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.)
Steve and I have mixed feelings about dog beds. For old Tucker, whose joints clearly ache, we agree they are essential. Tucker has beds spread all over the house, and usually he prefers to be sprawled out on one of them.
Dog beds for puppies are another matter. Every time we’ve gotten one for any of our charges, they sooner or later wind up ripping it apart. This leads Steve to declare that no more puppies should have beds. But I think that’s unfair. My philosophy is that each dog should have a chance to prove he or she is better. More sensible.
So it was that I bought the bed below for Adagio at Target.
He adores it; spends more time than any previous puppy curled up in it, snoozing. Sometimes he drags it around and wrestles with it, but so far he has resisted harming it.
We’ve wondered how long he will continue to fit, but now we have our answer: maybe forever. We burst out laughing the other day when we walked into the sitting area and found this:
Tucker weighs almost 90 pounds. He couldn’t squeeze in his whole rear end, but he appeared to be trying. Rather than looking sheepish, he mulishly refused to move. We found him occupying it again yesterday, and I had to haul him off it.
Steve’s theory is that this is Tucker’s way of retaliating against Adagio for shamelessly moving into (and often taking over) Tucker’s beds. He thinks Tucker resents Adagio getting his smell all over Tucker’s space, and this is Tucker’s revenge.
I wonder if, instead, the takeover doesn’t express a Tuckerian desire to return to the womb… or at least return to the pampering we give to the puppies. Or does he just think it’s funny? (We do.)
We just had a new experience in our career as puppy-raisers: having two young litter-mates reunite for some extended time together. This happened because the other day Steve and I had an activity scheduled in the East County. We knew it would consume several hours, and we could not take Adagio along with us. So we asked Cyndy Carlton, who is raising Adagio’s litter-mate Apple, if we could drop him off at their house while we were otherwise engaged. She welcomed him, and we offered to take Apple home with us later that day, when we knew Cyndy would be in school. Normally Apple stays with someone else during those hours, but we figured this would give the other sitter a break.
Since they flew down from Northern California together in early January, Adagio and Apple have seen each other several times at the puppy socials that Cyndy hosts. But those gatherings last only about an hour and are attended by a canine mob. This extended time, one-on-one, was special. The two youngsters seemed mad with happiness to see each other. When Steve and I picked them up four and a half hours later, Cyndy reported that they had wrestled and romped non-stop. Do they recognize each other? I can’t imagine how we could ever know that. What’s overwhelming clear, though, is that they find each other irresistible.
Back at our house, I watched them interact; it was better than TV. Mostly they attacked and chewed on each other, but the ambushes and chases often turned slapstick. They sent each other sprawling in many comic variations.
Occasionally, one or the other would get too rough, provoking ear-piercing screams. When this happened, I checked for blood, but I never found any evidence of serious injury. A few times, they even played nicely.
Only on the second day did they mellow out enough to do some co-napping — mixed in with more playing. When Cyndy picked them up, she and I agreed that participating in a sleepover for three-and-a-half-month-old litter-mates is almost as much fun for the humans as the dogs.
People often ask me how Tucker is tolerating Adagio. I am pleased to report that yet again, even as a nonagenarian, Tucker seems not just resigned to the little guy but almost fond of him. He wags his tail when Adagio returns from some outing. He allows Adagio to snuggle up and nap next to him on his dog bed. To our astonishment, Tucker even initiates play from time to time.
Adagio, for his part, seems sensitive to Tucker’s rules. After being reprimanded harshly (by Tucker) once or twice, he has learned NEVER to try and horn in on any dish Tucker is eating from. He even waits, politely, while Tucker drinks from their water bowl (although I’m all but certain Tuck would willingly share consumption from it).
As far as Steve and I are concerned, the grossest thing about life with Tucker is the way he drools. He has long been prone to this, but it has become markedly worse as he’s moved into his dotage. It’s not uncommon for twin fangs of saliva to swing from his jowls. Don’t ask me why. It doesn’t have to be mealtime. Whenever we see it, we invariably grab a paper towel and clean him up, lest one of the slimy ribbons wind up on one of us. It’s disgusting.
Also disgusting was the habit that Beverly developed for cleaning Tucker up. For reasons that defy comprehension, she came to routinely lick up the drool, whenever she noticed that it needed attending. This grossed us out but, perversely, served our interest (by sparing us the clean-up chores.)
And now Adagio is following in her footsteps!
Does the Tucker drool taste good to puppies? Is it thirst-quenching? Surely that’s unimaginable. My best guess is that it’s some twisted doggy sign of subservience and fealty. “Allow me to tidy you up, master.” Tucker permits such ministrations with the equanimity of a lord being attended by his manservant.
Meanwhile, in the two-steps-back-for-every-one-step-forward department,
— We have stowed away the exercise pen that we used at first to confine Adagio in my office. It now feels unnecessary.
— We have put the puppy carriage back into storage in our garage. Although Adagio rode in it for a few minutes yesterday, he walked beautifully for most of our three-plus-mile long Sunday walk. We’re confident he will be able to make it completely on his own by next week.
— The backward step relates to my sheet labeled “Toileting Errors” on the refrigerator. It was empty all week long, but now it has two entries, added yesterday afternoon. Steve and I consider both to be instances of operator error; in each case, we forgot to take Adagio out to pee (and he failed to make his need known.) If only Tucker could read his mind for us.
The bright side of Puppy Hell is that it’s so fast-changing. If some days are particularly trying, nothing lasts for very long. A year from now, when Adagio is a staid 15-month-old, I’ll be struggling to find anything to write about. Now something new develops almost daily.
Here are some of the turns that Life with Adagio has taken:
— He got his third set of puppy shots yesterday. That leaves only one more round (in three weeks) before he will be fully immunized. The weigh-in at the vet’s revealed that he now weighs almost 25 pounds, more than double what he was when we got him six weeks ago.
— All his gut troubles have disappeared. He’s been sleeping reliably every night until 5:30 or 6:30 a.m. And I’m not sure when he last had any accident in the house. I posted a log on the refrigerator Sunday, but we haven’t had to make any entries since then. That’s how it is with toilet-training; one day you realize you’ve sort of…done it! (Though many more weeks (or months) will pass before we will feel he is truly 100% trustworthy.)
— We’ve been extending our little walks with him. This morning for the first time, we ventured all the way to my coffee shop without the stroller. We’ll still take it along a few more times as an emergency puppy-transport vehicle in case he flags during our longer Sunday-morning rambles. But soon we’ll be stowing it away in the garage.
— Adagio now understand what it means to Sit and go Down. Much more charming is his robust response to the command Speak. Here’s what that looks like:
I’m not sure Adagio is quite as sleepy a puppy as his half-sister Beverly was. But he naps a LOT. This makes life with him pretty easy.
Normally he sleeps through the night and wakes somewhere between 5:30 and 6:30 am. He eats breakfast and enjoys a burst of activity then, racing around the house and/or yard, barking at Tucker, playing with various toys. We’ve started to take him on longer walks close to home; this morning we made it all the way to the coffee shop and back on foot, with no time in the stroller; he’s doing better and better on the leash. Then around 9 or 9:30, he starts to sag and he’s ready for a long morning nap. He wakes up around noon for a little lunchtime break, and then he usually will settle down for more… sleeping!
His MOST favorite place to sleep is plastered up against Tucker, who has already come to tolerate this pretty well.
Otherwise, he seems to enjoy sprawling in a number of weird positions. Like this:
Even after he wakes up, when we open the kennel or the exercise pen and invite him out, he often just sits there, imperious, unmoving. We have to reach in and yank him out.
We haven’t conclusively exited from Puppy Hell yet. (We’re still working to communicate with one another about when he needs to go out and pee.) But life already feels much easier than it was five and a half weeks ago. (“Five weeks?!” Steve exclaimed this morning. “Haven’t it been five months?”)