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.

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