Being a serial puppy raiser has made me jaded. I remember being riveted when Tucker’s baby teeth started to fall out. I saved some from him and his successors; a small collection sits in the bottom of one of my jewelry boxes. But the thrill has faded. This morning, when Steve found this on the floor of our bedroom…
…I rolled my eyes. “Don’t you want to blog about it?” he asked. Not really, I thought.
I changed my mind because I think the transition to Big Dog Teeth is one worth noting. It’s been easy to overlook in Adagio because he’s been so good about NOT using his baby teeth as weapons. Many puppies do. Two or three months into life with some of our charges, my hands and arms have been covered with scratches and scabs. Adagio, in contrast, almost never nips. He chews his toys — a little — but he’s not obsessive about it.
The molar that Steve found today is the first one Adagio has shed and we have discovered. My guess is he swallows most of them. But a look inside his lips shows he’s already well into the transition:
Once the big ones have displaced the little teeth, it will take a while for Adagio’s head and body to grow enough to match them. That will slip up on us too, I’m sure, even though I’m trying to pay attention.
Being a serial puppy raiser provides constant reminders of just how much difference you often see between even close biological relatives. One dog (or puppy) is never exactly like another. Our last trainee, Beverly, who was Adagio’s half sister, always lay down before her food bowl and carefully chewed each morsel. But Adagio tears through every bowlful as if he has not eaten in weeks. He doesn’t chew anything; instead it looks like he’s inhaling the kibble and swallowing it whole. Meals are over in less than 30 seconds, as you see in the video I took of him having lunch today. (I’m not counting the postprandial search for any remaining molecules.)
If he eats like a newly released concentration-camp survivor, his reaction to being uncaged is at the other end of the spectrum. Never before have we lived with any dog who seemed less interested in getting out of its kennel — even after hours of confinement. Or even after he has been whining to get out, first thing in the morning. He just looks at us, cool and languid. Like this:
We’re dumfounded by this. Why doesn’t he spring to his feet, tail wagging, like almost all other puppies do?
Only this morning did I think of one possible explanation. Saturday I took Adagio to the puppy social at the home of Cyndy Carlton (who is raising Adagio’s littermate, Apple). We were jointly wondering which of the two is the elder. There’s an easy way to tell: CCI has a color-coding system for distinguishing litter mates. The first-born gets a red collar. Next is blue, then purple, and so on.
I looked up one of the photos that we received from Adagio and Apple’s puppy-raiser when they were still with her. Apple is wearing neon green. So she was the fourth born. Adagio was turquoise. That means he was eighth — out of the total of eight pups in the group. Which led me to my theory. He came out last, being born. Maybe he’s just developed the habit of hanging back.
Puppy-raising involves many milestones, but few surpass the four-month mark. Adagio reached it yesterday, and today he got his final puppy shots. He should henceforth be protected against rabies, parvo, and other ills that can take down dogs. He can begin venturing into stores, restaurants, movie theaters, and other places where merely ordinary dogs cannot venture.
His weight at the vets was just over 30 pounds, which means he’s almost 200% larger than he was when we got him two months ago.
Even more remarkable than his size is the change in his behavior. Our first few puppy classes were a nightmare of barking, whining, squirming, and general chaos. But in class last night, he made me proud. He trotted along nicely for our exercises outdoors on the leash. He waited at doorways. He came when, seated in a chair across the room, I called him.
He’s still not perfect; he still occasionally pees on the floor indoors and still is overly entranced by the taste of twigs and stones.
On my refrigerator, next to the list of Adagio’s “Toileting Errors” (which has had no additions for several days), I need a bold, red-lettered reminder: “Avoid feeling smug.”
It was with some smugness that I reflected just the other day on the huge change in Adagio’s sleeping ability since we got him. It’s been less than two months, and he has transformed from a frightened baby who had to be taken out for a potty break at least once in the middle of each night to a solid fellow who never wakes us up in the wee hours.
