A really hard decision.
Shit, I still feel like crying though. I do think it's the right decision. I hope so.
After lots of deliberation and talking it over with a couple of people, I have decided to retire Cooper from agility. This is one of the hardest decisions I've had to make in a while and it breaks my heart. I am trying not to cry while writing this, actually.
As most of you know, last May he was subjected to a temporary ban, then probation, for lunging at another dog at ringside during a UKC trial. It would have ended in a lunge, but the D ring broke from the collar and he ended up tangling with another big bossy male dog - no damage, just a lot of drama. Last weekend we had three days of trialing, his first since May. Friday we did USDAA (he ran very well, two firsts and a second placement, fast and clean.) But he lunged at a boxer at ringside. Not good. Nobody seemed to mind and it wasn't a big deal but I was on edge about it. Saturday I was really, really nervous going to UKC. The dog he tangled with was there and Cooper bears grudges BIG time. He never forgets. Plus he will generalise his bad feelings about a dog he dislikes to every dog of that breed, he really does. The other owner was very considerate and kept her dog well out of sight the whole day, it was an outdoor trial so there was lots of room. But somehow, Cooper figured out where they were crated - near ringside - and it messed him up in the weaves every time because he would get fixated on where the dog was. I don't know how he knew, but he absolutely did. He did not run well, probably because I was a nervous wreck, worried he might actually do the unthinkable and jump the ring gating. He was also stiff, I almost pulled him from running on Saturday. Sunday he was stiff again and had a slight front end limp. I pulled him from all of Sunday's runs after talking with the judge - can't run a limping dog anyway, nor would I take the risk. He is after all, not a young dog, he'll be 8 on Jan 2. That's not a spring chicken for a Rottweiler.
Now, I know I'll never get past the nervousness about him having another altercation during a trial and this will affect our performance. I will not put my dog, or the breed reputation, at risk. In classes, I check to see who's going to be in class with us before signing up, and always sit off to the side so he's not close to other dogs. I watch him like a hawk at trials and in classes, but it's impossible to anticipate everything, especially at the busyness and hubbub at ringside. I'm sure he's more reactive than normal because of Fiona being in heat, but his high reactiveness has always been an issue and I've worked really hard to control it.
Plus he is getting older and I've noticed he gets pretty worn out now after a day's trialing. He has bad elbows and I was told to expect arthritis by three years of age, so he's done great, considering. He has had multiple High in Trials, Combined High in Trial and achieved his UKC championship. I am relinquishing my dream of getting his Grand Agility Champion title.
So - we'll start tracking, seriously. I took a tracking class with him four years ago and he liked it, I liked it, and we can go for AKC tracking titles. Little stress on the joints, it's work, and it gets us out in the open. We'll take lots of walks. I am looking for tracking classes and instructors now.
On another note: Politics Matters. After I left the trial site on Sunday, the club president's dog (Malamute) pulled away from her owner and attacked another dog. (Not the first such incident for this dog, who has also gone for Cooper and punctured his cheek, a few years ago, not in a trial. Cooper did not bite her back.) UKC rules state that the dog MUST be pulled from competition immediately and a report must be made to UKC. But I guess when you're club president, and a UKC judge besides, the rules don't apply. She went right ahead and ran her dog. Two people told me about the incident. That's really irresponsible and wrong. I could say a whole lot more about this but not on a public forum.
So. Tracking! I'm really trying to look at this as a "one door closes, another door opens" sort of thing.