Adagio’s not afraid of no ghosts

Our puppy may be afraid of his water bowl, but last Monday night Adagio was unfazed by more traditional scary stuff. We saw this on our outing with our puppy class instructor Kay Moore (who has a genius for coming up with alternatives to the traditional class meetings.) This time more than a dozen dogs and their handlers assembled at the Clairemont Square Shopping Center and followed Kay through venues such as Petco and Body Works that were filled with interesting smells. But our time in the Spirit Halloween store was the most diverting.

The store is full of lots of bizarre sights…

Aren’t brains supposed to be tasty? This one just smells like my squeaky toy.
Who knew there were so many breeds?

But the only fixture in the place that routinely made almost everyone (puppies and humans) jump was a seemingly ordinary doghouse. When you stepped on the mat in front of it, a demonic animatronic beast with glowing red eyes lunged out, snarling.

This surprised most of the pups, but to their credit, none of them barked or lunged. Most just stared, then strolled away.

The worst moment of the night for Adagio came when we were returning to our cars in the dark. I ordered him Up on a metal bench, and he got his paw caught in the grillwork. That made him scream, but it didn’t appear to do any physical damage.

We won’t see his reaction to his first real Halloween. Steve and I have just embarked on a huge travel adventure that will take us away for more than two months. I’ll be reporting on that in my travel blog, but Adagio will be having his own adventure. Several experienced puppsitters and raisers will be hosting him serially. He’ll have a much better time with them than he would with us in India and Sri Lanka.

(Although I wrote this post on my way to LAX last Wednesday, technical difficulties prevented me from posting it until just now.)

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Weirdophobia

Fear periods are something we’ve heard about a lot throughout our years of raising puppies for CCI. According to my Puppy Raiser Manual, one such period occurs when pups are between 8 and 11 weeks old. Then a second kicks in between 6 to 14 months. “Corresponds with growth spurts,” my manual reads.  “May be frightened of new things or even known things.” Aside from the fear of stairs with open treads — which have terrified several of our pups — no previous puppy of ours has suddenly become afraid of something. But once again, Adagio is breaking new ground. Two entities currently frighten him:

The Dog of Death. This one is somewhat understandable. At least we know its genesis. Our walk to the neighborhood coffeehouse often takes us past a house where, months ago, a dog would usually spring to its feet at our approach and bark ferociously at Adagio through the wooden fence. It made even Steve and me jump a couple of times. It startled Adagio, and he put his ears back, but we always quickly moved on past the house.

One day, the house seemed empty. The dog appeared to be gone. Yet at some point — weeks later — Adagio began acting afraid at our very approach to the house. He whimpered. We pointed out to him that this was silly. The scary dog was nowhere to be seen. But over time, Adagio’s reactions grew more and more extreme. He began to scream and yelp and cry as we approached the fence. Here’s a glimpse of what it looks like:

One day we realized there was indeed a dog in the yard, where new owners seemed to have moved in and begun a backyard renovation project. When we turned and walked up the alley that runs behind the house, we could even see this dog, a friendly soul who wagged its tail and never so much as emitted a snarl, let alone any menacing barks. One day, when Adagio was squealing in terror as we passed the house, we even met the dog’s owner, who told us its name is Rile. (I’m not sure that’s how it’s spelled.)

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Strangely, when Adagio has come face to face with Rile, he calms down or acts like he wants to play.

To this day, Adagio continues to make a spectacle of himself every time we walk anywhere near the house. Steve and I should probably just avoid it. My manual says, “Don’t force dogs into fearful situations. Ignore the scary thing so dog won’t be afraid. ” But it seems so ridiculous for him to be terrified of the Dog of Death, as we have come to think of poor Rile. We keep walking by ever so often to see if Adagio has finally come to his senses.

In the meantime, last week he began to act afraid of…

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The Bowl of Terror. The bowl in question is his water bowl — i.e. the large metal bowl from which he and Tucker both have been drinking for all of Adagio’s life. We keep it on the patio and typically fill it with water a couple of times a day.

When walking back to the house from the lower yard (where we typically go for his toileting breaks), I realized one recent day that Adagio was veering over to the outdoor fireplace. It took me a while to realize he was doing that to avoid walking close to the water bowl. I could scarcely believe this. It’s such an innocuous fixture. It’s given him so much pleasure — quenching his thirst! — over the course of his short life. Moreover it’s his only source of water. He’s never been one to drink from toilet bowls or the pool.

But afraid he clearly is. Happily, we’ve observed that when he gets thirsty enough, he walks right up to it and drinks. Once sated, he bolts away.

What can I say? He’s a weirdophobe.

I also comfort myself with the thought that he completely got over the fear of open-tread stairs. Now he ambles up them without a second thought. We can hope he’ll also make his peace with both Rile and the Bowl of Terror.