How Dilly spent his summer vacation

It’s hard to believe but last summer Dilly wasn’t alive yet. For half of it, he wasn’t even a twinkle in his mother’s uterus. He’s only been living with Steve and me for 8 months, but he’s such a big presence, it feels like he’s been with us for ages.

Had the coronavirus not followed him into the world, we would have missed several weeks of his puppyhood when we traveled to Europe in May. But like so many people’s plans, that trip was canceled. Instead we cobbled together a more pandemic-friendly adventure: a California road odyssey for which Dilly was our game fellow-traveler.

Packing our van with 3 weeks worth of dog provisions reminded us of when we took our oldest son on the road as a toddler. Instead of diapers and child seats and snacks and toddler toys, we had bags of dog food, Dilly’s bed, bowls and brushes and balls and more.

Along with all our gear, it barely fit.

We hit the road July 3. Over the next 21 days, Dilly got to hike in many awesome landscapes: in meadows and mountain trails at Mammoth and Lake Tahoe:

On the Jeep trails that laced through the 75-acre ranch we stayed on in the far reaches of the Sacramento River Valley. We traded our house to stay in that place.

At the foot of volcanic Mt. Lassen.

He got to sniff the needles of the oldest trees on Earth…

Bristlecone pines

… and some of the tallest…

Old-growth redwoods

He met exotic wildlife.

Felina, our son’s family’s feisty Corgi
Madonna, one of the resident horses on the ranch
A fat resident cat at our cabin in the redwoods

The most interesting rug Dilly has ever stretched out on
A touristic bear

He discovered that the world can feel and smell very different from the way it does in San Diego.

Snow on Mt. Lassen
Waterfalls near Mt. Shasta. The air somehow tasted like water!
The headwaters of the Sacramento River tasted like water!
Not far away, the river gets big.
Who knew there was this much fresh water in the world? This was in a canyon whose walls are lined with ferns.

Probably the funnest place was the enormous yard in back of the ranch house. Dilly got to run around in it, off-leash, at 90 miles an hour. He NEVER gets to do that at home.

Most of the time, he brought us daily pleasure. Countless folks admired him, and he reciprocated with love for one and all.

But he wasn’t wild about all the time on the road. For most of the more than 3000 miles we covered, he rode in his kennel, but he often didn’t sleep. We speculated that the twisty blue highways made him uncomfortable. Or maybe he was too warm back there.

For a while, he went out strike, refusing to jump up in his kennel as ordered. Then we had to muscle him in.

A few times I took pity on him and let him sleep at my feet up front.

Then he slept. Sitting up.

He seemed to enjoy everything else about traveling, though. We sensed that what he loved most was getting to spend more time than usual being paid attention to by us.

Adagio meets a baby and goes on his first road trip

Sometimes I don’t blog as often as I want because not much is happening. Adagio is growing and learning things, but the changes are barely noticeable. Sometimes, however, we hit a patch where too much is going on, and time for writing is scarce.

We’ve been in one of the latter patches for the past two weeks. First we were happy to welcome my nephew John from Chicago, who arrived for a four-day visit with his wife Lydia and their 15-month-old daughter, Emery. Emery has met several dogs in the course of her short life, but at first she seemed a bit intimidated by our two hulking canines. She’s a happy, determined little toddler, but the emphasis is on little — she’s less than 18 pounds. Together, Tuck and Adagio weigh more than 8 times as much.

Uh… could someone please make them sit or something?

They thought she was fascinating, and in their excitement sent her plopping down onto her diapered bottom a few times. But they never made her cry, and Adagio and Emery soon shifted into viewing each other with calm curiosity.

IMG_3105.jpgIt was hard to tell for sure what either side was thinking…IMG_3106.jpg…although Adagio clearly decided she smelled intriguing.DSC00389.jpg

Tucker has long adored little kids, so although he’s more than 95 in dog years, he looked happy every minute he was in Emery’s presence…DSC00385.jpg…and she was soon responding with hugs.DSC00392.jpgBy the end of the four days, Adagio also seemed content to let Emery treat him like a king-sized stuffed animal.IMG_3113.jpgIMG_3125.jpg

Our entire pack was sad to see them go. But Steve and I had to scramble to ready the house for termite fumigation (a huge disruption that we had not undergone for 20+ years.) We timed the tenting with a trip to San Jose for a convention, to which we planned to drive. 20180816_174103_1534469543044.jpgTucker is too ancient to accompany us on such an adventure; he stayed with friends. But we wanted to road-test Adagio, who reached his 9-month birthday during Emery’s visit.

