Our fig crop was late this year. Normally, some of the fruit ripens in the early summer, but this year that didn’t happen. Only now, finally, is the tree loaded with juicy purple delicacies, so many that they fall off by the hour.
It’s been fascinating to watch Beverly’s reaction to this — yet another illustration of how different puppies can be. Every dog we’ve ever had has quickly figured out that ripe figs are edible, and over the years, the most common reaction is that they are a gift from the universe, to be pounced upon and gobbled up as quickly as possible. For us, this is problematic for several reasons, including that:
Eating lots of figs makes dogs fat.
CCI puppies aren’t supposed to eat random objects that they find on the ground.
Eating too many figs gives some pups diarrhea.
Beverly’s reaction to the crop has been unusual. She clearly enjoys slipping out to the lower yard to inspect the messy detritus under the tree. She sniffs and sniffs, and I have seen her delicately choose certain chunks to consume. She chews them, as if savoring the flavors. Alternatively, sometimes she selects a less-ripe specimen and races around the yard with it, tossing it around like a toy. At other times, she lies out in the sun, ignoring the temptation altogether.
It’s wonderful (and exceedingly rare) to have a puppy so trustworthy it can be allowed out in the yard without our supervision. Beverly is almost that trustworthy, but not completely. Mostly we keep her in the house, away from the temptation. But at those moments when we slip up, I tell myself that fig season will be over soon.
In my role as a puppy-raiser, I think it’s easy to slip into denial. I want Beverly to succeed (as so few of her predecessors have), and I’m impressed by all the ways in which she seems promising — her low-key charm, her failure to get into all the trouble that so many of her predecessors have gotten into. She’s an elimination machine — give her the command and she poops and pees almost without fail. Except for the figs, she hasn’t seemed driven to chew and swallow every stray item in the yard, with the resultant vomiting and diarrhea that such behavior invariably brings.
So when she threw up her breakfast two days ago, I brushed it off (in denial). It was a fluke, I told myself. Some minor hiccup of her normal digestive perfection. And indeed, she showed no sign of wanting to throw up her lunch or dinner that same day.
But this morning, at 5 a.m., I was jolted awake by the very loud, roiling sounds of a dog in the process of regurgitating something large. An elephant? “Which dog is that?” I demanded tersely of Steve, still deeply asleep next to me.
“Mrgff,” he replied.
I crawled to the end of the bed and squinted into the gloom. Tucker was curled up in his bed, looking vaguely mortified by what he was hearing. The gross-out sounds were emanating from Beverly’s kennel.
Down at kennel level, I shone in my flashlight. Beverly batted her eyelashes at me, giving me a “Who, me??” look. I saw no elephants, nor any piles of doggy vomit. There was a small slick of mucus near the front of the kennel, however, with a small brown object in it. Later, I retrieved it and determined it to be part of the palm frond that Beverly had pounced upon the night before, out on the patio. Had the tiny fragment of it provoked that disgusting noise?
Once again, we threw caution to the winds and fed her breakfast. And we’ve heard nary a burp since then.
So that’s good news and bad. The bad is that Beverly isn’t perfect. But the good is that she’s really not very bad.
Good and bad, she’s about to embark on a huge adventure. Steve and I had the opportunity to go on an extraordinarily long and complex trip to Asia. If all goes well over the next several weeks, we’ll visit the 4th and 7th tallest buildings in the world (in Taipei and Kuala Lumpur, respectively), and stand at the foot of the tallest mountain (Everest in Tibet). We can do those and other things only because of the extraordinary generosity of the CCI puppy-raisers and puppy-sitters who are willing to take Beverly in our absence. She’ll spend time in the care of at least four such homes.
I’ll transport her to the first this evening, along with assorted gear and paper work.
After I got up with Beverly this morning , I sat on one of the steps in Steve’s office. Beverly came up and rubbed herself against me. She’s never been an affection-greedy pup, but this morning, she seemed to need some reassurance. She wagged her tail slowly and buried her face under my arm. If I’m honest, I have to say I probably won’t miss her while we’re traveling; there will be too many fascinating sights and experiences to distract us. But I’ll be very, very happy to reunite with Beverly when I return home. Even if she’s not perfect.
Good parents try not to compare their kids, and good puppy-raisers probably shouldn’t compare their charges either. But it’s hard to resist. Even though all the CCI puppies are Labs or Goldens or crosses of the two, and CCI breeds the dogs to fit a narrow profile, they have unique personalities. Kyndall is very different from Dionne, our previous girl. Dionne’s worst behavior in her early months was throwing up. She did that because she loved to chew up and swallow all manner of things that irritated her stomach. None of her vomiting was ever part of a serious illness. It was just a hassle, annoying and gross. So for months now, months in which Kyndall has never once vomited, I’ve been singing her praises for that. Alas, no more.
Since returning to us last weekend from her vacation stay with Cabernet and her family, Kyndall has continued to look a bit sad. Much more often than normal, she has whined. I think she misses Cabernet, as much as these dogs can miss anyone. So when Steve took a break Tuesday to catch up on a couple of gardening chores, I implored him to let Kyndall hang out with him, untethered, in the backyard. “Maybe she won’t do anything bad,” I suggested. “Let’s put her to the test.” I knew it would make her happy.
Steve was leery, but he agreed, and Kyndall looked like she was actively smiling, every time I went outside and checked on her. The two of them were outside for a couple of hours. Then she came into Steve’s office and upchucked a very large, disgusting deposit on his office floor.
