Dilly’s tasty tail

Steve and I have long been interested in the tails of the CCI puppies we’ve raised over the years. They’re not all the same. Dionne (puppy number #5) had one with a distinct twist at its tip, which gave it a slightly porcine look. The tail of Kyndall (#6) appeared to be kinked, just about an inch from its end. You could see and feel it.

For some time, we nursed a theory that the longer the tail, the more dominant the dog. This notion was fed by the fact that despite his size, Tucker (#1) had a rather wimpy little tail and a docile, submissive personality to match it. Dionne and Darby (#4), both smaller physically, had long tails and — bossed Tucker around unmercifully. But our Tail Dominance theory took a beating with the arrival of Kyndall, who had a nice long tail but was more subservient to Tucker than any other dog he had lived with.

The fact that Dilly’s tail is in a class by itself is hardly surprising. He’s the only purebred Golden Retriever we’ve raised for CCI. Matching the rest of his body, his tail is a magnificent feathered scepter. It’s hard to capture its beauty with a camera; so often it’s in motion, wagging.

We have thus been dismayed recently to notice that very end of Dilly’s tail has begun to resemble… a bony finger.

Notice how it narrows down to an almost furless section.
You can almost see the tail bone that should be holding the fur.

We know why this is happening. We have on occasion caught Dilly in the act of ripping the fur out, though of course we have no idea what would move him to do this. Boredom? Neurosis? Hunger? (Once ripped out, he seems to like chewing the fur. We do not know if he then swallows it.)

We haven’t yet consulted with any authorities about this problem. Steve found an old bottle of bitter apple in the garage, so he is spraying it in the hopes that the bad taste with discourage this bad habit.

We’re not wildly optimistic. Look at the way he’s licking his lips. (Seasoning!)

What now?

101817 J&BSixteen days remain until we turn in Beverly. I’ve been quailing for the past two weeks, ever since our vet declared that Beverly probably had a “silent heat” last spring and would almost certainly bleed normally when her next heat started — likely 9 to 10 months after the first one. I don’t remember exactly when it was that Beverly looked somewhat swollen to us. Was it January? February? Either way, it seems likely she should go into heat again very soon.

So what? people have asked me. Here’s the thing: whenever she does go into heat, we’re obligated to take her to the kennels up in Oceanside. With a normal cycle, that’s not the end of the world. Your girl spends three weeks in Girl Camp (aka Sex Jail), then you pick her up, and puppy-raising life goes on.

At this point in our time with Beverly, however, the start of a heat would mean something very different. If she were to start today, she would not be able to participate in the Turn-in activities. (Girls in season are too distracting to all the doggy participants.) Steve and I have never been big on ceremonies, but I’ve come to believe the ones associated with Turn-in play a helpful role. It’s painful to say goodbye to a puppy you’ve raised, and doing it in the company of others who have gone through the same experience helps to ease the pain. A bit.

You brace yourself for Turn-in, but if your girl suddenly goes into heat two weeks before it, you have to load her in the car, drive her up to CCI, hand over the leash… and never see her again (except maybe briefly at Graduation, if she makes it). The end comes before you (the puppy-raiser) are ready.

In our case, there’s an extra wrinkle. Steve and I and Beverly are scheduled to depart early tomorrow for our last big adventure together. We’re driving to Northern California so Steve can take part in a reunion of his high-school class. We expect to return Sunday.

We won’t cancel the trip just because Beverly could possibly go into heat in the next four days. That possibility has been hanging over our heads for months and months. At the moment, she doesn’t look particularly swollen to me.

We had one other CCI puppy go into heat when we were on the road with her. We were in Arizona at the time. We couldn’t just leave Steve’s business conference abruptly then, so we got our girl to the kennels a few days later. I guess if the same thing happens to Beverly, we’ll muddle through in similar fashion.

But we’re sure hoping it doesn’t come to that.

 

Scaredy-dog

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Meh. THAT is not scary.

After CCI puppies are turned in for their Advanced Training (as Beverly will be four weeks from today), one of the first things that happens to them is that they undergo a series of exams, both physical and psychological. Over the years, we’ve heard about what’s involved in the temperament testing. A volunteer dons a cape and mask and approaches each puppy in a vaguely menacing fashion. Apparently this scares some of the dogs, and they bolt to get away. That’s a bad thing.

