A breakthrough?

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.

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He’s a limber little fellow.

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.

 

First lessons

IMG_6066.jpegThis is a time of focused education for Dilly and Steve and me. Here are some of the most important things we’ve learned so far.

DILLY:

I have no idea where my brothers and sister have gone. Or mom. But I seem to have acquired two human pack members. They seem a bit developmentally disabled. When I try to gnaw on them, they yelp and pull away, which is no fun at all as my littermates could tell them. But I can tell they like me, and I’m crazy about them, too, for reasons I can’t explain. It just feels natural.

I’ve come to understand that when they pick me up, take me outside, and say, “Hurry!” they want me to squat and pee. When I do that, they praise me lavishly. Oddly, when I look for a discreet place to do this indoors, they snatch me up and run outside. It seems to distress them when they fail to reach me before I start to relieve myself. Also, they often continue to say, “Hurry!” after I’ve peed outside, as if they want something else from me. I have found this confusing.

When they say, “Dilly! Dilly!  in a high, excited voice and I run to them, this seems to make them very happy. And that makes me happy too. IMG_6082.jpeg

Finally, when they put me in that box at night, I’ve learned no matter what noises I make or how loudly I make them, it doesn’t work as I’ve intended; they don’t release me to cuddle or play. This really upset me the first night or two, but I’m concluding this is their routine. And if I can hear them and smell them near me, I don’t feel panicky any more. I’ve got a new strategy: curl up in the box and sleep if my human pack members seem to be sleeping nearby (at least until I realize that I really, really need to be taken outside so that I can Hurry there.)

STEVE AND ME:

We’ve learned that diarrhea is very common in puppies up to 16 weeks old. We learned this by reading our CCI Puppy Manual after Dilly’s diarrheal attacks were forcing us out of bed and outside into the cold several times the first nights. Seeking guidance, we turned to the manual (which we hadn’t read because we thought we knew it all, Dilly being our 9th CCI puppy). There we found two and a half single-spaced pages of advice about Managing Puppy Diarrhea.

“Small puppies have developing digestive systems that can be overwhelmed with too much food at one time,” the manual advises. So we’ve begun feeding Dilly six meals a day, giving him only a quarter cup of kibble per meal. He seems happy and excited every time we present him with such a bowl (even if he only had the last one about two hours earlier.) But he eats like Beverly (two puppies ago), laying down and chewing each piece thoughtfully.IMG_6055.jpeg More often than not, he walks away from the bowl when there is still a sprinkling of kibble left in it. IMG_6063.jpegHe appears to grow bored with eating and hungry instead for petting (which he appears to find just as pleasurable as eating.)

We’ve also been giving him CCI-recommended tablets (Pro-Pectalin) that are a combination of probiotics, pectin, and clay (kaolin). And after hearing strong recommendations from some other seasoned puppy-raisers, we’ve ordered powdered pumpkin to sprinkle on his food.

It’s hard to tell if all this treatment is having any effect. Some of what Dilly is now excreting is semi-solid (rather than liquid), and yesterday, he excreted it more regularly during the day (instead of only at night.) He’s been peeing and pooping (outdoors and on command) just before bed, once in the middle of the night, and once as soon as he begins to hear us stir, before dawn.

And once again, I am startled and amused to be spending so much time thinking about  and spending money to influence the digestive tract of a single small animal. Just a few weeks ago, Steve and I were avidly discussing politics, philosophy, literature. Now all we seem to talk about is Dilly’s toileting habits.

From experience, I know this will end and fairly soon. It only feels like we are trapped in Toilet Mode forever.

 

Getting to know you (Dilly)

This is the tough time, when we’re adjusting not just to life with a dog once more, but more challenging: trying to sense what kind of dog this little guy will be.

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NOT a dog who would chew on shoes carelessly left within his strike zone, right?

In the past, I have referred to these days and weeks (and occasionally months) as Puppy Hell. It’s when we CCI puppy raisers earn the big bucks they pay us (ha ha.) Getting up in the middle of the night in response to screams that are likely to signal an urgent need to toilet. Cleaning up puppy diarrhea. Turning the house into a series of barricaded control zones. Being on guard every single minute the pup is not sleeping, to identify what kind of trouble he or she might be instigating.

