Hero worship

People often ask me how Tucker is tolerating Adagio. I am pleased to report that yet again, even as a nonagenarian, Tucker seems not just resigned to the little guy but almost fond of him. He wags his tail when Adagio returns from some outing. He allows Adagio to snuggle up and nap next to him on his dog bed. To our astonishment, Tucker even initiates play from time to time.

They’ve had a couple of lively tug of war sessions recently. 

Adagio, for his part, seems sensitive to Tucker’s rules. After being reprimanded harshly (by Tucker) once or twice, he has learned NEVER to try and horn in on any dish Tucker is    eating from. He even waits, politely, while Tucker drinks from their water bowl (although I’m all but certain Tuck would willingly share consumption from it).IMG_1625.jpg

As far as Steve and I are concerned, the grossest thing about life with Tucker is the way he drools. He has long been prone to this, but it has become markedly worse as he’s moved into his dotage. It’s not uncommon for twin fangs of saliva to swing from his jowls. Don’t ask me why. It doesn’t have to be mealtime. Whenever we see it, we invariably grab a paper towel and clean him up, lest one of the slimy ribbons wind up on one of us. It’s disgusting.

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A minor example.

Also disgusting was the habit that Beverly developed for cleaning Tucker up. For reasons that defy comprehension, she came to routinely lick up the drool, whenever she noticed that it needed attending. This grossed us out but, perversely, served our interest (by sparing us the clean-up chores.)

And now Adagio is following in her footsteps!


Does the Tucker drool taste good to puppies? Is it thirst-quenching? Surely that’s unimaginable. My best guess is that it’s some twisted doggy sign of subservience and fealty. “Allow me to tidy you up, master.” Tucker permits such ministrations with the equanimity of a lord being attended by his manservant.

Meanwhile, in the two-steps-back-for-every-one-step-forward department,

— We have stowed away the exercise pen that we used at first to confine Adagio in my office. It now feels unnecessary.

— We have put the puppy carriage back into storage in our garage. Although Adagio rode in it for a few minutes yesterday, he walked beautifully for most of our three-plus-mile long Sunday walk. We’re confident he will be able to make it completely on his own by next week.

He almost never flings himself on the ground, trying to remove his halter. Most of the time he trots along in perfect position at our side.

— The backward step relates to my sheet labeled “Toileting Errors” on the refrigerator. It was empty all week long, but now it has two entries, added yesterday afternoon. Steve and I consider both to be instances of operator error; in each case, we forgot to take Adagio out to pee (and he failed to make his need known.) If only Tucker could read his mind for us.




The bright side of Puppy Hell

The bright side of Puppy Hell is that it’s so fast-changing. If some days are particularly trying, nothing lasts for very long. A year from now, when Adagio is a staid 15-month-old, I’ll be struggling to find anything to write about. Now something new develops almost daily.

Here are some of the turns that Life with Adagio has taken:

— He got his third set of puppy shots yesterday. That leaves only one more round (in three weeks) before he will be fully immunized. The weigh-in at the vet’s revealed that he now weighs almost 25 pounds, more than double what he was when we got him six weeks ago.

— All his gut troubles have disappeared. He’s been sleeping reliably every night until 5:30 or 6:30 a.m. And I’m not sure when he last had any accident in the house. I posted a log IMG_1615.JPGon the refrigerator Sunday, but we haven’t had to make any entries since then. That’s how it is with toilet-training; one day you realize you’ve sort of…done it! (Though many more weeks (or months) will pass before we will feel he is truly 100% trustworthy.)

— We’ve been extending our little walks with him. This morning for the first time, we ventured all the way to my coffee shop without the stroller. We’ll still take it along a few more times as an emergency puppy-transport vehicle in case he flags during our longer Sunday-morning rambles. But soon we’ll be stowing it away in the garage.

— Adagio now understand what it means to Sit and go Down. Much more charming is his robust response to the command Speak. Here’s what that looks like:

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His half-sister Beverly never Spoke. We sensed that she felt it was too presumptuous. Adagio is more assertive, and yet, like Beverly, he also naps away a big chunk of every day.

Another charming thing: Adagio is the first puppy we’ve ever had who seems entranced by the tooth-brushing process. He’s fascinated when Steve brushes Tucker, and he observes the procedure closely:


He’s more than happy to cradle with Steve and chew on the brush in his own mouth:


He’s still very little and has a lot to learn. But Puppy Hell with a sleepy, speaking puppy with pleasant breath isn’t that hellish.



IMG_1610.JPGI’m not sure Adagio is quite as sleepy a puppy as his half-sister Beverly was. But he naps a LOT. This makes life with him pretty easy.

