Goodbye Vegas, hello Christmas

We walked with Kyndall into the big party at the Hard Rock Hotel Thursday night and knew immediately we’d made a mistake. This was no place for a pu120715 party 2ppy, even the best trained and behaved one. The din was stunning, and the party areas so jammed with people it was hard to move.
There were freakish sights, 120715 party1but what freaked me out the most was seeing all the morsels that partiers had dropped and Kyndall kept lunging at. We wheeled around, took her back to our van, and secured her in the kennel, while we returned to the madness, though not for too late. We needed to hit the road early to drive back to San Diego.

What made the return drive more pleasant for all of us is that we’d planned to stop along the way to see if we could obtain our Christmas tree. Steve and I are partial to the harvest-your-own variety, but it’s become harder and harder to find tree farms in San Diego County. Knowing that we’d be driving back through Riverside County, I’d investigated and found a couple of promising candidates. So it was that just after lunch, we pulled into the Sand Haven Pines property in Perris.

This turned out to a huge and obviously well-managed enterprise, with acres of beautiful, reasonably priced trees. Best of all, the owners said it was fine for Kyndall to explore off leash. She did this with wild enthusiasm.

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So many sticks and stumps, all so chewable!
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She was so happy, if she’d been a cat, she would have been purring.

Yesterday, the opening of the Christmas season continued for us with Kyndall’s and my participating in the 80th annual La Jolla Christmas Parade. Only a small group of CCI puppies turned out this year, but our organizer provided awesome costumes.

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The worst thing about the parade is always the wait for our contingent to march.

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But this year it wasn’t bad; we took off just after 2 p.m. and were done by 2:20. And both during and after the parade, all the pups received lots of adulation. Kyndall enjoyed that.

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These fellow paraders couldn’t keep their hands off Kyndall. Which was fine with her.

Leaving Las Vegas

Leaving Las Vegas

A few final thoughts on our Las Vegas adventure. Part of the attraction for me of going was that Steve and I both believed it would be good for Dionne’s training. Now that we’re back at home, but I have to say it succeeded on that score. She got lots of practice doing things she doesn’t normally get to do: entering through strange doorways and flashy portals, riding elevators, passing weirdly dressed characters.

A few things she had never done before, like riding on a monorail…

…where she comported herself well.

The two of us enjoyed our long, long walks together.  For all the crass or bizarre or heartbreaking sights, you run into other things that are beautiful.

As we strolled by the Bellagio, the fountains began to dance as the ghost of Frank Sinatra sang, “Luck Be a Lady Tonight.” Somehow, that was wonderful.

What was never wonderful was the long schlep from our room to the dog run.

Here’s the view from the end of the hallway near the first set of elevators….

In this shot, Steve and Dionne are standing in front of our door.

Just looking at those makes me happy to be home.

Nobody walks (off the path) in Vegas

Nobody walks (off the path) in Vegas

Last night I told Steve I would never, ever bring a young puppy here. “If you wind up coming here again next December, and we have a 5- or 6-month-old puppy at the time and I lose my mind and suggest we come along, you must vehemently oppose this,” I instructed him.

“Of course!” he agreed.  “That would be a terrible idea.”

With a 14-month-old puppy, such as Dionne, it’s not bad. But it is a challenge — for me and her. I suspect most normal humans would not enjoy it.

The biggest problem is what I’ll call Elimination Stress. Back at home this is no problem at all. Dionne is the best dog we’ve ever had about a) peeing on command — any place, on any surface, and b) the best dog we’ve ever had at communicating when she needs to be taken out. In my office, she’ll get up and stand next to me, staring intently and whining. It’s easy to get the message.

But here we’re catapulted back to the tensions of the early house-breaking days. Aside from the fact that it takes a FULL five minutes to get from our room on the Venetian’s 23rd floor to the dog run outside, once we get there, it’s filled with about 180,000 exotic smells, each of which seems to have the power to rip Dionne’s attention from her rear end and misdirect it to her nose. I estimate that I’ve spent well over an hour, maybe two, watching her move from one spot to another, sniffing avidly. I ask myself, how can this possibly be so interesting? But then I think of women in department stores, combing through racks of sale-price clothes. Maybe one smell is like that sassy pink and black polka-dot number; another like that maroon-lace top. Riveting.

A typical obstruction.  What safety?
What they mean is: use the sidewalk that leads into the casino.

Several times, frustrated by the lack of action in the dog run, Dionne and I have gone for long walks up and down The Strip, but this too is an alien experience. Never before have I noticed how constrained the pedestrian paths are here. Unbreachable fences or dauntingly dense bushes — clearly designed to keep everyone on the concrete — are everywhere. (Are they afraid drunk gamblers or homeless souls will wander onto the plastic grass or gravel to sleep?) Often we run into physical barriers that lead us toward or force us into the casinos or leviathan malls — where escalators lead you from one level to another. But CCI puppies can never go on escalators, so several times we’ve had to search frantically for the (hidden) elevators — frantic because Dionne was sniffing in a way that made me think she really, really needed to poop.

