A girl and her toys

A girl and her toys

Dionne has so few toys. It’s partly her fault that she doesn’t find balls riveting (we have plenty of those).  Apart from balls, CCI only declares two toys to be safe for CCI puppies (Kongs and Goughnuts). We have both, but they’re pretty boring (unless the Kong is stuffed with peanut butter or cream cheese).

So I was thrilled a few weeks ago when I spotted a new toy at Costco. The OddBall isn’t on the Approved Toy list, but another CCI puppy-raiser had praised it highly, and it looked indestructible. For a day or two Dionne seemed enchanted.

There’s a tennis ball inaccessible within the tough clear outer ball.

Even Tucker seemed to like it, which made it much more desirable in Dionne’s eyes. But within days, she was power-gnawing on the handle section, and we could tell that soon she would gnaw right through it. Since then we’ve limited her access to the OddBall, as her interest has simultaneously waned.

Clever pup that she is, Dionne has since found other toys that ARE ravishingly interesting — common sticks. She’s delighted that we have a large supply of strewn around the yard, and every time she finds one, she snatches it up and rockets around the property, powered by joy. Sticks have the advantage of not only being smelly, but you can CHEW on them and reduce them to nasty piles of splinters. This makes you feel powerful. And if you’re a bit peckish (pretty much always, if you’re part-Labrador, you can eat the splinters.

Why, oh why, don’t the humans see how wonderful they are?

Diggety dog

Diggety dog

With turn-in looming less than three months from now, I feel like I’m more and more often being asked to predict Dionne will do. I’ve been focusing on the positive a lot. We enjoy long stretches of time together in the house when she either snoozes or lies quietly, not getting into any trouble at all. A year ago, that was never the case. And I cannot remember the last time she threw up as a result of eating things outside. A year ago, it happened almost any time she was out in the yard off-leash for more than a minute or two.

Because of this last turn of events, I’ve been allowing her some free time outside. But Steve points out that unfortunately she’s still digging up trouble. Or more precisely, she’s been digging. He fears she’s going to kill some of the trees, if she’s not prevented from indulging in this particular passion.

Here’s what this morning’s destruction looked like.
She doesn’t exactly look guilty.  But the evidence is as clear as the nose on her face…

Average or above average?

Average or above average?

Last week when Steve took Dionne to the vet because she was limping, he noted this poster on one of the walls:

We figure Dionne has eaten at least 5 of the 10 — socks, rocks, balls, chew toys, and sticks. (Does that make her average? Or above average?) Fortunately she’s never eaten enough of any of them to require surgery. And with less than three months until her departure for advance training up in Oceanside, you can bet we will not be leaving any bones or corn cobs or underwear unguarded. (Happily hair ties and pantyhose are not much in evidence around here.)

Also happily, we have not had to return to the vet this week. The limp has completely disappeared. The dreadful  cystic growth has shrunk and toughened. It’s now almost indistinguishable on her paw.

She’s baaaaack

She’s baaaaack

Last week when Dionne was limping most piteously, Steve uncharacteristically reacted by buying something — bright pink “Pawtectors” that he hoped might stay on her better than the loaner booty we got from the vet.

Dionne was NOT impressed. Getting them on her was a nightmare, and she looked mortified when we hoisted her upright.

Attempts to walk in them resulted in some hilarious gyrations:

The whole attempt was an abject failure.

The GOOD news was that starting last Friday, she obviously began to feel better. She stopped sleeping all the time and started snatching our slippers again and attacking Tucker.

Steve took her grocery shopping on Saturday, and yesterday we all did our customary hour-long walk up the hill. The cyst is still tender, and we’re still cleaning and medicating it daily.  But it has developed a protective crust that must make it hurt less. Dionne is still limping somewhat, but often it’s barely perceptible.

As icing on the cake, when Steve tried to return the Pawtectors to Amazon this morning, they told him not even to send them back. They would just credit his account.

Sounds like we’re not the first to try them and find them wanting…

Patient patient

Patient patient

I’m a little surprised by the way Dionne is handling being incapacitated by her paw tumor.  This formerly wild, boisterously exuberant girl has spent most of the last few days resting quietly. She limps to meals or outside for water or toileting breaks, and once in a while, she accelerates and the limp disappears. But more than anything, she’s been sleeping.

Fortunately, we’ve gotten a few bits of encouragement, to counterbalance this depressing state of affairs. We e-mailed the local CCI headquarters to see if the folks there could add to or amend what we heard from our vet.  But Stu, the program manager, only replied that Our national office refers to these as “CCI Warts” as they are not uncommon and they do resolve with no surgery.

That was mildly comforting, and my dog-savvy cousin Mary offered some welcome advice and encouragement. (“It will go away…Don’t worry, I know how you feel…it’s sad for us, but the dogs don’t care…they carry on!)

I know she’s right. They do. And I’ve also nursed a pipe dream: namely, that this hopefully very BRIEF experience with pain and disability will somehow make Dionne more attuned to her potential mission in life. More empathetic and motivated to serve. 

That’s pretty silly. But at least for the moment, she does seem like a changed girl. 

Sore and sad

Sore and sad

We couldn’t get a vet appointment yesterday, but today Steve was able to get Dionne in to see Dr. Scoggin first thing this morning. After what he learned, all I can say is: it’s a good thing Steve and I have day jobs. Maybe we should consider abandoning amateur veterinary science altogether.

Dr. Scoggin quickly rejected the notion that Dionne was suffering from panosteitis. She also dismissed our weekend theory that the little bump between the toes of the topside of her right paw was causing her pain. (She thought it was nothing.) Instead she focused on the angry red growth on the underside of the paw.