Normally he sleeps through the night and wakes somewhere between 5:30 and 6:30 am. He eats breakfast and enjoys a burst of activity then, racing around the house and/or yard, barking at Tucker, playing with various toys. We’ve started to take him on longer walks close to home; this morning we made it all the way to the coffee shop and back on foot, with no time in the stroller; he’s doing better and better on the leash. Then around 9 or 9:30, he starts to sag and he’s ready for a long morning nap. He wakes up around noon for a little lunchtime break, and then he usually will settle down for more… sleeping!

His MOST favorite place to sleep is plastered up against Tucker, who has already come to tolerate this pretty well.


Otherwise, he seems to enjoy sprawling in a number of weird positions. Like this:


Or this:


Even after he wakes up, when we open the kennel or the exercise pen and invite him out, he often just sits there, imperious, unmoving. We have to reach in and yank him out. IMG_1608.jpg

We haven’t conclusively exited from Puppy Hell yet. (We’re still working to communicate with one another about when he needs to go out and pee.) But life already feels much easier than it was five and a half weeks ago. (“Five weeks?!” Steve exclaimed this morning. “Haven’t it been five months?”)

No. It’s only been a five and a half weeks.


A better pup

Our collecting Adagio’s poop sample yesterday, driving it over to the vet’s, and paying $45 for the analysis apparently propitiated the puppy gods! This morning we got the call that the lab found nothing amiss in the sample. And better still: Adagio was the model of good puppy health all day yesterday.

In the evening, he performed much better in puppy class, with less barking and yowling. Back at home, he crashed, sleeping not only the rest of the evening, but straight through from 10 pm to a little after 6 am, when I woke him. His kennel was dry, and out in the back yard, all the solid waste production was very solid indeed. This has continued today.

Steve has another theory about what worked (an alternative to the placating-the-gods theory). We followed CCI’s online advice for puppy diarrhea and cut Adagio back to just 3/4 cup of puppy chow three times a day. He also gets a fair number of treat bits (as part of his current training regime), and Steve speculates that maybe before the cutback it was just too much food for his little system to handle.

One thing that’s clear: he’s a very hungry little puppy now, one who now gobbles down his food without trying to paw off the halter (which we’re still putting on during meals, to build an association between it and something wonderful, i.e. food). Despite this (temporary) cutback in the chow, he’s still growing at an impressive pace.

The first photo below shows what he looked like two days after we got him last month, when he was 2 months old. I took the second one yesterday, on his 3-month birthday.


It’s a pretty remarkable transformation!

Sick(ish) puppy

Although Adagio has his sleepy moments, he’s still playful and hungry.

I hate sick puppies. My dismay and anguish aren’t directed at the puppies. It’s not their fault, of course. But confronted with a baby animal that is in some obvious distress, I almost feel worse than when one of my human family is ailing. We have words to describe what’s wrong and guide us on the path back to wellness. A sick puppy can’t explain — or understand — what’s going on.

For the last six days, Adagio has been sick…ish. The trouble started last Tuesday morning, when we awoke to find evidence that he had vomited, sort of, in his kennel. We found no regurgitated solids, but rather what looked like lots of saliva. We tried to ignore this and fed him normally throughout the day, but the hour after dinner was nightmarish. He wasn’t vomiting or having diarrhea, but he must have peed 5 or 6 times within an hour — not the teaspoonish quantities that would hint at a urinary tract disease, but rather copious amounts every 10 minutes or so. Steve insisted this was payback from the puppy gods for my having blogged last Monday about how well the house-training was going.

Later that night Adagio woke us up crying a couple of times, and each time we took him out, he urgently evacuated more of the contents of his guts — not diarrhea, but something very close to it. In the morning, I called the vet to inquire about bringing in a stool sample. But the guts seemed to return to normal as the day wore on.

Adagio and his sister Apple, beating up on 5-month-old Kyla at the puppy social. He ran non-stop for a full hour.

Another puppy-raiser loaned us some of the Pro-Pectalin (the probiotics/pectin/kaolin pills that CCI is now recommending for pups with loose stools). Things continued to improve, and he played with ferocious abandon at the Saturday-morning puppy social. Then Saturday night he woke up at 1:30 a.m. crying in a kennel awash with urine and soft feces. While I cleaned up the kennel, Steve took him outside where he had real diarrhea. We put him back to bed, but he awoke again at 3.  Then again at 4:30. And again at 5:30. At least I think those were the times; we were beyond groggy, stuck in a canine excremental nightmare.

