The next step in Dilly’s becoming an even more perfect puppy will be when all his baby teeth fall out.
He’s already a pretty awesome fellow, especially considering that he’s just four and a half months old. But he still loves to chew on us, the way he used to chew on his littermates. Some pups do this more than others. Adagio barely did it at all. Dilly falls more toward the more munchy end of the spectrum. It’s clear he finds gnawing on us to be deeply satisfying.
He’s not trying to hurt us; it’s just a puppy thing. Still, those baby teeth are like razors. Even accidental encounters between them and human skin can be pretty gruesome.
Happily, Dilly’s big-dog teeth are beginning to push those dangerous baby knives out.
I know the day will eventually come when he’ll stop chomping on us altogether. But in the meantime, I’m saluting the arrival of every single new big-dog tooth.
Dilly continues to stop onlookers in their tracks. He and I made a quick visit to the vet’s today, where I’d expect pretty much everyone to be inured to nice-looking dogs. But at least a half dozen of the eager young women who work there knelt down to coo over and stroke him. One meekly asked permission if she could take his picture. (I imagine it’s now briskly collecting Likes in cyberspace.)
In front of our local coffeeshop earlier this morning, a young couple pushing a baby stroller halted and stared. “Could I… pet him?” the mom asked. “Oh my god, he is the cutest thing I’ve ever seen!” she exclaimed. Glancing at her own baby, an angelic tot about a year old, she added. “I think he’s pretty cute.” (He was.) “But this guy is cuter.” Stroking Dilly’s head, she emitted a soft moan.
We’re not movie stars ourselves, Steve and I, so this kind of response to physical beauty comes as a bit of a jolt. But we’re also learning about the price of such comeliness. The key element of Dilly’s striking good looks is his ethereal golden baby fur. It transforms his skinny little body into a ball of glowing softness. It even grows in luxuriant abundance between his foot pads, and this is a problem, I learned recently.
Dilly and I were attending one of the regular puppy socials hosted by another puppy-raiser, when a veteran raiser of golden retrievers scooped up Dilly and cradled him like a baby. Nodding at his feet, she declared, “You’ve got to trim that.”
I hadn’t noticed the wildly hairy profusion before. “Why?” I stammered.
Uncut, that foot hair would rob him of traction, several people concurred. He’d slide around on slick surfaces. Much discussion followed about the best way to attend to this grooming chore. Some favored electric clippers; others scissors.
Back at home, Steve did some research and reported that the electric dog-grooming tools online looked just like his beard trimmer. “I suppose if you use that, it might make my beard smell doggy,” he reflected. “But you’re the only one who gets close enough to me to notice, and it wouldn’t bother you.”
I worried, though, that the buzzy electric tool might scare Dilly, so I attacked the inter-pad thatch with a long fine pair of scissors.
Dilly seemed a tad nervous, but he tolerated the pawdicure well enough. The end result looked like this:
So that’s one more chore we must add to our Dilly Maintenance check list. Daily coat-brushing also is beginning to seem more urgent, as his baby coat begins the lifelong process of shedding.
This is what his brush looked like today after just one minute of use. (Soon we’ll get brushfuls and brushfuls out daily.)
There’s good news and bad news about Dilly’s gut. We took a fecal sample to his vet’s yesterday, and they analyzed it. Apparently some indicators were ambiguous, so they sent it off to a lab for independent analysis. The verdict: neither assessment showed any sign of lingering giardia!
The bad news is that we had the analysis done because after more than a week of his sleeping all night without awakening us, Dilly Wednesday night was whimpering at 11:30 pm, 12:30 pm, 3:30 am, and 5:15. Because he sounded distressed, we took him outside each time, and a good thing: each time he had terrible diarrhea.
This persisted throughout Thursday, though I think he only got us up twice that night. By Friday we were convinced he was reinfected with the giardia (which we’ve heard often happens). Sleep-deprived and cranky, Steve and I squabbled over what else we could do to rid our yard of this plague. Steve snapped that we had to be more vigilant about preventing him from picking up any leaves or flowers or twigs or mulch pieces from the ground (an activity with which Dilly is obsessed). I argued we should try spraying the patio with a bleach solution — and then make him toilet exclusively on the patio. The bickering got ugly.
Then this morning the vet’s office called. The results made me feel jubilant — although there remains the question of what has upset Dilly’s inner workings. “Some of these purebreds can have kind of delicate digestions,” the vet tech said. “My goldens were like that.” She urged us to concentrate on calming down his system, so we have now begun a regime in which he will be fed a two-to-one ratio of plain rice and cottage cheese in small servings five times a day. We’ve been instructed to keep him on that until his stools have firmed up and stayed that way for 5-7 days, then over the next 5-7 days to gradually reintroduce the puppy kibble.
