The other day I categorized Dionne’s pen-chewing escapade as being the worst mischief any of our CCI pups has gotten into. But the worst moment in our lives as puppy raisers — by far — occurred about a year ago. We had taken both Tucker and Darby (Dionne’s predecessor) up to Julian, where we were gathering with some close friends in the mountain home of one couple in the group. Tucker had been there several times before, and he’d enjoyed running free on the large unfenced property. But when Darby woke us around 3 a.m. and Steve took her and Tucker out to pee, Tucker didn’t just run around. He streaked off, disappearing into the night with Darby in his wake.

This was an astounding thing for Tucker to do. He’s normally the meekest and most mild-mannered of fellows. Never once has he attempted to bolt out our front door. But clearly, the wild freedom of being up in the mountain woods deranged him. It was freezing cold and pitch black. I finally dragged myself out of bed to see why Steve and the dogs were taking so long to return, and when Steve told me what had happened, I panicked. We stood on the porch, trying to clap our hands and whistle and call the dogs back loudly enough for them to hear us — but not so loud as to wake up everyone else in the house. On the verge of tears, I struggled to suppress images of our two charges being attacked by coyotes or mountain lions — or simply breaking a leg with a misstep or losing an eye to an unfortunate encounter with a low branch.

After a long, long time, we heard the distant jingle of their collars, and the pair of them eventually bounded up, panting and wagging their tails. We herded them into the house and eventually got back to sleep. (Unbelievably, Tucker ran away again in the morning, again with Darby in tow. We finally found them in the custody of a neighbor who was a sheriff’s deputy.)

Despite this drama, our patient and generous friends invited us to bring Tucker again for another gathering yesterday, this time with Dionne. We gratefully accepted but vowed that neither dog would have a moment’s opportunity to escape.

Taking such a young pup up to Julian reminded us of the car trip we took with our first son when he was about two. We crammed that vehicle so full with toddler-management gear there was barely room for passengers.  To help keep Dionne under control we took three kennels AND an x-pen, along with dog-drying towels, food, toys, treats, bowls, leashes and halters. 

Things went so much better. We stuck to our resolve, made easier by the fact that a snowstorm had moved in. By late evening, a couple of inches had built up, and when Steve and I stole out of the house to walk both dogs in the early morning light, we exclaimed over and over at the magical transformation that the snow had wrought. Dionne seemed startled by it at first, but then the light went on and she clearly got it: “OMG! I can stick my snout down into this cold white stuff!  I can dig into it, and it’s even edible!”

It would have been a blast to release her and watch her tear around like a crazy puppy and frolic in it. But we resisted. The memory of last year’s adventure was too fresh.

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