Yesterday afternoon I dropped off Dionne at the home of Betty and Michael Makowski (hosts of the wonderful Bellini party a couple of weeks ago). They and their Change of Career CCI dog, Harrison, will be taking care of Dionne for a couple of weeks, while Steve and I journey to East Africa. Since this trip will be extraordinary (in length as well as ground covered), Dionne will move in a couple of weeks to a second puppy sitter. I’ll expect she’ll have a blast.
We, in the meantime, hope to be reporting on our adventures in my travel blog, travelsoutsidesandiego.wordpress.com. If all goes well, I should resume reporting on Dionne’s adventures at the end of June!
Last night Steve and I dined with our friends Howie and Donna at a new Russian restaurant in Golden Hill. We took Dionne with us, and although she of course was wearing her cape when we entered, I braced (as I always do) for some challenge to her presence. There was none. The charming hostess didn’t bat an eye when she directed us to our table. And Dionne’s behavior was exemplary. She settled into an Under and barely moved.
I was startled a while later, when the hostess appeared at our table with a large bowl of water and a huge dog biscuit. She squatted down and presented both to Dionne, who turned her attention to them with gusto. Later, the obviously dog-crazy hostess returned with yet another biscuit. Dionne got yet another when we departed.
|Not a great shot; she was busy wolfing down the biscuit. Then she lapped up a bunch of the water.
On the way home, Dionne confided to me that she’d heard something about being a service dog. But if THIS was they meant by service, we could count her in!
Steve and I have learned over the years that puppies vary in the degree to which they’re affectionate. Yuli was a 10. She wanted nothing more than to worm her way as close as possible to the nearest human who might pet her, and then snuggle. She could be content, burrowed in like that, for hours.
Darby came next on what I might call the Snugglepup scale. Her craving for affection approached that of Yuli; maybe it was just a hair less blatant. We’re thrilled that she’s now the only dog of our dog-loving friends Joe and Kerri. They have a little girl, and judging from the Youtube video that Joe just posted, it appears that Kayla and her friends love Darby as much as Darby loves being loved.
Dionne is different; a bit more self-sufficient. She likes attention; likes being petted, and she’s happy to settle in for a nice cuddle, as seen here:
But after a minute or so, she’ll jump down and be off to see what other amusements might be at hand.
Much to my surprise and delight, my friend Kathy presented me with a couple of very cool t-shirts inspired by this blog.
One is about the right size for Dionne. Here we are, in our matching gear!
I’ve heard back from the CCI Southwest puppy coordinator, who informs me:
1) Smiling is not a very desirable behavior just because it can be
misconstrued by people who don’t know what it is and think the dog is
snarling. But, luckily, most CCI dogs who do it typically do it most when
being greeted by someone they know. I’d just not encourage the behavior,
and unless she’s doing it really often out in public, it shouldn’t be an
issue for her in the long run. We’ve had a number of dogs graduate who do
This is reassuring. Even Tootsie usually reserved her champion smiles for loved ones. If Dionne’s incipient smile does become more practiced, I would expect her to do the same.
Becca also answered another question I’d posed. I’d explained that we always kept a puppy crate in our bedroom, but we recently had our bedroom painted, and when everything was torn about, we had Dionne sleep in the large kennel that’s always in Steve’s office. We had Tucker sleep there too, on his dog bed, to keep Dionne company. And we soon realized, we liked this arrangement! Although we never sleep in very late, it’s a little more relaxing not to hear the two of them rustling around in the morning. We even think Dionne prefers to sleep in the office kennel because it’s roomier.
But I had a memory of hearing somewhere that CCI disapproves of older pups sleeping in separate quarters from their puppy raisers. I assured Becca we would always have tiny pups sleep near us, so we could bond with each other and be available for nocturnal outings. But what about the older dogs? I asked.
“As long as you would be able to hear Dionne in the middle of the night if she were in distress of some sort, it’s fine to have the crate in the other room,” she said.
We still mulling over that one…
Steve and I have only had one dog who smiled. That was Tootsie, the chocolate lab whom we acquired in 1990. I don’t know when we first noticed the little scrunch-up of her muzzle, but I’m pretty sure it took us quite a while to recognize it for what it was. We couldn’t believe it at first; it astounded us. But eventually, her facial expression was unmistakable. Her smile grew in complexity as she aged. By the time she was 10 or 11, I could glance at her in my office as I worked, and she’d flash me the quickest of grins. But if we returned after being out for several hours, she would beam long and broadly and toothily.
I think Dionne may become a smiler too. Two or three times now, I’ve noticed that quick wrinkling of her muzzle when she greets me. Steve has never seen it, and it certainly has never lasted long enough for me to capture in a photograph. But I suspect she’ll get more and more proficient at it.
I’m not sure this is a good thing, from the perspective of CCI. Someone once told me that the organization dislikes the behavior because members of the public can misinterpret it as a snarl. I’ve written the puppy program coordinator to ask if this is true, and if so, how a diligent puppy raiser is supposed to react. I haven’t heard back from her yet.
