Model puppy to be cover girl?

CCI puppy raisers regularly receive emails alerting us to volunteer opportunities. Often these are events where pups appear as goodwill ambassadors for CCI or to educate the public more broadly about service dogs. I try to participate when I can, and over the years I’ve taken various puppies before school groups, to the county fair, and other venues.

Two weeks ago we received a more unusual invitation from the local CCI public relations coordinator. Apparently San Diego Magazine will be dedicating its upcoming January issue to the topic of enjoying San Diego with one’s dog. The art director had asked if CCI could supply some models for a photo shoot taking place at a private residence in Coronado 3 days before Thanksgiving.

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That’s Beverly with Florentine (being held by Chris)

I had nothing pressing on my calendar for that day, so I said yes. Then I got another email informing me that because rain was predicted, the shoot was being postponed for a week to another location, in Fallbrook. That would mean driving about an hour (instead of 20 minutes) each way. But I felt like we had already made the commitment. So yesterday I loaded Beverly into the van (into which she jumped very nicely!) and we headed north.

At the location, a beautiful backyard in a gated community, we found that two other puppies were also participating, both several months younger than Beverly. Florentine is a lively black female (whom we know from our San Diego meetings), and Rylin was a little blonde boy, very cute.

Even cuter was Chris, the LA actor who had been hired to be the human handler in the photos. The dogs were allowed to romp together for a few minutes, but then everyone buckled down to work.

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The magazine ladies made us remove the dogs’ collars and halters, which considerably  ramped up the challenge of controlling them. I have to say that Beverly was exemplary; everyone exclaimed about how calm she was. But the little guys were more inclined to squirm and wiggle and leap off Chris’s lap, and that in turn distracted Beverly. (They also smelled wonderful, Beverly thought.)  And it seemed to me that someone was always scratching or blinking or sniffing someone else’s behind or having his hair fall down into his eyes (I’m thinking of you, Chris.)

My limited experience with professional magazine photo shoots is that they’re tedious. Indeed, after about 2 hours, all the dogs looked like they had had their fill of it. Beverly and Rylin did enjoy a few glorious minutes of playing keep-away with a banana tree leaf. But then we headed home.

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The art director said she plans to use one of the photos for the magazine’s cover. They took a few of Beverly wearing her CCI cape, like this:

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I think it would be great if one of those makes it in, but I’m not counting on it. I’m well aware that the editors might pick a shot of one of the younger pups. (That’s often how it goes in the modeling biz.) If Beverly’s pretty face does make it anywhere in that issue, however, I’ll be happy to report it here.

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Puppy steps

Progress in dog (or puppy) training often is nearly imperceptible. The trainee will fail to understand a new command or do something that’s wrong, over and over again. Then one day, he or she will do what you want… sort of. Or do it ever so slightly better. One day,  you notice that they seem to have gotten what you were trying to teach them. But you can’t remember when; the process is so subtle it’s hard to document.

112716-van-dogStill, I keep trying, and this weekend Beverly made a leap (one I might have overlooked, had I not been paying attention). For weeks, we’ve been trying to induce her to jump up into the kennel that lives in the back of our van. Many puppies do this readily. Even Tucker, who turned 12 in October, still usually jumps up (though his advanced age sometimes make that precarious). For some reason, however, Beverly seemed to develop a phobia about leaping either in or out. She would stand, mulish, until we inevitably lifted her up and in or down and out.

We asked for advice in puppy class, but our instructor pointed out that according to the formal CCI guidelines, puppies aren’t supposed to be jumping anywhere until they’re 10 months old; something to do about their bones not being fully developed. From the organization’s point of view, Beverly wasn’t doing anything wrong.

Our point of view, however, took into consideration the deleterious effects on bones and joints (both Beverly’s and ours) of hefting a 50-plus pound animal into and out of a vehicle, sometimes repeatedly (as during our grocery-shopping expeditions). It wasn’t pretty. So a few weeks ago, Steve came up with a new strategy. He began luring Beverly into and out of the side door, which seemed lower (to her), especially when parked next to a curb. Once in the van, she then could be lured back and into the kennel. She still resisted jumping in or out of the back, but on Friday night, she suddenly jumped down and out, nonchalantly. Progress!

