Vacation fun camp

No sooner did she return from our Arizona adventure than Kyndall dashed off on another Exciting Experience. Yesterday afternoon I delivered her to the home of Bob and Lisa Hartman. They're sterling examples of what I think of as the CCI puppy-raiser tribe. They recently raised their first dog, Cabernet, and turned her in for Advanced Training in January. When I put out a call for a puppy-sitter a few months ago, Bob promptly emailed me to volunteer, explaining that although he and Lisa want to raise another puppy at some point, they were planning to take a little break — and happy to accept a few short-termers during that interval.
Complicating life a bit was the fact that just this past Monday, they got The Call, informing them that Cabernet was not destined for a life of service. They picked her up Tuesday. That means the two girls will have each other as playmates, during the two weeks they're together.
When they met yesterday, I wondered if Bob and Lisa would rue their hospitality; the girls raced wildly through the house and gardens, tumbling and leaping. But a few hours later, Bob sent me the photo above, and this one:
As if that weren't convincing evidence that all was well, he also called me this morning to report that the two are getting along splendidly.
Kyndall may be sad to see us when we pick her up on May 9. But I think that's one of the very cool things about raising these dogs — they're learning to be flexible; to adjust to all kinds of circumstances. (That's something I personally been working on for most of my life, and I'm still not there yet.)


Road trip wrap-up

Other than getting over her resistance to jumping into the car, there were other highlights to our road trip to Scottsdale (Arizona) last weekend. We were there for a conference, and although the presentations didn’t interest her much, Kyndall got her own badge,

042315 roadtrip1and her presence often generated as much excitement as any of the keynote speakers.

She got many opportunities to practice her Under and did well at that.

042315 roadtrp2Still, Unders are pretty boring, as any 6-month-old puppy will attest. Far more interesting to her were the walks she and I took around Scottsdale. Folks there appear to have a culture of leaving water bowls out for dogs (as they do many places in America). But I’ve never had a dog who took much interest in water bowls; most have disdained drinking from them. Kyndall, in contrast, found them fascinating and insisted on lapping out of every one she spotted…

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…be they plain…
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…or elegant.

Even more diverting than the drink-ups were the bunny rabbits who abound on the grounds of the place where we stayed.

Kyndall was not permitted to chase any of them. But they smelled divine! 

042315 roadtrip7Steve and I were impressed by how good she was on the 6 hours drive each way. Stowed in her car kennel, she never whined or complained.

Still, she seemed awfully happy to see Tucker again.

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Home sweet home.



A kinderpup no more

Puppies turn into dogs so fast. Few things drive that point home harder than attending CCI puppy classes. On the first night of the 7-session Kinderpup class that started January 12, Kyndall looked like this:

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She was not quite 3 months old then.

The session ended last night, and she already looks and acts like a poised and (mostly) obedient canine companion, deeply relaxed during the class’s initial cradling exercise,

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Is it possible to BE more relaxed?

…and calmly controlled during the long stretches when all she had to do was watch her fellow students perform.

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Note how she’s resting her chin on my foot, which is several inches off the floor.

Yet even if the time has evaporated way too quickly, it conversely also feels like it’s time to move on and up. Newcomers like the cutie in the photo below have joined the Kinderpup class, and the 6- to 7-month-olds like Kyndall seem legions ahead. The next set of 8 classes, knowns as the Basic course, starts May 4. I’m pretty sure most of the dogs in it will be stars.

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A sad goodbye

042015 Goodbye lunch



Kyndall was 6 months old on Saturday. She’s a happy, healthy, smart puppy, with no cause to be sad — normally. But for CCI puppies, the 6-month birthday is a dark day for one reason: it’s the point at which lunch gets eliminated from the puppy’s daily routine.

They still get the same amount of calories. Instead of 1 cup of Eukanuba Large Breed Puppy chow morning, noon, and night, they get one and a half cups twice a day.

So they’re not hungrier, at least in theory. Just a little sadder in the middle of the day…


When they get driven somewhere, our dogs travel in one or more kennels in the back of our van. When our CCI pups are tiny, they ride in their own small kennel, and Tucker occupies a second, commodious canvas container. But when the pups outgrow the baby kennel, they share the big kennel with Tuck. That’s always worked just fine. We feel that confining the dogs keeps them somewhat safer (if we slam on the brakes, heaven forbid, they can’t get thrown too far), and it impedes the spread of dog hair in the vehicle.

Kyndall moved into the big car kennel with Tuck a few weeks ago, and initially, we were lifting her up to stow her in it. But we assumed we would soon train her to jump in. Indeed, we saw her do it once or twice, fluid as a gazelle, effortless (unlike Tucker, whose ten-and-a-half-year-old upward launches are getting more and more precarious).