So the other day, we figured we would give Beverly some early exposure to this kind of creepy apparition, to prepare her for the ordeal. We had our son, Elliot, put on a cape and scary clown mask and suddenly emerge from the door opening onto our pool deck. Steve had Beverly on a leash outside, and we were delighted to see she didn’t flinch. Instead she wagged her tail a little and started to move toward Elliot. He pushed the button on an umbrella, and it popped open. We’ve had at least one (non-CCI) dog who was terrified of this. But again, it didn’t bother Beverly.

What does scare her are stairs that you can see through. As I’ve reported before, we’ve been working on getting her up these at the building where we attend puppy class. She’s still uneasy, but we can now usually coax her up one set there.

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This photograph was taken at our class last week. But when we tried to make her climb up another set of open stairs in the same complex — one where the lighting made the absence of a back to the stairs more obvious — she reacted with stark terror. She wouldn’t even look at them, let along try to ascend.

Will this one character flaw doom her chances as a service dog? That scares Steve and me.

Beverly’s last visit to Dr. Scoggin

I was complaining recently in this blog about all the paperwork that accompanies our last weeks with each CCI puppy. I got all my forms for Beverly in the mail last week but still needed to do one final task: take Beverly one last time to our veterinarian.

CCI requires this, I suppose so that it has a formal record of the state of each pup’s health as it returns to the organization. Along with giving the exam, the vet has to fill out a simple-minded form. It all seems to me like a classic exercise in bureaucratic hoop-jumping. But this morning I took Beverly in.

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She didn’t mind. She always thinks Dr. Scoggin’s office smells interesting, and Dr. Scoggin is gentle and kind. The vet complimented me on the the cleanliness and healthy state of Beverly’s eardrums,  described her skin on the form as “normal,” and judged her current weight (67.4 pounds!) to be a “good working weight.”

Most interesting to me was the doctor’s opinion that Beverly probably had a “silent heat” last spring when her vulva appeared to be a bit swollen, but we saw no blood. Dr. Scoggin said this is not all that uncommon; she might see it in one in 20 dogs (particularly big breeds). She said the next time Beverly goes into heat, she should bleed normally.

Now Steve and I are crossing our fingers that Beverly can put this off for just 30 more days. Otherwise she’ll have to go into the CCI kennels early and will almost certainly miss the big ceremonies on November 3. That would be very sad.

Public service

The mission of this blog is to share the experience of raising a puppy to become a service dog. There’s a lot to that enterprise, and by far the most interesting parts are those that involve teaching and living with the puppies. There’s also some PR involved, however.

Part of that transpires when you’re out in public with your trainee, working on teaching him or her to behave while grocery shopping or sitting in a movie theater or under the table at a restaurant or wherever. But occasionally, CCI sends out email requests for us to serve as emissaries for the organization at various events.

When it doesn’t involve too long a drive, I enjoy helping out when I can. Recently, Beverly and I responded to two such activities, both close to our neighborhood.

The first was a tiny Lion’s Club chapter that had requested a presentation about CCI for their monthly meeting. It was held in the back room of a waffle restaurant in Clairemont. Steve and I both accompanied Beverly to that one — an easy assignment: talking to eight seniors about the Canine Companions for Independence organization and the work it does. Several folks in the group already seemed to know a lot about the program. We spent about a half hour chatting with them, and they seemed pleased to have us.

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Beverly put on a little show and tell — Sitting, going Down, walking nicely on her leash. But mostly she snoozed.

The next day, Beverly and I showed up at a meeting room in Pacific Beach where we joined three other CCI trainees — including Beverly’s buddy Keegan. It turned out that this event, a monthly meeting of a group called Fortune Builders, was an opportunity to publicize CCI’s big fundraising activity of the year, Dogfest (which will take place later this month.)

The volunteer who is chairing this year’s event was there, along with her latest puppy, only four months old. But she didn’t make the pitch for donations. Another puppy-raiser who’s a longtime member of the Fortune Builders group took the microphone to do that.

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This meant all that the rest of us had to do was stand around and let the meeting-goers see our dogs and pet them if they wanted to. Beverly excels at this.

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Keegan got petted first by this particular dog-lover, but Beverly received plenty of attention too.