from events when it’s in their and their dog’s best interest, rather than simply tell other people what to do when they aren’t even present!

Sure hope Swagger and SG are ok!