The half life of a trial dog

I took a look at the Border Collie Boards today and saw a post on retiring dogs.  I couldn’t imagine that Gel could not run a USBCHA open class at nine or ten years old.  It isn’t like they are running all day long in such a class.  They may be on the field for ten minutes, if that.  Why is it that a dog that young cannot still perform for such a short period of time?  I could understand that they could not do a cross-country cattle drive at that age, but a USBCHA Open course?

The one time I worked at the top of the field at a USBCHA trial, I thought some of the dogs were going to die once they got to the top.  The outrun was maybe 300 yards, not a terribly large field.  Many of these dogs were not older dogs either, yet they were still jaded once they got to the top.

Aside from the obvious problems associated with feeding kibble and over-vaccination, I have to wonder how much daily work these older (already trained) dogs get.  I know for a fact that many Open handlers put aside their trained dogs (meaning dogs successfully running at the Open level vs. those who are just coming into the class) in favor of working young, up and coming dogs.  I’ve heard it and I’ve seen it.  Why continue to train (work) a fully trained dog when you can train up your next super star to trial or sell?  The poem that is included in the above post says it all:  “Among the young and able is the old sheepdog.”  It’s an incredibly sad poem. 

I have to wonder if these “older” dogs were worked on a regular basis so they’d remain sharp and kept fit, if they wouldn’t have a longer trial life.  Granted, the dogs mentioned in the post could be retiring because they’ve been injured or have some sort of pre-existing condition but still … Dogs and humans only get one body, it makes sense to me to make very good care of the body from the start so that it lasts a long time.

Working is all some of these dogs live for.  It seems extremely cruel to take that one joy away from them.