Today marks day 83 post-abdominal surgery for Rainey, which makes tomorrow the start of week 12. I skipped writing last week because it was a long weekend of agility trialing and I had other homework to attend to. Today we will discuss how Rainey did last weekend, and a few of her exercises in the last week. Rainey returned to the competitive agility field Saturday, March 27th, 2021 for a real trial. Our last Qualifying run at an actual show together was November 1st, 2020 at an AKC trial. Our last real trial UKI Q was December 14th, 2019. I believe we only did 1 day of trialing per trial weekend this fall, and only a few times. Which means since March 2020, Rainey has only run maybe 4 worth of agility competition. After her surgery entering a 2-day UKI trial was a big leap. It was a large request to ask her to run that much in 2 days – 4 runs per day. This trial also presented another difficulty – we were competing at the Senior/Champ level in a live trial. This is the highest and hardest level of UKI. When the shut down started UKI Agility was the only organization that offered an at home trialing experience. You would sign up for a trial, but it was done in the safety of your home. You would submit video of your run and it would be judged. Instead of earning up to 6 points per Clean or Qualifying run, you could only earn 2 points. That equaled a lot of runs to gain a lot of titles last year. It had proven to be excellent training opportunities for us. However, it also meant the next time we entered a live trial we would be running all our runs at the highest, more difficult level. Lots of backsides, tight turns, extension, collection, all the things I mentioned in the first blog post. For some reason, this fact did not register to me until the day of the trial. And somehow, Rainey lasted 8 runs, having the same fierceness at run 8 that she had at run 1! I have to say, this girl is amazing!
On Saturday, it was a wake-up call. Rainey was lightning fast, and I was not. I was tired from the busy week and my mental game was not strong. We were Eliminated in all 4 runs. What this means is in every run Rainey took an off-course obstacle. You are not whistled off, instead you are whistled, but can finish doing what you are doing unless you are over time. The majority of the off courses were handler error (as in my fault). I was either too slow, or I even forgot the course. I was also running cautiously, as I did not want her to hurt herself. I considered Saturday a learning day. We were learning to run together again and learning how to run in a live trial with complicated coursework. With each run, she grew happier and more confident. She wasn’t over-aroused or over-stimulated. She was just too fast for me.
On Sunday we returned with hopes of earning a Clean or Qualifying run, and to my pleasant surprise we brought home 3! Despite some hiccups, Rainey pulled off a Clean run in her first run, Senior Speedstakes, taking 1st place and earning 6 points. Her next run was Champ Snooker. Snooker is sometimes complicated to understand. There is a course numbered 2 to 7, but before you can start that you must complete 3 of what they call red jumps, followed by an obstacle. Once you complete this series, then you start the closing sequence. For some reason, Snooker has always been easy for me. I do not know if it is the ability to design my dogs own course or maybe the challenge to do so. When you take the red jump and an obstacle, you gain game points from the obstacle you take. These obstacles are also used in the closing, and their number in the closing corresponds to the number of points they are worth in the closing and opening, which also corresponds to their difficulty to obtain after a red jump. The ultimate goal to get 3-7’s in the opening. In UKI this is almost impossible because you are also on the clock and must complete everything in a very short amount of time. For Rainey, I chose jump sequence #6 (2 jumps), jump sequence #7 (3 jumps), and then jump sequence #6 again. Rainey ran extremely well, and I would have to say this was my favorite run of the weekend! She earned 49 game points (maximum is 51) in 38.36 secs, earning 6 game points for her International Agility Champion Title. This run is included at the end of the video below.
In Champ Agility, which contains weaves and contacts, Rainey ran Clean at 3.579 yards per second, taking1st place, earning 6 points towards her IAC title. This translates to 7.32 miles per hour! This is extremely fast for her, especially coming off of surgery and the first time she has ran this level at a trial. To be able to run 7.32 mph over that level on complex jumps, turns, twists, contacts, weaves, and tunnels for a 12.75-inch-tall dog is very impressive! I know there are faster teams out there, but right now if this is our starting point for returning to sport, I think we are doing an excellent job!
Days 70 to 83 – Making the Best Athlete Possible
To say that I am incredibly pleased with how Rainey performed at the UKI trial is an understatement. We ran Clean in 3 of 8 runs, Eliminated in 4, and faults in 1. Her speeds were the same or slightly faster than AKC, which it huge since these are much more technical courses. She maintained her high energy level and athleticism from run one to run 8, continuing to give it her all weekend. Yes, there are holes in our training and I need to work on my fitness. But we have an excellent starting place, and a renewed drive to do it! Rainey did everything I asked of her at this trial, and more! I am incredibly proud of her performance! And most importantly, I have not noticed any negative impacts in her physical status since the trial. The week of she only exercised Tuesday and Wednesday, with agility class Thursday. Friday she had off. Saturday and Sunday she trialed. Monday she had off, and Tuesday we returned to our normal fitness schedule. I performed spinal manipulation (animal chiropractic) yesterday just to make sure everything was ok, and it was. She has no sore spots and no weaknesses. We are not entered in another trial for at least a month, as we continue to work on our fitness and agility training. But, I am very excited to see where this journey takes us! Rainey is more fit than she has ever been!
Twist Ups – this exercise is a progression or advanced variation of the Rocking Sit to Stand with Elevation. It adds increased complexity with turning and footwork, increasing the muscles worked on the dog. Aside from strengthening the rear end, this variation allows for increased lateral spinal flexion and lengthening of the back and abdominal muscles. This attempt was again her first attempt at this. It is ok that her feet did not fully turn straight, but ideally the dog would pivot their whole body toward the KLIMB. The FitBone was used for her to sit on in order to gain a sideways to the KLIMB sit. Using the yoga block may be more ideal, as it would provide less of a challenge for her. I included a side view and rear view of her performance so you can gather how much coordination and muscle strength this exercise takes, even for a tiny dog. This exercise should not be performed with a dog who has active ACL, hip, or spinal/back concerns, as the twisting motion is too much. For a healthy, fit dog, this exercise will help strengthen those areas in a novel way, hoping to aid in preventing future injury.
Lateral Hind Side Step – the goal of this exercise is to have the dog step off of the object with their hind foot. This will aid in strengthening the core, quadriceps, hind limb adductors, and hind limb abductors, as well as improve hind end awareness. This video demonstrates our first time attempting this. I feel there will be different ways I try to do this, as I feel I was more pushing her than her realizing what I was asking for. I hope that like other exercises I can shape train this, meaning she offers a behavior and I reward her. We will see. For now, you can understand the difficulty of this exercise.
Stability Obstacle Course – sometimes I like to set up random things for the dogs to perform. In a small way it provides strengthening, but in a large way it aids in teaching body awareness and how to be careful while the dog is moving. If you can provide novel stimuli to the dog in a controlled environment that may replicate what they could see in play or in their job their bodies are more likely to be able to respond favorably vs resulting in an injury in real life. This exercise required core engagement and foot awareness, as well as general coordination. Rainey did very well!
Angled KLIMB & FitBone Challenge – this is an example of me wondering if she could possibly do this. It is another exercise that is focusing primarily on muscle engagement and proprioceptive abilities (body awareness). It is also a strengthening exercise for stabilizer muscles and the abductor/adductor muscles. This was the first time Rainey performed this exercise, and despite being apprehensive at first, she was a willing participant. I also performed with Aurora, and since she is smaller, she had a much easier time.
Diagonal Leg Lift Core & Strength Assessment – Rainey is looking really good! I hope from this video you can appreciate the muscles in her hind end. She was groomed this week, which helps with visibility. I also noticed when comparing previous side profile images that Rainey has definitely increased her shoulder musculature. She is looking great!
Working the dogs 5 days a week has become part of my routine, and therefore it will continue for the long term. Not only has Rainey benefited greatly, but so has her sister and my 10-year-old and 11-1/2-year-old standard schnauzers. All 4 dogs are extremely athletic and living their best lives! As much as I wanted a puppy from Rainey, this surgery pushed me to finally take back the dogs’ health and help them fulfill their athletic potentials!
Being week 11 to 12 I am supposed to only have 1 blog post left. I am not sure if I will stop at that post or continue on. I have enjoyed writing these, although time consuming, it has help me accountable and it has helped me review and/or learn things I haven’t looked back on in a while. I can say I hope to do at least 2 more posts, as I still wish to discuss warm-ups and cool-downs, along with Tui-na massage, which is a large part of my dog’s warm-up program, and I hope to finish the series by reviewing everything Rainey has accomplished since January. However, I am also nearing the end of the semester for my Masters of Science in Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine Program. This means I have 2 case studies to write up by next weekend. This weekend I spent the majority of my time finishing assignments and taking my final exams (getting an A in both, yay!). Therefore, I am not sure what I will get to for next week. I will try my best to work on warm up/cool down information.
The road to recovery is long, and sometimes there are setbacks, but the time it takes to get there will always be worth it!
Take care and may the Qi flow freely for you!
Dr. Shantel Julius, DVM, CCRP, CVA, fCoAC, CVSMT, CVFT, CVTP, CVCH, CTCVMP