Great dog info

Great dog info

Just read a fascinating article on the Quartz website: “Stop coddling your dog — he’s 99.9% wolf.” Written by Kevin Ashton and focused largely on the recent work of famed dog trainer Cesar Millan, the piece contains more information about dogs that was new to me that anything I’ve read in a long time.  Among the interesting tidbits: A century ago, there were about 1 million dogs in America, one for every hundred peopleFifty years ago, there were 30 million dogs, one for every six peopleToday, there are 80 million dogs, one for every four peopleEight million (one in 10) of these animals are in shelters.” And the fact that Hitler slept with a German shepherd.

More important is the bigger theme of what’s the best approach to dog training. The article should be of interest to not just puppy raisers but anyone who lives with — or just likes — dogs.

Tucker’s in touch with his inner wolf (sometimes)

Apres Christmas

The tree’s still standing. We won’t have time to take it down until next week, but it seems pretty clear it will live out its days without being knocked over by Dionne. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t cause for any… unfortunate incidents. I’ll confess now what I was too horrified to admit before: Steve and I think there’s a possibility she ate one of the ornaments. About two weeks ago we found the hanger and tiny shards of glass under the dining table. We couldn’t believe she would actually chew and swallow glass. But we never found the rest of whatever it was. For days we anxiously watched her and her droppings in the yard, but we never saw any signs of blood or debility (or sparkly dog feces). If she DID eat the ornament, it doesn’t seem to have hurt her. We doubt that she buried it, but it’s a possibility…

Also on the list of taboo munchies — normally — are rawhide chews. But for years Tucker has gotten a little stash of goodies on Christmas morning that includes at least one item of that sort. This year I forewent the actual pig’s ears that are so dear to his heart. But I couldn’t resist buying at least one rawhide chip for him and Dionne.

This annual treat makes Tucker so happy that for 20-30 minutes, he just walks around with it in his mouth, wagging his tail.

Now THAT’s one happy dog!
Dionne seemed stunned by hers. But eventually, she sneaked away from us and hunkered down under the dining table for a good long chew that — for once! — was sanctioned at least by us.
It doesn’t seem to have done her any harm. (But then any puppy that can eat an ornament wouldn’t be fazed by a little scrap of rawhide.)

Malls and Tucker-mauling

Malls and Tucker-mauling

Steve witnessed Dionne trying to push Tucker into the pool the other morning. That’s what it looked like, he says. She jumped up on Tucker and shoved; he was on the edge of the pool. He avoided going in, but she attacks him a lot. You’d think he would be happy at those times when she’s gone out.

Nonetheless, this is what he looked like when Steve took Dionne out Friday one one of his rare sorties into a mall. Sad!

Dionne, for her part, seems to have a limited appetite for the Christmas hustle and bustle. There are interesting sights to see….

And lots of folks eager to shake her paw….

Still, much of shopping can be a bore.

She always seems happy to get back home.  And Tucker invariably prances up to her, wagging his tail vigorously. Proof that there’s no accounting for some dogs’ (and puppy-raisers’) taste.



Steve and I don’t want to say Dionne misses Darby (who went back to her own family Tuesday, after her vacation stay here.) All we can say is: since Darby left, Dionne’s behavior has taken a turn for the worse.

She’s engaged in frenzies of racing around and attacking Tucker; barking at us; snatching shoes and sponges and my portable keyboard cover.  This morning we found her with a GLASS ornament in her mouth. (Thank God she relinquished it in exchange for a Charlie Bear.)

Then there was this, discovered by Steve underneath the dining room table:

On the right is a Scotchbrite pad, ripped in two. On the left (foreground) are the remains of a candle. We have no idea where she got it. But it took a loooooong time to clean up.

What she probably needs is to run around outside for an hour or two. But it’s drizzly and muddy outside. And she has little interest in running round by herself. (With Darby, it was a party!!!)


