I want to destroy her!

I want to destroy her!
Having spent a fair amount of time around dogs, I feel like I understand some of the things they do. But  if I live with 50 more puppies, I’m not sure I’ll ever comprehend why they play the way they do. 
I’ve watched some more, as Dionne and Ella (5 days younger than Dionne and our houseguest for the weekend) have played throughout the day. A few times, when they’ve been out in the yard, they’ve chased each other as fast as they could run. I get that. 
What I don’t get is why they think it’s fun to act like they want to rip their playmate apart (but not really). Dionne and Ella will grab the other girl’s ear and pull her around the room. It looks like it would hurt like hell. Sometimes they grab the other one’s thick neck fur and yank on that.
 Or they fence with their teeth….
 …they jockey for toys… 
…they tackle each other…
…and generally beat each other up.
To our relief, most of the time, all this play has not broken many of CCI’s rules. Only occasionally have they growled while attempting to destroy each other.
Ella is something of a humper. 

…so we’ve had to discourage that.  And sometimes in their wild abandon, they leap up on a piece of furniture, another no-no requiring intervention.

But happily, throughout all this intense activity, Dionne hasn’t vomited again. Puppy play must be a tonic.

Good news and bad

Good news and bad

The bad news is that after 10 days of being just fine, Dionne threw up again last night — twice.  We think we know why. After all those days of being fine, she made us believe we could let down our guard a bit; we allowed her a few minutes of being out in the backyard off leash yesterday, when Steve was puttering in the garden. She snorfled around in the newly deposited mulch, and as she did so, she must have chewed on (and swallowed) some of it.

Today we gave her no breakfast. For lunch and dinner, she got a ration of plain white rice boiled for a long time with puppy chow (Miss Dionne’s new Indigestion Diet), and she’s been fine.

Still, we feel discouraged. How can you keep a retriever puppy from ever eating indigestible objects? Never allow her to leave her kennel off-leash? All our retriever pups in the past somehow managed to eat indigestible objects without throwing up (until they grew out of the habit.) I’m beginning to resign myself to seeking professional advice, either from CCI or from our vet.

The GOOD news (I think?!) is that Miss Ella arrived this morning for her three-day stay with us. This is very good news for Dionne (and Ella, we think). Tucker also has been excited, more eager to play than we’ve seen him in some time.

For us it has already become clear that Ella’s presence will crank up our canine work load a bit. Within an hour or two of arriving, she peed on one of our carpets, the first such accident we’ve seen around her for many weeks.  It reminded us that we don’t know her habits, as we now know Dionne’s. We need to take both of them out for frequent toileting breaks.

Watching them romp and tussle with and chew on each other already has been amusing (even though I was under a professional deadline, which gave me limited time to sit and enjoy the jolly fun.) They only conked out on the carpet in my office a few minutes ago (after 8 p.m.)

My expectation is that over the next two and a half days, I’ll have more time, and that will enable me to enjoy the doggy circus more.  Whether I do or not, I’m certain Dionne will enjoy it.

Bye-bye KPT

Bye-bye KPT

New babies have started showing up in our kindergarten puppy training (KPT) class; last night there were three of them:

Who may just be the fluffiest puppy I’ve ever seen…. 

…and Daris.


All of them are very young — in the 8-12-week range.  All are amazingly cute.

The opportunity to soak up their cuteness is the good thing about going to class with them.  The bad part is because they’re so young, they’re working on the most basic commands: “Let’s go,” “Sit,” “Down.” Dionne, on the other hand, has those down cold and is already refining “Wait,” “Speak,” “Shake,” “Here,” “Roll,” and more. 

Bob, our teacher, has been very sensitive about having each dog work at its level. But when class was over, he mentioned to us that if we want to start attending the Basic level classes, that would be fine with him. 

We think we’ll do that; that it will challenge both us and Dionne more. (Plus it starts at 6:45 p.m. instead of 5:30, giving us a better shot at missing the rush hour traffic and grabbing something to eat before class.) 

We’ll miss the adorableness.  But it will also give Dionne a tiny bit more time to look like she’s the little one in the room. 

Pretty good pals

Pretty good pals
Dionne’s charm offensive has continued steadily since I last wrote about it. 
Scenes like the one above are common (although it’s also common for her to run up to our bedroom and plop down right in the center of Tucker’s bed, hogging it.) 
Tucker doesn’t like that. But we’re intrigued to see how much he tolerates from her. He even plays with her routinely, which he didn’t do often with Darby or Yuli and NEVER tolerated from Brando.  Sometimes it’s quieter play, as demonstrated in the beginning of this video. But sometimes he even puts up with the neck-chewing and mock-fighting shenanigans that puppies all seem to adore.  You glimpse a bit at the end of this clip.