Yesterday (Saturday) morning she and I went grocery shopping together, and she continued jumping out, on command (“Out”). At first she still refused to jump in when we visited Sprouts and Trader Joe’s. Then, God only knows why, when we got to Vons, she jumped out, went into the store with me…. and casually jumped right in when I said the word (“Kennel”).  She’s been doing it ever since. Here’s what it looked like this morning:


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I have no idea why she resisted doing this last week (and always before) and now makes it look effortless. I just have to accept (and be grateful) for the change.

Bed buddies: an experiment in co-sleeping

112316-bed-buddiesSteve and I love dogs, but we don’t sleep with them. I know some people do, and I don’t judge them. But I personally don’t want to share my bed with anyone who’s as unsanitary, hairy, and disrespectful of personal space as all my dogs have been. With CCI puppies, it’s especially a no-brainer. The handbook states clearly that the aspiring service dogs should never sleep on people beds.

In the first days and weeks, kennels also are an important tool for house-training. Dogs instinctively avoid soiling their dens, so sleeping in a crate is an important first step toward self-control.

Beverly seems reasonably content in the crate that’s up in our bedroom. But she clearly prefers snuggling up with Tucker pretty much every chance she gets. (He spends each night on a cushy dog bed a few feet away from her kennel.)  Sunday for the first time in ages the night was chilly. To me it felt like our Southern California winter at last was approaching. I suggested that maybe we should let Beverly spend the night next to her large, furry buddy.

“And what if she gets up and pees in the night?” Steve retorted.

“She won’t. And if she does, I’ll clean it up. It’s easy; the floor is wood.”

“What if she chews his bed?”

“She won’t DO that!” I asserted. “She doesn’t do that in the day. Now it’s nighttime. She’s sleepy.”

So we tried it out, and it seemed to be a success. We heard not a peep in the night, and both dogs slept soundly until after I woke up, around 6:30.

We let her sleep with him the next two nights, and the results have been mixed. Tuesday morning, I awoke a little after 6 to the feeling of a puppy nose gently nuzzling my hand. (That nose would have been unable to do that, had it been crated.)

This morning, I set my alarm for 5:30 in order to attend a 6 a.m. class at my gym. This time I had to roust both dogs off the cushion.

We’ll keep trying it out for at least a few more days. Even now I’m not sure what Tucker thinks. Steve is sure he has to like it. “He’s an 84-[dog]-year old guy,” he points out. “Not many cute young girls want to sleep with him.”

 

 

Beverly, growing

Eleven days ago, Beverly reached her seven-month birthday… an event I completely failed to notice. It’s true that she’s the 11th dog I’ve raised since puppyhood in my adult life, and as with human children, the landmarks are more likely to be overlooked, the farther you get from the first ones. However, I feel bad because with Beverly, I had hoped to document her growth in a way I’d never done before.

My idea was to position her in the same place every single day and take a picture. After 18 months, I imagined I could stitch together all the images and have an awesome montage. Something like this (if you click the forward-arrow buttons really fast):

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It (sort of) worked for the first 10 days, although Steve and I quickly were amazed by the challenge of getting Beverly into the same position every day. Then I started forgetting to do it. When I realized yesterday that her seven-month birthday had slipped by without my notice, it occurred to me that I had not captured the daily photo… for months.

Here’s what she looked like a few minutes ago:

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compared to these earlier moments:

I’ll try really, really hard to remember her first birthday on April 9. But as for that montage, it may have to wait for the next puppy.

Mealtime joy

We went to class Monday, and Beverly performed admirably. But our new teacher, although observing, wasn’t yet teaching the class. We’re not sure when she’ll actually start.

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Steve had her full attention, despite the many distractions.

Still, we’re impressed by one lesson Beverly appears to have mastered at home. When we returned from our travels at the beginning of this month, we noted with a mixture of amusement and horror that she was routinely climbing up on the furniture and curling up to nap on it. Steve in particularly took a dim view of this and ordered her off. I warned him it was hopeless, that once puppies have experienced the bliss of dozing off on a cozy cushion, it’s impossible to get them to stop.