We planned to drive up the coast on Highway 1, something else we had not done for decades. Steve and I had tried to take that route last October, when we drove up to Steve’s high school reunion in the Bay Area. Beverly (Adagio’s half-sister, and our last CCI puppy) came along with us on that trip. But a huge landslide had closed Highway 1, forcing us to use another road.

IMG_3141.jpgThe news that Highway 1 had at last reopened at the end of July delighted us. This time we traveled north on it. Steve and I loved both the drive and the convention, but Adagio clearly found it vastly inferior to hanging out with Emery. He experienced a few brief interludes of ecstasy, like the walk we took on the deserted beach in San Simeon. We slipped off his halter and let him briefly experience the beach, unfettered, for the first time in his life. It drove him wild with excitement and he zoomed around at top speed over the sand for about two minutes, then returned to us, docile and content.DSC00462.jpg

He also got to walk along a foggy clifftop…IMG_3155.jpg…and check out Nepenthe, a legendary Big Sur restaurant and bar that Steve had visited as a child.

Adagio found the kids much more interesting than the drinks menu.

At the convention, he mostly had to curl up and be quiet on the convention hall floor and in panel-discussion rooms and under restaurant tables, for hours on end. IMG_3169.jpg

IMG_3173.jpgHe didn’t love that, but he did it remarkably well. We returned home feeling optimistic about his future. He returned home overjoyed to see his buddy Tucker again.IMG_3006.jpg




All legs

Steve and I departed for our adventure in the Amazon on Adagio’s 6-month birthday (May 12). We got home June 5, a week short of his 7-month milestone. We were groggy from our long flight that night, but when I looked at Adagio the next morning, I thought, “Where did our puppy go?”

IMG_2992.jpgThis boy seemed to be all legs. He still loved curling up in his cozy bed, but he spilled out of it. Steve speculated that for Adagio it must be unnerving to feel the world around him shrinking. IMG_2972.jpg

We were happy with the reports from his puppy-sitters (two different sets of them). It sounded like he had a good time, as did they. Among other things, he got to meet the new arrival in the home of our CCI puppy-class teacher, Kay Moore.

Meet Levi, much hairier than Adagio. Blonder too.

We’re sure Adagio would NOT have enjoyed the long plane and riverboat passages we took. But we did chance upon one sight we’re sure he would have appreciated. We’ve never seen anything like it before in the course of our travels. In the tiny Colombian town of Leticia, which lies near the point where Colombia, Peru, and Brazil come together, we passed this public feeding station for the local street dogs:IMG_2036.jpg

We have no idea who stocks it — the town or some dog-loving local philanthropists (though I would bet it’s the latter.) We were impressed by how politely and calmly the fellow above ate for a few minutes… then ambled on. A minute or two later, this skinny girl strolled up and helped herself to some mouthfuls. But not all of it. IMG_2038.jpg

I’m pretty sure Adagio wouldn’t show such restraint. He looks not only lanky but skinny. He has a lot more growing to do, and it’s nice to be back watching him work on that.







A pack of hairy fire evacuees

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Our houseguests: Tyne (aka Tiny), Mai-tai, and Stonie

The wildfires that ravaged Northern California earlier this fall forced the evacuation of CCI’s national headquarters in Santa Rosa, but I don’t know if the Oceanside center has ever had to abandon its facility at any point. If not, it has now.

No one could say they couldn’t see it coming. By 11 am yesterday, the temperature in Pacific Beach was mercifully cool, but the wind was snapping and puffing with maddening ferocity. “If the LA fires don’t spread to here, it will be a miracle,” I said to Steve. By late afternoon it was clear divine intervention wasn’t on our agenda; fire had broken out in the north part of San Diego County. At 4:52 p.m. my cell phone rang. It was Karla Stuart, our neighbor from down the block, who with her husband Mark raised and turned in Keegan, while we were training Beverly. Karla explained that she had been up at CCI in Oceanside earlier yesterday afternoon, working on a fundraising effort. The smoky air grew more acrid, and at some point, she and others present had been urged to return home. Now she’d learned that the staff soon decided to evacuate all the animals. Now 63 dogs were at the home of the regional center’s president, Pam Becker. Could Steve and I foster any of them? Karla asked.