Then Kyndall suddenly started balking. It looked like this:

Frustrated, I remembered the words of our puppy mentor, who long ago instructed me that teaching the Jump command was easy. She liked to train it by urging her pups to Jump up on a bed. That’s normally forbidden, but I subsequently used it as a training ploy on a couple of puppies, and they did seem to find it irresistible. Not so with Kyndall. Urged to jump up and claim a delicious piece of pepperoni that I was waving around from the inner recesses of my bed, she… barked at me… tried to worm her way up on the bed… steadfastly refused to Jump.

Yesterday, however, Steve and I embarked on our first Road Trip with Kyndall. We drove to Phoenix to attend a professional conference and took her with us. Suddenly, at a pit stop halfway there, the gazelle was back! And she continued this morning to act as if jumping into the car kennel was no harder than yawning. See her in action:

I don’t have a clue what changed her mind. She seems to be going through a strange phase. She has suddenly abandoned all resistance to putting her leash on (wonderful!), but yesterday afternoon when I was walking with her, she stopped dead at the sight of a fallen tree branch. Clearly it made her nervous. (Not good.)

Certainly, this adventure is exposing her to all manner of new experiences. We’re hoping it will end with her taking a lot more things in stride.



Arrr!!! Another landlubber!

Kyndall is the only one of our 6 CCI puppies who has not once fallen in our swimming pool. All the others did so within a week or two of their arrival (with Dionne taking the prize by doing it on the first day). We’ve wondered if this early traumatic experience in part explained why 4 out 5 of Kyndall’s predecessors wouldn’t swim. (Darby was the one exception.) But our experience this afternoon seems to smash that theory.

Because several of the dogs in the San Diego class will be going off to Advanced Training in May, 9-time puppy raisers Mike and Kathy Bennett announced they would be holding a matriculation pool party and potluck at their home in Jamul. Apparently, they’ve done this several times before, but somehow we always missed it. This time, however, I pledged to attend with both Kyndall and Tucker (generously, “change of career” dogs were welcomed too).

If ever there was a place to launch one’s swimming career, it would have to be the Bennetts’ huge disappearing-edge pool, equipped with a large shallow entry ledge.

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Some of the dogs recognized a good thing when they saw it. But Kyndall barely glanced at it. Admittedly, there was plenty of other activity to distract her, including her favorite game in the universe….

041215 pool party1Played sometimes as a menage a trois….

041215 pool party3…and sometimes one on one. There were lots of willing partners in that other perennial puppy-pleaser:

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Bite the Other Guy’s Face!

For the humans, the potluck resulted in an amazing display of mostly Mexican-themed food, and I noted with pride that not one of the two dozen or so dogs attempted to raid the tables on which it was arrayed. One puppy-raiser even brought a platter of “pup-cakes” (approved for canine consumption). Tucker and Kyndall each gobbled one.

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By the time the dogs were arranged for a group photo, Tucker’s paws were literally raw from all the unaccustomed running around. He was glad to plop down, first for the photo (Tuck’s the one on the far right)…

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…and then in our car kennel.

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As for Kyndall, she was as tired as she looks here. But I think she’d be thrilled to go back tomorrow and do it again. As long as she wasn’t expected to get in that (ugh) water.




The games she plays

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Every dog I’ve ever lived with has had a favorite game. For several pet dogs and a few of the CCI pups, it’s been Ball. That was the favorite of Brando, our sole CCI puppy who graduated (and who now lives with the Zmysly family in suburban Chicago). For Dionne, our last puppy, it was Keep Away (an absolutely terrible pastime for anyone aspiring to be a service animal — which I guess Dionne never did.)

I could say that Kyndall’s favorite game is eating hibiscus flowers or chewing sticks. But neither of those are really games; they’re more akin to smoking cigarettes — addictive and somewhat socially irresponsible. The truth is that her favorite game is tug of war. Joy lights up her face every time I pick up a rope toy and dangle it before her. It’s the one game she’ll drop everything else to play.

Frankly, Kyndall is also the only CCI puppy I’ve ever tugged with. Years ago, when we first got Tucker, Steve and I were instructed never to engage in this behavior; we were told it encouraged the puppies to be dominant. So we dutifully avoided it. But within the past year or so I’ve read reports of various research indicating that it’s actually good for dogs (and their owner/handlers). One report in the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science found no evidence that playing tug-of-war made dogs more dominant; instead it seemed to have some positive effects. Dog scholar John Bradshaw approves of it, as does the ASPCA, which offers a 2500-word set of instructions on how to use tug of war to encourage healthy behaviors.

So when we got Kyndall, I played tug of war with her occasionally, to her great delight. The only problem? I don’t like it much.

For one thing, whenever we play, she likes to stand up and claw at me. Her dew claws in particular are nasty little weapons, and she routinely gouges me with them. Not only that, but she’s strong now. My arms quickly tire.

The game that I love most to play with any dog is Ball. It takes very little energy on the part of the human, but requires large amounts from the dog. A true Ball Brain (like Brando), will play it endlessly; they never tire.

