Dilly’s first vacation

Over the years, Steve and I have accepted caretaking help from more CCI-trained puppy sitters than I can count. Still, we’ve never asked it for any substantial period with as young a pup as Dilly. We never wanted to impose the first few trying months on others. But circumstances conspired to draw us outside the country (primarily on a philanthropic mission in Africa) for about two and a half weeks. (I’ve been writing about those adventures in my travel blog). We were greatly relieved when three sets of helpers offered to host Dilly while we were gone. 

On Thursday January 3, I delivered him to the house of Mary Milton, an experienced puppy-raiser who’s in between dogs at the moment. She sent several photos and reports that made it clear Dilly was having a great time.

Mary also hosted another pup along with Dilly for one or two days. 

The two of them clearly had a blast.

And it tired him out!

(I tried repeatedly to publish this post while we were on the road, but I was consistently foiled by bad to non-existent internet connections and other technical problems.)

After staying with Mary, Dilly moved on to another valiant sitter, Pat Masters, who unfortunately had to deal with yet another round of Dilly diarrhea. But with the addition of more probiotics to his diet, this eventually cleared up.

For the final week he moved to one of the top floors of a downtown high-rise, where he was cared for by former puppy-raiser Allison Kelly and her release dog Isse. We picked him up from there Tuesday morning and were thrilled to hear that he was still in excellent health and unfazed by the sound of trains, cruise-ship horn blasts, and the many other urban distractions in San Diego’s core.

Isse and Dilly

We were sorry to miss some of the special days when he’s so small and irresistible. But we’ve been that much happier to reunite with him and continue on our journey together.

Adagio’s not afraid of no ghosts

Our puppy may be afraid of his water bowl, but last Monday night Adagio was unfazed by more traditional scary stuff. We saw this on our outing with our puppy class instructor Kay Moore (who has a genius for coming up with alternatives to the traditional class meetings.) This time more than a dozen dogs and their handlers assembled at the Clairemont Square Shopping Center and followed Kay through venues such as Petco and Body Works that were filled with interesting smells. But our time in the Spirit Halloween store was the most diverting.

The store is full of lots of bizarre sights…

Aren’t brains supposed to be tasty? This one just smells like my squeaky toy.

Who knew there were so many breeds?

But the only fixture in the place that routinely made almost everyone (puppies and humans) jump was a seemingly ordinary doghouse. When you stepped on the mat in front of it, a demonic animatronic beast with glowing red eyes lunged out, snarling.

This surprised most of the pups, but to their credit, none of them barked or lunged. Most just stared, then strolled away.

The worst moment of the night for Adagio came when we were returning to our cars in the dark. I ordered him Up on a metal bench, and he got his paw caught in the grillwork. That made him scream, but it didn’t appear to do any physical damage.

We won’t see his reaction to his first real Halloween. Steve and I have just embarked on a huge travel adventure that will take us away for more than two months. I’ll be reporting on that in my travel blog, but Adagio will be having his own adventure. Several experienced puppsitters and raisers will be hosting him serially. He’ll have a much better time with them than he would with us in India and Sri Lanka.

(Although I wrote this post on my way to LAX last Wednesday, technical difficulties prevented me from posting it until just now.)

Double trouble

The truth is, I was delighted by the opportunity to puppy-sit Apple, Adagio’s littermate. Her puppy-raiser departed on a week-long vacation early Friday morning, so Apple arrived at our house mid-day Thursday. She looks a lot like her younger brother, but Steve and I can tell them apart. Fittingly, she’s a bit smaller and her face is more delicate. Adagio worships her; her arrival triggered paroxysms of joy.

Apple is the one on the left.

It’s also true that living with two 5-and-a-half-month old labradors is more trouble than living with one. The worst thing about these two is that neither one has learned to ask to go outside, when they need a potty break. To avoid accidents, we have to remember to take them both out every hour or two, and that’s more work with two than one.

I think they have taught each each other a few bad things. For example, I’ve caught Apple fishing used kleenex out of my wastebasket (something Adagio had not routinely done before). His sis then shared her plunder with him, and I found them both happily chewing on soggy wads. Another time one of them grabbed a roll of paper towels within reach, and they were unrolling it when I noticed this action and snatched it away from them. “They’re as bad as monkeys,” I marveled. “Oh no. Monkeys would be much worse,” Steve said. “Monkeys have hands.”

Still, the pleasure of watching the two of them interact has outweighed the nuisances. They walk beautifully on their leashes, Apple even better than Adagio, so we have taken them with us to the coffeeshop.

Steve’s been waiting outside with them while I go in.

They have no sense of personal space, so they chew on each other interminably, taking things out of each other’s mouths at will. Each one periodically tries to hump the other. (Fortunately, Apple should still be a few months away from her first heat.) They’re both extraordinarily verbal dogs, so as they wrestle, they emit fearsome growls, as well as yelps, screams, gurgles, and sometimes just a lot of heavy breathing

They seem radiant with happiness to be near each other. And they do periodically crash.


Apple will go to another puppy-sitter tomorrow afternoon. We’ll all be sad to see her leave.










Heat wait

I was pretty sure Beverly would go into heat before her first birthday. Steve bet me ($5) that she wouldn’t. He won. For weeks, I’ve been making her roll and checking for the swelling that normally precedes each cycle, but I haven’t seen anything out of the ordinary.

She’s the queen of chill.

Although I lost the bet (and my $5), I’ve been scared that she would start sometime in the past week or two. If that had happened, we would have had to take her to the kennel (either at the CCI campus in Oceanside or to an alternative facility). CCI typically does not spay the female puppies until after they’ve begun their advance training, since there they they might be selected to be a breeder. But they don’t want to risk the girls accidentally getting pregnant — or to subject puppyraisers to what is invariably a pretty messy interlude. That’s why the kennel stay is mandatory, and it usually lasts about three weeks.

