Free-range puppy?

Twelve years ago, when Steve and I were raising our first CCI puppy (Tucker), we  routinely left the back doors open. Tucker and our house dog at the time (Pearl) could go out whenever they wanted. We had always let our dogs do that. And why not? The yard is fenced, and they’re safe within those confines.

We changed our policy a few puppies later. The pups made us do it — all the countless adventures with chewing up plants and eating dog poop and digging holes and vomiting up various edibles scavenged from the grounds. We got beaten down; eventually embraced the adage we’d heard from one of the early puppy program directors: “Puppies are learning all the time,” she had told us. “They’re either learning good things or bad things.” It made me sad to confine our trainees to being inside the house, unless they were under our direct supervision outside. But doing that limited their opportunities for doing bad things.

Beverly is the first dog in a long time who’s made us consider altering this policy. Like Tucker, she loves to lie in the sun, and unlike most of her predecessors, she seems capable of doing that for long periods without jumping up to sniff out trouble. In the past few weeks, I’ve allowed her some limited time outside on her own.

053017 Bev2

Steve has been pretty resistant to this. He pointed out that a hole had appeared in the far rear cor053017 Bev3ning of the yard. “See!” he exclaimed. “She’s trying to dig her way out!” I urged calm, arguing that this was unlikely. I suggested we should monitor the hole; see if she continued to enlarge it. It was more likely she would tire of this pastime, I argued, and with luck, it would cease to be a forbidden pleasure. Moreover, Beverly’s so chill and sleepy, sometimes I worry she may not succeed as a service dog because she’s too low-energy. The thought of keeping her a bit more active (both mentally and physically) by allowing her to explore the yard appealed to me.

But problems are looming. Although that first hole is still the same size, a couple of others have appeared at other points along the back wall. And in the last few days, something else has developed that spells the coming end to her short career as a free-range puppy. The other day I found her flipping an object around with glee. 053017 Bev4

It turned out to be a partially eaten peach. One of our young trees has produced hundreds of beautiful, juicy peaches this year, and they’ve reached the point where they’re falling off the branches. Beverly is transfixed by the sight of them, and even though Steve has erected netting to keep out marauding birds, Beverly clearly wants to apply her doggy intelligence to the problem of breaking in. 053017 Bev1

Given enough unsupervised time, I’m sure she can figure it out. Moreover, any day now our bountiful fig crop will be ripe. The yard at that point will be a gigantic canine snack shop, and unless we want a yugely fat puppy, Beverly will not be able to roam  freely within it.







Back to school

We attended our first Advanced Class session with Beverly last night, and the evening offered a couple of satisfactions. For more than a dozen years, we’ve been going to CCI classes (normally every other week) held in spaces near the Home Avenue exit off Highway 94. In the beginning, we met on the loading dock of a feed store that also carried dogfood. (The puppies thought school smelled divine!) Then we shifted to a public meeting space down the street. It was a nice enough classroom, but the nearby police shooting range regularly interrupted our drills with the clatter of gunfire, parking was limited, and there were no outdoor lights for those occasions when we worked outside after dark.

The new location is a little weird. The “classroom” is a conference space within a nondescript office building across Aero Drive from Montgomery Field. It’s not easy to find, but at least there’s unlimited parking and some outdoor lighting. And it should be easier to get there during rush hour.

052317 class
We had a relay race last night. That took up part of the class time.

As for the classwork, Beverly definitely needs to practice some of the Advanced Commands. She looked baffled by the “Up”– with reason. We had never introduced her to it before. Her “Visit” is shaky too.

But we have tons of time to polish these and other skills. This session runs through August 21, and then we’ll have to start it over again, at least for a few times. Until Beverly moves on to work with the pros up in Oceanside.

She knows nothing about any of this. All she knows is that she got to see her beloved buddy, Keegan. He smells almost as divine as dogfood.

052317 B and K
That’s her, on the right, loving his attention.

Beverly’s happy

052117 happy girl

CCI pups do live the good life. In Beverly’s case, she had an excellent vacation when Steve and I were off on our recent travels. She stayed with two different veteran puppy-sitters and had lots of adventures with them. She reportedly made excellent progress in conquering her nervousness around sidewalk grates.

052117 grate progress

Since our return 12 days ago, we’ve settled back into our normal routines. One of Beverly’s favorites continues to be… napping! But she and I have also been to two puppy socials, and her old pal Kora has come to visit and romp.

One wrinkle is that Beverly STILL has not gone into heat. At the puppy social yesterday, however, I heard some confirmation that this is not unprecedented. One of the other girls at the party is 15 months and hasn’t had her first heat either. (Beverly’s only 13 and a half months.) Someone mentioned a CCI girl who didn’t go into heat until she was two. The range boggles my mind.

Tomorrow night we’ll attend Advanced puppy class for the first time. That should give me a bit more to report.