Alas, Kyndall is about as interested in Ball as I am in Bingo. If there’s absolutely nothing else of interest going on, she’ll engage in it. For a minute or two. IF she chases after the ball, chances are excellent she won’t bring it back.

041115 ball

There is one alternative to ball or my playing tug of war. It works only rarely, but when it does, it can be a pleasure to watch:

(Note that Tucker’s the one who’s growling (with pleasure)). CCI trainers are not supposed to do that. Of course the tussling is hell on the wood floors. But keeping them pristine is a game we lost long, long ago.


Tucker’s influence

In recent years, Steve and I have often found ourselves speculating about how Tucker influences our CCI puppies. It seems clear that the puppies all adore him. Kyndall wags her tail passionately and licks his face whenever she’s been separated from him and then reunited. Although he plays with her only rarely, she loves to snuggle up beside him. And CCI has no problem with pups in training living with “change-of-career dogs” (like Tucker) or even pet (barbarian) dogs.

Still, we wonder if living with an older dog might tend to make the puppy imprint more on dogs than on us. Whether or not that’s true, we can certainly see Tucker’s influence on Kyndall. For example, she’s still displaying some resistance to being Dressed in her cape or even her Gentle Leader. But if we call Tucker and put on his leash and halter first, Kyndall runs up, sits nicely, and doesn’t balk at having the strap slipped over her nose and the leash clipped to it. (The cape’s another matter; Tucker doesn’t get to wear one of them, so she can’t imitate his good example.)

Yesterday I watched with admiration an online video of Kyndall’s sister Kihei Speaking beautifully. Kyndall also Speaks. But she’s learned to do it in the goofy way Tucker has adopted. He always takes a while to spit out the sound, in a kind of canine version of nervously clearing one’s throat. Then he usually feels the need to launch himself skyward, before emitting a quiet “woof.”

Here’s what it looks like, as demonstrated first by Tuck and then by Kyndall.

Monster jaws — a photo essay

In our early weeks with Kyndall, we complained a lot about how she slashed our hands and arms with her razor-sharp puppy teeth. Now all those teeth are gone. Instead she has beautiful white chompers that lack needle-sharp points, and she almost never applies them to our flesh. But they’re become destructive in a different way.

As the last of those big-dog teeth have come in, her craving to chew has turned voracious. Applying that appetite to the toys that amused her when she was tiny has resulted in many of them being annihilated.

040415 chewy
A few prime examples.

Happily, she doesn’t seem to swallow most of the pieces, and whatever fragments she has swallowed haven’t irritated her digestive system (unlike Dionne, our last CCI trainee, who vomited sometimes daily all the odd bits she scavenged).  In addition to enjoying the ripping apart, Kyndall radiates pleasure while chewing on the individual rubber chunks, much like a baseball player working on a wad, or a teenager on chewing gum. I should stop her, I know, but she has such a good time I sometimes find it easier just to photograph the spectacle.

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You’re not going to tell me to stop, are you?
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It feels sooooooo good!


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Hey, it was an old, boring toy, anyway.


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And now…. it is no more.

040415 dead kong

Steve has a theory that dogs need to jaw to set their adult teeth in their jaws.  That sounds good to me, except I haven’t found anything online that confirms it. For now, Kyndall has almost worked her way through our supply of destructible toys, and last night she did in one of the theoretically indestructible, CCI-approved ones (the Kong, at right.)

But she’s told us not to worry. The yard is full of her other favorite plaything (sticks).


























Among the most insignificant of the tasks shouldered by puppy-raisers is that of protecting their pups against heartworms. You start as soon as you get your dog; CCI gives you the first dose. Then you have to remember to administer a new one every month. You have to buy the medicine from a vet, and it’s pricy. (We pay $42 per 6-pack; $7 a serving). Judging from the maps on the American Heartworm Association’s website, this disease mostly menaces mammals (not just dogs but also cats, ferrets, and their wild cousins such as coyotes) along the Gulf and southern Atlantic coasts and rivers. It doesn’t seems to have spread much into California over the past dozen  years.

040215 2001 map040215 2013 map


040215 heartwormsStill, there’s no arguing with CCI about whether to administer the medicine. And knowing what heartworms look like goes a long way to motivate me to avoid them. They have to be among nature’s grosser party animals. Transmitted only by mosquitoes, the larvae can take up to 6 months to mature, but then they grow to be a foot long, live 5-7 years, and reproduce until your animal’s internal organs look like they’ve been stuffed with spaghetti.

040215 doseHappily, the medicine is chewable. I have no intention of ever tasting it, but the CCI puppies we’ve given it to act like it’s pate. Kyndall doesn’t inhale the stuff the way some of our puppies have; in general, she’s a daintier eater. But she likes it well enough. Here’s what this morning’s serving looked like: