We’ve gotten some news we haven’t had in a long, long time: one of our dogs will be continuing on to Team Training!
That’s Adagio, of course, who began his Advanced Training on that hot day back in August.
Team Training is the session during which people who have been selected to receive CCI dogs move into the dormitories on the Oceanside campus. During the first two days, these folks work with a variety of dogs. CCI always has a few more candidate dogs than clients, to try and assure that every match will be a perfect one. On Wednesday, February 5, the preliminary matches will be announced. All of us puppy-raisers have been told we’ll get a call that day informing us of our dogs’ status.
If Adagio is not matched with anyone, he will likely continue for an additional three months, then go through the entire Team Training process again with the next class of humans. We’re told that dogs in this situation get a higher priority for placement.
Much can still go wrong. On occasion, a dog can still be released just before or during Team Training, or during their third “semester” of Advanced Training. Still, it’s been more than eight years since any of our pups has gotten this far (that was Brando). So we’re delighted Adagio has reached this milestone. And as an extra bonus, Adagio’s sister, Apple, will be starting Team Training with him. How cool it would be to have two litter mates graduating together!
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.
(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.
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.
Dilly 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.
Dilly seemed a tad nervous, but he tolerated the pawdicure well enough. The end result looked like this:
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.)
There’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.
…today! Here’s what he looked like when we received him, the day after his two-month birthday:
And here he is now, at three months:
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.)
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.
And I tried to introduce him to the concept of Shaking.
Kay, our instructor, made us trade our pups with other puppy-raisers — an educational experience for both the humans and the dogs.
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.
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.
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. He doesn’t look as if he LOVES it.
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.
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…
…found sheltered spots that only he and the other littlest party-goers could fit in…
…and where he could hide out from the bigger kids.
After an hour of this heaven, I took him home, and he was out cold for most of the rest of the day.
We gave Dilly the last dose of his anti-giardia medication yesterday. By all appearances, it seems to be working. We haven’t seen a sign of anything like diarrhea for the past week, though we’ll have him retested in about 10 days to confirm that the nasty parasites are truly gone.
With no diarrhea to wake him, he has slept through several nights. He woke us at 3 a.m. Saturday night, however, with an urgent need to pee, so we think this particular unpleasant aspect of puppy-raising is not completely over. Still we’re hopeful the end of it is near.
Now our attention has shifted to getting this guy to eat. For folks like Steve and me, who’ve raised eleven Labrador retrievers (purebred and crosses), this is an almost unimaginable problem. Labs, even tiny ones, don’t eat so much as they inhale their food, racing to get it into their stomachs as fast as possible, then instantly looking around for whatever else they might snack on. But golden retrievers can be pickier.
For our first week or so together, Dilly would calmly munch his way through a fraction of a cup of dog food… then stroll away. Both the CCI vet who examined him right before he flew to San Diego and our own vet have decreed that he’s a bit underweight. “See how you can feel his bones,” our vet said, probing behind all the hair that makes him look more like a lamb than a puppy.
Happily, he has begun to seem much more interested in food, greeting most meals with this sort of enthusiasm:
IMG_6093 from Jeannette De Wyze on Vimeo.
He’s now consuming almost three cups of puppy chow daily — our target.
Because he was so restrained about eating, we haven’t done what we normally do with our CCI puppy trainees, namely putting their halters on them when we feed them. If you’re a Labrador retriever who thinks eating is the most joyous experience in life, then eating with the halter on should make you associate halters with good times. At least that’s the theory, and Steve and I have had good luck using that ploy to break through the resistance that many dogs initially have toward wearing a halter.
Now that Dilly has gotten more enthusiastic about eating, we finally steeled ourselves to add the halter. Steve put it on……and Dilly looked a little stunned. But he didn’t instantly try to claw it off. In fact, he ate all his kibble before he seemed to realize that something annoying was wrapped around his muzzle.
Since then, we’ve dressed him in the halter for several meals, and it’s gone about as well as we could hope. The next step will be to try walking him around the block with it on.
Our sweet, fluffy blonde puppy has been invaded by tiny monsters. We found this out because our excellent vet, Dr. Kevin Scoggin, had a hunch Dilly’s fecal analysis should be repeated. (The one he had Saturday had come back negative.) I was skeptical, but Steve dutifully took in another stool sample yesterday morning. Bingo! This time, the more experienced technician who did the analysis found swarms of live creatures swimming on the slide.
So this, it appears, is the definitive answer for why Dilly had diarrhea, an affliction that made it necessary to take him outdoors to relieve himself several times a night. The diarrhea has improved, but the fecal analysis shows he still needs treatment for the active giardia infestation, according to our veterinary team. Giardia (which infects people too, mainly when they drink from streams contaminated by cattle feces) is a fairly common canine ailment, and an exasperatingly difficult one to deal with. You get rid of it in the victim by feeding them vermicides that kill the parasites without harming the host. This morning, we gave Dilly his first dose of Panacur, a powdery concoction that should clean up his gut within a few weeks. (We’ll have to repeat it for five more days, then have him rechecked later in the month.)
But besides living in Dilly’s gut, there is giardia in our environment now, we can be sure. We haven’t yet read the lengthy handout that came with the medicine, and frankly, I’m dreading the complex instructions for cleaning up Dilly’s fur, his bedding, the yard. It promises to be a lot of work.
Though I’m not happy my pup has been infected, it’s nonetheless great to get an explanation for what’s been wrong with him — and the hope that it will soon resolve. Dilly weighed more than 14 pounds at the vet’s yesterday. That means he’s gained about three pounds in the two weeks we’ve had him. With restored gut health, I’m optimistic he’ll soon be sleeping soundly every night. After my report about his first unbroken night’s sleep (Saturday), he did wake up at 4 am Sunday night. But last night he slept for 8 hours straight. That’s what I call normal, something that will be wonderful to have routinely back in our lives.
Steve says I shouldn’t write this; that it’s too soon to say anything, lest we anger the Puppy-raising Gods. But I can’t help it: last night Dilly went through the whole night without awakening us!
Granted, it was not a super long night. We turned out the lights a few minutes after 10 pm. Sometime early in the morning, I woke up and couldn’t resist peeking at the clock. It was 4 am — far longer than this puppy had ever slept before. And still he didn’t stir. I miraculously went back to sleep and woke again around 5:10. Dilly slept on.
Steve was stirring next to me, and I could tell he was also awake. I had a fairly strong urge to pee, and I suspected Steve did too. But neither of us adult humans spoke or moved, lest we wake the baby canine and make him aware of his own full bladder. After 10 or 15 minutes, I couldn’t stand it and crept to the bathroom. Steve followed after I was finished. STILL Dilly slept on.
Only about 5:40 did he begin to whimper, at which point Steve, wide awake, sprung to take him out. “He peed a gallon,” he reported upon their return. “But NO poop.” Then he put Dilly back in his kennel (which is inches away from my side of the bed), and — another miracle! — silence returned for another 10 minutes or so.
Now, in mid-afternoon, Dilly has produced three normal stools so far. This is enough to make me think we have beaten the diarrhea devils, through the combination of feeding him six times a day (but only a quarter cup of kibble each time), giving him supplementary Pro-Pectin and powdered pumpkin, and adding a tablespoon of low-fat cottage cheese to each feeding. Our vet’s assistant suggested the latter. We talked to her when we were dropping off a stool sample yesterday morning. The test cost $45 and came back normal. I have often found when we get desperate enough about some puppy digestive problem to pay for a stool analysis, it invariably comes back normal and the problem almost immediately disappears. So my second hypothesis is that paying the vet something somehow appeases the Puppy-raising Gods; they then cut you some slack.
Yet a third possibility was raised by Dilly’s mom’s breeder-caretaker, who told me his half-sister Zari had an allergic reaction to the anti-flea medication she was given. (Dilly developed his problem almost immediately after taking the same pill.)
I don’t know, nor do I care, which explanation is right. I just hope his gut stays happy. Even if he does wake up a few more times in the middle of the night, he’s given me hope we may all be sleeping better soon.