Six months old!

Today Dilly is six months old. You can see the dog he will become pretty clearly now, I think.IMG_6875.jpegSo different from this little guy:

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His 2-month-old self

Normally this is one of the darker days in a CCI puppy’s life: the point at feedings are supposed to switch from three times a day to a paltry two.  (The pups get the same amount of food overall, but believe me, they LOVE having something doled out at lunch time.)

But Steve and I hypothesize that smaller meals may be easier for Dilly to digest than larger ones. He had so much trouble when he was very little, the last thing we want is to trigger a setback. We have worked our way to the point where he’s now eating two and three-quarters cups of expensive Science Diet and only one-quarter cup of the super- expensive Royal Canin gastrointestinally soothing puppy chow.

We plan to continue that mixture for another day or so, then to go to all Science Diet. We then will switch him ever so gradually to the reasonably priced Eukanuba, CCI’s dog food of choice.

For ridiculously emotional reasons, Steve and I have decided to continue feeding him three times a day until his very last baby tooth falls out. Over the past weeks, all the other razor-sharp molars and incisors and canines have given way to the more rounded adult dog teeth. I’ve found a handful on the floor…

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Here’s my collection

But a single canine remains firmly lodged in upper jaw.

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There it is, lurking behind the adult tooth. 

Until it goes, we plan to continue to feed Dilly at 6:30 am, noon, and 5 pm. And although most of America may be grieving about the toll of the coronavirus, Dilly is benefitting from that too (getting way more walks than usual.)

So all in all, it’s a pretty fine 6-month birthday for this (not so little) guy.IMG_6872.jpeg

 

Is Dilly a star pupil?

The other night we introduced Dilly to good friends who just returned to San Diego after some extensive travels. They seemed impressed by Dilly’s ability to Sit and Speak and Shake and respond to other commands. When I mentioned we would be going to puppy class Monday night, one of them asked me in an email, “Is Dilly a star pupil?” she wrote. “Do you feel he is ahead of where other of your puppies have been at five months?”

I pondered that question throughout the class yesterday evening, and what came to me is: it’s too hard to compare. Only four puppies participated in our session last night. One of them, Frida, is about Dilly’s age. But she broke her leg in a freak accident several weeks ago. She’s healed now, but she missed some training when she was healing, so it’s not fair to measure her performance against Dilly’s (except to note that she seems way more obsessed with toys than he is.)

The other two classmates were little ones, Wish and Chessie, both of whom must be about two months younger than Dilly. He’s thus more accomplished than them. But I can’t conclude he’s smarter. He’s had two more months to work on everything.

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He was paying attention beautifully at this particular moment.

Steve and I find from one week to another that our dogs are more or less obedient. They go through developmental phases that change with disconcerting speed. Just a day or so ago, Dilly suddenly seemed to realize that when he’s outside and we call, “Here!” he can choose NOT to streak to us (and get a treat). If he happens to have a fallen hibiscus blossom in his mouth, he can prance AWAY from us; run in the opposite direction! Try to make US run after HIM to try and pry it from his jaws! (This is such a fun game!)

How long he’ll keep this up before returning to his instantly recallable former self we have no way of knowing. Could be tomorrow. Could be in six months. When I go further to try to compare Dilly’s overall intelligence level to all the other CCI puppies we’ve raised… it makes my head spin.

What I can say is that he seems at least as smart as them. In last night’s session, he blew the Wait command on the first try, but then he did executed it nicely. If he’d ignored our orders to come Here! out in the yard, he responded to them with alacrity in class. Our instructor, Kay, has a wondrous collection of dazzling dog toys, and she used several last night to command the participants’ attention.

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This duck waddles along while emitting a wacky tune. Dilly seemed to find the sight of it even more stunning than the lovely young girl dog next to him. But both he and Wish just sat and stared.

Before class, Steve and I realized this would be Dilly’s final session of “puppy kindergarten.” He’ll be six months old in just 9 more days, and then it will be time to switch to the Basic instructional group. We chatted on the way home about how that would be a nice change of pace.

But this morning I got an email from the local puppy program manager announcing that “in an abundance of caution,” CCI is suspending puppy-raising classes until concerns about the COVID-19 virus have died down. Hopefully, that will be sooner rather than later. In the meantime, we’ll have to work on our lessons on our own.

Stepping out

Now that Dilly is five months old, life is starting to get more interesting. Last night we ventured out on our first puppy-class field trip.

