Whilst not directly related to the dog sports world, saying goodbye to your beloved companion is something we will all have to face at one time or another and I personally wanted to write this blog as a tribute to my princess who I lost last month and who was the reason I started K9 Trail Time.
Tegan was my first dog who I was solely responsible for, I got her after I had finally moved out of home and I will never forget the first time I saw her face. Tegan came from a local rescue kennels and when I saw her she was trying to scale an 8 foot stable wall in her excitement to get out, I should have known then that getting her would change my life.
The early days were really hard and I struggled with her separation anxiety, which at times was soul destroying and I felt I was letting her down at every stage. I made so many mistakes and I distinctly remember trying to bike with her on a lead held in my hand which inevitably ended in disaster when she saw a cat and tried to run under my bike! We muddled on and she began to settle with me, taking part in long walks with my horse and managing her anxiety through exercise and training.
After nearly a year I had the confidence to introduce another dog to the house and it was then that I realised as much as I exercised them, there was something missing in our lives and I needed to find something for us to do together. We tried both flyball and agility but Tegan was reactive towards other dogs in that situation, so group sessions were not for us and we needed to find something else to focus both Tegan and Judo’s minds on.
We first discovered canicross through a friend who suggested to us that it was a great way for the dogs to exercise safely and in an environment where people understood and respected some dogs’ need for space. When Judo was old enough we started to train, running locally at first and then taking part in our first race in 2009. From that point on we were hooked! We were lucky to have some very experienced canicrossers who ran a local group and we began to join them on a weekly basis.
For the first time Tegan began to really settle in the house and after more than 2 years the destruction resulting from the separation anxiety began to diminish. That’s not to say she stopped this behaviour and right up until the weeks before I had to let her go, she was still ripping up beds and trying to escape out of cages if she felt that she should be with me rather than confined somewhere not taking part!
For nearly 10 years we had so many adventures with our canicross friends, we attempted the West Highland Way in Scotland, managing 60 miles in 3 days but having to pull out due to my injury after the 3rd day. It was during the training for this I came up with the basic plan for K9 Trail Time. We did successfully complete the Cotswold Way in 2016 with the 3 dogs I had at that point, each taking legs of the route so they were fresh each day for the next stage. Tegan was aged 9 and so I was especially proud of her completing the distances of up to 15 miles she managed.
Tegan was diagnosed at around 4 years old with arthritis in her fore limb carpal joints, most likely a result of genetics rather than anything else but we managed this for the whole of her life with exercise, the occasional dose of medication and by carefully monitoring her for signs of stiffness or pain which she virtually never displayed. We strongly support Canine Arthritis Management for giving great advice and help for people whose dogs have been diagnosed with arthritis, as it certainly doesn’t mean the end of an active life as Tegan proved.
In 2017 during a routine health check the vet mentioned a heart murmur and said not to worry about it, many dogs have a heart murmur and live their whole lives happily with no ill effects. However in 2018 I started to suspect the murmur was having an effect and there were subtle signs of her beginning to slow down. We booked a specialist appointment with a cardiologist and had it confirmed with an echocardiogram that she was indeed suffering with Mitral Valve Disease which is degenerative but can be delayed with medication.
From that point on I knew we were on borrowed time, studies indicate that given the correct medication dogs with MMVD can live for years but I had already seen changes in her that made me think we might not get many years. The advice I was given and what I stuck to, was to keep her going and not limit her exercise, if she wanted to run then she should run! Tegan would often need us to wait for her but we always did and she continued to run with us right up until the weekend before she left us. Tegan even raced a short course with CaniX for a night run in January 2019 at 12 years old, she loved every minute and more importantly she was still being allowed to take part, she hated being left out of anything.
I’m not going to forget that last week we had with her, it was busy as usual and we had an event down in Devon we attended. Tegan had been picky over her food but that wasn’t unusual for a dog who was nicknamed ‘princess’ for a reason. However she did seem more tired than normal and so she had a rest day after we got back. Those last two days were heartbreaking as she went downhill so quickly, she went to the vet as soon as I felt she wasn’t happy and she deteriorated there to the point where I knew she was beginning to suffer.
Tegan had developed an arterial fibrillation, which is a complication with the heart condition and her kidneys were failing but also during investigations the vets found a mass in her intestines and it was then I knew I was going to have to let her go. The decision itself when I looked at her wasn’t difficult as such, because I knew it was the kindest thing for her, but it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do after sharing nearly 12 years of my life with her.
Tegan was such a huge character and was always telling me what she thought, she woke me up every morning at home, she told me off if I hadn’t fed her by a certain time and nearly every group photo I asked her to pose for, she had to tell me to hurry up and let me know she was bored. Tegan was my inspiration for K9 Trail Time, to create a business providing kit and information for active dog owners so that they could enjoy the kind of life we had, to improve the kind of behaviours Tegan had displayed when she was bored and frustrated and giving dogs a channel for this.
Tegan’s legacy will live on in our hearts, in our home but also in K9 Trail Time, she is the main dog in the logo, the photo taken from one of our early years racing at an event in Scotland just before we attempted the West Highland Way. All we can do for our dogs is give them the best possible life with the time we have and know when to let them go when that time has come. It’s the worst pain ever but knowing you’ve had the best life you can together is some comfort.
‘Princess’ Tegan you were the dog that changed my life, until I find you again.