And when we finally do find access to a little patch of bare dirt or unprotected plastic grass, it turns out that every other dog in town has found it too, which of course means… more hypnotic, obsessive sniffing!

This place is bursting with other distractions of the sort to make a puppy lose her mind. For one thing, it’s been bitterly cold and at times so windy Dionne’s ears were blown out at a 90-degree angle from her head. I think that unnerved her. Loudspeakers blare about the wonders of Rock of Ages or the Million-Dollar Quartet or this or that Cirque de Soleil production. The volcano at Bellagio erupts periodically (but the pirate ship in front of Treasure Island seems to be under repair). In front of The Venetian, weird figures on stilts move through, and three times every evening a crazed musician rocks out a Christmas carol on the fake Rialto Bridge.

For all that, we’ve had no repeat of her early-Tuesday-morning accident (which was probably our fault because we let her drink too much water too late at night.) I’ve gotten a surprising amount of work done at the desk in our room, and she’s been a little angel while I’ve done that. We took a little break for tourism yesterday, visiting the spiffy new Art Deco performing arts center…

…and the amazingly bizarre  brain research center designed by Frank Gehry.

She’s been good company on such forays. I’m intrigued that I’m not seeing as extreme a reaction to her presence as I got when I visited with Brando three years ago. Then, I felt I was in the company of a rock star. The reaction to Dionne is more muted. Most people smile.  Some comment on how beautiful she is or how well trained. One woman came right out and said it. “The black dogs aren’t as popular, right?” she asked. “But I had one,” she continued, “and it was the best dog of my life.”

She’s enjoyed just chilling out, while I’ve worked.

Welcome, Dionne, to Las Vegas

Welcome, Dionne, to Las Vegas

For many years, Steve has had a consulting job that takes him to Las Vegas early in December. Usually he goes by himself and flies, but three years ago Brando, our CCI puppy at the time, and I went with him. We drove. And although we had some harrowing moments, I’ve often looked back on that excursion fondly.

This year Steve’s Vegas meeting is taking place at The Venetian, which may be my favorite casino. (I’m not a casino gambler; for me it’s all about the setting.) So I resolved to bring along my computer and work, with Dionne in tow. The drive reminded me of how much traveling with puppy resembles traveling with an infant. We packed two huge kennels, (one for the car and one for the room), bowls for food and water, food, treats, a leash, cape, halter. Toys. That’s a hassle, but Dionne was angelic in her car kennel en route, and she executed a near-flawless Under in the Outback Steakhouse where we dined Monday evening.

Checking into the hotel, she remained calm — a remarkable achievement, I thought, given how strange a place Las Vegas is.

Home’s nice, but it looks nothing like this!

To my horror, we were given a room on the 23rd floor, at the far end of a ridiculously long corridor. Dionne’s used to the trip from her bed to her toileting quarters taking about 30 seconds, so being stuck high up in the inner recesses of a gigantic labyrinth made me nervous. After settling into our room, the three of us did some scouting. We figured out the shortest distance from our room to a place outside where she could pee and poop. Then we went to sleep.

When she began whining around 4:30 a.m., I chalked it up to being an unfamiliar place. I issued a few stern “Quiet”s, and she obeyed me. But when the alarm went off at 6 a.m., I threw on some clothes as fast as possible and all but raced with her down our endless hallway, onto the elevator that took us to the Casino level, down more twisting passages and to the elevators leading further down into the parking garage and — finally, mercifully! — the outside world.

She was good all the way to that last set of elevators. I pushed the button. Told her to sit.

She sat. But after a beat or two, I noticed there was something odd about the way she was “sitting.” Her bottom was lifted off the floor just an inch or two. And under it a veritable LAKE of puppy pee was accumulating. She was trying to fake a sit!  She was hoping I wouldn’t notice that she was also actually peeing in this fancy Vegas casino. (Not for the first time, I thought of her high “Cunning” score on the Dognition test a few months ago.)

I was horrified. All I had in hand was my card key. Nothing else to clean up a urine lake.

“Aw, don’t worry about it,” said the nice man who’d been waiting for an elevator with us. “They got people to clean things up,” he pointed out. And I thought, “Yes. Yes!!! People must spill things sometimes in casinos. A minion will certainly appear to make this disappear.” (Fortunately this little “spill” was on marble or whatever it is that covers 80% of the Venetian’s floor surfaces.)

Indeed, by the time Dionne and I returned from our visit to the dog run 5 minutes later, a young Asian woman was grimly working to mop up the strange yellow liquid. She smiled at us. I wondered if she simply could not imagine what had happened.

The incident freaked me out so much that for the rest of the day, every time Dionne so much as whimpered, I leapt up from my computer, leashed her up, and took her out for a potty run.

No other accidents occurred, but she thought the sights were quite amazing.

A little gondola ride might be interesting….

Dionne says she’s a show girl at heart.

Our adventure should continue through Friday morning.