The last pool game?

DSC00825.jpgTucker, who was our first CCI puppy and whom we adopted 11 years ago when he was released for excess energy and distractibility, never was much of a ball-player. In his youth, he would chase a thrown ball a few times. But he invariably got bored and would wander off to do something else.

One thing he did was to invent a variation of ball-playing that we came to refer to as The Pool Game. Tucker never cared much for swimming either. But during swimming season, The Pool Game gave him a novel way to engage with the water. When one or more of us were in the pool, he would find a ball, bring it to the edge, and bark insistently, demanding that the human in the pool pick up the ball and throw it. If we ignored him, he would often drop the ball into the water and bark louder. For some reason, this activity entranced him; the older the got, the more he seemed to like it. In recent years, the mere sight of one of us in swimwear and with a towel sent him into a state of quivering, barking excitement.

This summer, the heat drove Steve and me into the pool more than normal. Tucker will be 14 at the end of November (98 in dog years), and he spends most of his time sleeping. His back hips are failing, and most of the time, when he walks at all, his pace ranges from slow to glacial. So the first time we got into the pool, in June, we were mildly astonished to see him as eager as ever to play The Pool Game. Our routine went like this:

<p><a href=”″>The pool game</a> from <a href=”″>Jeannette De Wyze</a> on <a href=””>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

One houseguest exclaimed, “I didn’t think he could move like that!” Sometimes he seemed sore after the fun was over. But it didn’t deter him.

It’s been sweet. But now the hot spell has ended; night seems to come earlier with each passing day, and in response to these changes, our solar-heated pool’s temperature has been dropping. Steve swam Wednesday, but we suspect neither of us will do that again this season.

Tucker may survive to next summer. We hope he does, but I can’t imagine how he could play any games by that point. Unless it’s in his dreams. The other day, I glimpsed how dreaming transports him to better days. He was on his bed, but running at full tilt. I imagined he was galloping through the woods, strong and joyful. Maybe next summer he’ll play that way.

<p><a href=”″>Tucker sleep-running</a> from <a href=”″>Jeannette De Wyze</a> on <a href=””>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>




Beverly’s second happy ending

120417 sleeping BeverlyNo sooner did I write my blog post yesterday, reporting on the drama that had enveloped Beverly, than I received a message from Stephanie, the CCI trainer who fell head over heels in love with Beverly and had offered to adopt her. Stephanie sounded both broken-hearted and devastated. She’d been talking to a couple of vets and another puppy-raiser who was living with a dog with kidney disease. As much as it obviously hurt, Stephanie had concluded that the expenses associated with caring for a dog in such circumstances — dog food that costs $115 for a 25-pound bag, frequent blood tests and vet visits — were probably beyond her means. “I really was hoping it would work, but I also promised Beverly that I would make her well-being my top priority,” she wrote me.

I called her, and we cried together a little over the sadness of the situation. I don’t know Stephanie, but the hugeness of her heart is obvious. She said another good solution might be available. She knew a vet who had fostered dogs for CCI and had indicated some interest in adopting a release dog. Stephanie had spoken to this woman, and she was very interested, but she needed to discuss it with her boyfriend, who was traveling. Still, Stephanie thought we should hear back soon, and both of us agreed that living with a loving veterinarian might be the best thing for Beverly.

We got the good new just an hour or so ago. As frosting on the cake, this veterinarian apparently practices with another one who is a kidney specialist. “So I truly believe Beverly couldn’t be in a better place!!” Stephanie messaged me. “They would like to take her and make sure she gets along in their family (which I don’t see there being a problem with that because Beverly is PERFECT!) I will be keeping Beverly with me until we find a date that works for them to pick her up.”

120417 Beverly
Beverly wearing a beautiful bow from Stephanie

We’re eager to see if we might all meet, whenever the transfer takes place. If so, I will certainly report on it.

Years ago, I started blogging about puppy-raising because I wanted to try to capture and share some of this complex and engrossing activity. What a mixture it is. At times, months pass without much of anything happening. The dog has settled into our household, learned all the commands. Maybe we go on a field trip now and then. Then a patch like this comes along, where events are developing faster than I can keep up with them. That’s life, I know. I’m not complaining. Just marveling.

What it’s all about

What it’s all about

Eight years ago, Yuriy Zmysly, a young Marine who had bravely served in Iraq and Afghanistan and returned home unscathed, went in for surgery at a North Carolina military hospital to remove an inflamed appendix. Mistakes were made, he suffered a brain injury, and he went into a coma from which his loved ones feared he might never wake up. But awake he did, and since then he’s been wrapped in the love of his fiancee (soon wife) Aimee and other devoted family members.

Steve and I met Yuriy and Aimee two and a half years ago, when our puppy Brando (whose baby face graces the top of this blog) was awarded to them to serve as their skilled companion. (So far, he’s our only Graduate.)

Brando with Aimee and Yuriy in the home last September (photo by Bob Schneider)

As a puppy-raiser, there’s no question I hear more often than, “How can you stand to give them up?” I have various answers. One that I don’t often express but could (and maybe should) is: I’ve seen what a wonderful life they can have in service. To our extreme good fortune, Aimee is a gifted writer, photographer, and videographer who amply chronicles the life of her family (principally on Facebook). I often glimpse Brando in her posts, and every time I do it makes me happy.

This year, as she’s done in the past, Aimee has created a video celebrating the fact that Yuriy is alive.  Not just alive, but thriving — working hard to gain strength and abilities.

To me, the greatest thing about CCI and the work of its dogs is the way it creates bridges between people: the folks raising the puppies, the folks awarded the graduate dogs, the people who meet them on their daily journeys through life. Raising Brando made it possible for us to get to know Aimee and Yuriy — and Adelina. What a gift.

Fun with the one who flunked out

Fun with the one who flunked out

I know we shouldn’t say that Tucker “flunked out” of CCI. Sometimes we do use more politically correct language. We say he was “released” from the program, or we call him a COC (Change of Career) dog. We don’t mean him any disrespect. He’s a wonderful guy, and we love him dearly.

But like all CCI dogs who don’t graduate but instead return to their puppy-raisers’ home to become members of the family, Tucker routinely gets left behind; he receives way less attention than the current young one in training. We feel bad about it, but that’s his lot in life. Usually.

This morning was a glorious exception. Steve was taking Dionne to a morning of grocery-shopping. I, in turn, wanted to check out the annual pottery show in Balboa Park (something I’d never done before). It occurred to me Tucker could accompany me, as the show was all outside, in Spanish Village. Afterward, I could take him to Nate’s Point, the city’s showcase leash-free area on the west side of Cabrillo Bridget.

He and I were in the park for about an hour an a half, and he was smiling and wagging his tail almost every minute of that time. At the pottery show, several people complimented him and reached out to pet him. (Usually it’s our pup du jour who receives such attention.) They commented on how good he was; how handsome. Of course, his behavior was impeccable.

After a while he and I strolled down the Prado and through the plaza and westward, over the bridge.  As we neared the dog park, he began to look around in excitement. (He could smell the other dogs but couldn’t yet see them.) I led him to the gate, he was all but trembling with happiness. Once inside he greeted some of his fellow canines, then galloped off to smell the myriad peeing spots.

He also ran up to almost every other human in the place — barking at a few to throw their balls for him, or just saying hello and receiving more pats on the head. He paid virtually no attention to me.

A rare moment when he circled back in my general direction.

When we got home, I told Steve that he hadn’t been that happy since the day he was released from Advanced Training. I had a lovely time too.