Same old same old

Same old same old

Darby just left. It’s hard not to think Dionne will miss her. The two girls played for hours — chasing each other around the house and yard, wrestling and keeping toys away from each other. I wasted time trying to photograph them. Their speed and extreme blackness made it hard, plus they seemed keenly aware every time I picked up a camera. They would instantly stop whatever they were doing and either come to me or skulk away.

Happily (for us) Darby didn’t end up getting in the pool very often, and for all their mayhem, she and Dionne avoided knocking over the Christmas tree. In general, we felt encouraged by seeing how rarely Darby got into any trouble in the house.

Dionne’s a different story. During our outing to the fire station, Dionne’s sister’s puppy-raiser commented to me that she and her husband finally could leave their shoes on the floor. Until recently, Demi would snatch them up and run away. But Dionne still snatches shoes and runs, while also finding new sources of mischief.

On Sunday, for example, we somehow failed to close the door in the hallway leading into the bedrooms. Dionne got into the guest room, wiggled under its bed, and utterly destroyed something. We think it was some religious object that we brought back from Ethiopia two years ago. But the destruction was so thorough, we can’t identify whatever it was. (Or remember.)

The mystery remnents

Last night Steve took her to the last of the “Basic”puppy-training classes, where as usual, she did well. “She’d be the perfect dog,” he noted, not for the first time. “If she weren’t a monster.”

How to Exhaust a Puppy

How to Exhaust a Puppy

1) Wake her up at 6 a.m. and hustle her down to Balboa Park. Park a good half-mile from the starting area for the Jingle Bell 5K Run/Walk for Arthritis. Try to control her overwhelming excitement at being in a crowd of weirdly dressed humans, French bulldogs decked out as Christmas elves, ubiquitous jingling bells, and other distractions.

Fail to do a good job of handling her. Race walk the course, then back to the car.

My friend Cathy took the leash so I could capture them in mid-stride.

2) Take her out for several hours of grocery shopping.  I don’t have any photos of this phase of the exhaustion process, since it was Steve’s week to shop.

3) Ten minutes after getting back from the shopping, load her into the van again and drive to the Del Mar Fire Station for a CCI puppy-training outing for which 27 puppy raisers had signed up. This was exciting for several reasons.
For one thing, it gave us the opportunity to see her litter mate/sister Demi.
Dionne seemed avidly interested in sniffing her sis. (But then again, she’s
pretty interested in sniffing most things.)
Demi lives in San Clemente. Her puppy-raiser Bonnie (for whom Demi is puppy #13!) says Demi is also quite mischievous.
But she seemed awfully well-behaved.
The firehouse sessions provided plenty of other learning opportunities.

The pups got to walk up to a fireman who was wearing varying amounts of gear.
Some of it was as weird as the costumes on the Jingle Bell walk.
The firemen also fired up a chainsaw and rolled a stretcher around the bay.
Most of the pups behaved pretty well.  I’m not sure how much fun it was for them. But the puppy raisers had fun posing their charges for photos.
Believe it or not, but his tail was wagging.
Dionne’s wasn’t. (Her expression read, “What DO you think I am? A Dalmatian?”)
Now her expression suggests she’s ready for a long winter’s nap.

Bitchy comparisons

Bitchy comparisons

If you have human children, I think it’s not a great idea to compare them — at least not often or obviously. But at the moment, we have under our roof 3 of the 5 CCI pups we’ve raised. The houseguest is Darby (#4), who’s visiting while her owners vacation in the East. Comparisons between her and #5 (Dionne) have been irresistible.


Our first thought when Darby arrived Sunday night was amazement at how similar she and Dionne look.  They’re almost the same size and shape and color — pitch black. But they feel very different. Although Dionne’s coat is not exactly bristly, Darby’s is much longer and silkier, almost as soft as I remember Brando’s being.