I had this thought Wednesday afternoon. Thursday morning about 3:30 a.m., the sound of Adagio vomiting was loud enough to penetrate my earplugs. I staggered over to his kennel, and my flashlight revealed a little pile of… something he had just regurgitated. Fortunately, we still keep a roll of paper towels on top of his kennel. I grabbed a few and found that I could easily pick up the whole pile of… whatever it was. I closed the kennel door, put the sodden wad on top of the kennel, and went back to sleep.
With the return of daylight, I got around to inspecting the contents of the wad. Here’s what it looked like after it dried:
Note that it includes several stones and an assortment of sticks and twigs, along with a bit of string. I knew exactly when he ate all this. We’ve had some workmen at the house for the past few days, so the back doors have been left open more than usual. At one point, I realized that I didn’t know where Adagio was. I found him down in the lower yard, nose to the ground. I hoped he hadn’t been grazing, but clearly that hope was in vain.
What fascinates me is that he was able to throw up the indigestible bits so selectively. No puppy chow came up with them, and he ate all his meals with gusto the following day. Was this ability evolved to enable wild dogs to survive even though their pups were dumb enough to eat sticks and stones? (Maybe that’s something to feel smug about.)
Steve and I have mixed feelings about dog beds. For old Tucker, whose joints clearly ache, we agree they are essential. Tucker has beds spread all over the house, and usually he prefers to be sprawled out on one of them.
Dog beds for puppies are another matter. Every time we’ve gotten one for any of our charges, they sooner or later wind up ripping it apart. This leads Steve to declare that no more puppies should have beds. But I think that’s unfair. My philosophy is that each dog should have a chance to prove he or she is better. More sensible.
So it was that I bought the bed below for Adagio at Target.
He adores it; spends more time than any previous puppy curled up in it, snoozing. Sometimes he drags it around and wrestles with it, but so far he has resisted harming it.
We’ve wondered how long he will continue to fit, but now we have our answer: maybe forever. We burst out laughing the other day when we walked into the sitting area and found this:
Tucker weighs almost 90 pounds. He couldn’t squeeze in his whole rear end, but he appeared to be trying. Rather than looking sheepish, he mulishly refused to move. We found him occupying it again yesterday, and I had to haul him off it.
Steve’s theory is that this is Tucker’s way of retaliating against Adagio for shamelessly moving into (and often taking over) Tucker’s beds. He thinks Tucker resents Adagio getting his smell all over Tucker’s space, and this is Tucker’s revenge.
I wonder if, instead, the takeover doesn’t express a Tuckerian desire to return to the womb… or at least return to the pampering we give to the puppies. Or does he just think it’s funny? (We do.)
We just had a new experience in our career as puppy-raisers: having two young litter-mates reunite for some extended time together. This happened because the other day Steve and I had an activity scheduled in the East County. We knew it would consume several hours, and we could not take Adagio along with us. So we asked Cyndy Carlton, who is raising Adagio’s litter-mate Apple, if we could drop him off at their house while we were otherwise engaged. She welcomed him, and we offered to take Apple home with us later that day, when we knew Cyndy would be in school. Normally Apple stays with someone else during those hours, but we figured this would give the other sitter a break.
Since they flew down from Northern California together in early January, Adagio and Apple have seen each other several times at the puppy socials that Cyndy hosts. But those gatherings last only about an hour and are attended by a canine mob. This extended time, one-on-one, was special. The two youngsters seemed mad with happiness to see each other. When Steve and I picked them up four and a half hours later, Cyndy reported that they had wrestled and romped non-stop. Do they recognize each other? I can’t imagine how we could ever know that. What’s overwhelming clear, though, is that they find each other irresistible.
Back at our house, I watched them interact; it was better than TV. Mostly they attacked and chewed on each other, but the ambushes and chases often turned slapstick. They sent each other sprawling in many comic variations.
Occasionally, one or the other would get too rough, provoking ear-piercing screams. When this happened, I checked for blood, but I never found any evidence of serious injury. A few times, they even played nicely.
Only on the second day did they mellow out enough to do some co-napping — mixed in with more playing. When Cyndy picked them up, she and I agreed that participating in a sleepover for three-and-a-half-month-old litter-mates is almost as much fun for the humans as the dogs.