Steve was in the kitchen this morning, loading the dishwasher. I had run out to a dental appointment. Dionne was hanging out with Steve. Until suddenly, she wasn’t.
He says the sound of her feet on the stairs leading up to my office alerted him that he should retrieve her. But before he could do that, loud music (I think it was the Pussycat Dolls) began playing.
|A girl could get in trouble playing with one of these.
He raced up the stairs and when he entered my office, Dionne was sitting near my desk. “Looking uneasy,” Steve says. Clearly she had jumped up, seeking something to snatch, and through some magical combination of puppy paws on keys had cranked up not only iTunes but also managed to hit the forward arrow that started broadcasting “We Went As Far As We Felt Like Going.”
She ALSO somehow managed to start something called Voiceover, an Apple utility that speaks descriptions of items on the screen. Steve had no idea how to turn that off. By the time I got home, he’d even forgotten it was still on. So when sat down, I found an alien box on my screen and a robot voice narrating my every movement and click of my mouse. I had to call Applecare to learn how to turn it off (Control plus F5). “It’s really intended for people who are visually impaired,” the nice young man on the phone informed me. But obviously it’s accessible to dexterous retriever puppies.
|But life is SO boring without Ella
Steve, by the way, thought Dionne must have been startled by the sudden blast of music. Mostly, however, she’s been moping around in the wake of Ella’s departure Sunday. Life once again is really, really boring. But there’s nothing like playing on the computer to escape that, eh?
Steve read my post of the other day in which I expressed my bafflement about why puppies think it’s fun to beat up their buddies, and he declared that he understands it. Dogs do this, he expounded, because they’re practicing to go out and hunt. It’s a throwback, but a powerful behavioral legacy. I say: maybe.
Whatever the impulse, we still had some fearsome moments during Dionne and Ella’s final day together.
|A moment of glory for Ella
By last night, we had a couple of exhausted puppies flaked out around us. They slept until we took them out shortly after 7 a.m. and mustered them for a long hike up the mountain.
For the rest of the morning, they seemed almost subdued. When I confined them in the exercise pen out on the patio, they didn’t even try to escape, but rather, dozed and watched me garden.
Cathy came and retrieved Ella around 2 p.m., and I could honestly tell her we enjoyed the visit.
But I learned from it. Clearly Dionne and Ella had a wonderful time being together, and I derived no small amount of pleasure from seeing that. At the same time, Steve and I both had the sense that our training regimen went to hell. It takes a lot of manpower to lead each puppy out to toilet (on leash) many times a idea, stopping them when they do things like eat mulch (or worse), jump on the furniture, put their paws on the counters, bark or growl at each other, and so on.
In a year from now, when they’re vastly more civilized, things will be different. But for the moment, I don’t think we’ll be volunteering to take on any additional five-month-olds for extended house stays any time soon — no matter now cute they are.
The phone rang. It was Steve, who’s out grocery-shopping with Dionne.
“Dionne just pooped,” he announced. My heart sank. I had visions of this occurring in the produce aisle at Vons.
|Small but tasty (assuming
that you like the taste of
But no. “We’re in the parking lot,” he continued.
As I’ve mentioned before, puppy-raising can elevate one’s interest in canine defecation. But this seemed a new low. Then he continued. “You know your missing ear plug? I found it.”
Steve’s a Luddite about phone technology, so he was unable to capture the moment. Suffice it to say that he reported the squishy, bright orange ear plug to be intact. I urged him NOT to return it to me.
On other fronts, life with Ella has calmed considerably. We’ve had more and more sweet moments like this:
With only 24 hours remaining in her company, I can imagine that time will fly.
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.
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.
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….
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.
Dionne’s charm offensive has continued steadily since I last wrote
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.