Kyndall learns to read

We cannot imagine how it happened, but Kyndall appears to have learned to read. She also must have figured out how to get online and check the blog that I write about her life as a service-dog trainee. How else to explain her criminal behavior this morning? She must have seen yesterday’s post about her new-found “peaceability” and excellent behavior and decided to disabuse us of this ridiculous notion.

Normally, she doesn’t have much opportunity to misbehave. We almost always keep her near us or kenneled. But Steve slipped up this morning. He came into the house and forgot she was outside;assumed she was up in my office with me. When he finally stepped outside, he found the carnage:

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She had completely dug up and destroyed the beautiful white rose bush that we planted a month ago. An elderly fuchsia bush had died and we had long pondered what to replace it with that wouldn’t fall prey to a puppy. The spot gets a lot of sun, which roses like, and it occurred to me that its thorns would protect it. Ha.

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It seemed to be thriving and was loaded with blooms. Blooms that now will never open thanks to you know who.

We checked Kyndall’s mouth to check for gouges from the thorns, but she was unscathed.

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If we hadn’t known instantly who had murdered the rose, the snout dirt would have incriminated her.
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Peaceable puppy? Sez who?

Good news, bad news

So the good news is that we gave Kyndall the new large-size Extreme Kong last night, and to our delight, she did NOT manage to tear any chunks out of it! Maybe it will be tough enough to stand up to her jaws of steel. Fingers are crossed.

The bad news: while watching the movie (an engaging documentary, Red Army, about Soviet hockey and Russian sports training), Steve got so engrossed that he failed to notice that Kyndall, on her leash next to his chair, was chewing on the strap of my purse, which was sitting nearby on the floor. Here’s what we found when the lights went up:


61315 purse destroyerThis morning Steve managed to find and order a new purse strap for me on Amazon. It was $14.99. But as he points out, we’ve spent more than that on Kongs recently.

Raising puppies teaches one about relativity.

Queen Kong

Kyndall is our first puppy with jaws of steel. We know this about her because she is the first dog to destroy Kongs. 061215 Queen KongKongs are the extremely hard rubber receptacles approved by CCI for its puppies to chew on (one of about only three chewing objects that get the official CCI stamp of approval). We’ve used them for years. As many people do, we like to fill them with peanut butter and freeze them rock hard. Such a Kong has the ability to distract and amuse a dog for quite a while. When we take Kyndall to our Friday night movie group, we always bring along a frozen Kong for her, and we give one to Tucker so he won’t feel so bad about being left home alone.

In recent weeks, we noticed that our regular red Kongs started to develop chips around their major orifices. I assumed this was because they were getting old (and probably were weakened by all those repeated freezings.) Steve ordered two replacements, but while Tucker’s looked pristine after his first go with it, Kyndall instantly destroyed her brand-new never-before-frozen one. Steve then lobbied for replacing it with a large size Kong Extreme (“For Power Chewers”). But I resisted, arguing that the medium size we’ve always had would require less peanut butter to stuff. So Steve sent off for one of the super-tough black Kongs in a medium.

We took it with us to last week’s movie gathering, and when we packed it up at the end of the evening, I saw to my horror that Kyndall had ripped big chunks out of the edges of the allegedly super-hard material.

So we ordered and now have received the bigger (even tougher?) Kong Extreme — the one Steve wanted to get in the first place. He’s hoping that the bigger size will make it harder for Kyndall to savage it. We’ll take it with us tonight and see what happens.  Stay tuned!061215 new kong




Murder mystery

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About three and a half years ago, Steve and I planted a cluster of peach trees in our back yard.  The very first spring, we got a couple of delicious peaches, and the numbers have climbed each subsequent year. Only now, however, have we begun harvesting real drama.

This spring the “May Pride” tree produced several dozen fruit. Many were very small, but all were beautiful, and the taste was complex and intense. Eaten alone or cut up and put on our cereal, they were everything I’d hoped for when we planted the trees.

We tried to pick some every day, gathering any that had fallen to the ground; we worried that if Kyndall noticed how tasty they were, she might begin helping herself. And she did indeed start to raid them a few days ago. We responded by virtually never letting her out in the yard, unleashed. Instead the big trouble came from a different quarter.

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About a week ago, we started seeing chunks torn out of some of the fruit. The trees have had bird netting over them for months, but we figured some sly creatures had figured out how to sneak under the bottom of the nets and help themselves. So Saturday morning, we got out the roll of netting and covered the tree cluster much more thoroughly, draping the spidery barrier all the way from the crown to the ground. Sunday morning Steve checked and found many more gouged peaches. He added stakes to better secure the edges of the netting.

Toward the end of yesterday afternoon, I took Kyndall out to pee and noticed a slight commotion from the peach cluster. It was a sparrow, trapped inside the netting and frantically trying to escape. Enraged, I responded by grabbing some of the netting. I tugged and bellowed, and the little brown bird somehow slipped out and flapped away. Then I noticed a second sparrow on the other side of the tree cluster. I went to tug at the net near it and scare it away too, and suddenly Kyndall appeared by my side. I screamed, “No! Don’t! DON’T!” But in an instant, she darted down and closed her jaws around the little bird.

