We savored a minor, but satisfying victory Friday night when we returned to Movie Night for the first time since Dionne returned from Girl Camp. Steve and I had found another open-tread staircase in our neighborhood, and when we took Dionne there, she balked, as usual. But using a combination of tactics (i.e. 1) carrying her up the first few stairs, as Dan Flynn did on our outing at the mall, and 2) offering her pieces of very aromatic salami), we were able to break through her fear on those stairs, an accomplishment that she repeated later in the week.

The big test remained the dark, creepy stairwell in our friend Alberto’s building. On Friday Dionne again recoiled — first. But once again, a combination of the two persuasive tools got her going, and she climbed all the way to the third floor without any apparent panic attacks.

We’ll continue to take her up those stairs every Friday that we go to Albie’s for our movie group. But we’re proud of her!

Barking and howling

Barking and howling

We don’t own a decibel meter, but I wish we did. We strongly suspect that petite Dionne has a louder bark than the macho, 8 years older, 30 pounds heavier Mr. Tucker. Her voice at times feels ear-shattering. She doesn’t bark all that often, but when she does, she makes up in volume what she lacks in frequency.

Where Tucker has it all over her is in the howling department. Sirens set him off, as they do many dogs, and over the years, his howls have grown more and more mournful. They’re almost operatic. He lifts his snout high (the better to project?) and varies the pitch and phrasing. Here’s a sample:

Dionne never responds in kind. After recording Tucker the other day and playing my recording back on my computer, I discovered that the very sound of his own voice makes Tucker howl along. (This raises the possibility of re-recording him howling along with himself; I could add layer on layer to create a huge virtual howling dog pack!)

Dionne was standing next to me as Tucker accompanied himself. She stared at the screen. She stared at him.

What’s WRONG with him?!?

At one point, the eerie serenade prompted her to leap up and put her paws on his back; it looked like she was trying to get him to stop. At this point in her young life, she clearly thinks howling is nuts.

Something to worry about?

Something to worry about?

A year or two ago, we heard about some veteran puppy-raisers who picked up their female from the CCI kennels (after she finished her heat), brought her home, and took several days to realize they’d been given the wrong pup. Everyone got a good laugh at this at the time, and Steve and I joked about it on our way to pick up Dionne yesterday.

The dog we brought home was three pounds lighter than the one we checked in. And she seemed a bit more attentive to us; less prone to leap up on visitors. Still, we have NOT worried that this is not Dionne. She looks and acts like Dionne. Case in point: this morning, she seized an opportunity to bolt down to the lower yard, scout around, and gobble down some of Tucker’s droppings. WHO, we ask, would do that except Dionne?

Still, I did acquire one worry when talking to CCI’s vet tech. I asked when we might expect Dionne to go into heat again, and she said many of the girls are like clock work, starting the next cycle exactly 6 months after the last one ends. In our case, that would be right around May 6 — just one week before she’s due to be turned in for her Advanced Training.

I’ve heard of this happening to other puppies and their raisers, and it’s always sounded bad. Hard as it is to part with a puppy, the ceremonial leave-taking of Turn-In does ease the pain.

Still, there’s nothing we can do about it, as far as I know. Just hope for the best?

Welcome home, Dionne!

Welcome home, Dionne!

Friday morning we got the good kind of call from CCI — informing us that Dionne’s heat cycle was ending. So Steve and I drove up to Oceanside late this morning to retrieve her.

Reunions with puppies are such happy affairs! Her wriggles and extremely fast and forceful tail-wagging convinced me she felt the same way I did.  And despite his steady stream of cracks about our “vacation” ending, Steve looked happy to see her too.

We were pleased, too, to get the “boarder report card” from the kennel worker who handed Dionne over to us. It noted no significant problems (while noting her very high level of energy.) “Good dog; well-behaved,” it said.

Even Tucker looked happy and excited to see her, once we got home.

She’s settled in so beautifully in the two hours since then we’re wondering if kennel life subdued her. It’s early to conclude that, but far from exploding into mischief-making, she’s been hanging out with us and napping.

What’s especially nice about her homecoming today is that today is her first birthday! And kind of mind-boggling to reflect on how much she’s changed in the past 10 months. She now weighs 52 pounds and looks like a full-grown dog. She understands at least two dozen commands and can carry them out without hesitation.

What a difference 10 months makes!

Clearly, we’ll have more adventures together in the 6 months we have left together. But just as clearly, that time will fly by.