Puppy class was unusually fun last night. There were only four of us in Kinderpup, for some reason, which made the pace mellow. One of the highlights was introducing the gang to the “Car” command, using the back of our teacher, Kay’s car. Since everyone was so young (around 5 months), we lifted them up and helped them in. Chaos ensued: a writhing tangle of tussling puppies. It is a miracle that Kathy Bennett, raiser of Bryce (on the far left), managed to capture this deceptive image of them looking so well mannered.
Note that Adagio (third from right) and his sister, Apple (half-prone), are not exactly in perfect position. (Wait till next year!)
So, roughly $160 poorer, we now know that Adagio’s kidneys are probably just fine. As I reported the other day, we freaked out when, after two accident-free weeks, he suddenly seemed seized by an urgent need to pee every few minutes. Including in the house.
It made us fear he might have developed a bladder infection. So, bleary-eyed, both Steve and I staggered out with him shortly after dawn Tuesday to collect urine. Steve delivered it to the vet’s, and several hours later, he and Adagio returned to learn the results. The good news was that the test found normal levels of sugar in Adagio’s pee (so: no diabetes!) Also no evidence of a bladder infection. Less good was the presence of higher- than-average protein precipitates. This might signal trouble with his kidneys, the vet said. Given our frightful experience with Beverly (Adagio’s half-sister) and her malformed kidneys, we agreed to have blood taken from him for examination.
The vet called late on Wednesday with more good news: his kidney-function values were normal. So why the sudden peeing frenzy? Why the protein crystals? We don’t have a clue. But at least our vet now seems unworried about Adagio’s renal health. When I spoke with the puppy program director yesterday, she also sounded unconcerned. Apparently some vets think protein crystals in dog pee is reason to switch the dog to special food. But others think it’s perfectly normal and doesn’t mean anything.
If the vet and Becky aren’t worried, Steve and I have resolved not to worry either. Furthermore, Adagio is once again relieving himself predictably — outside the house.
Given that, I decided today to take him for the first time with me grocery shopping. My list wasn’t long — maybe two dozen items. He accompanied Steve on a short excursion earlier in the week, and that went okay. So I crossed my fingers, caped him, and loaded him into the car kennel.
I have to confess, I found our time together to be somewhat nerve-wracking. Adagio is still less than five months old, and being in such noisy places, filled with so many people and smells, he looked a little amazed (to the extent that the face of a coal-black dog can communicate wonder.) Shopping for even just two-dozen items involves some searching and decision-making. If you have a dog with you, that dog has to take the inevitable pauses and back-tracking in stride. Adagio isn’t used to that, and he was prone to distraction.
Still, he didn’t bark or lunge at anyone. He had many admirers, and for the most part he sat obediently as they questioned me and showered him with praise. Best of all, he had no accidents in Vons. Or Trader Joes. Or Sprouts. Not a drop of inappropriate pee. By the time we give him back to CCI in November of 2019, he’ll be expected to conduct himself flawlessly in any sort of public setting. So this was a small but necessary start.
We’ve had several puppies who haven’t liked their halters, and a few who have seemed unenthusiastic about being “dressed” in their capes. But never has anyone developed the reaction that Adagio began displaying last week.
Presented with his cape, he turned tail and ran from us. We responded by offering him unusual and tasty treats, but they didn’t tempt him. Even a bowlful of dogfood, for which he normally is ravenous, wouldn’t persuade him to approach us and submit. In this video, you see me trying to tempt him both with his lunch and selected morsels of fat trimmed from the previous evening’s pork roast:
No dice. He wasn’t going for it. And yet, once dressed, he seemed perfectly content to trot along on walks. It was baffling.
We finally decided to routinely dress him in the cape for every meal, even if we had to apply duress to get it on him. After just a few days, this seems to be working. He doesn’t look thrilled about getting caped up, but at least he’s no longer bolting.
Instead, he’s discovered other forms of mischief. Sunday we found him gleefully tossing around rocks that he obviously had snatched from inside the hearth of our living room fireplace. (Happily, it was cold.) The next morning, I found him with a roll of toilet paper from my office bathroom; he was having his way with it.
In the puppy world, these are pretty minor infractions, not too worrisome (assuming he knocks them off.) More discouraging was a raft of peeing accidents in the house, after more than two weeks of perfect toileting behavior.
When he peed no less than FIVE times on his walk around the block with Steve yesterday, we began to worry. Does he have an infection? Some more serious kidney problem (like his half-sister Beverly)?
We collected a jar of pee this morning, and Steve will take Adagio in to see the vet later this afternoon. We have our fingers crossed that this will be just another passing idiosyncrasy. Like the cape terror.
Being a serial puppy raiser has made me jaded. I remember being riveted when Tucker’s baby teeth started to fall out. I saved some from him and his successors; a small collection sits in the bottom of one of my jewelry boxes. But the thrill has faded. This morning, when Steve found this on the floor of our bedroom…
…I rolled my eyes. “Don’t you want to blog about it?” he asked. Not really, I thought.
