Eating 101

IMG_6133.jpegWe gave Dilly the last dose of his anti-giardia medication yesterday. By all appearances, it seems to be working. We haven’t seen a sign of anything like diarrhea for the past week, though we’ll have him retested in about 10 days to confirm that the nasty parasites are truly gone.

With no diarrhea to wake him, he has slept through several nights. He woke us at 3 a.m. Saturday night, however, with an urgent need to pee, so we think this particular unpleasant aspect of puppy-raising is not completely over. Still we’re hopeful the end of it is near.

Now our attention has shifted to getting this guy to eat. For folks like Steve and me, who’ve raised eleven Labrador retrievers (purebred and crosses), this is an almost unimaginable problem. Labs, even tiny ones, don’t eat so much as they inhale their food, racing to get it into their stomachs as fast as possible, then instantly looking around for whatever else they might snack on. But golden retrievers can be pickier.

For our first week or so together, Dilly would calmly munch his way through a fraction of a cup of dog food… then stroll away. Both the CCI vet who examined him right before he flew to San Diego and our own vet have decreed that he’s a bit underweight. “See how you can feel his bones,” our vet said, probing behind all the hair that makes him look more like a lamb than a puppy.

Happily, he has begun to seem much more interested in food, greeting most meals with this sort of enthusiasm:

IMG_6093 from Jeannette De Wyze on Vimeo.

He’s now consuming almost three cups of puppy chow daily — our target.

Because he was so restrained about eating, we haven’t done what we normally do with our CCI puppy trainees, namely putting their halters on them when we feed them. If you’re a Labrador retriever who thinks eating is the most joyous experience in life, then eating with the halter on should make you associate halters with good times. At least that’s the theory, and Steve and I have had good luck using that ploy to break through the resistance that many dogs initially have toward wearing a halter.

Now that Dilly has gotten more enthusiastic about eating, we finally steeled ourselves to add the halter. Steve put it on…IMG_6125.jpeg…and Dilly looked a little stunned. But he didn’t instantly try to claw it off. In fact, he ate all his kibble before he seemed to realize that something annoying was wrapped around his muzzle.

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Note the wagging tail!

Since then, we’ve dressed him in the halter for several meals, and it’s gone about as well as we could hope. The next step will be to try walking him around the block with it on.

Stay tuned.

Parasites invade Dilly!

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Illustration of the giardia parasite

Our sweet, fluffy blonde puppy has been invaded by tiny monsters. We found this out because our excellent vet, Dr. Kevin Scoggin, had a hunch Dilly’s fecal analysis should be repeated. (The one he had Saturday had come back negative.) I was skeptical, but Steve dutifully took in another stool sample yesterday morning. Bingo! This time, the more experienced technician who did the analysis found swarms of live creatures swimming on the slide.

So this, it appears, is the definitive answer for why Dilly had diarrhea, an affliction that made it necessary to take him outdoors to relieve himself several times a night. The diarrhea has improved, but the fecal analysis shows he still needs treatment for the active giardia infestation, according to our veterinary team. Giardia (which infects people too, mainly when they drink from streams contaminated by cattle feces) is a fairly common canine ailment, and an exasperatingly difficult one to deal with. You get rid of it in the victim by feeding them vermicides that kill the parasites without harming the host. This morning, we gave Dilly his first dose of Panacur, a powdery concoction that should clean up his gut within a few weeks. (We’ll have to repeat it for five more days, then have him rechecked later in the month.)

But besides living in Dilly’s gut, there is giardia in our environment now, we can be sure. We haven’t yet read the lengthy handout that came with the medicine, and frankly, I’m dreading the complex instructions for cleaning up Dilly’s fur, his bedding, the yard. It promises to be a lot of work.

Though I’m not happy my pup has been infected, it’s nonetheless great to get an explanation for what’s been wrong with him — and the hope that it will soon resolve. Dilly weighed more than 14 pounds at the vet’s yesterday. That means he’s gained about three pounds in the two weeks we’ve had him. With restored gut health, I’m optimistic he’ll soon be sleeping soundly every night. After my report about his first unbroken night’s sleep (Saturday), he did wake up at 4 am Sunday night. But last night he slept for 8 hours straight. That’s what I call normal, something that will be wonderful to have routinely back in our lives.

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Too bad Dilly can’t just attack those parasites with his sharp little puppy teeth. He’s so good at that.

 

A breakthrough?

Steve says I shouldn’t write this; that it’s too soon to say anything, lest we anger the Puppy-raising Gods. But I can’t help it: last night Dilly went through the whole night without awakening us!

Granted, it was not a super long night. We turned out the lights a few minutes after 10 pm. Sometime early in the morning, I woke up and couldn’t resist peeking at the clock. It was 4 am — far longer than this puppy had ever slept before. And still he didn’t stir. I miraculously went back to sleep and woke again around 5:10. Dilly slept on.