In the light of Monday morning, we were startled by how different their faces are. We’ve been trying to capture them well with our cameras ever since, but that’s surprisingly hard to do. Darby’s eyes are almost as round as Tuckers, and the color is a brown so warm it almost glows.  Her muzzle is shorter. When her ears are up, she looks cute, in comparison with Dionne seems to merit some other adjective. Maybe handsome.

We turned in Darby for Advanced Training less than a year and a half ago (in August of 2012), but somehow we’d forgotten so much. Within 5 minutes of going in the back yard, she plunged into the pool. Ah yes! we recalled. She was our only passionate swimmer. (Dionne and Tucker both looked at her paddling around in horror.)

We’d forgotten how Darby moans and emits other loud noises when she sees us first thing in the morning. Forgotten how she loves to walk around with something in her mouth — or her tendency to jump on us.

They’re all the sorts of things that give dogs very distinct personalities, things that non-dog owners can probably never understand (along with, maybe, single dog owners.)

This morning I took both girls for a walk. (Poor Tuck had to stay home. Three’s too much to handle.) With Darby on my left and Dionne on my right, it was shocking to see how much better Dionne walks on leash. Darb always liked to forge ahead, and she hasn’t lost this bad habit with age. Darby also bristled and lunged when we passed strange dogs. Dionne barely batted an eye.

They’re both hellions when it comes to playtime. But without sounding bitchy myself, I’d venture to say that seeing them side by side makes me feel maybe there IS hope for Dionne making it, after all.

Tuck says: life is REALLY rather stressful with two energetic female roommates.

Parading toward Christmas

Parading toward Christmas
Dionne, with me, wore her cape, of course. But Darby, handled by another puppy raiser, got decked in a holiday kerchief.

Last year I marched in the La Jolla Christmas Parade with a loaner pup (O’Brien), and although we arrived later than instructed, we still had to wait around for literally hours, before we started marching. I found it agonizing and vowed never to return.

But I caved when I got this year’s e-mail calling for participants. Pattie Urie has worked so hard to create the Drill Team and get us entered into various events, I felt bad about letting down the group. As it turned out, the sun was shining, I arrived even later, and we had to wait only about 40 minutes. Did the organizers field a lot of complaints about how long last year’s parade ran? It seemed like they must have. This year we practically raced along the route, stopping only a few times to present our little routine. We finished only about an hour after we arrived. It was actually fun.

What also made it entertaining was that Steve tagged along not just with Tucker — but also with Darby, our last CCI pup, who was released from advanced training in September of 2012 and now belongs to our friends. While Joe and Kerri and their little girl are visiting relatives in Boston, we’re hosting Darby. She seemed to remember all our parade-drilling moves (Sit! Shake! Down! Let’s Go!). Tucker was a bit more recalcitrant, but he enjoyed getting petted by various children.

Less than two years apart in age, and Darby and Dionne are both live wires. Getting to play with each other is like Christmas coming early. Whether the tree and house will survive is not so clear. To be continued…

Leaving Las Vegas

Leaving Las Vegas

A few final thoughts on our Las Vegas adventure. Part of the attraction for me of going was that Steve and I both believed it would be good for Dionne’s training. Now that we’re back at home, but I have to say it succeeded on that score. She got lots of practice doing things she doesn’t normally get to do: entering through strange doorways and flashy portals, riding elevators, passing weirdly dressed characters.

A few things she had never done before, like riding on a monorail…

…where she comported herself well.

The two of us enjoyed our long, long walks together.  For all the crass or bizarre or heartbreaking sights, you run into other things that are beautiful.

As we strolled by the Bellagio, the fountains began to dance as the ghost of Frank Sinatra sang, “Luck Be a Lady Tonight.” Somehow, that was wonderful.

What was never wonderful was the long schlep from our room to the dog run.

Here’s the view from the end of the hallway near the first set of elevators….

In this shot, Steve and Dionne are standing in front of our door.

Just looking at those makes me happy to be home.