I changed my mind because I think the transition to Big Dog Teeth is one worth noting. It’s been easy to overlook in Adagio because he’s been so good about NOT using his baby teeth as weapons. Many puppies do. Two or three months into life with some of our charges, my hands and arms have been covered with scratches and scabs. Adagio, in contrast, almost never nips. He chews his toys — a little — but he’s not obsessive about it.
The molar that Steve found today is the first one Adagio has shed and we have discovered. My guess is he swallows most of them. But a look inside his lips shows he’s already well into the transition:
Once the big ones have displaced the little teeth, it will take a while for Adagio’s head and body to grow enough to match them. That will slip up on us too, I’m sure, even though I’m trying to pay attention.
Being a serial puppy raiser provides constant reminders of just how much difference you often see between even close biological relatives. One dog (or puppy) is never exactly like another. Our last trainee, Beverly, who was Adagio’s half sister, always lay down before her food bowl and carefully chewed each morsel. But Adagio tears through every bowlful as if he has not eaten in weeks. He doesn’t chew anything; instead it looks like he’s inhaling the kibble and swallowing it whole. Meals are over in less than 30 seconds, as you see in the video I took of him having lunch today. (I’m not counting the postprandial search for any remaining molecules.)
If he eats like a newly released concentration-camp survivor, his reaction to being uncaged is at the other end of the spectrum. Never before have we lived with any dog who seemed less interested in getting out of its kennel — even after hours of confinement. Or even after he has been whining to get out, first thing in the morning. He just looks at us, cool and languid. Like this:
We’re dumfounded by this. Why doesn’t he spring to his feet, tail wagging, like almost all other puppies do?
Only this morning did I think of one possible explanation. Saturday I took Adagio to the puppy social at the home of Cyndy Carlton (who is raising Adagio’s littermate, Apple). We were jointly wondering which of the two is the elder. There’s an easy way to tell: CCI has a color-coding system for distinguishing litter mates. The first-born gets a red collar. Next is blue, then purple, and so on.
I looked up one of the photos that we received from Adagio and Apple’s puppy-raiser when they were still with her. Apple is wearing neon green. So she was the fourth born. Adagio was turquoise. That means he was eighth — out of the total of eight pups in the group. Which led me to my theory. He came out last, being born. Maybe he’s just developed the habit of hanging back.
Puppy-raising involves many milestones, but few surpass the four-month mark. Adagio reached it yesterday, and today he got his final puppy shots. He should henceforth be protected against rabies, parvo, and other ills that can take down dogs. He can begin venturing into stores, restaurants, movie theaters, and other places where merely ordinary dogs cannot venture.
His weight at the vets was just over 30 pounds, which means he’s almost 200% larger than he was when we got him two months ago.
Even more remarkable than his size is the change in his behavior. Our first few puppy classes were a nightmare of barking, whining, squirming, and general chaos. But in class last night, he made me proud. He trotted along nicely for our exercises outdoors on the leash. He waited at doorways. He came when, seated in a chair across the room, I called him.
He’s still not perfect; he still occasionally pees on the floor indoors and still is overly entranced by the taste of twigs and stones.
On my refrigerator, next to the list of Adagio’s “Toileting Errors” (which has had no additions for several days), I need a bold, red-lettered reminder: “Avoid feeling smug.”
It was with some smugness that I reflected just the other day on the huge change in Adagio’s sleeping ability since we got him. It’s been less than two months, and he has transformed from a frightened baby who had to be taken out for a potty break at least once in the middle of each night to a solid fellow who never wakes us up in the wee hours.
I had this thought Wednesday afternoon. Thursday morning about 3:30 a.m., the sound of Adagio vomiting was loud enough to penetrate my earplugs. I staggered over to his kennel, and my flashlight revealed a little pile of… something he had just regurgitated. Fortunately, we still keep a roll of paper towels on top of his kennel. I grabbed a few and found that I could easily pick up the whole pile of… whatever it was. I closed the kennel door, put the sodden wad on top of the kennel, and went back to sleep.
With the return of daylight, I got around to inspecting the contents of the wad. Here’s what it looked like after it dried:
Note that it includes several stones and an assortment of sticks and twigs, along with a bit of string. I knew exactly when he ate all this. We’ve had some workmen at the house for the past few days, so the back doors have been left open more than usual. At one point, I realized that I didn’t know where Adagio was. I found him down in the lower yard, nose to the ground. I hoped he hadn’t been grazing, but clearly that hope was in vain.
What fascinates me is that he was able to throw up the indigestible bits so selectively. No puppy chow came up with them, and he ate all his meals with gusto the following day. Was this ability evolved to enable wild dogs to survive even though their pups were dumb enough to eat sticks and stones? (Maybe that’s something to feel smug about.)