Fig season has begun. That makes Steve happy. He loves picking the sweet, dark purple fruit from our huge old tree and cutting it up to put on his cereal every morning. I’m less of a fan, but some years I feel so guilty about all that bounty — so much more than we can eat — that I make a jam which some of my friends like. For the dogs, though, the arrival of fig season is nothing short of miraculous. We can almost read our current puppy’s mind when he or she first discovers what’s happening: “OMG! There are tasty balls dropping out of the sky! They are SO much more delicious than dog food! You just sniff around, find one, and gobble it down. None of this agonizing waiting for meal time.” It must be like the ancient Israelites’ experience with manna.
Though the fruit only began ripening a few days ago, Kyndall has fully embraced the program. The lower yard, where the fig tree grows, also serves as the doggy toileting zone. When we take her there, she’s so distracted by the not-so-hidden fruity treasure that she often has to be sternly reminded to Hurry! (At the same time, the figs have a certain laxative effect that at other times makes Hurrying a matter of urgency. As at 5:30 a.m. this morning…)
Tucker’s an old pro. Some years he eats so many figs he grows visibly plumper over the month or so when the fruit is abundant. We’ve seen him standing on his hind legs to reach particularly tempting morsels. But as he has aged, his digestive system also seems less and less able to tolerate figgy binges.
So we try to rake up the fallen fruit and restrict the amount of time the dogs can get at it. But there are limits to how hard-hearted we can be.
We cannot imagine how it happened, but Kyndall appears to have learned to read. She also must have figured out how to get online and check the blog that I write about her life as a service-dog trainee. How else to explain her criminal behavior this morning? She must have seen yesterday’s post about her new-found “peaceability” and excellent behavior and decided to disabuse us of this ridiculous notion.
Normally, she doesn’t have much opportunity to misbehave. We almost always keep her near us or kenneled. But Steve slipped up this morning. He came into the house and forgot she was outside;assumed she was up in my office with me. When he finally stepped outside, he found the carnage:
She had completely dug up and destroyed the beautiful white rose bush that we planted a month ago. An elderly fuchsia bush had died and we had long pondered what to replace it with that wouldn’t fall prey to a puppy. The spot gets a lot of sun, which roses like, and it occurred to me that its thorns would protect it. Ha.
We checked Kyndall’s mouth to check for gouges from the thorns, but she was unscathed.
Kyndall seemed restrained after we collected her from Cabernet’s home Monday afternoon. Then an hour or two after getting home, she threw up. But whatever irritated her stomach couldn’t have been serious. She gobbled down her kibble at dinner time, kept it down, and performed well in puppy class that night. We wondered in passing if her upset tummy might explain how calm she seemed.
But no. She’s been so docile and chilled out since Monday I keep taking pictures; can’t believe what I’m seeing.
We still have some things to work on. She’s still jumping on people. She also continues to be the most powerful chewer we’ve ever lived with. She almost never destroys one of our possessions, but the problem is she doesn’t have many of her own that satisfy her without being torn to shreds.
At times I can’t resist letting her gnaw on one of the hard nylon toys I got at Costco. She looks so happy, lost in the pleasure of working on it.
But usually, I start hearing ominous crunching and grinding noises before long, and I worry she’ll chew so hard she breaks a tooth (as CCI has warned can happen). The “Goughnut” toys — made of a rubber that’s supposed to be both indestructible but soft enough to avoiding damaging puppy teeth — are among the only objects of which CCI actually approves.
We bought a couple for our last puppy, Dionne, and she pointedly disdained them, even when I boiled them in beef broth as one authority suggested. Kyndall wasn’t wild about them either, at first.
The other day, however, I found her chomping on the Goughnut stick. More evidence of what a good girl she’s turning out to be!
There are tedious moments in any domestic dog's life, and CCI puppies are no exception. They get left at home in their kennels at times, sometimes for hours. But for me, one of the pleasures of puppy-raising is seeing how many opportunities for fun our charges get.
Kyndall's recent stay at the kennels when she was in heat was probably a mixed bag. We think she had a littermate to wrestle with throughout her stay. But I imagine the weekends still feel endless to animals accustomed to family life.
This weekend we've bundled Kyndall off to a different kind of Girl Camp. Because Steve and I have to attend an out-of-town memorial service (and it isn't possible to take Kyndall with us), she's staying again with Bob and Lisa Hartman. They also hosted her in May. Their first CCI puppy, Cabernet, was released in April and now revels in her career as their home dog. She and Kyndall looooooove each other, so there was much doggy joy when Steve made the drop-off yesterday.
Once again, I deeply appreciate the generous community of puppy-sitters who make it possbile for the full-time puppy-raisers to take breaks from their task. I also believe that having experiences in a variety of homes builds resiliency and flexibility in the dogs. It feels like the classic win-win situation.
I’ve always loved the Polish folk tale about the big family who lived in the one-room house. Unhappy about how crowded and chaotic their life was, they consulted the local rabbi. He told them they could fix their problems if they would move their cow inside the house with them.
