Adios, amiga

At one point, she struck a pose that looked a bit melancholy.
We don’t think she really was.

The house is very, very quiet. Although Dionne weighed less than 60 pounds, she always had a large personality. Now that she’s gone, she’s left behind a palpable void.

As I write this, she and her adoptive parents, Dave and Ann Seltzer, must be almost halfway to their home in Davis (east of San Francisco). They made the eight and a half hour drive from there yesterday, departing at 6 a.m. and joining us for an early supper. Also joining us were LeAnn, our longtime puppy mentor, and her good-natured husband Kevin. It was LeAnn who first introduced us to the Seltzers. She knew they’d recently lost their beloved Sailor, an almost 15-year-old CCI release dog, and they were ready for another canine companion.

Dave and Ann looked worried about us, sad and apologetic about taking this sassy beautiful charmer away from us. I reassured them that the one thing that makes it easier to raise a puppy and give it away is the thought of it going to a home where it will be showered with love. And it couldn’t be clearer that Dionne will be drenched in that. She may not be turning lights on and off for a double amputee or calming trauma victims. But she’ll have a mission in life — making Ann and Dave laugh, entertaining them, receiving their conscientious and devoted ministrations. She’ll get barrels more concentrated attention and exercise and adoration than she’d get in our house — where she would soon have to compete for attention not only with our busy lives but also with Tucker and, soon, a new 8-week-old puppy.

So Dave and Ann returned this morning to collect her for the drive north. We gave them all her medical records; the results of her Dognition personality testing; a third of a bag of Eukanuba Adult dogfood. I removed her faded, dirty collar, and they snapped on the jaunty red and white polka dot one they’d bought for her.

They promised to stop often on the road for potty breaks. They said they would be sensitive to her showing signs of separation anguish.

We’d bet money she won’t feel any. She was wagging her tail as she walked out our front door, still wagging when she climbed into the back of their station wagon.

There she goes…

As for me, though, if I had a tail, it would be drooping.

A new adventure for Dionne!

Since I picked up Dionne from CCI three and a half weeks ago, a lot has happened.

Our reunion was ecstatic. At first when Becca walked her out, Dionne didn’t notice me sitting on a sofa in the waiting area. Then she recognized me and almost burst out of her skin, exploding with happiness. She lunged to the end of her leash and climbed up into my lap, 58 pounds of wriggling Labradorean pleasure.

It was irresistible, contagious. Becca and I laughed, sharing Dionne’s unrestrained delight. I drove her home, and she repeated the performance at the sight of Tucker and Steve.

We slipped right back into our old routines, but a key subroutine — her almost ceaseless search for mischief — has been missing. She seems calmer. She’s much, much easier to live with. We leave the back doors open and she goes outside and, for the most part, nothing terrible happens. (I don’t think a hole or two is terrible, though Steve might disagree.)

But, as it turns out, her stay with us won’t be permanent. Ten days from now, she’ll depart for a new life in Davis, California. How we made that decision is complicated, but the short version is that we became aware that some stellar dog lovers who lost their beloved 15-year-old CCI release dog last spring were ready to take a new dog into their life. After some thought, we decided Dionne would be even happier with them than she would be with us, as we’re planning to start raising another pup in November. In Davis, Dionne will be the sole recipient of a lot of loving and devoted attention. We checked with Stu in Oceanside, and he gave his blessing to their adopting her. They should have all the papers filled out and the adoption fee paid by the time they drive down to get her next week.

She, of course, knows none of this. But we think she’d happy if she did know. CCI puppies are nothing if not resilient. Not to mention relaxed:

Our next CCI puppy is NOT going to get away with this.  (We’ve taken the pledge.)

The handwriting on the wall

The handwriting on the wall

When I received The Call from CCI (8 years ago?) telling us that Tucker had failed to made the cut, I remember feeling the blood drain from my face. I felt faint, overwhelmed with a wave of disappointment.

We’ve gotten more blasé over the years. Or maybe Steve is right: we’ve gotten more knowledgeable about what kind of dogs are fit for a life of service. Either way, we both felt confident that Dionne was too rambunctious, too irrepressible to make it. So yesterday, when The Call about her came, I was more than braced for it.

“She’s a good girl,” Stu began. “And she settled into the kennel environment pretty well. But she’s got a lot of energy.” He went on about how CCI doesn’t aim to break puppies’ spirit, but the service dogs do need to be under control. Dionne “needs to be busy,” he said, repeating that she was “not a bad dog at all. She just wants to be a dog.”