She couldn’t run away with it, because the sparrow was still on the inside of the netting. I was in a panic. As mad as I was at the sparrow for savaging our succulent harvest, I hated the sight of the helpless thing locked in Kyndall’s toothy grip. (Plus the last thing one wants to train a CCI puppy to do is to hunt and murder sparrows.) Still screaming, I grabbed her mouth and pried it apart. The sparrow fell out and lay still. It stared, frozen and dying, I was certain.

But I couldn’t minister to it. I yanked Kyndall inside, and then I couldn’t bear the thought of going to retrieve the dead bird. A while later, Steve went out instead.

And here’s the mystery: the sparrow was gone. We speculate that Kyndall actually didn’t injure it but only sent it into temporary shock.

We’ve picked off almost all of the remaining ripe fruit. But here’s the other mystery: how in the world are we going to protect future harvests so that more marauding and murderous rampages doesn’t ensue?

Puppy want a parrot

Steve and I have become a little concerned about Kyndall’s interest in birds. Too keen an interest in chasing them is something that could get her released from Advanced Training (down the road.) She had an experience this week that confirmed she finds them fascinating.

I was visiting my aunt Therese and cousin Tom. They live with Duke, a sweet-tempered, very furry mixed breed dog, and Reba, a charming 2-year-old African gray parrot. I took Kyndall along on the outing, and for the first part of it, she focused entirely on Duke. She wanted to romp with him but I made it clear that wasn’t going to happen, so she settled into an admirable Down Stay.

Only after maybe 30 minutes did she notice Reba’s cage. She stared at it as raptly as a religious vision. When Tom brought Reba out for a closer encounter, Kyndall was all but quivering.

051515 K meets Reba

She didn’t make any aggressive moves (to Reba’s great relief). But clearly this is something for our To Do list: Work on bird desensitization!

Too much freedom

051415 dogbarfGood parents try not to compare their kids, and good puppy-raisers probably shouldn’t compare their charges either. But it’s hard to resist. Even though all the CCI puppies are Labs or Goldens or crosses of the two, and CCI breeds the dogs to fit a narrow  profile, they have unique personalities. Kyndall is very different from Dionne, our previous girl. Dionne’s worst behavior in her early months was throwing up. She did that because she loved to chew up and swallow all manner of things that irritated her stomach. None of her vomiting was ever part of a serious illness. It was just a hassle, annoying and gross. So for months now, months in which Kyndall has never once vomited, I’ve been singing her praises for that. Alas, no more.

Since returning to us last weekend from her vacation stay with Cabernet and her family, Kyndall has continued to look a bit sad. Much more often than normal, she has whined. I think she misses Cabernet, as much as these dogs can miss anyone. So when Steve took a break Tuesday to catch up on a couple of gardening chores, I implored him to let Kyndall hang out with him, untethered, in the backyard. “Maybe she won’t do anything bad,” I suggested. “Let’s put her to the test.” I knew it would make her happy.

Steve was leery, but he agreed, and Kyndall looked like she was actively smiling, every time I went outside and checked on her. The two of them were outside for a couple of hours. Then she came into Steve’s office and upchucked a very large, disgusting deposit on his office floor.

“Too much freedom!” Steve pronounced. I felt heartsick, too discouraged to poke around and try to figure out what she had eaten that provoked this. We could guess: stick parts and rubber bits from all the baby-puppy toys that she’s been ripping into with her recently acquired big-dog teeth. We didn’t even put her on the special upset-tummy diet that we came to know so well with Dionne (plain boiled rice), and it wasn’t necessary. She gobbled down her dinner that night and has vomited nothing further since.

But she’s back on a shorter leash again, with access only to our toughest chew-toys and no permission to go roaming around outside. I guess she’s not so different from Dionne after all. Not that I would ever compare them.



Monster jaws — a photo essay

In our early weeks with Kyndall, we complained a lot about how she slashed our hands and arms with her razor-sharp puppy teeth. Now all those teeth are gone. Instead she has beautiful white chompers that lack needle-sharp points, and she almost never applies them to our flesh. But they’re become destructive in a different way.

As the last of those big-dog teeth have come in, her craving to chew has turned voracious. Applying that appetite to the toys that amused her when she was tiny has resulted in many of them being annihilated.

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A few prime examples.

Happily, she doesn’t seem to swallow most of the pieces, and whatever fragments she has swallowed haven’t irritated her digestive system (unlike Dionne, our last CCI trainee, who vomited sometimes daily all the odd bits she scavenged).  In addition to enjoying the ripping apart, Kyndall radiates pleasure while chewing on the individual rubber chunks, much like a baseball player working on a wad, or a teenager on chewing gum. I should stop her, I know, but she has such a good time I sometimes find it easier just to photograph the spectacle.