Nobody walks (off the path) in Vegas

Nobody walks (off the path) in Vegas

Last night I told Steve I would never, ever bring a young puppy here. “If you wind up coming here again next December, and we have a 5- or 6-month-old puppy at the time and I lose my mind and suggest we come along, you must vehemently oppose this,” I instructed him.

“Of course!” he agreed.  “That would be a terrible idea.”

With a 14-month-old puppy, such as Dionne, it’s not bad. But it is a challenge — for me and her. I suspect most normal humans would not enjoy it.

The biggest problem is what I’ll call Elimination Stress. Back at home this is no problem at all. Dionne is the best dog we’ve ever had about a) peeing on command — any place, on any surface, and b) the best dog we’ve ever had at communicating when she needs to be taken out. In my office, she’ll get up and stand next to me, staring intently and whining. It’s easy to get the message.

But here we’re catapulted back to the tensions of the early house-breaking days. Aside from the fact that it takes a FULL five minutes to get from our room on the Venetian’s 23rd floor to the dog run outside, once we get there, it’s filled with about 180,000 exotic smells, each of which seems to have the power to rip Dionne’s attention from her rear end and misdirect it to her nose. I estimate that I’ve spent well over an hour, maybe two, watching her move from one spot to another, sniffing avidly. I ask myself, how can this possibly be so interesting? But then I think of women in department stores, combing through racks of sale-price clothes. Maybe one smell is like that sassy pink and black polka-dot number; another like that maroon-lace top. Riveting.

A typical obstruction.  What safety?
What they mean is: use the sidewalk that leads into the casino.

Several times, frustrated by the lack of action in the dog run, Dionne and I have gone for long walks up and down The Strip, but this too is an alien experience. Never before have I noticed how constrained the pedestrian paths are here. Unbreachable fences or dauntingly dense bushes — clearly designed to keep everyone on the concrete — are everywhere. (Are they afraid drunk gamblers or homeless souls will wander onto the plastic grass or gravel to sleep?) Often we run into physical barriers that lead us toward or force us into the casinos or leviathan malls — where escalators lead you from one level to another. But CCI puppies can never go on escalators, so several times we’ve had to search frantically for the (hidden) elevators — frantic because Dionne was sniffing in a way that made me think she really, really needed to poop.

And when we finally do find access to a little patch of bare dirt or unprotected plastic grass, it turns out that every other dog in town has found it too, which of course means… more hypnotic, obsessive sniffing!

This place is bursting with other distractions of the sort to make a puppy lose her mind. For one thing, it’s been bitterly cold and at times so windy Dionne’s ears were blown out at a 90-degree angle from her head. I think that unnerved her. Loudspeakers blare about the wonders of Rock of Ages or the Million-Dollar Quartet or this or that Cirque de Soleil production. The volcano at Bellagio erupts periodically (but the pirate ship in front of Treasure Island seems to be under repair). In front of The Venetian, weird figures on stilts move through, and three times every evening a crazed musician rocks out a Christmas carol on the fake Rialto Bridge.

For all that, we’ve had no repeat of her early-Tuesday-morning accident (which was probably our fault because we let her drink too much water too late at night.) I’ve gotten a surprising amount of work done at the desk in our room, and she’s been a little angel while I’ve done that. We took a little break for tourism yesterday, visiting the spiffy new Art Deco performing arts center…

…and the amazingly bizarre  brain research center designed by Frank Gehry.

She’s been good company on such forays. I’m intrigued that I’m not seeing as extreme a reaction to her presence as I got when I visited with Brando three years ago. Then, I felt I was in the company of a rock star. The reaction to Dionne is more muted. Most people smile.  Some comment on how beautiful she is or how well trained. One woman came right out and said it. “The black dogs aren’t as popular, right?” she asked. “But I had one,” she continued, “and it was the best dog of my life.”

She’s enjoyed just chilling out, while I’ve worked.