“Too much freedom!” Steve pronounced. I felt heartsick, too discouraged to poke around and try to figure out what she had eaten that provoked this. We could guess: stick parts and rubber bits from all the baby-puppy toys that she’s been ripping into with her recently acquired big-dog teeth. We didn’t even put her on the special upset-tummy diet that we came to know so well with Dionne (plain boiled rice), and it wasn’t necessary. She gobbled down her dinner that night and has vomited nothing further since.
But she’s back on a shorter leash again, with access only to our toughest chew-toys and no permission to go roaming around outside. I guess she’s not so different from Dionne after all. Not that I would ever compare them.
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.
Last week when Steve took Dionne to the vet because she was limping, he noted this poster on one of the walls:
We figure Dionne has eaten at least 5 of the 10 — socks, rocks, balls, chew toys, and sticks. (Does that make her average? Or above average?) Fortunately she’s never eaten enough of any of them to require surgery. And with less than three months until her departure for advance training up in Oceanside, you can bet we will not be leaving any bones or corn cobs or underwear unguarded. (Happily hair ties and pantyhose are not much in evidence around here.)
Also happily, we have not had to return to the vet this week. The limp has completely disappeared. The dreadful cystic growth has shrunk and toughened. It’s now almost indistinguishable on her paw.
Steve and I don’t want to say Dionne misses Darby (who went back to her own family Tuesday, after her vacation stay here.) All we can say is: since Darby left, Dionne’s behavior has taken a turn for the worse.
She’s engaged in frenzies of racing around and attacking Tucker; barking at us; snatching shoes and sponges and my portable keyboard cover. This morning we found her with a GLASS ornament in her mouth. (Thank God she relinquished it in exchange for a Charlie Bear.)
Then there was this, discovered by Steve underneath the dining room table:
On the right is a Scotchbrite pad, ripped in two. On the left (foreground) are the remains of a candle. We have no idea where she got it. But it took a loooooong time to clean up.
What she probably needs is to run around outside for an hour or two. But it’s drizzly and muddy outside. And she has little interest in running round by herself. (With Darby, it was a party!!!)
Darby just left. It’s hard not to think Dionne will miss her. The two girls played for hours — chasing each other around the house and yard, wrestling and keeping toys away from each other. I wasted time trying to photograph them. Their speed and extreme blackness made it hard, plus they seemed keenly aware every time I picked up a camera. They would instantly stop whatever they were doing and either come to me or skulk away.
Happily (for us) Darby didn’t end up getting in the pool very often, and for all their mayhem, she and Dionne avoided knocking over the Christmas tree. In general, we felt encouraged by seeing how rarely Darby got into any trouble in the house.
Dionne’s a different story. During our outing to the fire station, Dionne’s sister’s puppy-raiser commented to me that she and her husband finally could leave their shoes on the floor. Until recently, Demi would snatch them up and run away. But Dionne still snatches shoes and runs, while also finding new sources of mischief.
On Sunday, for example, we somehow failed to close the door in the hallway leading into the bedrooms. Dionne got into the guest room, wiggled under its bed, and utterly destroyed something. We think it was some religious object that we brought back from Ethiopia two years ago. But the destruction was so thorough, we can’t identify whatever it was. (Or remember.)
The mystery remnents
Last night Steve took her to the last of the “Basic”puppy-training classes, where as usual, she did well. “She’d be the perfect dog,” he noted, not for the first time. “If she weren’t a monster.”
I’ve lamented recently about the dearth of acceptable toys for CCI puppies. Soft plush toys can be shredded (and eaten) in minutes. Ditto anything made of squishy rubber. Rawhide is verboten, as are deer antlers (the latter because they might harbor bacteria or “unapproved chemicals”).
Hard rubber “Kongs” are still okay, and we regularly fill Dionne’s with cream cheese or peanut butter. We freeze the whole thing, and give it to her (and one to Tucker) when we’re leaving them for longer than usual. They love them — but they don’t play with them around the house.
What has been a staple toy of early puppyhood in our house is the empty container. An empty plastic half-gallon milk bottle makes a lot of noise and slips away easily, provoking chase. Tucker and the pup sometimes play keep-away with them. But the other day, I decided to time just how long Dionne can now play with a bottle like this one:
It was discouraging. Within five minutes, the plastic around the opening was so badly shredded, it was beginning to cut her gums.
A chunk was missing entirely (and in fact, we now suspect it was that that provoked her stomach upset last week — since it clearly was NOT swallowing the thread and needle.)
Next I gave her an empty water bottle, but it fared no better. Within 5 minutes, its neck was trashed.
So sadly, we’ve resigned ourselves to discontinuing use of the bottles as dog toys. I feel much more understanding when Dionne brings in sticks from the garden to gnaw on — but then I take THEM away from her. I also draw some inspiration from the annual Hambone Awards, which I read about the other day upon the announcement of this year’s winners. Sponsored by a pet insurance company and given in honor of the year’s most unusual insurance claims, the awards supposedly were named for a dog who devoured an entire Thanksgiving ham after being accidentally shut in the refrigerator. Some of my favorites from this year include the following. (I have highlighted the most mind-boggling bits.)
First place: Winnie the mixed-breed dog who munched on a two-pound bag of frozen onion rings, which led to a turbulent tummy and potential onion poisoning.
Dingo the 48-pound mixed-breed who dined on two dozen uncooked bread dough rolls, causing yeast-related alcohol poisoning. And…
Luke the Labrador (Emerald Isle, N.C.), taken to the emergency animal hospital for surgery to remove a golf ball accidentally swallowed while ‘retrieving’ it in his backyard.
The runner-up was Natasha the Siberian Forest cat from Oakland who was treated for shock and hypothermia after the cat’s owner’s roommate accidentally completed a wash cycle with the curious feline inside the machine.