I said sure. We have no puppy at the moment, and we own several kennels. Moreover, Pam lives less than a mile from our house. By 5:20, I was pulling out of our garage.

At the address Karla gave me, I thought for a moment that I must have gotten it wrong. When I parked and got out of the van, the night was quiet. “Where’s all the barking?” I asked a woman who emerged from the house. “They’re our dogs,” she said, smiling. I knew that “we” meant the CCI crew.

Inside the kitchen I found several of the folks who work up in Oceanside, including Stephanie Yocum, Beverly’s former trainer, with whom we had our emotional meeting Tuesday. Stephanie was pouring over lists of dogs. When she learned Steve and I were willing to take three, she assigned us three of the females from her current “string” — Beverly’s former training buddies. I didn’t know two of them, Stonie (a tawny, amber-eyed girl whose wrinkly brow often makes her look worried) and Tyne (a tall thin Golden mix whose nickname –Tiny — does not fit her.) I’ve known the third member of the trio, Mai-tai, ever since she was a tiny ball of black fur. She was raised by the Jedi masters of our local CCI community, Janice and Dan Flynn (veterans of more than 20 CCI puppies, the vast majority of whom have graduated.)

We loaded Stonie and Tiny into my car kennel, and I had Mai-tai ride on the floor of the passenger seat, next to me. Back at our house, all three of the dogs raced around the back yard in the dark. Tucker looked befuddled. But not unhappy.

Since then it’s been a little wild. Minutes after our arrival, I heard something smash against our glass sliding door. I saw nothing at first, then realized it was Mai-tai. I slid the door open to admit her, and too late realized she was dripping wet. (Of course she then raced all over the house, watering the surface of everywhere she went.) We weren’t sure if she fell in the pool by accident, or decided to go for a dip, but this morning, she has gone for a swim at least twice.

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We’ve learned to keep a towel at hand outside and all the doors closed. “We living in the submarine again,” Steve said morosely.

All the beasts, including Tucker, slept in Steve’s office last night. We have kennels for each of the girls. I’m amazed by how quickly their personality differences have become obvious. All three have been raptly interested, when Steve dished up their dinner and breakfast.


But Stonie acts like she’s dying of starvation. Any hint of a tiny morsel of food draws her laser-like attention. She and Mai-tai both walk nicely on their leashes, unlike Tiny, who tends to forge ahead. Tiny also keeps jumping up on my couch, and barking at the other girls. But she has a sweetly ingratiating cuddliness. Mai-tai periodically bursts with energy. But she complies with every command we give her.

One of the CCI staffers called this morning to check up on them and say that the center is still under evacuation. When the fire will be extinguished is anyone’s guess; I heard that it was “0%” contained as of 6 am this morning. But everyone at our house is fine for now. Having the whole gang here has reinforced our conviction that four large dogs is two too many to live with, full-time. But as a part-time adventure, it’s fine.

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When else does Steve command this kind of adoring attention?

Corgi for a Day

Living in the retriever world, as I have for so man040917 CBD6y years, my knowledge of corgis was next to nil until about 18 months ago. Then my son Michael and his girlfriend Stephanie acquired a corgi puppy whom they named Felina. She’s been a source of great entertainment for them (and the subject of many of Michael’s Facebook posts), but because they live in Reno, we had not yet met Felina in person. That changed this weekend, when they traveled to Southern California to participate in an event called Corgi Beach Day. I couldn’t resist making the two-hour drive up to Huntington Beach yesterday morning, and I took Beverly with me. (Mike said she could be an honorary corgi.)

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Felina with her pack: Michael, Stephanie, and Stephanie’s son Nicholas.

Michael had said that as many as 1000 corgis might be converging. I was skeptical. The day started out gray and chilly, not exactly beach weather. But as Beverly and I approached the meeting spot, the clouds were clearing, and I could see people with leashes attached to little dogs with perky ears and stumpy legs streaming toward the designated dog beach. Beverly and I joined them, passing more than one car bearing a “Corgi On Board” bumper sticker. Sure enough, the beach held a large cluster of tents and people and frantic canine activity.

