Final stretch

The final months of raising Kyndall bring to mind Dickens. It is the best of times; it is the worst. It’s the best, because Kyndall is now pure pleasure to live with — physically beautiful and cuddly without being overly needy. In public, she is almost universally admired for her calm intelligence. At home she requires little more supervision than 11-year-old Tucker.

But it’s the worst of times because the ugly reminders of her imminent departure (fittingly on Friday, the 13th of May) have arrived:


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Although this year the packet arrived in my computer in-box, I printed out some of the of the odious pages.

Always in the past, as our puppies’ turn-in dates approached, we received a thick envelope stuffed with forms. There are forms for the vet to fill out. Forms for the puppy-raiser to provide detailed information about the puppy’s personality and health and educational development. There are instructions on where to send the three photos that each puppy-raiser is asked to supply for the ceremonial slid032916 computer forme show that is given at every turn-in ceremony. There are administrative boxes to be checked and SVPs to be responded to.

This year, all these forms arrived electronically. I started to fill in the boxes yesterday, but was thwarted by the quirks of the Adobe pdf forms. When I emailed a complaint, the puppy program administrative assistant kindly revised them; I’ll tackle them again soon.

At best, it’s a tedious chore, and it’s also reminding me and Steve of how soon Kyndall will leave us forever. Because she has been so easy to get along with, we’re feeling particularly sad about that.

All we can do is focus on the good remaining moments and appreciate how far she’s come. Last night our Advanced Class was a reminder. Rick, the teacher, brought an assortment of items with which to tempt the dogs: a tennis ball, a toy of the sort that you use to play with cats (something highly chase-able on a stick). At the end of the hour, he told us all to order our dogs into a long down/stay, then to walk away from them. A few of them broke their stays, but Kyndall was a princess.  As usual.

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Puppy excellence



Made for the shade

Kyndall hasn’t had gone on many hikes, a fact that Steve and I have regretted. On her one big adventure, last August when we were up in Squaw Valley, she dazzled us with the ease which which she clambered up the mountain trail we were following. She seemed to savor every minute of that, so we didn’t hesitate to take her along with us this past Sunday, when we headed with some friends for an outing to the high desert, just over the border into Imperial County.

Our guides for the day were Robert and Elizabeth, two old friends who are highly experienced backpackers, at ease far from civilization. They had suggested we head for a place called the Valley of the Moon located within some Bureau o032216 Hike 9f Land Management wilderness not far from the Mexican border and east of Jacumba. It’s an area where you can camp anywhere you want; let your dog run wild; shoot at random beer cans (or official signs — if you can find one). We drove our van as far as seemed prudent up a fire road and then set off on foot.

Although we leashed up Kyndall, this immediately seemed silly. There was no sign of any other hikers, and Kyndall isn’t the sort of puppy to bound off across country on her own. Once freed, she gamboled about for maybe… 45 seconds?

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Our friend Howie Rosen, who also came along, took all these wonderful photos. 

Then she settled down in the shade of our vehicle. We started hiking around 9:30, and she quickly confirmed she wouldn’t be taking off on her own, nor terrorizing any of the local wildlife. When Elizabeth spotted a horned toad on the path, Kyndall paid no attention to it. She likewise ignored this guy…

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…a harmless gopher snake (according to Bob and Elizabeth). Kyndall was much more fascinated when we came across some ice dumped by departing campers.

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And she was downright dazzled by a dried up cow patty (much to all our disgust).

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The most notable aspect of her behavior, however, was her obsession with finding spots of shade in which she could rest. She started doing this immediately, when the temperature must have only been in the low 70s.

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It never went over 80. Rather, it seemed like what she wanted to escape was not so much the heat as the sun. (We were giving her regular drinks of water.) If there was absolutely no shade at all, she would flop down in one of our shadows. She did this here, when we reached the actual Valley of the Moon.

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This was the point when we realized we were actually OVER the border, a few feet into Mexico. (At least according to the awesome app on Bob’s i-Phone.)

With all the boulders, there were plenty of nooks and crannies for her to seek out.

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We covered almost ten miles in all. This included a couple of hours of bushwhacking and bouldering, so by the end we were all pretty tired. Throughout it all, Kyndall seemed intrepid (if a bit obsessed with keeping out of the sun). I did think she might be limping just a tiny bit toward the end, but she was perky enough to pounce upon a ball that she found and chase it down the road.

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On the final downhill stretch. You can see the ball in her mouth.

Yesterday, however, she was NOT her normal, happy self. She moved stiffly and acted like her feet hurt. (We found no thorns or cracks or raw patches on them, but we guessed they must be sore.) She barely budged from her bed all day, even when her pal Kora came over for the afternoon.

I felt terrible. Today, however, she’s more like her normal self. Steve says we should have expected it. She’s a princess, as sensitive as the fairytale one who detected that pea under all the mattresses.

Puppies can too attend chemistry lectures!

Over the last year or so, we’ve taken Kyndall to the movies numerous times. She’s never disgraced herself, as one or two of her predecessors have (relieving themselves in the lobby or sticking their noses into the affairs of other nearby movie-goers.) Kyndall has only gotten more and more well-behaved. Still, we had never taken her or any other CCI trainee into any kind of live theatrical situation (e.g. a play or lecture). Generally speaking, access into the seating in such venues is more constricted than it is in movie theaters, and the opportunities for distraction (both from the stage and to it) have seemed more terrifying to me. But Wednesday afternoon I was seduced (by Kyndall’s exemplary behavior) into taking her where no puppy (of ours) has gone before.

We’d been invited to a lecture at the renowned Scripps Research Institute. It was being given by a chemistry professor whom we know socially to be a warm and charming person. We understood little about her scientific work, however (other than that it has won admiration from other scientists around the world.) This was a special public event, intended to showcase the work of women at the institute. So we accepted the invitation gratefully — and decided to take Kyndall along.

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Before the talk started, Steve walked her on the grounds, where she not only peed, but also off-loaded a small mountain of puppy poop. That reassured me we didn’t need to sit near an exit we could bolt through if she began fidgeting enough to make me nervous. Instead we sat in the middle of some seats just a few rows up from the stage (within spitting distance of a Nobel laureate in the audience!) Although the turn-out was excellent, the auditorium was big enough that Steve and I could occupy both sides of an empty seat (in front of which we positioned Kyndall). I commanded her to go Down, she obeyed, and that was pretty much all there was to it.

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She did sit up and look startled on the few occasions when the audience burst into applause. (People don’t often do that in movie theaters.) And she lunged for some cracker crumbs on the floor of the post-talk reception. But she also responded quickly to correction.

Even more gratifying, she attracted a little stream of admirers at the reception. For the most part, these were brainiacs — major-league scientists who approached us deferentially in search of a puppy snuggle. Kyndall was happy to accommodate them.

Cape training continues

Will an aversion to putting on her cape get Kyndall released from Advanced Training? This has been our chronic worry in recent months — perhaps because she seems so perfect, otherwise. She’s such a calm little girl, she pays close attention to us, learns quickly, and has almost no bad habits. The Cape Avoidance strikes us as being downright weird. So we’ve been working hard to help her get over it. We’ve learned that she loves liverwurst, so we’ve been keeping it on-hand, and breaking it out every time we go to dress her. Here’s what the drill looks like:

I don’t know if we should stop using it at some point. (I’m pretty sure she will NOT be given it up in the Oceanside kennels.) But I don’t want to introduce any bad associations. So for the next 10 weeks I guess we’ll just keep doling it out to her. (While simultaneously crossing our fingers.)