Good dogs don’t eat blueberries (not if they know what’s healthy for them)

Good dogs don’t eat blueberries (not if they know what’s healthy for them)

I’ve started allowing Dionne brief interludes of freedom in the back yard. I’m talking like… five minutes here. Eight minutes there. Once or twice a day. I know she often rockets down to the lower yard to search for Tucker poop (which I make every effort to clean up the instant it’s deposited) or to dig holes or chew up twigs. But — recently — none of these activities has made her throw up. My new theory is that as long as she doesn’t throw up, we ought to let her eat mulch. My hope is she’ll learn that indiscriminate consumption of hardened cellulose isn’t all that interesting and she’ll move on to more edifying activities: e.g. lying at our feet, gazing at us adoringly.

Steve points out that we’re about to plant our summer vegetables. He’ll put six tomato varieties in one of the raised beds, and I’ll grow cucumbers, tomatillos, eggplant, zucchini and maybe a few other things in the other bed. Dionne, unfettered, could theoretically leap up into the beds and forage there; other puppies have tried that.

I’m not too worried; I haven’t seen her take much interest in either bed. But this morning I witnessed something that chilled my blood. She reached up and chomped off a couple of blueberries from one of my blueberry bushes. They weren’t very ripe. But she gulped them down.

I  love blueberries, and I’m proud of the fact that these bushes, which we planted about two years ago, are finally beginning to spread out and bear fruit. It’s not a ton of fruit. I’ve had two or three days so far this spring when I harvested enough to put them on my cereal. More often, I just pluck a berry or three in passing, tart little nuggets that Steve and Elliot disdain but which give me pleasure.

We’ve already erected sturdy fencing around our little blueberry patch to discourage marauding. But Dionne snatched her helping from a cluster of fruit next to the fence.

This is non-negotiably unacceptable. If she gobbles down an occasional morsel of Tucker poop, that’s disgusting. But if she goes after my berries… well, that could mean war.

The little monster eyes her prey.

At the canine cocktail party

At the canine cocktail party

I was reflecting the other day that for me the very worst part of puppy-raising may be not the obvious things — the disrupted nights, chewed possessions, disgusting clean-up episodes. What I most hate is how sorry I feel about all the boredom in my dogs’ lives. I know there’s a lot less of that than what many (most?) domestic dogs endure, when their owners go off to work every day, leaving them home alone for 8-10 hours. I know I’m soft-hearted, probably ridiculously so. But I’m keenly aware of the intensity of the joy dogs experience when they’re free to run and play, and given that Steve and I do a lot more than raise puppies, there’s precious little time for that, far too much time laying around, or worse, being kenneled.

So occasions like the one we all attended Saturday afternoon are much prized. Betty Makowski and her husband Michael, who are raising their second CCI puppy, Bellini, sent out a Meet-up invitation to a party in celebration of Bellini’s imminent departure for Advanced Training, explaining, “A dog that is named after a cocktail must have a going-away party.” The Italian cocktails (sparkling wine and peach juice) would be served, and release dogs like Tucker, were welcome too. 

Steve, Tucker, Dionne, and I arrived around 4:30, and the delightful pandemonium was in full play. Were there 15 dogs tearing around the yard? 20? I didn’t do a head count, but simply took it all in, with pleasure.
A Bellini-decorated cake was served.

Bellini herself
Greeting one of her guests…

Tucker (on right) transformed before our eyes into a puppy again. He’s the ultimate party animal.

But Dionne (easy to pick out amidst all the blondes) also was ecstatic.

As usual, Steve and I enjoyed the chance to chat in a relaxed setting with other puppy-raisers.  So here’s a toast to fun gatherings!  May there be more of them in all our lives. 

Dionne bathes

Dionne bathes
Steve’s been complaining for some weeks about how “doggy” Dionne smells and how her coat feels greasy. He’s been lobbying for us to bathe her. To be honest, I have noticed neither excessive dogginess or greasiness. (I’m more impressed by how she can coat her entire snout with a crust of dirt, as in Wednesday’s post, and then look sparkling clean an hour later.) Dog-bathing also tends to be a damp affair, and it’s been too chilly to tempt me. 
But warm weather arrived yesterday (at least temporarily), so we took a break from our desks today to initiate Dionne into the art of attending to her toilette. 
First Steve set up the bathing station (out near the lower yard, where the clouds of dog hair can drift, far from access into the house.)  

Then Steve administered the blueberry facial.  (That is seriously what the bottle says. The blue goop inside it smells more like blueberry gum than actual blueberries, in my opinion, but it’s touted to not sting canine eyes.)

I then took over the heavy scrub…

…and rinse cycles.
And we both instructed her in the drying process (a collaborative one). 
Our take was that she was distinctly underwhelmed by the experience.  But unlike her predecessor (Darby), she’s shown no interest in swimming. That’s sort of an alternative to bathing.

Two steps forward, one step back

Two steps forward, one step back
The Toileting Errors log that I posted on the refrigerator at the beginning of this year has been gathering dust. Dionne’s last transgression occurred on February 20, and that came right after she’d been with a puppy-sitter for several days, and we’d gotten out of touch with her digestive schedule. The log makes it clear that by the end of January, about seven weeks after I first picked her up in Oceanside, she was essentially house-trained.  
We’re still quite conscientious about taking her out for toileting breaks every few hours; if we didn’t do that, we’re not at all sure she would be able to communicate to us that she needed to go out. But clearly, she’s gotten with the program. Or at least that particular program. And we’ve all but forgotten that just two and a half months ago, we were obsessed with her elimination successes and failures. We’ve forgotten all the moaning and swearing and moments of despair. 
I haven’t kept any kind of a vomiting log, but I’m hoping that her problems in that realm will similarly vanish from memory. Indeed, I can’t exactly remember when she last threw up, but on the other hand, we’ve ruthlessly restricted her opportunities for eating garbage. We’ve been allowing her almost no time on her own outside. 
Only in the past few days have I begun to let down my guard. I’ve permitted her to be out in the backyard on her own for 5 minutes here and there.  I know she’s eating compost and palm tree seeds and various plants. (Sunday I found a bud that had been bitten off my rose bush and savaged, along with a murdered gerbera daisy.) She actually started making vomiting noises Monday night (right in the middle of our dinner hour.) But then she didn’t vomit. Progress! 
I’m hoping she’s close to getting tired of eating garden junk; that soon that compulsion and its nasty consequences will become as much a thing of the past as her peeing in the house. 
Then again, something else will probably come along to replace it. Here, for example, is what she looked like after 5 minutes of being on her own this morning:
In case it’s not obvious, that’s dirt all over her muzzle.  From digging.