Once upon a time this program might have made me quail. Now it just feels great to have a blueprint for returning to normalcy (if a bothersome one).
As for Dilly, he looks and acts like a normal puppy — hungry, mischievous, active certain times of the day, but also taking lots of naps. All those night-time outings can exhaust a fellow, he says.
…today! Here’s what he looked like when we received him, the day after his two-month birthday:
And here he is now, at three months:
His head seems more proportionate to his body. His paws look bigger. He has more than doubled in poundage. His coat is as minky-soft as ever (though hairs are now starting to show up on dark items of clothing, whenever we hold him.)
We think we can begin to glimpse the Future Dog (even if he still is unmistakably Puppy.)
Dilly went to his second puppy class last night. He appeared to love it.
Steve had taken him to his first class two weeks ago, on a night when I had another commitment, and he reported then that Dilly thought puppy class was wonderful. There were other small creatures who looked like him! And people who admired him! And so many interesting activities.
I was glad to witness all this myself last night. I couldn’t help but think of Adagio’s first class, when he was barely two months old. That night he made it clear he wanted to roam the room and socialize. When he didn’t get to do that, he yowled. He barked. He emitted ear-splitting shrieks. At the conclusion of the hour, Steve and I slunk out of the room, disheartened.
Last night was a very different experience. If Dilly wasn’t the star pupil, at least he emitted not one single yowl or shriek. He seemed focused and alert throughout the fast-paced succession of activities. We practiced going Down.
And I tried to introduce him to the concept of Shaking.
Kay, our instructor, made us trade our pups with other puppy-raisers — an educational experience for both the humans and the dogs.
At the end of the hour Steve and I were feeling exhausted, and Dilly slept soundly in his car kennel all the way home. But at least two of the three of us were feeling encouraged rather than mortified. And we figure it can only get better as time goes by.
Here in Puppyland, we’ve had an excellent week. Let me count the ways we are slowly but surely making our way out of the Puppy Hell section of the park.
Despite our delaying his introduction to the halter, this week Dilly has taken to wearing it nicely. On our first outings, he made some half-hearted attempts to rub it off his muzzle. He doesn’t look as if he LOVES it.
But as the days have gone by, he appears to be reconciled to this strange gear. At this rate, I’m not sure we’ll even have to continue for long making him wear it during meals. This morning, we took him on a three-mile walk around our neighborhood, during which he wore the halter and mostly stayed in excellent position, at our side.
2. With the cessation of his diarrhea (thanks to his apparently successful treatment for giardia), he’s been sleeping 7-8 hours every night, without interruption. It’s clear to me he now understands the Night Protocol: we all crawl into our sleeping spaces and remain quiet until the daylight returns.
This is a life-changing development, and tonight Steve and I will move out of the first-floor guest room (that we had moved to, to avoid breaking our necks while taking the puppy downstairs during the night). We’ll return to our regular bed tonight, and Dilly will begin sleeping in the medium-size kennel that will now become a permanent fixture of our master bedroom.
He needs to begin sleeping in the larger kennel because…
3.) He has grown so much! When we picked him up at the airport three and a half weeks ago, he weighed barely 11 pounds. When Steve took him to the vet’s Tuesday for his second set of shots, he had reached 19 pounds. Just now in our bathroom, he was more than 21.
4.) He’s learned to Sit, go Down, and — most charming — Speak. On command, pretty reliably.
5) As I was typing that last sentence, he came up to me, put his paws on my lap, and looked at me. Sensing what he was trying to communicate, I leapt up and took him outside, where he quickly peed and pooped.
This is definite progress, though he’s still accidentally peeing in the house now and then. (He has never once defecated indoors.)
I find this all impressive. Few of our previous pups have been so good this early. Not that life with Dilly is cloud-free. Besides continuing to make occasional toileting errors, he also takes passionate pleasure in chewing on things, including our body parts. His baby teeth are needle-sharp; my hands bear the scars.
It was thus a pleasure for me to take him yesterday to a gathering of pups at another puppy-raiser’s home. Dilly raced around, got beat up a little…
…found sheltered spots that only he and the other littlest party-goers could fit in…
…and where he could hide out from the bigger kids.
After an hour of this heaven, I took him home, and he was out cold for most of the rest of the day.
We 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……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.
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.