Kyndall’s a pretty easy-going puppy; she doesn’t have the sort of dominant personality that her predecessor, Dionne, did. So I’m a bit surprised by how much we miss her (while she’s up in Girl Camp).
Life is easier in many ways. We don’t get awakened by tiny squeaks at 5:30 or 6 a.m. We don’t have to take her out for training sessions, and grocery-shopping without a puppy is less stressful.
But it’s also less sociable. Steve commented that the pretty girls in the supermarket yesterday paid no attention to him (which often is not the case when Kyndall’s at his side.) I miss her furrowed brow and happy prancing in anticipation of meal time.
I plan to call CCI on Wednesday or Thursday to see when they think I might be able to pick her up. I’m hoping it will be sooner, rather than later.
I groaned aloud last Friday afternoon when I read the Facebook post from Kat Greaney, the young woman who’s raising Kyndall’s sister, Kihei, in northern California. She reported that Kihei had just gone into heat; I wondered how far behind Kyndall could be.
Saturday morning I took Kyndall and Tucker to Cyndy Carlton’s twice-monthly puppy social (which was jammed with happy dogs of all ages — a well-behaved free-for-all!). There I asked several experienced puppy-raisers if litter-mates tend to go into season at the same time. No one cited hard data, but the consensus seemed to be that two dogs from the same litter could well be on different schedules. I also was fascinated to hear the range of initial start dates various puppy-raisers had witnessed. The youngest was at 6 months, and at the other end of the spectrum, Cyndy told me about one female who still hadn’t had a single heat cycle when she turned in for advanced training (at about 18 months).
So Steve and I crossed our fingers that Kyndall’s sojourn in Sex Jail (also known irreverently as Girl Camp) might not come for awhile. After all, she’s not quite 8 months old — months younger than any of her predecessors in our house have been at the the time of their first heats.
Female CCI puppies go into heat, by the way — rather than being spayed — because CCI wants to consider using them as breeding females. The organization breeds virtually all its own puppies, and although it may not be as glamorous a calling as graduating to life as a service dog, being chosen as a breeder doesn’t sound like a bad turn of events to me. Each girl lives with special “breeder-caretaker,” and I understand they have no more than five litters in their careers.
As for the female puppies, the rules are that whenever they do go into heat, they must be boarded. That’s partly because CCI doesn’t want to run any risk of them getting accidentally impregnated by some canine Lothario. Also, living with a dog in heat is a messy experience, one that CCI wants to spare its puppy-raisers from enduring.
Messy it is. This past weekend we’ve dolefully noticed that Kyndall’s lady parts were looking swollen and she seemed to be licking herself more than normal. Then this morning unmistakable evidence materialized: several large drops of blood on my office floor tiles.
I called the folks in Oceanside, and they told me to bring her right in. On our arrival, I learned that several other young females had also arrived, in the same state, just last week. So Kyndall should have a kennel mate throughout her confinement. She’ll also be taken for short walks, and I understand the girls get regular play times.
Given all that, I think she’ll have a great time. As I noted so recently, these dogs seemed to find it endlessly amusing to have a pal to wrestle with. We, on the other hand, are sad. Since the heat cycles last for around 3 weeks, this means she’ll be incarcerated on the Fourth of July, when we had looked forward to marching in the big Coronado parade with the CCI drill team. It also means she probably will miss sharing the Christmas holidays with us, as it’s very common for the dogs to go into heat again in about 6 months.
On top of that, we just miss her. Things will be quiet both in the house and on my blog for a while.
So the good news is that we gave Kyndall the new large-size Extreme Kong last night, and to our delight, she did NOT manage to tear any chunks out of it! Maybe it will be tough enough to stand up to her jaws of steel. Fingers are crossed.
The bad news: while watching the movie (an engaging documentary, Red Army, about Soviet hockey and Russian sports training), Steve got so engrossed that he failed to notice that Kyndall, on her leash next to his chair, was chewing on the strap of my purse, which was sitting nearby on the floor. Here’s what we found when the lights went up:
This morning Steve managed to find and order a new purse strap for me on Amazon. It was $14.99. But as he points out, we’ve spent more than that on Kongs recently.
Kyndall is our first puppy with jaws of steel. We know this about her because she is the first dog to destroy Kongs. Kongs are the extremely hard rubber receptacles approved by CCI for its puppies to chew on (one of about only three chewing objects that get the official CCI stamp of approval). We’ve used them for years. As many people do, we like to fill them with peanut butter and freeze them rock hard. Such a Kong has the ability to distract and amuse a dog for quite a while. When we take Kyndall to our Friday night movie group, we always bring along a frozen Kong for her, and we give one to Tucker so he won’t feel so bad about being left home alone.
In recent weeks, we noticed that our regular red Kongs started to develop chips around their major orifices. I assumed this was because they were getting old (and probably were weakened by all those repeated freezings.) Steve ordered two replacements, but while Tucker’s looked pristine after his first go with it, Kyndall instantly destroyed her brand-new never-before-frozen one. Steve then lobbied for replacing it with a large size Kong Extreme (“For Power Chewers”). But I resisted, arguing that the medium size we’ve always had would require less peanut butter to stuff. So Steve sent off for one of the super-tough black Kongs in a medium.
We took it with us to last week’s movie gathering, and when we packed it up at the end of the evening, I saw to my horror that Kyndall had ripped big chunks out of the edges of the allegedly super-hard material.
