Corrupter of innocents

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Does this look like the face of a depraved source of corruption? We’ve never thought so. Tucker, our first CCI puppy, is normally such a mellow and unobtrusive fellow. Though he was early judged by the professional trainers to be unsuitable for a life of service (because of his excessive distractibility), he’s never been a troublemaker, and that’s been particularly true as he nears his dotage. (He’ll turn 11 at the end of this month.) For a long time, we thought he was an actively good influence on our successive puppy trainees. But we’ve just seen one acquire an actively pernicious behavior that obviously was learned directly from Tuck.

About his only “bad” habit has been to raid Steve’s basket of recycled paper. For some years now, Tucker has done this almost every time we go out and leave him at home. He does very little to the paper — nibble on the edges a bit. We’ve joked that it was his way of expressing his displeasure at being left behind — a doggy snit.

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What we typically find when we get home.

Recently, however, Kyndall has begun doing the same thing when she’s bored. She’ll snatch a piece of paper out of the basket and rip it up. (Most fun of all is if we forget and chase her, trying to get it.) Obviously, she watched Tucker do it and decided it looked like fun.

110815 Kyndall guilty

We’ve also begun to question whether puppies really do better if there’s a “civilian” dog at home. I supposed CCI probably could produce some research and statistics on that question, but I’ve never seen any (and certainly they don’t disqualify anyone from puppy-raising if they have a home dog.) But Steve and I have begun to think the presence of another dog may distract our trainees and make them focus less intensively on us.

For that reason, assuming that we continue to raise puppies to be service dogs, we’ve resolved NOT to have another home dog, once Tucker shambles off to the big doghouse in the sky. Of course, despite his occasional depravity, we hope that’s a long time off.

Good news, bad news

So the good news is that we gave Kyndall the new large-size Extreme Kong last night, and to our delight, she did NOT manage to tear any chunks out of it! Maybe it will be tough enough to stand up to her jaws of steel. Fingers are crossed.

The bad news: while watching the movie (an engaging documentary, Red Army, about Soviet hockey and Russian sports training), Steve got so engrossed that he failed to notice that Kyndall, on her leash next to his chair, was chewing on the strap of my purse, which was sitting nearby on the floor. Here’s what we found when the lights went up:


61315 purse destroyerThis morning Steve managed to find and order a new purse strap for me on Amazon. It was $14.99. But as he points out, we’ve spent more than that on Kongs recently.

Raising puppies teaches one about relativity.

Queen Kong

Kyndall is our first puppy with jaws of steel. We know this about her because she is the first dog to destroy Kongs. 061215 Queen KongKongs are the extremely hard rubber receptacles approved by CCI for its puppies to chew on (one of about only three chewing objects that get the official CCI stamp of approval). We’ve used them for years. As many people do, we like to fill them with peanut butter and freeze them rock hard. Such a Kong has the ability to distract and amuse a dog for quite a while. When we take Kyndall to our Friday night movie group, we always bring along a frozen Kong for her, and we give one to Tucker so he won’t feel so bad about being left home alone.

In recent weeks, we noticed that our regular red Kongs started to develop chips around their major orifices. I assumed this was because they were getting old (and probably were weakened by all those repeated freezings.) Steve ordered two replacements, but while Tucker’s looked pristine after his first go with it, Kyndall instantly destroyed her brand-new never-before-frozen one. Steve then lobbied for replacing it with a large size Kong Extreme (“For Power Chewers”). But I resisted, arguing that the medium size we’ve always had would require less peanut butter to stuff. So Steve sent off for one of the super-tough black Kongs in a medium.

We took it with us to last week’s movie gathering, and when we packed it up at the end of the evening, I saw to my horror that Kyndall had ripped big chunks out of the edges of the allegedly super-hard material.

So we ordered and now have received the bigger (even tougher?) Kong Extreme — the one Steve wanted to get in the first place. He’s hoping that the bigger size will make it harder for Kyndall to savage it. We’ll take it with us tonight and see what happens.  Stay tuned!061215 new kong




Two steps forward, one step back

012815 peeI’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.

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She’s still a very little girl.




Flower child

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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.011915 hibiscus3

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.



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Think you can keep me from my hibiscus fix? Make my day!


A girl and her toys

A girl and her toys

Dionne has so few toys. It’s partly her fault that she doesn’t find balls riveting (we have plenty of those).  Apart from balls, CCI only declares two toys to be safe for CCI puppies (Kongs and Goughnuts). We have both, but they’re pretty boring (unless the Kong is stuffed with peanut butter or cream cheese).

So I was thrilled a few weeks ago when I spotted a new toy at Costco. The OddBall isn’t on the Approved Toy list, but another CCI puppy-raiser had praised it highly, and it looked indestructible. For a day or two Dionne seemed enchanted.

There’s a tennis ball inaccessible within the tough clear outer ball.

Even Tucker seemed to like it, which made it much more desirable in Dionne’s eyes. But within days, she was power-gnawing on the handle section, and we could tell that soon she would gnaw right through it. Since then we’ve limited her access to the OddBall, as her interest has simultaneously waned.

Clever pup that she is, Dionne has since found other toys that ARE ravishingly interesting — common sticks. She’s delighted that we have a large supply of strewn around the yard, and every time she finds one, she snatches it up and rockets around the property, powered by joy. Sticks have the advantage of not only being smelly, but you can CHEW on them and reduce them to nasty piles of splinters. This makes you feel powerful. And if you’re a bit peckish (pretty much always, if you’re part-Labrador, you can eat the splinters.

Why, oh why, don’t the humans see how wonderful they are?

Escape artiste

Escape artiste

Steve and I think Dionne seems cut out to be a working dog.  Unfortunately, the line of work may be different from what CCI would like from her. We can envision her with a career as a screenwriter. She’s so inventive! Here’s the latest.

We took her with us to the Clairemont theater last night to see Saving Mr. Banks, the Tom Hanks/Emma Thompson film about the making of Mary Poppins, the film. The three of us have been in that theater many times.  Dionne, on Steve’s right, seemed quiet; well behaved. But somewhere about halfway through, Steve suddenly noticed that she was no longer on her leash.

She’d chewed herself free from it! While we were engrossed in the movie, SHE was thinking Great Escape! Born Free! Breaking Bad!

Thankfully, mercifully, she didn’t just slink off in the dark, nosing around for popcorn the way some hounds hunt truffles. (She’s so black, she probably could have gotten away with that.)
Steve has a solution to prevent this from ever happening again. He says we should have removed her Gentle Leader and connected the leash directly to her collar. We’ll do that in the future. (But by then her agile mind will have moved on…)