Teacher’s pet (at least for a few days)

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One of the many cool things about being a CCI puppy raiser is the large crew of puppy-sitters willing to cover for us when we leave town on trips that would not be suitable for a puppy. To passionate travelers like Steve, this has made a huge difference. Since we anticipated going on two long trips this year, we agonized a bit over whether we should even raise another pup immediately after turning in Beverly. But some of the other experienced puppy-raisers encouraged us, arguing that the CCI puppies actually benefit from exposure to a wide range of handlers.

We’re leaving for the airport shortly to embark on the first of our trips (to Brazil), so yesterday Steve dropped off Adagio at the first of the two homes where he’ll be a guest. He’s never stayed with Kay Moore before, but it’s impossible to imagine anyone better qualified to be a puppy host. Kay has raised a number of CCI puppies herself, most recently sharing the job with a co-raiser named Lori, and late last year Kay took over as the teacher of our semi-monthly puppy classes. She’s creative and effervescent, and the classes have crackled with energy since she took over. Kay and Lori just turned in their most recent puppy Friday, and they won’t get their next one for another week or so. So Adagio will rotate between their homes until May 20, then he’ll stay with Diana Vines and John Malugen, veteran puppy-sitters who have helped us out with many dogs.

This blog will thus be silent for about a month (though I hope to be reporting on our adventures in the Amazon and Rio in my travel blog (athomeandabroad.net). Though we won’t get any report from Adagio himself while we’re on the road, it’s hard for me to imagine he won’t be having a good time.

 

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Double trouble

The truth is, I was delighted by the opportunity to puppy-sit Apple, Adagio’s littermate. Her puppy-raiser departed on a week-long vacation early Friday morning, so Apple arrived at our house mid-day Thursday. She looks a lot like her younger brother, but Steve and I can tell them apart. Fittingly, she’s a bit smaller and her face is more delicate. Adagio worships her; her arrival triggered paroxysms of joy.

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Apple is the one on the left.

It’s also true that living with two 5-and-a-half-month old labradors is more trouble than living with one. The worst thing about these two is that neither one has learned to ask to go outside, when they need a potty break. To avoid accidents, we have to remember to take them both out every hour or two, and that’s more work with two than one.

I think they have taught each each other a few bad things. For example, I’ve caught Apple fishing used kleenex out of my wastebasket (something Adagio had not routinely done before). His sis then shared her plunder with him, and I found them both happily chewing on soggy wads. Another time one of them grabbed a roll of paper towels within reach, and they were unrolling it when I noticed this action and snatched it away from them. “They’re as bad as monkeys,” I marveled. “Oh no. Monkeys would be much worse,” Steve said. “Monkeys have hands.”

Still, the pleasure of watching the two of them interact has outweighed the nuisances. They walk beautifully on their leashes, Apple even better than Adagio, so we have taken them with us to the coffeeshop.

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Steve’s been waiting outside with them while I go in.

They have no sense of personal space, so they chew on each other interminably, taking things out of each other’s mouths at will. Each one periodically tries to hump the other. (Fortunately, Apple should still be a few months away from her first heat.) They’re both extraordinarily verbal dogs, so as they wrestle, they emit fearsome growls, as well as yelps, screams, gurgles, and sometimes just a lot of heavy breathing

They seem radiant with happiness to be near each other. And they do periodically crash.

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Apple will go to another puppy-sitter tomorrow afternoon. We’ll all be sad to see her leave.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A pack of puppies walk into a mall…

Some would say that taking your puppy to the mall is more fun than just taking yourself. If you ask me, even more fun than taking one puppy is going with a pack of CCI trainees. That’s what we did last night; it was effectively a puppy-class field trip, led by our effervescent instructor Kay. Adagio was a little young to go. But Kay two weeks ago had  said it would be okay. (He’s only two and a half weeks short of his 6-month birthday.)

We assembled near the Target in San Diego’s Mission Valley Mall — a mini-mob of puppy raisers handling 20 or so dogs who ranged from stolid almost-2-year-olds who will shortly begin their professional training to barely-more-than-babies like Adagio.

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Part of the fun sprang from the reactions from passersby. We startled some, but brought smiles to many faces.

After doing some simple drills outside, we split into two groups, consisting of younger and older dogs. Then we in the younger pack marched into the Target….

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… and trooped up and down the aisles.

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Adagio was very attentive, though we had a bad moment, when I noted a look in his eye that often signals an imminent need for him to relieve himself. I literally ran for the exit and we made it out just in time to avoid disgrace. I cleaned up the deposit then was able to rejoin the gang on the store’s second level. CCI dogs never take escalators, but Target has commodious elevators, and riding in them provided a chance to practice good behavior in tight quarters.

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Outside again, we practiced walking next to shopping carts, and Steve even introduced Adagio to the “Under” command.

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He did it nicely.

Around 8 pm, some of the puppy-raisers headed for Starbucks, but we’d had enough and went home. We’ll be happy to go again, though. It’s a nice change of pace.

The ice puppy cometh (Here!)

