Retiring dogs is never easy for me. It is one of the decisions that I struggle with the most.
Yeah, of course, it is not like making that 'final' decision for them but it is still admitting that they are mortal and it is the closing of a significant, cherished chapter in our relationship.
Yes, there will likely be many more years together, more mushing and more making memories but it won't be quite the same.
The last two days have seen the retirement of two VERY special dogs in the kennel. I've known retirement was coming for both but have been struggling with the decision ... talking myself in and out of it over and over.
On yesterday's long run 9 1/2 year old Charge had had a loose tug line for much of it. He's not hurt or tired, he's just being outpaced by the younger dogs. I saw a bit of this with him last year and many times this season - but.....well....I made excuses for him. Yesterday I gave myself a mental slap and flatly told myself he needed to retire - but I confess, I took no 'action' on the decision.
Today on a shorter, faster run Q did an amazing job keeping his tug line tight, but I could tell he was struggling to do so. It was just his remarkable work ethic that kept that tug tight. Asking him to put out that huge effort every day at 10 1/2 years of age wasn't fair treatment for any dog, let alone one that has done so much for me for so many years.
As the team was eating their 'end of run' meal I shuffled the A string around, moving Scud into his father's run and Fletch into Q's. It makes feeding and hookups easier for us, having all the main string dogs in one area, and it seems to put less stress on the 'B' string dogs when you aren't walking by them time and time again while feeding/getting dogs for hookups.
I think it makes for a quieter, happier yard.
Most of my dogs move around through the kennel over the years. I like them seeing new scenery and having new neighbours every now and again. They seem to enjoy it too, but Charge and Q had been in the same spots for YEARS. Not really sure why - likely 'cause they were prominent dogs in the kennel and their locations were prominent locations in the dog yard.
Leading them down to their new stakeouts hurt my heart. They bounced and played with their new neighbours and set to the busy task of peeing ALL over any upright surface in their new digs, thankfully not understanding the significance of their move - but I couldn't escape it.
Tonight when they were not included in the 'A' string nightly feeding it might have sunk home for them some. They looked quizzically at me and I had a bit of trouble meeting their eyes. 'This is the right and proper decision for them', I chided myself.
I reached into the kibble bucket and squirreled out a fish for each that I had slipped in earlier. It's not a gold watch, but I knew they'd appreciate it and it would help ease them into their new reality.
When I came back to the house I poured myself a small whiskey, stepped out on the deck and raised in it salute to my 2 amazing men.
To the trails we've traveled .... some happy, some triumphant, some scary, some heartbreaking....regardless, your company was cherished and appreciated... two more 'honest' dogs it would be hard to find....and to the shorter trails we still will venture down. May they be many.
Thank you Boys.