To my amazement, however, I haven’t seen Beverly on the furniture in days. She appears to have paid attention and is obeying us. This seems miraculous. We’ll see if it persists.

What also is continuing is her newfound passion for eating her dogfood. This is the same girl who used to sit down at every meal, bowl between her front paws, and slowly chew every bit of kibble — usually leaving some untouched.

Watch her here as she waits at the top of the stairs while Steve fills her and Tucker’s bowls. She can barely contain herself — then she explodes.

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This happy performance is currently being repeated twice daily.

The trouble with Beverly

The trouble with Beverly is that she’s SO good I’m finding it more difficult to blog about her! She never has elimination accidents or chews anything up or steals my earplugs. She and I went grocery shopping yesterday, and she sat calmly whenever I paused. She paid attention to me as we made our way up and down the aisles. She received compliments serenely.

We’ve gone on two hikes this week. For the first, which was up in Carlsbad, she had to ride in the front seat of our Miata (instead of in the kennel in the van, which she’s used to). Unlike almost every pup we’ve raised, she didn’t seem to mind being in the car seat. She looked out of the windows with interest. And she stayed calm. She followed along calmly on the trail.

This morning Steve and I took her with us on a short hike around Famosa Slough in Ocean Beach, where we saw many ducks and coots and a number of great white egrets. Beverly saw them too but basically did not react to them.

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SOME puppies might think about chasing that big white bird. But not this one.

Although she now executes the Down command flawlessly, it has occurred to us that she still hasn’t learned to Shake. She’s very hesitant to Jump up into the van or out of it, and she doesn’t even respond (yet) to the Lap command. But we have puppy class tomorrow night, and we should have a new instructor then.

We plan to attend, of course. That may give me something to write about.

Together again

We picked up Beverly from her puppy-sitters Thursday afternoon, just a few hours after our return from Asia. In some ways it felt like getting a new pup: “Wait! how many times does she need to be taken out daily?” I wondered. “How well will she sleep?” But in short order, we were reassured that a) this is the easiest puppy we’ve ever had the pleasure of living with, and b) if anything, she only got better in our absence.

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The only bad habit that she seems to have acquired is a passion for curling up on the cozy chairs. I guess we’ll have to work at correcting that… but she tries to be so inconspicuous and looks so perfectly at home there.

She seemed mildly happy to see us, but I can hardly blame her for being less than wildly enthusiastic about returning to our rather dull household. In our absence, she spent time with five different families, three of which had young dogs for her to play with. Everyone seemed to love her.”I’ve never written the word ‘perfect’ so many times to describe a puppy,” one of her caretakers wrote in the Feedback Report. “It’s unreal how great she is.”

Steve offered a similar comment yesterday, after returning from a multi-hour grocery-shopping excursion with Beverly. “I don’t think we’ve ever had a better-behaved puppy than this one,” he said. “She seemed to be enjoying the outing, but there’s a serenity about her that’s extraordinary. She’s got an almost regal air.”

In our absence, she somehow learned to respond perfectly to the “Down” command (without any hand signals).  We’d been struggling with that. Another change is that since she turned 6 months old in October, she’s now getting fed only twice a day, and we’re amused by how excited she gets every mealtime. She all but pirouettes as we fill her bowl. She looks bigger and lankier. More hungry.

Friday, Beverly and I drove up to Oceanside to attend CCI’s fall graduation ceremonies. We watched our friend Kora being turned in for her advanced training.

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Kora looked a little worried. But then she always looks a little worried. We trust she’ll do fine.

For the most part, Beverly stayed quietly in her Down position.

Although we didn’t know any of the 8 dogs from the Southwest region who were graduating into a life of service, we’d gotten word that TWO litter-mates of our previous puppy Kyndall (Kihei and Kimono) were graduating up in Northern California. Steve felt deflated by this news, seeing it as proof that Kyndall’s release from training resulted from something that we did.

I hope that’s not the case. With a puppy like Beverly, it’s hard for me not to feel new hope.