It’s been up and down since then. One thing that has comforted us is how normally Adagio has been acting. He’s playful and energetic, and he’s eating with gusto. (Following standard instructions from CCI, we also cut back on his rations, but he just seems hungrier.) To limit the strain on both of us, I did something last night I’ve never done with any other puppy: slept in our first-floor guest room with Adagio in his kennel there, so Steve could get a decent night’s sleep up on the second floor. My night wasn’t too bad, though puppy squeaks did awaken me at 11:15. Outside, he had another small but unquestioned bout of diarrhea. Then he slept soundly until 5:45 am, when the sound of puppy vomiting noises awakened me. Nothing emerged from the regurgitory sound track, however, and he’s been eating and acting fine ever since.

I did manage to collect a (very normal-looking) stool sample early this morning, and I dropped it off at the vet’s at 7:30. They say we’ll have the results of the lab analysis tomorrow. This cost only $45, but Steve thinks the offering may be sufficient to placate the puppy gods, and that Adagio will now recover completely. I hope so.



Pee is for Progress

Adagio was a very good boy up in Julian.

I struggle to pick the best phrase for that oh-so-important task of all new puppy-raisers. In my youth, we called it “house-breaking,” but that sounds retro, if not downright violent. “Potty-training” seems coy; “toileting instruction” too stuffy. Whatever you call it, we’re making progress at it with Adagio.

I think he pooped indoors maybe twice in his first days with us. (He arrived four weeks ago this coming Wednesday). But he never does now, and yesterday, for the very first time, neither one of us found any puddles in the house. That’s not to say we won’t see any more ever. We only have to let down our guard and fail to take him out immediately after he wakes up. Or too long since the last outing. He still doesn’t know how to alert us of a sudden urgent need to relieve himself. But we can all but see his little mind working; he’s beginning to understand that there are rules.

We felt particularly exultant this past weekend when we drove to Julian (in the local mountains) for an annual gathering in a cabin owned by some friends. They are generous about inviting our CCI trainees. Tucker came when he was less than one year old, and he has come every year since for the past dozen years. (He gave us our worst experience ever as puppy-raisers there in 2012). Julian is one of Tucker’s favorite places on the planet.

This could well be Tuck’s last visit to Julian. He was thrilled to return. (Photo by Christy Zatkin)

Our friends’ house is beautiful, but frighteningly, off-white carpet covers the floor of the main room where we congregate. To forestall it being sullied by Adagio, Steve and I brought a big blue tarp with us, along with a portable pen in which we confined him. We also took him outside frequently for toileting breaks.

Photo by Christy Zatkin
Photo by Christy Zatkin

It worked. He never even had any accidents on the tarp.

As another tactic, I bought him a new puppy bed. Every time we’ve had one of these before, our pups have ended up shredding them. But I have argued that everyone deserves a fresh chance; we shouldn’t assume that the sins of puppy predecessors will be repeated every single time.

Adagio certainly seems to like the bed. But mostly, he has enjoyed wrestling with it and dragging it around, like this:

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Maybe the bed will not be long for this world. But maybe at least it won’t be peed on.

Puppy… purgatory?

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Adagio (forefront) and his sister, Apple

As I have noted in this blog before, Steve and I have come to think of the first two months with any new puppy as Puppy Hell. That’s when the hardest work of puppy-raising takes place. With Adagio, however, or maybe with our increasing store of CCI puppy-raising experience (he’s our eighth), it feels more like mere purgatory.

Most of the time he now sleeps through the night. He’s growing at an astounding rate. Yesterday I took him in for his second (of 4) set of puppy shots, and he weighed 19.8 pounds — almost 8 pounds more than when we got him three weeks ago.

We’ve begun taking him for micro-walks, just around our block, and he seems to adore that. Even though he still despises his halter, he likes being out so much that half the time he forgets he’s wearing it. He still accidentally pees in the house, though it’s no longer several times daily. And although he turns into a hellion when he plays with other young dogs…

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…as when visiting his sister Apple Sunday afternoon….

…he soon transitions into a calmer state.


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I think they call this posture a sploot.
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He adores cozying up to Tucker, when he can get away with it.
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But when not, he finds something else to cuddle with.

I have to confess that once again, Steve and I were completely mortified (and exhausted) at puppy class Monday night. Once again, Adagio disrupted the proceedings by barking and shrieking. He had a wild look in his eyes, like a three-year-old kid on a sugar rampage at a birthday party. It was so bad our teacher suggested he stay in the classroom with us alone when she and all the other young students and their human caretakers did some exercises outdoors.

Later, I looked up my blog post about how Beverly (Adagio’s half-sister) behaved at her first class (back in the summer of 2016). She “barked once or twice, but for the most part she watched the proceedings and cradled calmly,” I wrote then. At first this reminder of  Beverly perfection dismayed me. But then I did the calculations and realized Beverly was more than four weeks older, at that point.

So we’re cutting Adagio some slack. We think he’ll shape up. Even now, a spell in purgatory with him doesn’t feel that tortuous.