Steve is convinced that Tucker likes the girls better just because they’re girls. In fact, Steve has begun to wonder if the fact that Tucker put up with no nonsense of any sort from Brando contributed to Brando’s  later success in life.

I think there’s not enough data to draw that conclusion.  If Dionne graduates, that will prove his theory wrong.  Which would be just fine with all of us.

CCI dogs shopping

CCI dogs shopping

I got an e-mail this morning from my friend Doris, who lives in the metro Washington (DC) area.  She attached this photo, taken while she was out shopping. Doris must have spotted the CCI vest and made some comment about having a friend in San Diego who raises CCI puppies — and she learned that this dog, Diane, was raised by Janice and Dan Flynn of Santee.  Doris wanted to know if I knew them. I shot back that of course I knew the Flynns. They’re pretty legendary in San Diego — raising something like their 16th or 17th puppy, almost all of which have graduated. We knew Diane too; had been to puppy classes that she attended!

Doris wrote that Diane’s owner had said CCI dogs were the Rolls Royces of assistance animals.  “Her owner thanks you from the bottom of her heart for raising puppies… She was so thrilled to talk to me and hear about you.” 

I felt the same way at hearing about the encounter. Of course we know the dogs can make a huge difference in their recipients’ lives, but it’s nice to be reminded of how much they’re appreciated.

I kept that in mind when Dionne and I made our grocery-shopping rounds this morning: Costco, followed by three different grocery stores. It’s a lot of walking back and forth and sitting and down-ing and jumping out of the car kennel (which Dionne has suddenly mastered.)

But she did it like a champ. Didn’t make a single error. Won lots of praise and admiring glances. Will Dionne turn out like Diane? It’s a tall order, but we can hope.

Family news

Family news
No, that’s not Dionne.  It’s Dudley — one of Dionne’s brothers! 

Bonnie Mueller passed the picture on to me.  She’s raising Dionne’s sister Demi up in Orange County. We’ve had a few e-mail exchanges, and apparently she’s also recently heard from Mary Beth Morrow, who’s raising Dudley in central Ohio. Mary Beth reports that “he’s a big, leggy boy, and so sweet! …Dudley has been a confident, but calm puppy. He is a quick and eager learner, loves everyone, and was best buddies with my previous CCI dog, Kieran, who turned in for advanced training in Feb. Our biggest challenge so far has been with crate training, since Dudley did not seem to mind urinating in his kennel for the first several weeks/months. He is doing really well now and has gone to the door when he has to pee since he was a little puppy – he just didn’t hold it very well or long in his crate. He can be a little bit overly excitable with initial greetings, but calms down quickly and seems to be fairly low key otherwise. I think he shows good potential so far…” (As he’s her 14th CCI puppy, she speaks with the voice of Experience!)

Steve and I are pretty astounded by how much Dudley resembles Dionne.  Also amusing is the fact that we all were told initially that everyone in her litter was a blonde (including Dionne). No one seems to know how that miscommunication occurred, as none of us have had any contact with the “breeder/caretaker” (in CCI parlance). In contrast, when Steve and I were raising Dionne’s predecessor, Darby, we had the polar opposite experience. Her breeder/caretakers wrote us regular and effusive e-mails, sent dozens upon dozens of her baby pictures, and generally maintained a very close contact.

We probably won’t ever meet Dudley but hope we eventually do meet Demi (most likely on that dark day — when the girls turn in for Advance Training.)