Actually, Dionne hasn’t had much to smile about in the last day and a half. I fed her rice for dinner Friday evening (after she threw up her breakfast Friday morning.) She kept it down through the night, so I fed her rice mixed with dog food yesterday morning, and she then proceeded to throw up THREE times in the ensuing hours. She wasn’t the least bit mopey or listless, and she was drinking and eliminating normally. So we weren’t too worried about her. But we went into Extreme Tummy Control mode — i.e. giving her nothing at all to eat for 22 hours. Then just a cup or so of boiled rice early this afternoon. She got more rice for dinner. If she holds it down, we’ll slowly add boiled puppy kibble in the coming days.
This program distresses me. I know she must be hungry, yet there’s no way to communicate why we’re not feeding her. At least the torture usually doesn’t last that long. Something to smile about!
I’ve been feeling so smug about Dionne’s apparently new capacity to root around in the compost out back, chew on some of it, and NOT throw up. We’ve been testing this out for maybe two weeks, and she’s been great. So I’ve been allowing her to spend a little time (maybe a maximum of 10-15 minutes a day) in the yard, unsupervised. Steve’s been skeptical, but the theory I’ve been advancing is that she needs to do this in order to get tired of eating things that will irritate her stomach. I.e., in order to become a normal adult dog.
But this morning, I found this tableau under our dining table:
|Surely you don’t think I deposited that nasty mess. Not moi!
It pretty much all looked like undigested dog kibble, with a few dog treat bits mixed in. Closer inspection revealed one of my earplugs, which she must have snatched from my bedside. But surely that wouldn’t have made her throw up. God only knows what did.
What’s most obnoxious about this turn of events is not cleaning it up. We’ve become inured to that. But deciding what to feed her for the rest of the day is a pain. I’m leaning toward giving her some well-boiled rice for dinner (though I may live to regret not making her fast for 24 hours).
Even worse is that we now feel we need, once again, to cut her back to no time alone in the yard. At least for a while. That’s a sad turn of events.
This is the hose bib on our patio:
The silvery part that sticks out on the upper left is a dog faucet. When we first acquired one, many years ago, for Tootsie, our chocolate lab, we thought it was an awesome invention. It freed us from having always to maintain a supply of fresh drinking water in a clean water bowl. Tootsie drank from it readily, as did Pearl. But most of our CCI puppies have spurned it. Until now.
I realized recently that Dionne has taught herself to drink from it. She’ll help herself when the water bowl is temporarily inaccessible, or the water level is low.
Her favorite place to drink is still from the bowl, preferably with Tucker, whom she blithely bashes aside to make room for herself. Gentle soul that he is, Tucker tolerates this. Usually Dionne’s tail wags when she drinks, which I find ceaselessly charming.
But I think being able to drink from the dog faucet whenever that suits her is a clear sign of superior intelligence.
I forgot to note last week that Dionne is now seven months old (May 6).
I spend so much time writing about her imperfections because they grab our attention and demand corrective action (and remind us of our own failings). But I should spend more time mentioning the things about her that are extraordinarily good. Such as:
— She’s the best puppy we’ve ever had when it comes to “hurrying.” She’ll pee any time, on any surface, whenever we request it.
— She walks on a leash better than any other pup we’ve had. She’s not flawless, but by and large she forges ahead less and pays more attention to us (certainly when we have a treat in hand).
— She’s awesome about staying. Held for six full minutes last week in puppy class without breaking.
— She’s relaxed during grooming — much better than Tucker — even when Steve sands her nails with the little Dremel.
— When we ask her to “Dress” (putting on her halter and cape), she seems more eager to suit up and go than any of her predecessors (some of whom slunk away.)
She weighs 49 pounds now and still looks like a puppy. In another month or two, she’ll look like a dog. But she still regularly assumes goofy puppy postures, like this one on the stairs yesterday afternoon.
And an even bigger milestone I forgot to note is that in less than a year, she’ll turn in to the Oceanside center for her advanced graduation. (May 1, 2014 is the scheduled date.)
It seems like an eternity. Surely between now and then she’ll turn into a full-fledged superstar.
Puppies tend to be alike in many ways. They have their catalog of what Steve calls Stupid Puppy Tricks (not referring to the kind that draw applause.) But some behaviors are more rare. Here’s the thing Dionne does that’s different from any other dog I’ve ever lived with:
She doesn’t spring to her feet and follow me, tailing wagging, when I move from one room to another.
Instead she just sits there, or worse, sometimes lies there, watching me depart. “Come along, Dionne!” I chirp. “Let’s go!!!” She watches. But she usually doesn’t move. This drives me crazy.
|“Come on, Dionne.” But there’s no response.
Is she waiting for me to disappear so she can get into things that are taboo when I’m present (marauding my desk, raiding shoes from our bedroom closets)? Is she tired? (“Why follow Her downstairs? She’ll just return a little later. A girl has to preserve her energy.”) Is this some weird canine extension of Keep Away (that terrible game that’s Dionne’s favorite thing in the world?) I have no idea.
For a while, I responded by marching back to her, grabbing her collar (assuming that she didn’t run away), and dragging her with me. But recently we’ve been thinking it’s better to entice her with a tiny treat. That invariably works.
Still, I’ve been very worried. This behavior seems like a dreadful response from a would-be service dog (“Pull your wheelchair? Meh. Maybe later.”) I was greatly reassured, therefore, when I mentioned it to our puppy mentor, LeAnn, last week at the canine cocktail party, and she said some of her pups had done the same thing. I didn’t grill her, but it sounded like they got over it.