Steve was stirring next to me, and I could tell he was also awake. I had a fairly strong urge to pee, and I suspected Steve did too. But neither of us adult humans spoke or moved, lest we wake the baby canine and make him aware of his own full bladder. After 10 or 15 minutes, I couldn’t stand it and crept to the bathroom. Steve followed after I was finished. STILL Dilly slept on.

Only about 5:40 did he begin to whimper, at which point Steve, wide awake, sprung to take him out. “He peed a gallon,” he reported upon their return. “But NO poop.” Then he put Dilly back in his kennel (which is inches away from my side of the bed), and — another miracle! — silence returned for another 10 minutes or so.

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He’s a limber little fellow.

Now, in mid-afternoon, Dilly has produced three normal stools so far. This is enough to make me think we have beaten the diarrhea devils, through the combination of feeding him six times a day (but only a quarter cup of kibble each time), giving him supplementary Pro-Pectin and powdered pumpkin, and adding a tablespoon of low-fat cottage cheese to each feeding. Our vet’s assistant suggested the latter. We talked to her when we were dropping off a stool sample yesterday morning. The test cost $45 and came back normal. I have often found when we get desperate enough about some puppy digestive problem to pay for a stool analysis, it invariably comes back normal and the problem almost immediately disappears. So my second hypothesis is that paying the vet something somehow appeases the Puppy-raising Gods; they then cut you some slack.

Yet a third possibility was raised by Dilly’s mom’s breeder-caretaker, who told me his half-sister Zari had an allergic reaction to the anti-flea medication she was given. (Dilly developed his problem almost immediately after taking the same pill.)

I don’t know, nor do I care, which explanation is right. I just hope his gut stays happy. Even if he does wake up a few more times in the middle of the night, he’s given me hope we may all be sleeping better soon.

 

First lessons

IMG_6066.jpegThis is a time of focused education for Dilly and Steve and me. Here are some of the most important things we’ve learned so far.

DILLY:

I have no idea where my brothers and sister have gone. Or mom. But I seem to have acquired two human pack members. They seem a bit developmentally disabled. When I try to gnaw on them, they yelp and pull away, which is no fun at all as my littermates could tell them. But I can tell they like me, and I’m crazy about them, too, for reasons I can’t explain. It just feels natural.

I’ve come to understand that when they pick me up, take me outside, and say, “Hurry!” they want me to squat and pee. When I do that, they praise me lavishly. Oddly, when I look for a discreet place to do this indoors, they snatch me up and run outside. It seems to distress them when they fail to reach me before I start to relieve myself. Also, they often continue to say, “Hurry!” after I’ve peed outside, as if they want something else from me. I have found this confusing.

When they say, “Dilly! Dilly!  in a high, excited voice and I run to them, this seems to make them very happy. And that makes me happy too. IMG_6082.jpeg

Finally, when they put me in that box at night, I’ve learned no matter what noises I make or how loudly I make them, it doesn’t work as I’ve intended; they don’t release me to cuddle or play. This really upset me the first night or two, but I’m concluding this is their routine. And if I can hear them and smell them near me, I don’t feel panicky any more. I’ve got a new strategy: curl up in the box and sleep if my human pack members seem to be sleeping nearby (at least until I realize that I really, really need to be taken outside so that I can Hurry there.)

STEVE AND ME:

We’ve learned that diarrhea is very common in puppies up to 16 weeks old. We learned this by reading our CCI Puppy Manual after Dilly’s diarrheal attacks were forcing us out of bed and outside into the cold several times the first nights. Seeking guidance, we turned to the manual (which we hadn’t read because we thought we knew it all, Dilly being our 9th CCI puppy). There we found two and a half single-spaced pages of advice about Managing Puppy Diarrhea.

“Small puppies have developing digestive systems that can be overwhelmed with too much food at one time,” the manual advises. So we’ve begun feeding Dilly six meals a day, giving him only a quarter cup of kibble per meal. He seems happy and excited every time we present him with such a bowl (even if he only had the last one about two hours earlier.) But he eats like Beverly (two puppies ago), laying down and chewing each piece thoughtfully.IMG_6055.jpeg More often than not, he walks away from the bowl when there is still a sprinkling of kibble left in it. IMG_6063.jpegHe appears to grow bored with eating and hungry instead for petting (which he appears to find just as pleasurable as eating.)

We’ve also been giving him CCI-recommended tablets (Pro-Pectalin) that are a combination of probiotics, pectin, and clay (kaolin). And after hearing strong recommendations from some other seasoned puppy-raisers, we’ve ordered powdered pumpkin to sprinkle on his food.