Nothing like a pal

Nothing like a pal
This is what two ecstatically happy puppies look like.  On the left is Ella, while the insane looking animal on the right is Dionne. 
The girls are almost exactly the same age (Ella’s five days younger.) When I picked up Dionne from the CCI’s Southwest regional headquarters on December 5, Kathy Alameda also arrived to pick up Ella. Like Steve and me, Kathy and her husband have previously raised four CCI puppies, but then they took a long (8- or 9-year) break from raising. Still, I’d met Kathy before, through mutual friends who are active in puppy-raising, and I was delighted to learn that we’d be raising dogs on the same track.
When Kathy put out the word that she needed a puppysitter for Ella March 14-17, Steve and I volunteered to host her. It will be more work, but it will also be fun, we’re confident, for the little girls to have four days of playmate-time. In preparation for that experience, I also agreed to bring Dionne up to Kathy’s home the other day so that our two charges could meet before becoming roommates. 
We were pretty confident they’d get along, but to say they did feels like an understatement. Kathy has a huge yard, and Ella and Dionne tore around it at about 50 miles an hour. They did that not quite nonstop, because part of the time they were rolling in the grass, play-biting each other’s necks. For all the wild play, we heard almost no growls or barking out of them (that’s a CCI no-no.) 
Ella also led Dionne onto the landing of her swimming pool, but neither is confident enough for actual swimming yet (which is fine with Kathy and with me!) After almost an hour, we made the two puppies lie quietly near each other. They did fine with that too. 
I took some video footage of the two pups playing, as follows. There should be plenty more next week. 

Five months old!

Five months old!

So she’s five months old today, and she looks way dreamier in this photo than she ever does in real life!  For this photo, she had little interest in looking into Steve’s camera but wanted to squirm to the ground.

For as many dogs as we’ve had, it astounds me to see how fast they change. In real life (if not in the photo above), Dionne still looks like a puppy. But she won’t for long.

Dionne just three months ago. Hard to believe.

Bye-bye baby teeth

Bye-bye baby teeth
A beloved dog toy around our house is the empty plastic milk bottle. We drink a lot of milk, so we have an empty every few days, and when we rinse one out and toss it to Tucker and Dionne, they get a lot of pleasure out of batting it around and chasing each other for possession of it. We can’t let them keep one for long, or they chew the plastic into shreds that cut their gums. But for a few minutes, it amuses them. 
Yesterday I thought I’d blown it when, just a minute after doling out a freshly empty bottle to Dionne, I noticed it was finely coated with blood. Then I realized what had caused that: Dionne has been shedding her baby teeth right and left. They look like this: 

And their loss is a bloody business.  At another point yesterday, I found patches of blood all over Tucker’s head, from the same cause.

Steve, the resident tooth-brusher, thinks Dionne only has one or two of the little guys left.  This should come as a huge relief to Tucker. She still loves to chew on him, but the bigger, rounder adult teeth hurt less.

Happily, teeth were the only thing she deposited around the house today. Yesterday morning, despite all our restrictions and confining her to an easily digestible diet, Dionne vomited yet again.  

The tummy wars

The tummy wars

Our tummy trouble continues. After throwing up at 3:30 a.m. Tuesday morning, Dionne seemed fine.  To forestall any more indiscriminate eating, we had her under almost constant scrutiny — either on a leash or in her kennel or within our direct gaze. Still, yesterday in the middle of the morning, she vomited up her entire breakfast (she was in her kennel in Steve’s office.)

As gross as it’s been to find mystery objects (the larva, the bed stuffing) in Dionne’s vomit, we were more bothered NOT to find anything in yesterday’s offering. What’s wrong?! But we remembered what vets have told us in the past when one pup or other has developed tummy trouble. The standard advice has been to keep the dogs off all solid food for 24 hours, then to gradually introduced bland stuff like rice and cottage cheese and canned pumpkin. We didn’t do that earlier this week because we felt so bad about depriving a chowhound like Dionne of her chow.

She threw up a bit more (mostly liquid) in Tuesday afternoon, but she’s acted fine since then. We’ve given her only water. Our plan is to feed her the rice etc. starting this afternoon and take everything super easy tonight and through tomorrow.

Still… it’s so easy to screw up. This morning she was laying on the carpet next to me, up in my office.  I ran down into the kitchen to talk to Steve about something.

“Where’s Dionne?” he suddenly asked me.

“Up in my office. But she was just lying there quietly. She’s become a good girl, you know. She doesn’t do bad things any more.”

“Oh, right,” he retorted, sarcastic.

A minute later, we heard her coming down the stairs to join us. But I could tell she had something in her mouth. I grabbed her; opened the jaws. Out tumbled the little glass bottle that just minutes earlier had been sitting on my desk, full of perfume.

It was empty. I raced upstairs and quickly spotted the little cork and label from the bottle. I could find no sign of the contents — no damp, intensely fragrant spots anywhere in the room.

On the other hand, Dionne’s breath was a curious mixture of open sewer and perfume. 
We have no idea what havoc this will wreck on her delicate stomach. We can only hope it functions like a tonic, though that seems unlikely.