Dubious, they followed his advice, but it only made things worse. When they complained about this to the rabbi, he calmly directed them to bring their chickens inside too. Subsequent visits resulted in more orders to add goats and geese and pigs. On the verge of going insane, the desperate family returned to the rabbi one final time. He told them to move all the animals back outside. The tiny cottage magically felt like a palace, quiet and orderly and filled only with humans.
Adding a three-and-a-half month-old puppy to our household mix is nowhere near as difficult as adding a whole menagerie. But in the wake of Kora’s departure yesterday, we’re back in our regular groove, and life feels so quiet.
I don’t mean to suggest that Kora was difficult to have around. On the contrary, she was a delightful reminder of just how good a very young pup can be. Friday night we took her to our regular movie/potluck group (leaving Kyndall home, kenneled with Tucker for company), and Kora was better behaved than any puppy we’ve ever taken there — extremely calm and easy-going.
Still, life with just Kyndall and Tucker is even easier. In answer to my question about whether going into heat changed Kyndall, Steve and I think the answer is a qualified Yes. She seems content to spend most of her time resting quietly near us (though Steve suggests she may just be recovering from the rigors of playing with Kora so much).
Last night we also took us with us to a real movie theater. Jurassic World was probably not the best choice to expose her to — there are so many bangs and screams and crashes in the second half of the film. But Kyndall (mostly) maintained her Down/Stay at my side. She even seemed interested in the screen action from time to time.
Some puppy raisers report distinct personality changes in their girls after their first heat ends and they return home from the kennels. I’ve thought we’ve seen that a few times with Kyndall’s predecessors. So I was eager to assess how she seemed after coming home Monday afternoon.
But I can’t tell yet. Our normal routine has been shaken up by a visit from Kora. Kora is a 15-week-old whose puppy-raiser had to fly back East for a few days. Normally, Steve and I would never volunteer to host a pup that young while simultaneously raising our own 8-month-old. But we broke our rule in this case when we learned that Kora lives less than a mile from our house (also, it’s a short stay, less than 4 days).
I was frankly thrilled to discover we were living that close to another CCI team (it’s never happened before.) Kora’s mom, Lisa, a first-time puppy raiser, walked with Kora from her place to ours Sunday afternoon to meet us. And now that we’re almost two days into the visit, I can report it’s going well. Kora’s a sweetheart, well-behaved for her age. I like how happy she seems to be; her tail is almost constantly wagging. She’s unintimidated by Kyndall’s greater size (about 50 pounds to her 33). The two girls play a lot, but they also chill out nicely. Kora has pooped in my office (once, while I was in the midst of a business call), peed on the wood floor inside my bedroom (when no one was looking), and fallen in the pool (happily while Steve had her on the leash and could easily fish her out.) But these are all very normal for a puppy who isn’t four months old yet. (It’s strange to think that Kyndall was at that stage less than 5 months ago.)
The hardest part is managing all three dogs first thing in the morning, when Kora’s little bladder is about to explode. I did it at 5:40 a.m. this morning, and I’m frankly looking forward to Sunday morning, when we’re back to wrangling only two dogs for their morning rituals. Also bad is the stricken expression on Kyndall’s face every lunch time when Kora gets her cup of puppy chow (something CCI pups get weaned from at 6 months). Kyndall seems a tad disconcerted when Kora licks Kyndall’s lips (which is funny given how much Kyndall does it to Tucker.)
Otherwise all is calm. But we’ll have to wait until Sunday for life with Kyndall to truly return to normal. Whatever normal is now.
I took Kyndall into CCI’s Oceanside kennels exactly three weeks ago yesterday, so early yesterday morning I called to see if she was ready to return home. I was told that the vet tech was out but would be checking the girls when she returned around 11 a.m.
At 1 p.m., I’d still heard nothing, though. So I called again. This time I learned that the vet tech would be testing Kyndall momentarily. And indeed, a few minutes later, the phone rang. It was the vet tech, announcing that the slide smear confirmed our girl was officially OUT of heat.
I ran to the garage only to remember that Steve had gone out with the minivan. It contains the kennel in which we always transport the dogs. My only choice was to leap into our Miata and try to convince myself Kyndall wouldn’t mind riding in the passenger’s seat of the little 20-year-old sports car. About halfway up to Oceanside, it also occurred to me that I’d forgotten both her leash and collar. (Pups go into the kennels essentially naked.) This wasn’t a huge problem, as Christine at the front desk said I could use theirs to walk Kyndall out to my car. A bigger problem was that, since she had never ridden in the Miata, Kyndall refused to get into it. But she still only weighs a fraction under 50 pounds, so I scooped her up and muscled her in.
She’d been happy to see me, but she looked miserable the whole way home. Still, at least we had no car trouble (which could have been truly disastrous, given my lack of any leash or collar for her.)
Once we entered our garage, she started to perk up, and by the time she was racing for the house, she seemed exultant. She greeted Tucker with something approach ecstasy, and he was pretty happy to see her.
Now we’re readjusting to Puppy Life. (Actually, it doesn’t feel that hard.)