I was worried about the timing because Steve and I are about to depart on some extended travels in Arabia and Uganda. I’ve arranged for Beverly’s care in our absence, but adding Beverly-in-heat to the mix would have been a bit of a nightmare.

That still could happen. I’m writing this post from the airport in LA. We dropped Beverly off at her first set of sitters yesterday afternoon. She’ll be with John and Diana for two weeks, then she’ll spend a long weekend with Susan and Frank. After that she’ll return to our house, for care by a team that includes our housesitter, our son, and a friend and former puppy-raiser who lives just a few blocks from our house.

If Beverly goes into heat while we’re gone, everyone knows that she needs to go to the kennel. I’m confident it will all work out.

And somehow, even though we’re all still waiting for her to go into heat, I suspect it will feel less urgent from the other side of the globe.


Not the Dog Days


My dictionary defines “dog days”as “the hottest period of the year.” Although the term supposedly derives from the time of year when Sirius (the so-called dog star) is rising, I’ve always thought of it as meaning “so hot the dogs lay around like slugs.” But actually, most dogs are pretty sluggish all the time, and when it comes to periods of enforced, morose inactivity, nothing beats a protracted California winter storm.

We’re in the midst of one now, and after all our years of drought, I’m enjoying the drenching fury outside. But I think Beverly and Tucker hate it. We can’t go out and walk together; it’s been pouring off and on. They shrink even from going out to relieve themselves.

You don’t seriously want me to go down there, do you? I’ll get my paws wet!

Why does our nice backyard look like a swamp?

So they sleep and look sad (and maybe dream about August, when they may pant more than normal, but the ground is littered with ripe figs.) The weather forecasters are predicting this current system will last for four more days. Hooooooooowl.


8 months old!


Beverly turned 8 months old Friday. Already, she’s better behaved than any of our 6 previous CCI puppies were when we turned them in for advanced training (at 18 months). I just looked at some of my posts from previous pups and noted that when Dionne was 10 months old, she was standing up at kitchen counters to scan for food she could snatch. Dionne was also eating dog poop (voraciously!) and destroying shoes and other household items on a daily basis.

Darby at 8 months was still having toileting accidents in the house. She also had become addicted to jumping into our pool and doing laps, after which she would dash, dripping, into the house.

In contrast, Beverly was housebroken so quickly  I almost can’t remember her ever relieving herself in the house (she must have, a few times, but it’s gone from my recollection). She walks on the leash better than any dog we’ve ever lived with. She’s sweet and attentive and she doesn’t seem to mind getting caped up and going out on expeditions.

She’s even won Mr. Tucker’s aging heart. We are thrilled to be able to live with her for another 11 months!121116-bev-and-tuck



Mental block

Life with Beverly continues to be mellow. And she’s making some progress learning new commands. I love the way she now dashes into her kennel every mealtime, then Sits and Stays patiently while I put down her bowl, close the kennel door, and lock it. Only when I announce, “Okay!” does she spring forward to gobble down her serving of kibble.

She’s also gotten quite good about obeying the Wait command when we’re about to enter the neighborhood coffee house. But she also had a couple of maddening mental blocks.

The worse is her response to the Down command. If we hold a morsel of food and lead her into it, Beverly seems perfectly content to sink into the position. We praise her effusively and make it clear that our praise is in response to her going DOWN! We’ve done this now, conservatively, At least 10,000 times.

But when we release her and order her Down without using the lure, she sits and stares and acts like we’ve just addressed her in Bantu. Sometimes she cocks her head in puzzlement, like a cartoon puzzled dog. Eventually, we use the lure again, and she responds instantly. Here’s what the whole burlesque looks like:

<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/184239710″>Mental block</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user25079241″>Jeannette De Wyze</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

What’s going on? What IS she thinking? I don’t think she’s slow-witted, but it’s moments like these that make me wonder.

She’s similarly resistant to the Jump command — won’t jump out of the van or into it or pretty much anywhere else we’ve try to lure her to.

In addition to everything else, raising CCI puppies continues to provide amazing lessons in how different doggy personalities can be. (But you’d think I would have learned that one a long time ago.)



Movie mutt

There’s comes a time in every one of our puppies’ lives when we take them to the movies for the first time. I mean, of course, to a real movie theater with big screens (not just our friend Alberto’s Friday Night at the Movies gatherings in Hillcrest). For Beverly, it came last night.

Having nothing else to do, Steve and I and our younger son decided to catch a screening of Hell or High Water at the Fashion Valley mall. I bought tickets online, so we got there at the very last minute, and to our dismay found the only empty seats were in the first row. But since we had Beverly with us, this turned out to be a blessing, particularly as the seats weren’t horribly close to the screen, the location gave us lots of room to spread out Beverly’s “place mat,”and it was easy to keep an eye on her.

090416 moviegoer
The screen was several feet in front of where she was lying.

I needed to pay attention. Although she stretched out and snoozed for one 20-minute period, she squirmed a lot and spent a lot of time trying to explore under my seat, where I can only assume popcorn morsels were present. She paid almost no attention to the screen (except for one moment when the Jeff Bridges character’s coonhound appeared. She thought that was interesting.)

Still, we’ve seen a lot worse behavior, over the years. She didn’t make a sound. Didn’t have any toileting errors or stick her nose into anyone else’s affairs.

With the improvements in home-based movie-viewing and programming options, we don’t get out to the big screen as much as we once did. But after last night’s experience, we wouldn’t hesitate to take Beverly with us again.