Beverly and I only stayed for about 90 minutes, but that was enough to get a taste of how fanatic the corgi crew can be. The theme of this day’s event was tikis, and many of the corgis were costumed to reflect that.

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This guy was dressed to kill, er, swim.

The tents were jammed with corgi-themed merch and services.040917 CBD7…along with contests (for costumes, limbo ability, “cupcake”-eating prowess). Beverly and I caught the “talent show” and we glimpsed a tiny bit of the arcana of this subculture, in which dogs are known as “loaves” (because of their resemblance to the baked bread dough), their furry butts are commonly called “momos” (because of their resemblance to peaches, aka “momo” in Japanese), and the pose in which a corgi’s legs splay out from the dog’s prone body is known as a “sploof.”)

I learned that corgis come both with and without tails, and they come in various colors — even pure white and “merle.”040917 CBD8We could have adopted a corgi, and brought it home. 040917 CBD1But I wasn’t sure what the rest of my pack would think of that.040917 CBD5Anyway, since Michael and his gang drove down after the beach event and are staying with us for the next few days, we’re getting a brief taste of actual life with a corgi. To be continued.

Dropped the ball

I’m the one who dropped the ball of reporting on the life of Beverly. The life of Jeannette got super busy with travel and work for a couple of weeks, and then I sort of lost the habit of keeping up with posting.

But Beverly had a few excellent adventures during this spell. One long weekend, she stayed with Lisa Matthews, who lives in our neighborhood and raised Kora. Turned in last November, Kora appeared to be headed for graduation this coming May, but in the 11th hour, she was released for barking and a couple of other problems. Lisa had not yet gotten this news when Beverly stayed with her, but after Kora’s release, the two girls shared a fun-filled afternoon.

The next weekend, Beverly stayed with our long-time puppy-sitting heroes, Susan and Frank. They took her on some great outings, as usual, including a movie excursion.

I guess the film put Beverly to sleep.

As in the past, they had only the warmest praise for her.

Steve and I — and Beverly — will be setting off on more adventures eight days from now, but in the meantime, we have interesting activities plans. Stay tuned. (I will make every effort to report on some of them.)

Together again

We picked up Beverly from her puppy-sitters Thursday afternoon, just a few hours after our return from Asia. In some ways it felt like getting a new pup: “Wait! how many times does she need to be taken out daily?” I wondered. “How well will she sleep?” But in short order, we were reassured that a) this is the easiest puppy we’ve ever had the pleasure of living with, and b) if anything, she only got better in our absence.

The only bad habit that she seems to have acquired is a passion for curling up on the cozy chairs. I guess we’ll have to work at correcting that… but she tries to be so inconspicuous and looks so perfectly at home there.

She seemed mildly happy to see us, but I can hardly blame her for being less than wildly enthusiastic about returning to our rather dull household. In our absence, she spent time with five different families, three of which had young dogs for her to play with. Everyone seemed to love her.”I’ve never written the word ‘perfect’ so many times to describe a puppy,” one of her caretakers wrote in the Feedback Report. “It’s unreal how great she is.”

Steve offered a similar comment yesterday, after returning from a multi-hour grocery-shopping excursion with Beverly. “I don’t think we’ve ever had a better-behaved puppy than this one,” he said. “She seemed to be enjoying the outing, but there’s a serenity about her that’s extraordinary. She’s got an almost regal air.”

In our absence, she somehow learned to respond perfectly to the “Down” command (without any hand signals).  We’d been struggling with that. Another change is that since she turned 6 months old in October, she’s now getting fed only twice a day, and we’re amused by how excited she gets every mealtime. She all but pirouettes as we fill her bowl. She looks bigger and lankier. More hungry.

Friday, Beverly and I drove up to Oceanside to attend CCI’s fall graduation ceremonies. We watched our friend Kora being turned in for her advanced training.

Kora looked a little worried. But then she always looks a little worried. We trust she’ll do fine.

For the most part, Beverly stayed quietly in her Down position.

Although we didn’t know any of the 8 dogs from the Southwest region who were graduating into a life of service, we’d gotten word that TWO litter-mates of our previous puppy Kyndall (Kihei and Kimono) were graduating up in Northern California. Steve felt deflated by this news, seeing it as proof that Kyndall’s release from training resulted from something that we did.

I hope that’s not the case. With a puppy like Beverly, it’s hard for me not to feel new hope.

