I’ve been feeling almost smug in the last few days. We’ve seen Kyndall make some real breakthroughs. Almost a week ago, I stopped carrying her down the stairs from our bedroom for the first toileting break of the morning. I’ve hustled her along quite fiercely, but it’s been effective. She hasn’t once stopped to squat and pee on her way out, despite how urgently she sometimes does that once she’s outside.
We’ve seen progress, too, on the chewing front. I think she’s starting to get that we really don’t like being bitten by her. She still tries, from time to time, but she’s not persisting as much as she was a few weeks ago. The number of gouges on our hands is diminishing.
Tucker also has been training her. A few nights ago, she did something that must have really made him mad (we didn’t see what it was). He snarled and barked at her, and instead of screaming just once, she emitted loud squeals of terror for several long seconds. We think it was terror, rather than pain, as she bore no sign of being bitten. Whatever she did and he did, she’s been downright deferential to him since then. When he’s eating out of his bowl or licking a plate, she gives him a wide berth.
So it was a startling disappointment this afternoon to see her blithely squat down next to Steve and me in the kitchen and pee a substantial puddle. This was only an hour or so after Steve took her out and she peed, and then took her on a short walk during which she peed again.
What was she thinking? Then again, what am I thinking? She’s not yet three and a half months old but already adjusting beautifully to life with us — most of the time.
We planted the “Butterball” hibiscus on our patio 19 years ago. Since then we’ve acquired 6 CCI puppies. Collectively, they eaten all kinds of things in the yard. Yuli was wild about the King Palm seeds. Dionne favored mulch — fresh or aged. Kyndall is the only one who’s been obsessed with eating the hibiscus flowers.
Maybe that’s because the tree happens to be bursting with fat yellow blossoms at the moment. After some time, they dry up and fall off. Dried and withered or newly unfurled, she pounces upon them and hunkers down for a chew. For a while we told ourselves she wasn’t swallowing, but now we know better.
This alarmed us. Certain plants can kill dogs, including a couple that we have in the yard, oleander (permanently) and poinsettias (often during the Christmas season). No dog has ever shown any interest in them, however. When Kyndall’s hibiscus cravings became evident, we turned to the Internet and (surprise!) found conflicting information. But a common assertion is that “hardy” hibiscus (Hibiscus syriacus) is indeed poisonous, while the “tropical” varieties do no harm.
Our Butterball is a a tropical variety, a rosa sinensis. And though I knock on wood as I type this, Kyndall has yet to throw up anything (unlike her predecessor, the vomiting superstar Dionne). We still try to stop her whenever we find a blossom in her mouth, but she’s persistent about harvesting more.
My stomach lurched just a bit when I opened the envelope from CCI and saw that the subject was Dionne’s upcoming turn-in to the Oceanside center. For a moment, I feared that the start of her Advanced Training had been moved up three months sooner than the date we were given when we received her last December. I’ve heard of this happening to puppy-raisers, on rare occasions, and it’s brutal.
But no. The date of her turn-in remains Friday, May 16. That’s six months off.
Yet somehow, creepily, it feels like it’s right around the corner.
Last month, around the time of Dionne’s first birthday, I received an email telling me it was time again to fill out the Canine Behavioral Assessment & Health Questionnaire (CBARQ). This is an ongoing project of CCI’s, in collaboration with a couple of guide-dog-for-the-blind programs.
The idea is to refine the assessment and quantification of doggy behavioral traits. A professor at U Penn is conducting the research. What we puppy-raisers do is to fill out questionnaires when the pup is 6 months and one year old. I did it for Brando and Darby and, now, Dionne. It’s a little tedious — pages of questions and never any feedback about what the data is showing (unlike the Dognition project that we participated in last summer). But I comply, partly because I’m a reasonably dutiful puppy-raiser, and partly because I hope there’s a scientific pay-off for all of us answering all those pesky questions — somewhere down the road.
A sample of the CBARQ questions
There was one small but immediate benefit of filling out the questionnaire this time: it made me reflect on how much Dionne has changed over the past few months. Her relentless quest for trouble has throttled back — dramatically. She still has her mischievous moments. She still springs up — as if jolted by an electrical current — to participate in anything that’s going on. But if nothing’s going on, this is her new calling in life:
It makes me think: if she continues at this rate to grow calmer and ever more focused, six months from now she’ll be a superstar! And in the meantime, she’s a LOT easier to live with.