Post-partum depression

Post-partum depression

After I delivered Dionne to the CCI’s campus in Oceanside this morning, I drove to the home of my friend Leslie, in nearby Carlsbad. Leslie commented at one point that, while sudden and a bit premature, Dionne’s departure from our lives wasn’t caused by a tragic event, say, her getting hit and killed by a car. I agreed and remembered what I tell every stranger who exclaims that they could never raise a puppy/service dog because they could never bear to give it up. “Yeah, it’s hard,” I acknowledge. “You have to keep in mind that it’s not your dog; that you just get to live with this really cool animal for a while. Kind of like taking care of a friend’s dog while they’re on vacation.” (An 18-month-long vacation.)

Still. This feels worse than normal. Dionne and I walked in CCI’s front door a little after 11. I handed the receptionist all my paperwork (hastily completed in the last two days), then she took the leash and they walked away. (Typically, Dionne never once glanced back.)

She was so distracted by the sounds and smells of the other dogs, she wouldn’t even look at the camera.
My last glimpse of her. Note that the tail is wagging.

Home again, only staid, sleepy, 9-year-old Tucker was there to greet me. (Steve’s away on business for two days.) So many routines were instantly upended. I opened the doors to the patio — and left them open (the way we used to live before we began raising CCI puppies.) I got out the nice new rug we bought last month and laid it on our bedroom floor (where we’d been afraid to install it, lest Dionne be tempted to chew on it.) I put my gardening shoes on the floor of Steve’s office, by the door (instead of out of reach on top of a filing cabinet.)

All afternoon I’ve been aware of all the things we’ve become accustomed to tracking constantly, almost unconsciously, things to which I suddenly need pay no more attention: where Dionne is, when she last defecated (and whether either of us had yet cleaned up her and Tucker’s droppings), whether she required a break for exercise; a toy to play with. All trivial and mundane, like the chatter of a talk radio show playing softly in another room. Then someone turns it off, and the silence can be jarring.

All these changes occur every time you turn in a puppy. The surprise, to me, is how the pomp and ceremony of the Turn-In proceedings blunts them. It helps to hear the stories of the folks who are receiving graduate dogs. It helps to experience the sadness of giving up the puppy that you raised in the presence of a cohort of other sad puppy-raisers.

Maybe one other thing that makes this experience worse is that we’re not planning to get another puppy until November. Various commitments make us think we’ll be too distracted between now and then to undertake the responsibility again immediately. Steve was fretting last night. “What if we get out of the rhythm? Maybe we won’t be able to go back to it.”

That I’m not too worried about.

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Noooooooooooooo!

Noooooooooooooo!

I have’t been able to bring myself to blog during the past couple of weeks. I had a topic: I was going to write about filling in all the paperwork associated with turning in a CCI puppy. I took a picture of the pile.

But then I couldn’t seem to bring myself to sit down and start. It’s tedious work. And filling in those papers is a brutal reminder that one is about to have to give up the puppy that one has been nurturing for the past 18 months.

At the same time I was procrastinating, I continued to worry about the thing that has concerned me since last September. When Dionne finally went into her first heat back then, CCI’s vet tech casually mentioned that most bitches go into heat again six months later. Usually pretty precisely.

I realized this would mean Dionne stood a good chance of starting her next cycle around the time she was scheduled to be turned in. I’ve talked to other puppy raisers over the years to whom this had happened, and they all looked pretty disgruntled. You have to take your girl immediately up to Oceanside to be put in Fertility Control confinement, and you miss all the pomp and emotionally satisfying completion provided by the turn-in ceremony.

Yesterday my fears came true. I noticed she seemed to be licking herself a lot, so I swabbed her with a kleenex, and sure enough, a tell-tale red stain appeared. I called CCI and they confirmed that I would have to bring her in as soon as possible.

This is a bit more complicated than usual, as Steve, Dionne, and I are in Phoenix at the moment, attending a professional conference. We brought Darby to it two years ago, and we enjoyed the adulation she inspired. Dionne’s presence has provoked a similar response. In fact, the organizers even had a badge ready for her, when we checked in.

Her badge says, “Puppy Wolfe”

Dionne, of course, is oblivious both to her stardom and to what’s looming on Monday. That’s when I’ll drive her up to Oceanside and hand her over. Then we’ll cross our fingers and hope she gets all this reproductive nonsense over quickly. There’s some hope she could do that, and we could attend the ceremony together. But it’s a slim one.

Can we teach a young dog a new way to have fun?

Can we teach a young dog a new way to have fun?
With only 36 days remaining of Life with Dionne (less if she goes into heat during that time), we’ve settled into some pretty staid routines. She has long ago been introduced to all the CCI commands. If she continues to misbehave (as I was lamenting my last post), it’s in the old, familiar ways: stealing slippers and socks, digging on those rare occasions when we allow her off leash in the yard, snatching items off the kitchen counters or our desks. But within just the last few days, something new and intriguing has developed:
Dionne has engaged in some actual games of Ball.
Steve and I are startled by this. Ball, as we have played it with most of the ball-playing dogs in our life, consists of the human throwing a ball, the canine racing after it at extreme speed and then returning to drop it at our feet and wait expectantly. Our most ball-addicted dogs (Pearl, Yuli, Brando, Darby) would do this to the point of exhaustion.
In the 17 or so months we’ve lived with Dionne, she has disdained this game. She finds Keep Away vastly more amusing. On the rare occasions when she has pursued a thrown sphere, she almost never has brought it back. But yesterday Steve threw and she retrieved a tennis ball for several long minutes. (He almost fainted.) I tried a session this morning, and I too could see a different response in her.
She almost looks like she cares.
She still would prefer that Tucker chase her and try to get the ball away. But to counteract this, I called him next to me and ordered him to Sit. His presence at my side seemed to communicate to Dionne that no chase would be forthcoming, and she responded by coming and Dropping the ball, over and over.
Steve and I theorize that she may be so bored and desperate for exercise, that even (ugh) Ball is starting to look good. But that works for us. We’ll keep up the indoctrination program.
It may not look like much, but this is a photograph of an actual ball, taken shortly after it was retrieved and dropped by the Black One.

The final stretch

The final stretch
Would she have been a Hell’s Angel, in another life?

Steve and I returned from our travels Monday evening, and within minutes of getting home, Steve picked up Dionne from the valiant couple who had agreed to host her. (They were scheduled to depart for China the very morning after our scheduled return!) They told him they had greatly enjoyed having her and gave him their written “puppysitter feedback” report. In it they said Dionne had adjusted “very well” in the first few hours of her visit. But they also noted she was “a little unpredictable” with other pets at times and “tends to jump up on people and get very excited.”

I felt a rush of pleasure at seeing Dionne again. She’s a beautifully proportioned dog with a coat like polished ebony. She seemed exuberant to be back home with us. And we were reminded of what a Presence she is. She’s not some fixture, like a carpet, that you barely notice. If she were a teenager, she’d probably be racing motorcycles.

Worse, she doesn’t appear to have settled down yet, as Steve and I have kept hoping she would. Late yesterday as I was resting on the couch (battling a bad cold and jet lag), she leapt up and landed on me, on all fours. This hurt, and I was annoyed. This morning, she came to the side of our bed and barked. Several times. It was a command: time to get up and play!

We’re feeling a sense of despair; at this point, we cannot imagine her making it as a service dog. We can envision her as a drug-detection dog, maybe
— but as far as we know, they have to be good at returning toys, whereas Dionne’s fondest game in life is still keep-away.

Turn-In is just six weeks from tomorrow. Unless some miracle happens, we’re expecting to get The Call from Stu in record time…