Kyndall goes to kindergarten (again)

Kyndall went to puppy kindergarten when she was a wee little fur ball. But more recently, she was invited to visit the human kindergarten at Bird Rock Elementary School, located very close to our house. One of the veteran kindergarten teachers, Lorene LaCava, is a long-time acquaintance, but somehow we never before had shown off one of our puppies to her students. Friday we made up for that by taking Kyndall to two of the classes.

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In each one, Steve and I briefly told the children what CCI is and what working dogs do. We explained our role as puppy-raisers, and we had Kyndall perform a number of commands. Then we gave each child a chance to come up and shake her paw.

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Some kids preferred to forego the shake in favor of just stroking her velvety head and ears.

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Throughout she was well-behaved and sweet. On any Cuteness scale, the interactions were definitely a 10. After shake after shake, however, Kyndall starting to look a bit tired. So we finished up by demonstrating how to cradle a puppy.

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She looked like she could have been content to do that all afternoon.



Dogfood Strike?

Kyndall seems very perky this morning. Steve commented that maybe she was happy she finally had gotten us to feed her something better than Eukanuba Large-Breed Dogfood. “She’s probably thinking, ‘It’s taken me a year and a half to train them, but thank God they’ve finally come around,'”he theorized.

It’s true that she refused to even glance at the cup of dogfood I put in her bowl. So I fed her all the plain yogurt I had left (only a half cup or so), and she lapped that up eagerly.

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I also gave her the remains of the strawberry yogurt cup I bought for my breakfast. She seemed to appreciate every molecule of it. 

I plan to go out soon and buy some cottage cheese for her (I can’t cook her plain rice until we get home tomorrow.) But clearly, I need to consult with the puppy experts at CCI in Oceanside about how to deal with this new wrinkle. Is it illness? Or culinary fastidiousness? I’ve heard from the folks who are raising Kyndall’s sister, Kimono, who report that “Kimono eats far more leisurely than any Lab we’ve ever known. It’s like she chews each individual kibble several times, instead of just inhaling the whole bowl as our Lab is want to do. At the same time, I can leave her in the car with a ziploc full of dog food in easy reach, which I could never do with the labs.”

Steve insists Kyndall just wants to be fed something more befitting a true Princess. Like live rabbits.

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The place we’re staying is overrun with them. Kyndall finds them RIVETING!



Something else to worry about

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Is Kyndall sick? That’s what’s worrying me at the moment. Clearly something has been irritating her stomach. This apparently started last weekend, when she stayed with two sets of puppy-sitters while Steve and I went up to Palm Springs to attend the American Documentary Film Festival there. (Kyndall behaves very well in movie theaters, generally, but subjecting her to hour after cinematic hour seemed too cruel.) Diana and John reported that she had not wanted to eat the second evening she stayed with them. And Susan and Frank saw more of that behavior the next morning. (Susan texted us that Kyndall would nibble at her food morsels, IF Susan hand-fed her.)

Steve and I immediately assumed she probably ate something in Diana’s garden that disagreed with her. We texted back Susan, advising that they not feed her that night but give her plenty of water. And this seemed to work. Susan wrote back that Kyndall was behaving (and eating) normally for the rest of the weekend.

All seemed to be okay early this week at our house too. But then Thursday morning she once again refused to eat her breakfast. Instead she retched a couple of times and brought up some white foamy liquid. This was right before Steve, Kyndall, and I were scheduled to drive to Scottsdale, Arizona, to attend a conference. Once again, Kyndall wasn’t moping around or acting ill. She was defecating normally (a big relief, indicating that at least she probably didn’t have anything stuck in her gut — a common disaster in the retriever tribe.)

After we arrived in Scottsdale yesterday afternoon, I fed her some plain yogurt and one cup of dog food for dinner. She ate this all, if tentatively. She slowly, pensively ate a cup and a half plus more yogurt this morning. She seems bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to spring up and play whenever I give her the chance. Still, I find it so unnerving when one of our dogs doesn’t want to eat. Kyndall’s never been a puppy who had to be held back before pouncing on her dog bowl and gobbling down the contents. She consumes most meals at a more or less leisurely pace. But she’s 50% Labrador, and that breed generally worships food (and anything even remotely close to it). So I’m hoping this worry will soon fade away.