The smartest CCI puppy?

The smartest CCI puppy?

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.

Milestones I missed

Milestones I missed

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.

Is she being coy, or what?

Is she being coy, or what?

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. 

Still none…

Still none.

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.

Here’s hoping.

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.