Wild dogs of the forest

Wild dogs of the forest

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.

The worst

The worst

In addition to growing with freakish speed and having almost no more toileting accidents in the house, Dionne once again has resumed sleeping through the night. She went from 10:15 p.m. last night to 6:15 yesterday. But as if to remind us that she is still a very young puppy, she also did the worst thing that perhaps any of our CCI pups has ever done.

I had gone out to coffee with a friend. But somehow my departure slipped Steve’s mind, and at some point he assumed Dionne was upstairs in my office under my supervision. She was up there all right. But, in my absence, she apparently stood up at my desk and helped herself to a pen. Then she settled down for a good chew. Apparently she moved around at several points. We know this because when Steve finally discovered what was going on, the light tan carpet in my office was stained with black ink in half a dozen places.

Steve made a valiant attempt to blot it up. He sprayed all the spots with carpet cleaning foam. He scrubbed and scrubbed (clearly feeling guilty that this disaster had unfolded on his watch.) For a brief while, we thought these efforts worked. But when the foam dried, ugly dark smudges still showed, as obvious as if someone had come up to scuff around on the rug after shuffling through the ashes of a campfire.

It must be said that the rug is more than 16 years old. It’s been peed and vomited on and blood-spotted by literally generations of puppies. Always before, however, with the aid of in-house chemicals and regular visits from our neighborhood carpet cleaners, we were able to restore it to semi-respectability. Still we would have conceded some time ago that it was time to replace it — except that when we finally  do that, the project will require lugging out of the room all my bulging file cabinets and a large couch. Worse still, we’ll have to disassemble my 14-feet-long desk, and store it somewhere until the new flooring goes in.

“Maybe we should just resign ourself to living in squalor, as long as we’re raising puppies,” Steve mused.

I don’t think I can bear that. On the other hand, I don’t see how I can bear to dismantle my office. It makes me want to go off and chew something up myself.

Four months old today!

Four months old today!

Dionne weighed 36.6 pounds yesterday — compared to 15.6 when I picked her up two months ago. That’s a gain of 21 pounds! We’ve calculated that she eats 11.5 ounces of Eukanuba Large Breed Puppy Chow daily — a total of approximately 34 pounds since we got her. But by our calculations, she also has excreted at least 100 pounds of solid waste.

So where is the world is all the dog coming from?

At this rate, there’s no way I’ll be able to lift her a month from today!

Complete immunity

Steve took Dionne in today for her last set of puppy shots. Now, at least according to modern veterinary theory, she should be protected from canine distemper, adenovirus, parvovirus, leptospirosis, parainfluenza, bordatella, and rabies.


Steve said she was very brave and all the vet office staff loved her.  But an exceedingly ugly bulldog in the waiting room freaked her out (or so Steve says.)

She may not have whimpered when she got her shots. But she certainly thought the best part of the experience was getting the post-injection biscuit. 

Bringing up bébé chien

I recently read a fascinating book called Bringing Up Bébé, about the experiences and observations of an American woman who moved with her British husband to Paris, where they then had three children. The author, Pamela Druckerman, immediately began to notice profound differences between the average French person’s approach to child raising and the norms that are common in the US. She began to pay close attention and eventually wrote the book. I wish I’d read it before I had my two sons. But in a weird way I feel I’m benefitting from it, even as a puppy-raiser.

Druckerman’s book makes it clear that French parents share a confidence that their children can and should learn to do many things that make them much easier to live with, e.g. sleep through the night by the time they’re a few months old, eat everything they’re served, entertain themselves for substantial periods of time. This is the cultural norm, and it’s reinforced by French parents sharing their practices with each other. I think it helped me to realize that waking up at 2 a.m. every night to take a whining puppy out into the cold might not necessarily be a demonstration of puppy-raising virtue but rather stupidity. It prompted me to ask for advice from both Becca at the CCI office and the puppy-raisers at the social gathering on Saturday. Steve and I have been following their suggestions, and the results feel nearly miraculous.

Cut off from her water supply just an hour or so earlier, Dionne slept until 5 a.m Sunday morning. She whined then, but instead of springing out of bed, I shushed her. She barked about 5:30, but when I told her (once) “Quiet!” she quieted! I finally got up and took her out at 6, not wanting to push my luck.

This morning, she slept till 5:40, and then again when I told her, “Shhhh,” she grew silent. Again, I took her out at 6, with no accidents. This all seems to confirm that waking up in the middle of the night was simply a bad habit she fell into, one that should rightfully be discouraged.