Here it is. Nasty looking little thing, isn’t it?

It was a histiocytoma, she declared — a benign tumor of a sort that commonly afflicts pets. The unfortunate part was its location. (Steve says the vet didn’t make him feel bad that we had not recognized its presence immediately; she said they can be hard to see at first.)

I suppose some good news is that it should go away by itself. Dr. Scoggin said she could remove it surgically, but given its location, there were likely to be complications (such as Dionne ripping out the stitches.) She gave us an antiseptic solution in which to wash it daily, oral antibiotics (to help prevent any infection), and a cream to apply to it every evening.

The bad news is she said it could take a couple of months to disappear. She said we need not restrict Dionne’s activity during that time; we could even take her on walks.

She also lent us a leather booty that she hoped might protect the paw from irritation.

Dionne may not have liked the boot, but Tucker thought it was intriguing.

We took it off when Dionne was napping in her kennel (so that she wouldn’t try to chew it off). But when we tried to put it on before I walked with her to the mailbox, she almost instantly flung it off, and we couldn’t figure out how to secure it.

So I walked her bootless.  Or rather, I walked. She limped. Steve and I are sad to see this. I’m not sure how Dionne feels.  Steve and I have been reading Temple Grandin’s book, Animals in Translation, and Grandin says animals don’t get depressed when they’re in pain, the way people do.

I hope not.

A clue?

A clue?

Dionne’s still limping. She’s not limping any more badly than she was when it started last Tuesday. But she’s not any better either. However, we have more insight into what’s going on.

Steve very intelligently sat down with her last night and carefully massaged both her legs. She was totally relaxed, and she never whimpered or otherwise reacted, even when he squeezed pretty hard.

But her right paw was another story. That’s the one she’s been favoring, and she struggled every time he probed it. He finally found a small but distinct bump between the pads.

In the sunlight today, we could see it clearly, though we have no idea what it is — a tick? an infected thorn? A cyst?

We’ll try to get her in to the vet tomorrow.  But at least we have a clearer idea of where the problem lies…




I hate, hate, HATE when any of my dogs, long-term or CCI loaners, show signs of illness or injury. They can’t tell you what’s going on, which makes it hard to assess the gravity of the situation. Ill or injured puppies seem like a crime against nature. I want them robustly, strappingly healthy.

I’m commenting on this here because Dionne has started limping. I thought I noticed a different rhythm in her walk a day or two ago, but the limp only really became apparent last night. Today it has varied from “almost imperceptible” to “definite” (but not extreme.) We keep scrutinizing her right front paw, feeling the pads and furry spaces in between them, but we see nothing and we can’t seem to identify a specific point of pain.

Such a well-behaved patient

By coincidence, she was due for her final set of shots today. Steve took her in to the vet’s office, where she was very brave (by his account), not flinching at the injections or resisting the intranasal bordatella vaccine. Steve mentioned the limp to the vet tech, who agreed that it didn’t seem very pronounced. She suggested we wait a few days and see if it clears up.

In the meantime, I’m wondering if it could be panosteitis. None of our puppies has ever had that, but I’ve seen other dogs afflicted with it in dog class. It’s an inflammation of the bone shaft that people sometimes refer to as growing pains. The good thing is that it goes away, often quite suddenly and usually by the time they’re two.

Not a horrible affliction, if a pup has to have something.

Boy party

Boy party

I don’t want three dogs. Steve doesn’t want three dogs. But if we ever had to have three dogs, I’d want one of them to be like Cletus.

We actually wind up living with three dogs fairly frequently — whenever we’re dog- or puppy-sitting. We feel an obligation to do that pretty often, because we turn to our friends and fellow CCI volunteers pretty often to take care of Tucker and our current puppy, whenever we’re traveling.

Like Tucker, Cletus was raised (by Pattie and Glenn Urie) to be a service dog, but he was released (in his case for separation anxiety and alert barking). We know the Uries because we’ve attended puppy classes with them. Moreover, they came up with the idea of the CCI puppy drill team, and we regularly participate with them in parades. Pattie also organized a Meet-up group for owners of CCI release dogs who need pet care. When Steve and I saw (from the Meet-up announcement) that they needed a sitter for Cletus, we were happy to volunteer.

Although I didn’t know Cletus well, I found myself admiring him almost as soon as he walked in the door. He’s well-mannered — waiting at doors and sitting promptly when directed to and walking nicely on the leash. I found that I could walk all three dogs myself, something I’m hesitant to do when they together weigh considerably more than me. Pretty soon, he was following me everywhere in the house. Whenever he could, he would endearingly plaster himself up against me.

Although Cletus looks a lot like Tucker, his face is a little foxier, his head a little flatter.

He’s only a couple of years old, still frisky enough to be happy spending some time racing around with Dionne or wrestling with her.

(I couldn’t get many pictures of that. Why do dogs get so self-conscious when they realized you’re photographing them?  You can almost read his mind: “Why is she pointing that thing at us?”)
As for Dionne, she liked Cletus a lot, even if he did try to rape her. (She sometimes reciprocated.) But she liked his kennel and the soft pad in it even better. We’d regularly find her sprawled within it, and Cletus moping nearby. Once I even found that “someone” had dragged the pad out and over to Tucker’s bed. Double softness!
But the Uries just came by, taking Cletus and his kennel and pad with them. So the party is over. We’re back to just two (large, boisterous, hair-shedding) dogs again, for the first time in two weeks. It will probably feel almost boring (for a few minutes.)