So we ordered and now have received the bigger (even tougher?) Kong Extreme — the one Steve wanted to get in the first place. He’s hoping that the bigger size will make it harder for Kyndall to savage it. We’ll take it with us tonight and see what happens. Stay tuned!
Kyndall has been an extraordinarily good puppy. We’re proud of her, and it’s tempting to keep mum about the occasional disaster. But I write this blog in part because I want to record what it’s truly like to raise a puppy for life in service. So I guess I need to report on the seamy events of this morning.
She sleeps in a kennel in our bedroom and always wakes up early — in the 5:30 to 6 a.m. range. I too rise at dawn several days a week, but we’ve been trying to train her to remain in her kennel later for those rare occasions when we can sleep in. This morning when I heard soft whimpers being emitted from her corner of the room, I felt annoyed and pretty confident she was testing us — trying to train us for the schedule she’d prefer to keep. I was all but certain she had no genuine need to be led downstairs and out into the backyard. (I knew for a fact that she had pooped twice upon rising Tuesday morning, then again during her afternoon walk with Steve, and then AGAIN right before bedtime — an almost unprecedented quadfecta of puppy elimination.)
So I hissed, “Quiet!” and she was quiet. Minutes passed. Until more soft whimpers emerged.
I was awake by then; climbed out of bed. But before moving to her kennel to release her, I took my time getting dressed. I put on my gym socks and shoes, and I tied the long laces securely.
I released Kyndall from her kennel, clipped a leash to her collar, then led her down the stairs. In the kitchen, I paused to take something out of my purse. And as I did so, she POOPED! In the kitchen!!! Right in front of the refrigerator!!@!
“NO!” I shrieked, “Noooooo!!!” I yanked her to Steve’s office and the patio beyond. As we moved, she engaged in a virtual bombing raid all along the way.
This was an almost unimaginable violation of the Well-Behaved Puppy Code, a transgression the likes of which she’s never done before, even in her earliest days with us. (Tucker was so mortified he took straight to his bed and refused to follow Kyndall and me outside.) I dragged her out to the lower yard (aka the canine toilet), and she really tried to defecate again for me, this time in the proper place. It was to no available, so much had been eliminated in the house. (It took a good 10 minutes to collect and depose of it and properly sanitize.)
Steve and I understand that Kyndall didn’t want to do this; she tried to alert us that she needed to go out. What mystifies us is the cause. (She did NOT have diarrhea and clearly is not sick.)
It’s a minor mystery. What bothers me more is not the grossness of the act or the unpleasantness of cleaning it up. (When you’ve raised as many puppies as we have, you toughen up.) It’s that we didn’t know better than to ignore a 7-month-puppy who was asking to be taken out to relieve herself. Or that I was surprised by the consequences.
Climbing up stairs with open treads can terrify puppies. It’s understandable. If you’re little and low, it looks like it would be easy to slip through the openings and fall to your death. We saw the effect such stairs had on Dionne (our fifth CCI pup) whenever we entered the stairwell in our friend Alberto’s building. Dionne was normally a bold and fearless spirit, yet she would freeze at the sight of those stairs. We worked for months to overcome that, trying in vain to lure her up with various tasty treats. But nothing worked until a fellow puppy raiser who is extraordinarily experienced broke through her phobia during an outing at Fashion Valley.
Kyndall has been having a similar reaction to the very same set of stairs. But last night we had a breakthrough. Our contribution to the evening’s potluck was hummus and sautéed lamb, and I had to slice off a lot of lamb fat while preparing the dish. Both Tucker and Kyndall watched me intensely as I did this. They stared. They drooled. To lift their spirits, we mixed in a few small bits of the lamb fat into their dinner kibble. But Steve cut up most of it into tiny squares and took a small bagful of it with us to Albie’s.
We entered the Stairwell of Terror. Steve got out a bit of lamb fat.
Lamb fat in hand, he started up the stairs, and Kyndall bounded up after him!
We cheered and praised her (including Albie, who is making a documentary about raising service dogs and so was filming the proceedings). Once or twice, she hesitated and we could see the old fear grip her.
But Steve waved the lamb in front of her nose, and each time it did the trick.
She walked all the way up to Albie’s place on the third floor, wagging her tail and licking her chops.
It will be interesting to see how she does next time. (I’m thinking we need a little stash of that fat in reserve.)
We’re on Day 5 of life with 3 big dogs, and it’s going just fine. Steve and I long ago vowed never to permanently own three dogs (big or little). It’s just more doggy energy than we can stand (not to mention the dog hair). But we do periodically acquire a third dog — pet-sitting for friends or other CCI puppy raisers. We’re taking care of 5-month-old Hopi until her regular pack members return Friday from a vacation, and what’s striking me about this visit is that the quality of life with 3 big dogs depends greatly on the personality of the third canine.
Hopi has charmed us all. She’s not as beautiful as Kyndall, we think. Or rather, her beauty is the exotic thin-faced long-nosed variety that Picasso captured so well in his famous Chicago statue:
But for someone so young, she’s easy to live with. She walks beautifully on a leash — which makes outings with Team Dog (as we refer to them) manageable.
Hopi comes when we call her and follows us from room to room, clearly eager to bask in our presence. She hasn’t destroyed anything or had a single toileting accident.
And I jumped the gun the other day when I said their appetite for wrestling was endless. After the first day or two, they calmed down. Now they play for a while. But then they nap together.
Or groom each other.
I also find it adorable when I see one of them run off and then return with a toy that she sticks in the face of the other. Who never refuses to play. It’s almost enough to make one reconsider the no-3-dogs rule. (If one didn’t know better.)