A year ago, almost to the day, Bolt underwent a scope and PRP treatment for his right bicep. It was a procedure I had both dreaded and looked forward to the months leading up to the day—dreading an unknown future, but looking forward to answers finally and a treatment plan. To say the year following has been easy would be a lie. For months I doubted I’d ever come back to agility at all, not with Bolt, not with another dog. I looked at new sports to compete it, I looked at new ventures to take (truly did sign up for a day of curling training, but, you know, the cold and the ice), but nothing could compare. My life has, in more ways than one, been shaped and defined by this sport and one injury could not take those truths away.
I sat at home watching EO tryouts, Westminster, Nationals, and World Team Tryouts—all within the span of 6 months, all events I had intended on competing again at in the coming year before The Diagnosis. I watched even though I knew it would be painful to do so. I watched with a mingled sense of self-pity, excitement, and optimism. All that time Bolt and I spent the time rehabbing, strengthening, and working to become better off the agility field. Our return was less than graceful. It felt bumbling and nerve-wracking for the first months back. I’ve only recently started to learn to stop holding my breath as he runs flat-out, at times careless on his mortal little body, and to no longer watch his runs later in slow motion, asking him again and again to pace back and forth, studying his stride. Sometimes there’s guilt in letting go of that obsession, too. What if I let up too much? What if it happens again? What if I can’t prevent it—again?
The thing is: I can’t. I can do my best, I can do everything possible, but I can’t control everything.
Hard, cold truths thrown all over the place today. We can’t prevent injury. We can work really hard to make injury less frequent. We can work really hard and make injury a minute possibility—but always, it’s a possibility.
As someone who thrives on control, this was a difficult thing to accept. I had to forgive myself for allowing my dog to get injured. I forgave the sport. I forgave my thick-headed dog who would run with a lobbed off front leg. That process in itself was difficult, but I have never felt more liberated. Things can and will happen, and we get to choose our response to them.
In the weeks leading up to tryouts, I’ve pushed myself and Bolt a little further. A scary leap to make, but a necessary one. I needed to know where we stood and how far we’d come and what was left to do. We move easily together these days. Our time back in the ring has been selective and full of purpose—I rarely ever have a training session these days without a concrete goal and a timeline. I don’t run a course for the sake anymore—I do everything for a specific reason. Our competition weekends were limited to the number of runs needed to qualify for events so the rest of our time could be spent refining skills. This selectiveness has helped us grow in our mutual understanding of one another and has strengthened our communication.
I trust him more than ever which is how I hoped to feel leading into a team selection event. I’m looking forward to the weekend, to letting go of expectations and enjoying the connection with my dog at a larger event again.
I’m excited for this unknown future—where the only absolute is that we will both give it our all, all the time.