We continue to think Adagio’s biggest idiosyncrasy is his oddball response to our opening  his kennel door. Every other CCI pup we’ve raised has sprung to its feet, tagging wagging, and rushed out. But Adagio usually doesn’t budge, even when he’s been whining (as he did this morning at 5:30 am). We implore him to emerge, but he just sits there, languid, gazing at us. We don’t get it, though we suspect this quirk may run in his family. (Last week in puppy class, his sister Apple did it after being directed to enter the class kennel as an exercise. She promptly went in. Then refused to come out. Everyone was most amused.)

I’m starting to work on a new approach: training Adagio that kennel exits get him really wonderful treats. One of his favorite things in the world is ice. (Again, God knows why.)

When he sits in the kennel in Steve’s office, I’ve started going to the nearby fridge, opening the freezer, and extracting a cube or two. Adagio knows this sound and comes at a gallop.

I’ve also started practicing the Here game with him. We invented this activity years ago, when we would return from a walk with our current pup and Tucker. At the front door, we would remove their leashes but make them sit outside while I entered the house. After increasingly long intervals, I would then utter a piercing, “Here!” They clearly loved this ritual, and in all the years we’ve done it, I’ve never had a puppy stop focusing on the treat inside the house and wander off down the block.

Tucker’s now too old to go on long walks with us, but I’ve modified the game a bit and have introduced Adagio to it. I’m also doing it in the back yard. I make him and Tucker sit and stay, then I walk some distance away. Tension builds. Often the dogs start drooling. Finally, I command, “Here!” and they race toward me (Adagio races, Tucker ambles as fast as he can.) It’s obvious they think this is great fun.

It has occurred to me that I need to practice all this with Adagio — luring him with the ice; playing the Here game. Eventually I figure I’ll open the kennel door. Take one step away. Cry “Here!” And he’ll rocket out. That’s the plan.

Five months old!

Today Adagio passed the five-month mark. How fast these puppies change!

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Five months old (today)
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Four months
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Three months
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Two months

Hard to believe it’s all the same dog, but we can swear to it. Besides the physical transformation, Adagio also has learned to simulate being an ancient geezer dog.

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He carefully studies at the feet of his mentor, Tucker.

Car fun

Puppy class was unusually fun last night. There were only four of us in Kinderpup, for some reason, which made the pace mellow. One of the highlights was introducing the gang to the “Car” command, using the back of our teacher, Kay’s car. Since everyone was so young (around 5 months), we lifted them up and helped them in. Chaos ensued: a writhing tangle of tussling puppies. It is a miracle that Kathy Bennett, raiser of Bryce (on the far left), managed to capture this deceptive image of them looking so well mannered.

Note that Adagio (third from right) and his sister, Apple (half-prone), are not exactly in perfect position. (Wait till next year!)

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Adagio’s kidneys

So, roughly $160 poorer, we now know that Adagio’s kidneys are probably just fine. As I reported the other day, we freaked out when, after two accident-free weeks, he suddenly seemed seized by an urgent need to pee every few minutes. Including in the house.

It made us fear he might have developed a bladder infection. So, bleary-eyed, both Steve and I staggered out with him shortly after dawn Tuesday to collect urine. Steve delivered it to the vet’s, and several hours later, he and Adagio returned to learn the results. The good news was that the test found normal levels of sugar in Adagio’s pee (so: no diabetes!) Also no evidence of a bladder infection. Less good was the presence of higher- than-average protein precipitates. This might signal trouble with his kidneys, the vet said. Given our frightful experience with Beverly (Adagio’s half-sister) and her malformed kidneys, we agreed to have blood taken from him for examination.

The vet called late on Wednesday with more good news: his kidney-function values were normal. So why the sudden peeing frenzy? Why the protein crystals? We don’t have a clue. But at least our vet now seems unworried about Adagio’s renal health. When I spoke with the puppy program director yesterday, she also sounded unconcerned. Apparently some vets think protein crystals in dog pee is reason to switch the dog to special food. But others think it’s perfectly normal and doesn’t mean anything.

If the vet and Becky aren’t worried, Steve and I have resolved not to worry either. Furthermore, Adagio is once again relieving himself predictably — outside the house.

Given that, I decided today to take him for the first time with me grocery shopping. My list wasn’t long — maybe two dozen items. He accompanied Steve on a short excursion earlier in the week, and that went okay. So I crossed my fingers, caped him, and loaded him into the car kennel.

I have to confess, I found our time together to be somewhat nerve-wracking. Adagio is still less than five months old, and being in such noisy places, filled with so many people and smells, he looked a little amazed (to the extent that the face of a coal-black dog can communicate wonder.) Shopping for even just two-dozen items involves some searching and decision-making. If you have a dog with you, that dog has to take the inevitable pauses and back-tracking in stride. Adagio isn’t used to that, and he was prone to distraction.

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Where was the coarse-ground Vons brand pepper? I searched and searched before concluding it was out of stock. Adagio found this incomprehensible and boring.

Still, he didn’t bark or lunge at anyone. He had many admirers, and for the most part he sat obediently as they questioned me and showered him with praise. Best of all, he had no accidents in Vons. Or Trader Joes. Or Sprouts. Not a drop of inappropriate pee. By the time we give him back to CCI in November of 2019, he’ll be expected to conduct himself flawlessly in any sort of public setting. So this was a small but necessary start.

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Some weeks I return with two or three times this amount of groceries. We’re going to work our way up to going together on such occasions.