So tomorrow I’ll drive up to Oceanside to collect her and bring her back here. That will be fun, after our abrupt leaving-taking at the end of April. Fun for us and, I suspect, deliriously exciting and pleasurable for her to re-enter Civilian life. As a dog.

Dionne gets a second report card!

It arrived last Friday, and the comments of Dionne’s trainer, Kyle, might appear to be nothing worth getting excited about.  They were so similar to his comments in the first report card that for a minute I thought perhaps a mistake had been made and we’d been sent the wrong file.

But I compared them and found small differences between the two reports. The biggest one was that next to the Potential Breeder box, NO has now been checked, rather than YES.

Other than that, Dionne is still apparently displaying “a higher level of energy than normal, excitable greetings, distractibility, and rough play with other dogs in the play yards.”

Still.  What did excite Steve and me was that Dionne is our only CCI puppy, other than Brando, who ever got two report cards. Tucker and Yuli only got one before being released. Darby never even made it to the first report.

Brando, of course, was our sole star, going on to the glories of graduation and service. Could Dionne possibly follow in his footsteps? It seems unlikely (particularly in light of Kyle’s comments). But at least we can still dream…

Some news, at last!

Steve and I have been holding our breaths for what feels like weeks, waiting for the first Professional Training Report about Dionne to arrive. As noted in my last post, we celebrated when she made it past the point where Darby was released (before she even got her first Professional Training Report). We thought Dionne’s report was supposed to be e-mailed to us Wednesday. But Wednesday came and went.

It finally arrived this morning. Nothing in it surprised either one of us. Our first reaction was to try and parse out: just how bad is this report? Our conclusion: not that bad.

After the standard boilerplate paragraph about how the dogs have mostly been undergoing temperament and medical testing and being evaluated on how they were fitting in came the meaty part:

“Dionne has transitioned well into the kennel environment and is starting to adapt to the advanced training schedule,” we read. “At times she displays a higher energy level than normal, which can be counterproductive to training” (no!!!!! not Dionne, we thought, rolling our eyes), “but with consistent work we have seen some improvements.”

“She is easily distracted by her environment and other dogs and needs help refocusing on the handler.” That’s the Dionne we remember! As, to be fair, is the Dionne who “is relaxed during grooming sessions and does not require much help to get into a cradle position. She has shown some rough play behavior in the play yards with other dogs but can easily be called over to handler to break this behavior. Dionne has been progressing at known and new commands at a normal rate.”

They checked off “excitable greetings,” “rough play with other dogs,” and “distractibility,” among the bad behaviors she had exhibited. But they also checked the boxes for “interacts appropriately with people,” “walks nicely on leash,” and “willing.”

So I guess we keep holding our breath.  The next report — should we get one — should come in about a month.


This is what she looked like a year ago.
What’s she doing now?

Two small but encouraging developments:

The first was a letter from CCI last weekend. Steve’s reaction to the envelope was, “Uh-oh.” But it turned out to be a note from Becca, thanking us again for our work in raising Dionne and informing us that her trainer is Kyle (new to us). We would get more details about her progress in the first professional training progress report, Becca said. (I believe that’s due to be emailed around July 9.)

Hmmm, we thought. If they were going to release Dionne very, very soon, they probably wouldn’t have wasted that stamp on us.

Among our first four puppies, the earliest to be released was #4 — Darby. I had calculated how many days elapsed between her turn-in and The Call. Then I applied the same formula to Dionne, using the date she should have been turned in (May 16). By this formula, if we had received The Call about her yesterday, she would have survived in Advance Training for exactly the same amount of time as Darby.

But no call came yesterday! This means Dionne has at least beaten Darby’s record.

Stay tuned.

Turn-in day

Turn-in day
Turn-in days are always sad. This one was just sad in a different way.
CCI’s veterinary technician called me several times this week. On Tuesday, she reported that Dionne was still dripping blood, and under the microscope, her cells confirmed that she was still very much in heat. On Wednesday, Melissa saw little change, but she pointed that things could turn around overnight.
They didn’t. We spoke again at the end of the afternoon Thursday, and Melissa said the cellular evidence was still unambiguous. If Dionne participated in Friday’s turn-in ceremonies, the male dogs would “go nuts.”
Melissa and Becca, the puppy program coordinator, both stressed that Steve and I were welcome to participate using a stuffed stand-in. But we both felt that would make us feel even sadder (not to mention that the authorities have been urging people to stay off the freeways if possible, given the fires still burning around the county.)
Now we won’t get any official report until July. Worse still, unless Dionne graduates in November, we could wind up never seeing her again. That feels sadder than sad.