It’s hard to tell if all this treatment is having any effect. Some of what Dilly is now excreting is semi-solid (rather than liquid), and yesterday, he excreted it more regularly during the day (instead of only at night.) He’s been peeing and pooping (outdoors and on command) just before bed, once in the middle of the night, and once as soon as he begins to hear us stir, before dawn.

And once again, I am startled and amused to be spending so much time thinking about  and spending money to influence the digestive tract of a single small animal. Just a few weeks ago, Steve and I were avidly discussing politics, philosophy, literature. Now all we seem to talk about is Dilly’s toileting habits.

From experience, I know this will end and fairly soon. It only feels like we are trapped in Toilet Mode forever.

 

Getting to know you (Dilly)

This is the tough time, when we’re adjusting not just to life with a dog once more, but more challenging: trying to sense what kind of dog this little guy will be.

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NOT a dog who would chew on shoes carelessly left within his strike zone, right?

In the past, I have referred to these days and weeks (and occasionally months) as Puppy Hell. It’s when we CCI puppy raisers earn the big bucks they pay us (ha ha.) Getting up in the middle of the night in response to screams that are likely to signal an urgent need to toilet. Cleaning up puppy diarrhea. Turning the house into a series of barricaded control zones. Being on guard every single minute the pup is not sleeping, to identify what kind of trouble he or she might be instigating.

With Dilly, we’ve been at this for only two days, so it’s far, far too early to draw any reliable conclusions about his character. But we’ve made a number of observations.

— He continues to wag his tail more than any other dog we’ve ever had, and he’s doing it at a much younger age. He wags his tail when he’s eating. When he’s walking across a room.  He wags it wildly when he catches sight of one of us and runs to be petted.

— Despite appearing to be somewhat hyperactive when we got him (Wednesday, Nov 20), he’s been napping a lot. And as we learned with Adagio, a sleepy puppy is a wonderful puppy!

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He sleeps on hard surfaces….
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…soft ones…
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…and anything in between.

— He’s no chow hound, at least not yet. He seems delighted when we present him with a half-cup of kibble morning, noon, and around 5:30 pm. He dives into it but he hasn’t yet eaten the whole allotment. That’s probably just because he’s still so small. Our fingers are crossed that he will develop more of an appetite, since pups who love food treats are easily rewarded.

— On the other hand, he seems to love being praised. That can work as well as food.

— We’ve taken him for a few short walks near our house, and he follows along with us better than any other puppy ever has at this age. He seems to pay close attention to us. We love that.

Of course, house training him and getting him to sleep through the night are not just works in progress, they are work that has barely begun. Still, we feel we’re off to an excellent start.

Our new puppy! And his predecessor!

What a red-letter day this is! We picked up our new puppy at the airport this morning. And on the drive back to our house, we received the latest report on how Adagio is going.

First the newbie: His name is…. Dilly!IMG_6034.jpeg

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Dilly’s dad

Though the DNA analysis may not yet be complete, it couldn’t be more obvious that this guy is all golden retriever, the son of Bear. We also got the report of the physical exam Dilly was given yesterday (up at CCI hq in Santa Rosa). The vet found him to be “slightly thin but otherwise healthy.” He doesn’t look thin, but all that hair is deceptive. He weighed only 10 pounds, 11 ounces, which places him among our lightest canine recipients. (Several have weighed as much as 15-16 pounds.) His slenderness may have something to do with his appetite. He didn’t finish even a half-cup of dog food at lunch time. But I figure it also may be that he’s burning up so much energy wagging his tail. He does this almost constantly.

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Our good friends, photographer/documentarians Bob Schneider, Howie Rosen, and Alberto Lau, were on hand to record Dilly’s arrival. 

From the moment he arrived, Dilly appeared to be a whirlwind of activity, racing from one side of our patio to the other while exploring it. Only a few minutes ago did he finally crash (which is why I have these precious moments to put together this report.) Even though he’s barely been in the house for two hours, it’s pretty clear we’ll be living with a pretty different sort of fellow from his sleepy, affable predecessor, Mr. Adagio.

And speaking of Adagio, we were surprised as we were driving back from the airport to receive another professional training report for him. We got the first one at the end of September, and a second one came in October, when Steve and I were traveling in New Zealand. Like the second report, I would categorize this one as a pretty solid B. His instructor reports that he’s barking less and showing less prey drive, but still occasionally does some barking and mounting. It sounds like he’s doing pretty well learning the advanced behaviors, like working around a wheelchair.

At least he’s now made it to the second semester of training — lasting significantly longer than any of our previous dogs except for Brando (who graduated and went on to a happy career). We have no clue as to whether Adagio will make it all the way. But we’re proud of him for getting as far as he has.

And we particularly miss him now!  He could give a certainly little ball of fur some lessons in napping. (Dilly slept for barely 20 minutes and is now up and exploring again.)