They are fit and ready to go. The five Brits in my pack started in Montana in September and finished in NM in January. Then, I threw in a few NSTRA field trials to keep them tuned and happy. Today is the First of March, and, true to form, thunderstorms and scattered showers are announcing a cold front on the way. This morning is mild and unsettled. Tomorrow will be cold and blustery. I think the dogs know it's over for another long, hot summer. It's a shame, too, because they are in the best shape ever.
Ruby (above) is 11 years old, now. She's as smart as ever, and is still a runner. The arthritis in her left front elbow and in her back is painful to her, I can tell. Modern medicines, and a few homeopathic remedies, keep the pain at bay for the time being. Our goal (hers and mine) is to run and win the Georgia NSTRA Championships in a few weeks. She's two-time winner (the only Brit to ever win), and I think she deserves a shot at a third one. It's a pipe dream, I'm sure, but she never ceases to amaze me.
So, I think the question is, "When are they retired?" Maybe, "What is retirement for a bird dog?"
Honestly, I really don't think the sedentary non-hunting lifestyle applies. When I have a dog 10+ years old that wants to run, he's welcome on my trips. He will get extra attention, special rations, meds, bedding, etc. And, that is what he's earned over the course of his life. As long as he's eager and ready to hunt when the tailgate drops, he'll be along for the ride. I don't know too many dogs that live long after they lose that desire to hunt- sometimes just weeks.
It seems so short, only 10 years. One hears it all the time, when a dog passes. I hear of dogs hunting at 13 and 14 years old. None of mine, so far. Bocephus (Bo), my English Setter of the 2000's, hunted all the way to 12 1/2 years. Then, the end came quickly. Rocket, Brit male, 12 years old. Ace, Brit male, almost 10.
The conundrum is: we want to hunt them and let them fulfill their genetic destiny, yet, by doing that they develop arthritis and sustain injuries that shorten their hunting lives. Arthritis in a hunting dog seems ubiquitous, especially when they near 10 years old. The good news is that new drugs (Adequan) can help mitigate the arthritis, and older drugs (Rimadyl, etc.) can help with the pain and inflammation. I even had some success using hemp oil. (Yep, Ruby's a junkie.) The problem is not curable, but it is manageable, to some degree. My attitude: Whatever it takes, they deserve it.
Two weeks from now, we head for south Georgia and the Championships. All five of my Brits qualified this year, and, pretty much, they all have a shot. It will be fun, nonetheless. Ruby and Cap, my other almost 11 year old dog, say they are ready. Wouldn't it be amazing, if the old girl did it again? It would be amazing, and a miracle, actually. But, I'll receive a miracle any day!