Steve and I blame Tucker for the bald patch on Darby’s nose. We’d taken both dogs with us to Julian, where we spent Friday and Saturday at the home of some close (and dog-tolerant) friends. Because their large property is unfenced, we’d been careful about keeping the dogs either inside, or on the enclosed deck, or under close observation. At bedtime, we put both of them in a the large cloth kennel we’d brought with us. That’s where they were at 3 a.m. when one of them started whining.

Thinking that maybe Darby had been thrown off by the new surroundings, Steve stumbled in the dark to find his shoes and coat. He unzipped the kennel; hustled both dogs out the front door. They peed for a few seconds. Then they ran off into the black frosty night.
I, in the meantime, was lying in bed, wondering why the bathroom break was taking an eternity. Curiosity finally drove me out the front door too, where Steve announced that they had run away. I freaked out.
He went back into the inky house in the delusional hope of finding some flashlight, while I stood shivering in my pajamas on the porch. “Tucker!” I called, trying to keep the volume soft enough to avoid waking up everyone sleeping within earshot but loud enough to reach the racing canines. I clapped my hands. I heard nothing.
I kept clapping and calling, and after what seemed like an eternity, I heard a distant tinkling of dog tags. Eventually, they bounded into sight, tongues lolling, tails a blur.
They went right to sleep, but it took us a long, long time to drift off. Incredibly, they ran away again in the morning, when Steve took them out to toilet. This time he searched for them in the bright sunshine, and Darby came racing back alone. Tucker showed up several minutes later, his collar firmly in the grasp of the sheriff’s deputy who lived in the distant house across the way.
That’s why we think he was the ringleader. As meek and deferential as he is at home, he longs to be the Wild Dog of the Forest. Given a forest, he bolts. Darby merely followed. And somewhere on the romp, she skinned all the fur off a fingernail-sized patch not far from her right eye.
He may look sleepy most of the time, but the Wild Dog of the Forest lives within.
Was it a run-in with cat or raccoon? Too close a brush with some immovable object? We shudder to think. But she’ll never tell.


As a puppy-raiser, I’m asked all the time how I can bear to turn in one of the dogs I’ve raised. I often explain that for me the experience is a little childbirth. While the turn-in days are horrible, as soon as they’re over, I forget how devastated I felt. Similarly, once a puppy stops doing bad things, I tend to forget he or she ever did them. That was a big reason why I started this blog: I wanted to be able to store such details in a permanent record.

The only problem, I’ve discovered, is that once a puppy is more than a few months old, it can feel shameful to reveal the bad stuff. You want all your puppies to graduate and forever change lives for the better. If they keep making the most basic mistakes, you begin to fear the worst: that they just don’t have the right stuff.

For that reason, I hate to say it, but yesterday morning Darby once again squatted on our Oriental carpet and peed a rather substantial amount of pee. She did the same thing in mid-December (and had NOT done it anywhere in the house for months and months before that.) But now she’s more than 13 months old, “and still not housebroken,” Steve noted mournfully. What’s more basic than housebreaking?

We speculate that maybe she was just excited. I had just walked in after being out for several hours and was tossing the ball for her. (Still, seven-year-old Tucker never ever has such lapses.) Whatever the cause, we can only hope one day after she graduates, we’ll look back at this post and take comfort. It will remind us that even the best dogs, even the stars, can have a bad moment when they’re puppies.

Still Waiting

Still Waiting
Miss Darby turned 13 months old on Saturday… and she STILL hasn’t had her first heat. Her girl parts look a tad swollen, but that’s the only clue any physiological changes might be occurring.


We’ve been a little puzzled and we communicated that to Rick Spicer, who along with his wife Irina, raised Darby’s mother. They’re now her breeder/ caretakers.  Rick did some research and reported back that Darby’s eldest sister Dreya “had her heat cycle in mid-January.” Second-born Dovela had hers in late December, while Dazzle (#3) and Darby (#5) are still “awaiting their passage into womanhood.”
Rick also compared notes with another puppy raiser who has raised a female sired by Paxton (Darby’s dad), and “in our discussing other female Paxton pups that we know of, apparently most of Paxton’s girls have a tendancy to run a little later with their first heat cycles than ‘average.'”
Who knew?  (I guess we do now!)