On other fronts too, it feels like we’re making real progress. My log of “Toileting Accidents” on the refrigerator shows that eleven days have passed since the last time she peed in the house.  She still gets into sharkish moods from time to time and tries to chomp on my hands or clothes. We didn’t find yelping and shrieking in response to be a very useful strategy. (For one thing, it tends to freak out any other humans within earshot.) But I’ve learned that pinching the skin under her tongue (with one finger inside her mouth and the other under her jaw) seems effective. She never cries, but she seems to back off on the biting attack.

She’s still much too young and mischievous to be allowed to roam the house and yard unsupervised. But increasingly, she seems content to stretch out near us to watch what’s going on, or snooze. At two days short of four months old, she’s come a long way, bébé.

Play date

Play date
When we got Tucker, our first CCI puppy, one of the pleasures of the early days was taking him to puppy play sessions up at the Oceanside headquarters. I hated the drive (at least 45 minutes each way, often lengthened by traffic jams), but I did it because watching Tucker romp with the other little ones was such jolly fun.
Somewhere along the line, a decision was made to eliminate the Saturday morning play sessions (for reasons I can’t remember). That spared me the commute. But it was a loss. 
So when I got notice that Chris Harrell was organizing a play session for little pups up at the Oceanside campus of MiraCosta College this morning, I wanted to take Dionne. I think of Chris as a puppy master. She’s raised 9 dogs, and 4 of them have graduated. She works at the college and can arrange to use one of the playing fields. It’s a great place for baby dogs to romp. 
Predictably, Dionne barreled into the action, ecstatic. Someone had brought a yellow stuffed toy, which she appropriated, taunting the other puppies and playing her most favorite game (keep away). She ran and ran and ran and ran. A little wrestling, a little butt-sniffing. A premiere social event! 
Here’s a glimpse of what it looked like:
After we’d been there for about 45 minutes, we corralled our charges and formed a big circle in the grass. This is another throwback to the old days. After those Saturday morning play sessions in Oceanside, the puppy-raisers would engage in what always felt a bit to me like group therapy. (Or an AA meeting, someone suggested: “My name is Jeannette and I’m a serial puppy raiser.  I can’t help it.”)

Circle time

Each person introduced him- or herself and puppy. Most of us had raised at least 4 or 5 dogs. When it was my turn, I confided the recent troubles we were having with Dionne waking up in the middle of the night. I told everyone what Becca had recommended, and I explained that Steve and I went to sleep last night, girding our loins to try her advice to ignore Dionne’s whining, at least for a while. And then Dionne confounded us by sleeping till 5:10 this morning. (Steve’s reading was that Dionne must have read Becca’s e-mail over my shoulder and decided to mess with our minds.)

I also mentioned that we’d been cutting off Dionne’s water supply by 7, but one of the other puppy-raisers suggested that was too late. “If she’s got lots of opportunities to drink during the day, she’ll be fine.” Heads nodded. It struck me that last night Dionne didn’t drink after 5 p.m. (because we took her to our Friday night movie group.)

Whether that explains why she did better, I don’t know. But it felt great to be reassured that Dionne will be fine if she gets her last drink of the day at 5 or 6. Sometimes hanging out with the pack can be not only fun, but educational.


Here’s what one looks like. 

This being the first of the month, it’s the day when I normally send in my monthly Puppy Report to CCI.  It’s a form that we’re supposed to fill out, and it covers all the basic information. We send them in to the Oceanside center electronically.

Although there’s a place for it on the form, I’ve never asked for someone to contact me; usually Steve and I have saved our questions for puppy class or other puppy raisers.  But yesterday, before even sending in the report, I e-mailed Becca, the program coordinator.

In the Subject line,  I put “Sleep Torture”  Then I wrote that Dionne had started waking up between 2 and 4 a.m. every night — despite previously sleeping consistently until 5:30 or 6 a.m.  “Steve takes her out and she invariably pees; last night she defecated too. In answer to the obvious questions, we do restrict her from drinking water after about 7 p.m. and we take her out for a final toileting session around 10.” I explained how we had eliminated the possibility that she might have a bladder infection and added, “What really bothers me is that we know she was capable of sleeping through the night. But now, even though she’s growing by leaps and bounds, she seems to have fallen into this pattern of wanting an outing in the wee hours. Can you recommend anything we could do?”

Today Becca answered, “Oh dear!  Sleep torture is no good.”  She asked what Dionne did if we ignored her. “Will she keep fussing indefinitely, or eventually have an accident in the crate? My first suggestion is to try waiting her out a little bit.  When she starts making noise, wait 10 or 15 minutes before taking her out.  She might fall back asleep and be able to hold out until morning.  Or, at least, you should be able to gradually push her back until she can wait a little longer each night and you’ll eventually move the time back to 5 or 6 am again.

Never fear, we’ll get her back on schedule again!”

We haven’t tried ignoring Dionne, but now we’re emboldened.  We’ll start tonight!