Our wonderful instructor, Kay, has made these excursions a regular feature. For this very first outing for the kinder-pup group, we met at the big Petco outlet in Clairemont Square. A few of Dilly’s class members were too young to go out in public, and at least one older girl was in heat, so there were only three students — all blondes. Dilly found the whole experience to be fascinating.

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At Steve’s command, he Waited nicely at the door.

In one of the toy aisles, Kay tossed colorful distractions on the floor, then the pups had to walk past them without pouncing.

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Dilly thought that plush avocado looked mighty irresistible.

They had to go Down next to delicious smelling rawhide chews…

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All completely forbidden to CCI trainees.

Then the trio and their handlers marched together down the center aisle.

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There’s actually no distraction greater than another puppy.

It was a fun and effective introduction to one of the biggest things we’ll be working on for the next 14 months: learning to behave well in public.

This adventure was followed by another today, when Steve walked Dilly over to our neighborhood grooming salon equipped with tubs where owners can bathe their own pets. Sadly but perhaps understandably, Steve forgot to take any photos during the bathing process, but he reported that Dilly tolerated the experience well.

I think he smells cleaner, but most dramatically, he now looks at least three times curlier than he did pre-bath.

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We theorize that perhaps the oil in his coat had been controlling these wild twists, like hair mousse.

It feels like a omen: in the coming months I expect him to look more and more interesting, as he comports himself better and better.

Five months old!

IMG_6749.jpegIn all the drama and excitement of Adagio’s graduation last week, it may seem as if we’ve been overlooking Dilly. That’s not true. We’re having a blast living with this guy. He’s not as devoted to napping as Adagio was (but who could be?). Yet Dilly still spends plenty of time snoozing, which makes him easy to live with. IMG_6728.jpegHis digestive ailments have all but disappeared. We’re still feeding him the special (expensive) Royal Canin Dogfood for the Gastrointestinally Sensitive. However, we’ve begun combining it with the more plebeian Science Diet puppy chow, and that transition appears to be going well.

His coat is changing color and texture, from a milky down to a coarser, curly cinnamon and cream (although the top of his head and his ears still are soft as mink). He’s growing like crazy — gaining 10 pounds a month for each of the past two months. He weighed 40 pounds this morning! This has transformed his appearance, from this:

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Three months old

To this:

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Five months old

You can still tell he’s a puppy. But he’s no longer the traffic-stopping fluff ball of his early days. Soon he’ll just look like a lanky young golden retriever.

We’ll love him anyway. He’s attentive and eager to please and he often makes us laugh. We still have much to work on, chief among which is his behavior on the leash, when we’re out walking. Sometimes he’s in the perfect position:

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Like this

But all too quickly, he edges out in front of us, not exactly pulling, but eager to lead the way. Happily we have what feels like an ocean of time in front of us. (He’s not scheduled to be turned in until May of 2021.)

A more perfect puppy

The next step in Dilly’s becoming an even more perfect puppy will be when all his baby teeth fall out. IMG_6655.jpeg

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.

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Like what happened to my hand two days before Christmas. 

Happily, Dilly’s big-dog teeth are beginning to push those dangerous baby knives out. IMG_6652.jpeg

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.

What price beauty?

IMG_6163.jpegDilly 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. IMG_6166.jpeg

Dilly seemed a tad nervous, but he tolerated the pawdicure well enough. The end result looked like this:IMG_6340.jpeg

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.)IMG_6348.JPG IMG_6350.JPG

Parasite-free!

IMG_6324.jpegThere’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.

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Three months old…

…today! Here’s what he looked like when we received him, the day after his two-month birthday: DSC06776.jpeg

 

And here he is now, at three months:IMG_6321.jpeg

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.)

Teacher’s pet

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. IMG_6301.jpeg

And I tried to introduce him to the concept of Shaking.

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We’ve got a lot of work to do on that one.

Kay, our instructor, made us trade our pups with other puppy-raisers — an educational experience for both the humans and the dogs. IMG_6300.jpegIMG_6285.jpeg

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.

 

Puppy’s progress

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.

  1. 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. DSC06797.jpegHe doesn’t look as if he LOVES it.

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    But who would?

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.

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He’s now too large to squeeze under our sofa, which just yesterday was a favored hiding place.

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…

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But happily!

…found sheltered spots that only he and the other littlest party-goers could fit in…IMG_6147.jpeg

…and where he could hide out from the bigger kids.IMG_6143.jpeg

After an hour of this heaven, I took him home, and he was out cold for most of the rest of the day.

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A sleepy puppy is an excellent puppy.