With Dilly, we’ve been at this for only two days, so it’s far, far too early to draw any reliable conclusions about his character. But we’ve made a number of observations.

— He continues to wag his tail more than any other dog we’ve ever had, and he’s doing it at a much younger age. He wags his tail when he’s eating. When he’s walking across a room.  He wags it wildly when he catches sight of one of us and runs to be petted.

— Despite appearing to be somewhat hyperactive when we got him (Wednesday, Nov 20), he’s been napping a lot. And as we learned with Adagio, a sleepy puppy is a wonderful puppy!

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He sleeps on hard surfaces….
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…soft ones…
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…and anything in between.

— He’s no chow hound, at least not yet. He seems delighted when we present him with a half-cup of kibble morning, noon, and around 5:30 pm. He dives into it but he hasn’t yet eaten the whole allotment. That’s probably just because he’s still so small. Our fingers are crossed that he will develop more of an appetite, since pups who love food treats are easily rewarded.

— On the other hand, he seems to love being praised. That can work as well as food.

— We’ve taken him for a few short walks near our house, and he follows along with us better than any other puppy ever has at this age. He seems to pay close attention to us. We love that.

Of course, house training him and getting him to sleep through the night are not just works in progress, they are work that has barely begun. Still, we feel we’re off to an excellent start.

My fair puppy

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Saturday I went to the San Diego County Fair — thanks to Adagio, or rather Canine Companions for Independence. For the first time in some years, CCI got a booth and put out a call for volunteers to sit in it and explain the mission of the organization. I hadn’t been to the fair myself in ages, and Adagio is game for any outing, so I signed us up for the afternoon shift.

Two other dogs and their handlers shared the duty with us: Mulberry (who’s almost exactly the same age as Adagio) and Helena, a graduate now working as a facility dog at the VA Hospital. Adagio found both those girls to be quite beautiful (more interesting, truth be told, than any of the humans). Situated in the beer tent, our booth drew a ton a foot traffic, and dozens of humans stopped by. They asked about the organization; wanted to snuggle with the dogs. IMG_4852.jpeg

It’s not a tough assignment, and Adagio’s tail kept wagging throughout. Still, he looked pretty tired by the end of our shift, and I was flagging too, so we never strolled around to look at all the other sights. The only souvenir we returned with was this pin.

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It’s not really pinned to his fur. I would never do that to him.

And now Adagio is poised to go off on another adventure: staying with two different sets of puppy-sitters while Steve and I set off tomorrow on an adventure in Latin America. When we reunite in July, we’ll have just three more weeks together before Adagio moves on to his advanced training. The very thought makes me want to cuddle him at least as much as any of his admirers at the fair.

 

 

Fun run

The high point of cuteness of my week came Tuesday morning, when Adagio and I participated in a fundraiser for Canine Companions for Independence (the organization that owns him). This event, a fun run, was organized by La Petite École, a French-language immersion school located off Aero Drive that adopts a different local beneficiary for its community philanthropy each year. Adagio and I were among the seven puppy-raisers and their charges who showed up to cheer on the kids. The Moment of Maximum Cuteness came when we mingled with the preschoolers. They gently patted the dogs, who seemed barely shorter than them, marveling at the softness of their ears and fur. Adagio seemed to enjoy this attention greatly. IMG_4782.jpeg

Then we moved to a large field, where the older kids did laps and took breaks in which they delighted in our dogs’ ability to Speak and Shake and do other “tricks” (their terminology.) We learned that close to $6,000 had been raised, with some hope that a bit more money might trickle in over the next few days.

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Watching all that running was exhausting. 

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Going to such events, when possible, isn’t mandatory, but it can be fun. And it’s a pretty good training experience. After a few hours, when we gathered for a group photo, neither the other dogs nor the kids were distracting Adagio. He was quite content to flop down in the sun and rest.

The final stretch

IMG_4766I’ve gone so long without blogging about Adagio that a friend asked me the other day if he’s okay. He’s fine! I’m the one who’s remiss. After writing about Steve’s and my adventures in puppy-raising for almost 10 years, I may be running out of steam. Or maybe I’m just in the doldrums of our final few months with Adagio. Unlike when we’re struggling to civilize a baby dog, learning something new about his or her personality every day, life with a fellow like Adagio (now 18 months old) is calm. Not much news develops. But I don’t want to drop altogether the narrative thread of Adagio’s journey, so here’s a brief update.