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You’re not going to tell me to stop, are you?
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It feels sooooooo good!


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Hey, it was an old, boring toy, anyway.


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And now…. it is no more.

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Steve has a theory that dogs need to jaw to set their adult teeth in their jaws.  That sounds good to me, except I haven’t found anything online that confirms it. For now, Kyndall has almost worked her way through our supply of destructible toys, and last night she did in one of the theoretically indestructible, CCI-approved ones (the Kong, at right.)

But she’s told us not to worry. The yard is full of her other favorite plaything (sticks).


























032015 evil toothbrush

One thing about raising puppies to be service dogs: the surprises keep coming. We got one Thursday night, when we settled in to watch one of the few remaining episodes of Season Four of Game of Thrones. (We’re racing to get caught up before Season Five starts next month.) Steve and I don’t spend a lot of time in front of the TV set, but whenever we do, he seizes the opportunity to do some dog grooming. He brushes teeth, cleans ears, files nails. He started introducing Kyndall to this routine within days after we brought her home from Oceanside. She was doing fine until Thursday night.

Among Kyndall’s 5 predecessors that we’ve raised for CCI, we’ve seen some pretty terrible behavior: plant murder, rug destruction, poop eating, serial vomiting, and more. But all 5 pups learned to be angelic while being groomed. Some may have been a tad nervous initially, but all eventually acted as if having their molars scrubbed or their nails trimmed was as relaxing as getting a deep-tissue massage.

Kyndall seemed to be trotting down that same path, tail wagging. But Thursday night we sensed something was amiss when she shrank from accompanying us into the TV room. When Steve was ready to minister to her, she cringed; we had to haul her bodily into the cradle position. She didn’t seem to mind having her ears swabbed. But as soon as he reached for the toothbrush, it looked a bit like this:

She seemed terror-stricken. But why?

I have a half-baked theory: Behavior experts say that dogs tend to be more susceptible to fear at certain times during the first year and a half of their lives. The first such fear period is supposedly around the 2-month mark, and then another comes when they’re 4- to 6-months old. During these periods, the pup can get scared of “items, situations or people with whom they formerly felt safe,” one website advises. “They may start barking at people entering a house or become fearful and startle at benign items like trash cans, drainpipes or even yard gnomes….” Kyndall is smack in the middle of that 4- to 6-month segment, so maybe her little brain has become convinced that the toothbrush and dremel (nail file) are evil — likely to hurt her.

032015 terror
Must escape! It might KILL ME!!!!

The experts advise being patient and trying not to make a big deal of the fearful object. So Steve backed off the brushing. I’m thinking of putting some peanut butter on it next time, to see if she’ll relax and lick it off. Steve didn’t even turn the dremel on; he merely touched it to her nails. Still… it seems so weird.

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One of my scars

Frankly, I’m feeling desperate for her to get some major work done on those nails. She’s inadvertently scratched me several times in the last few days. Once again, I look like I’M the one being tortured.

Fully capable, once more

While I’ve been struggling to get over the bronchitis and ear infection that’s been keeping me from blogging, we have been working on Kyndall’s recently developed cape-phobia, with excellent results. As many advisers pointed out, especially yummy treats have the power to entice puppies into doing all kind of things they might otherwise resist. Tiny bits of ham and pepperoni now seem to be entwined in Kyndall’s mind with the act of donning her cape. The result: she positively leaps in my lap to Dress. Her ears may pull back for a second when she’s being buckled into it.

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But then she seems oblivious to it.

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Next up: stopping her from jumping on people when she greets them. (That one is likely to prove more challenging.)



What’s not to like about a CCI puppy cape? They’re a cheery bright yellow, adorned with the iconic blue patch. We’ve seen definite resistance in some of our puppies over the years to the halters that are supposed to go around their muzzles, when they’re on leash. But Kyndall has never balked at the halter. Instead she’s developed an aversion to her cape.

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At least once the cape is on, she doesn’t sink into a depression.

In the past few days, when she has seen us with it in hand, she’s bolted. Yesterday Steve couldn’t corner her; he had to call me in to help trap and dress her. A while later, when I was filling out my Puppy Report, I noticed for the first time that among the Grooming/Handling Problems, there is a box for “Resists putting on the cape.” For the first time, I checked it.

As it happened, last night was also our second Kinderpup class. When Bob, our teacher, asked if anyone was grappling with any “issues,” I mentioned this new, unwelcome development. It immediately became clear that the cape-ophobia is something that happens from time to time — and can even be worse. One veteran recounted having a dog whose personality changed dramatically when it was dressed. That puppy, when naked, was a frisky, happy soul, but as soon as the cape went on, it lay down and looked mournful.

Someone else told about making a puppy wear the cape day and night for weeks — until finally the cape-ophobia melted away. Several people, including Bob, advised us to get Kyndall to associate the cape with happy events — getting delicious treats, for example, or being petted. We came away with plenty of ideas to work on.