We will turn him in to the staff at CCI to begin his advanced training on August 9, exactly 11 weeks from yesterday. What makes me quail even more is that we will only live with him for 7 more weeks! Next month Steve and I depart on a four-week trip to South America, and once again Adagio will go to trusted puppy-sitters while we’re on the road.

The prospect of saying goodbye to him already feels heartbreaking. Both of us think he’s the easiest CCI puppy we’ve ever lived with. His half-sister Beverly (our last dog before him) came close, but she was more vulnerable to digestive disruption (and ultimately we got the terrible news about her malfunctioning kidneys).

Adagio always seems content to curl up and sleep whenever we haven’t suited him up for some activity. He has almost no bad habits; never digs or hurts our plants or tries to steal food or sniffs out other mischief. He learns quickly and wants to please.

As far as we can see, he has one bad quality, and we’re worried it may torpedo his chances to graduate. Although birds, cats, even the rare squirrels don’t much interest him, the sight of other dogs invariably redirects all his brain cells. If he thinks he might get to play with one, he literally moans with pleasure and excitement. Sometimes he yips or emits a happy woof!

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Never does Adagio experience more joy than at times like this. 

This may be cute in a pet, but a service dog must concentrate on his human. Steve and I have been so concerned about this failing we even arranged for a counseling session last week with Becky Hein, head of the local puppy program. Over Skype, we described to her how easily Adagio appears to lose his mind when he spots a potential playmate (namely any other dog) while out for a walk. She offered a number of suggestions (put more distance between him and them; give him sharper corrections), and we’re doing our best to work on them.

We’re already thinking about what we will do with him if he fails to graduate. But that’s a  complex decision, and we hope that gloomy call doesn’t come. Better to focus on enjoying the dwindling days we have left together.

Ready for take-off!

Last night Steve, Adagio, and I participated in the most entertaining field trip ever. Along with more than a dozen other older pups and their raisers, we gathered at Lindbergh’s Terminal 1, where we practiced going on a plane flight.

Service dogs need to be able to travel by air, and some CCI puppy-raisers take their charges to the skies as part of their formative training experiences. Not all airlines allow pups-in-training in the cabin, but many do, and in 2015 Southwest for the first time opened its cabins to CCI trainees. Still, Steve and I have always quailed at the thought of trying to get one of our puppies to board and behave impeccably in any airliner’s cramped quarters, even for a short excursion.

I did happily participate in a group practice session at the airport three years ago with Kyndall (our trainee at the time). Our group went through the security screening, strolled the terminals, visited the doggy “relief station,” and happily interacted with members of the traveling public. But we didn’t get near any actual planes.

Last night was different. After years of laying the groundwork, veteran puppy-raiser Marilyn Fullen managed to get permission for our group to board one of Southwest’s working 737s (furloughed in San Diego for the night). Here’s a glimpse into how the adventure unfolded.

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Armed with our special gate passes and caped companions, we lined up for the routine security inspection. 

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The humans had to take off their shoes, but the puppies got to keep their capes on.

Once through security, our group climbed the steps and found Gate 4, where we lined up just as if we were ready for boarding.

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Steve and Adagio got in the A line. (But so did everyone else.) 
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Adagio never hesitated…
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…although he didn’t look as joyful as our friend Inge. (But she always looks like that. She’s pure Golden.) 
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The wait at the cabin door was brief, as no one had any carry-ons (other than leashes). 
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Adagio’s sister, Apple, was the model canine traveler. Positioned perfectly under the seat in front of Cyndy, a middle-seat passenger might never notice her. 
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But Adagio, half again her size, simply wouldn’t fit. 
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This is about as good as we got.

Some of other puppy-raisers and one of the Southwest representatives assured us that, should we ever need to fly with a puppy, we could get access to bulkhead seats, where even dogs as big as Adagio do fine.

I think Adagio probably learned something about good comportment from the whole exercise. And Steve and I can better imagine how flying with a pup could work out well. We’re still not ready to try it any time soon. But it was fun to come close to experiencing it.