Mortified in Costco

I thought we passed a milestone last week, when I took the my Toileting Errors log sheet off the refrigerator and stuck it in Adagio’s file. He had not had one accident since April 27, and I confirmed that his record with the puppy-sitters while we were traveling was excellent. No accidents. IMG_3002.jpg

I was feeling a little smug Saturday morning when I took him to Costco with me. When I ordered him to Hurry in one of the parking lot planter/islands, he complied immediately and copiously. Closer to the entrance, I took him to another good spot and issued the order again. After quite a bit of sniffing, he pooped on command. I disposed of the little blue baggie in a trash bin, and we sashayed into the warehouse, confident.

We loaded jerky treats into our cart, then I picked out a nice piece of fish for our Father’s Day dinner. I was about to head for the vitamin section when I thought to check on what was available in the way of berries. Adagio seemed a bit resistant to entering the chilly produce room with me, but I wasn’t paying too much attention to him. And then I was — noticing the large puddle of urine that was materializing directly underneath him.

Of course I had no clean-up tools with me. A kind shopper, noticing my distress, asked if she could help me by looking for a Costco employee. I told her I was on it, and after a moment, I found a worker entering the store’s dairy section.

“Uh, my service dog puppy trainee just peed in the produce department,” I said. I couldn’t resist adding that this had happened despite my having him pee right before we entered. The guy stared at me, impassive, as he reached for his walk-talky and spoke into it. “Rob, can you go to produce with a mop? There’s a wet-spill cleanup.”

I liked that euphemism. Adagio and I slunk through check-out and out the door. In the parking lot, I ordered him to pee again. And he did!

Clearly he was having one of those days where he seems to need to urinate every 10 minutes. Yet they’re fairly rare, and he had no more accidents for the rest of the day, even though he later accompanied Steve to four grocery stores. Later in the afternoon, we went out with friends to two art galleries then had dined at a restaurant together. Adagio came with us, and he received many compliments on his excellent behavior. We felt proud of him, and I’m not going to put the Toileting Error sheet back. (But I’m not going to take him to Costco again for a while.)

Adagio, peeing in an acceptable spot



Stepping out

When I was new to puppy-raising, I couldn’t wait for Tucker to get old enough (four months) to begin taking him out in public. The thought of waltzing into my Vons or a movie theater with my well-trained, adorable little canine companion tickled me, plus I imagined how happy I would be to be able to avoid leaving him at home while I was out running errands or engaging in various activities. Once we began venturing forth together, I did enjoy it at first, maybe even more than I had anticipated, as I learned how much my encounters with random strangers would increase. I still get a lot of pleasure from those social encounters, some of which I wrote about just the other day. After a while, however, I also began to appreciate how much taking a puppy along complicates any activity.

Even when a dog has reached the point of being very well behaved (as Beverly is now), he or she requires constant attention, if just to ensure that no temporarily loss of mind (or memory) has occurred. If I need to go out and buy a new pair of running shoes, for example, I do not enjoy making sure that Beverly maintains a perfect Down Stay, while I try on different pairs. And as charming as her fans can be, they also slow one down.

Over the years, I’ve found myself wanting less often to take along my current trainee. Steve, who does it more often, sometimes chastises me for what he sees as my puppy-raising lapses. The issue came up again on Friday.

That afternoon we were supposed to join a dozen or so old friends to take a tour of the art  at the San Diego Library’s central branch (downtown) — both the permanent collection and a current exhibit on local printmakers. After the tour, we planned to adjourn to a nearby gastropub with the aim of discussing some of what we’d seen. I was dubious about taking Beverly along for all this, but Steve wanted to and pledged to pay close attention to her. 021617-libe1

She wasn’t interested in any of the art, but she did pay pretty close attention to Steve.


It worked out well. She behaved flawlessly, got some good practice going up and down in elevators, and even was reasonably good under the dinner table. Steve did have to pay a bit less attention to both the art and our friends than he might have, had he not been working with Beverly. But on this particular occasion, he didn’t mind.

I wondered how other veteran puppy-raisers look at this question which comes up so often (“take her along — or leave her home in the kennel?”) So yesterday, when I took Beverly and Tucker to the twice-monthly puppy social hosted by one of the puppy-raisers, I made a point of asking four people about it. Three of the four had years more experience than me, with many successful graduates to their credit. I was intrigued that all four focused on the merits of NOT taking one’s puppy along.

One pointed out how the dogs really need to get accustomed to extended time alone in their kennels in preparation for their Advanced Training up in Oceanside (where they spend a lot of time in between training exercises kenneled). Another insisted that when she began puppy-raising, she’d been explicitly instructed not to take her dog along unless she could pretty much give it her full attention and be ready to return home at any moment. “Otherwise, if the dog is doing things it shouldn’t be doing and you’re not correcting it, it’s learning that that’s okay.” They all were adamant.

I didn’t walk away vowing to cut back on the number of outings on which we take Beverly. Steve and I still believe that the dogs benefit a lot from their forays into the world. But hearing those arguments in favor of leaving one’s pup at home in her kennel did change my mind about taking Beverly to the Oscar party we’ll be heading to in a few minutes. Steve’s going to be helping the host with the cooking, and I’m going to be mesmerized by the outfits and speeches and bad jokes. Plus I’ve come to suspect that Beverly is sometimes just as happy to rest, at home.

I took this picture last night, after a day in which she attended the Puppy Social, went grocery shopping with Steve, and went out to dinner at a restaurant with us. We were then going to see a movie with her. She didn’t want to get out of the kennel (and for better or worse, the movie was sold out.)

Social service

One recent night, Steve and I went to dinner at the San Diego Yacht Club, where Steve has been a member for decades. We took Beverly with us; she’s been at the club’s restaurant many times. Most of the tables there are supported by central posts (rather than legs), so it’s not easy to get a puppy to execute the Under command. Instead, we put Beverly in the Down position right next to the table. She had scarcely settled in when a woman from the next table over got up and approached us.


The woman explained that she had raised a CCI puppy several years ago, up in northern California. She had enjoyed the experience, although events in her life had prevented her from raising more than one. She just wanted to say hello; to reconnect, however briefly, with the puppy-raising community. We chatted with her for a couple of minutes, then she retreated to her table, and we turned our attention to the menus.

Beverly was pretty good. She broke her Down position a couple of times, but she eventually settled in. Although our waiter had to maneuver around her, he quickly let us know that he was a great dog lover, raising a young puppy of his own. Every time he brought something to the table, he shared another tidbit or two about his dog, and toward the end of our meal, he dashed over to our table.

“I was waiting until you guys were done eating,” he confided. He whipped out his cell phone; wanted to show us a few photos  of his canine buddy, a goofy lab mix that he had named Andy.

I exclaimed over his dog’s cuteness, and the waiter looked happy. Steve and Beverly and I made our way out to the lobby. There two more sets of people snagged us to pepper us with questions about Beverly and the CCI puppy-raising experience. The woman I was talking to told me all about how she had long wanted to be a breeder-caretaker for the organization (but she’d been told that most of the breeding takes place up in Northern California). While she and I discussed this, Steve supervised Beverly’s interaction with a toddler and answered questions from the toddler’s mom.


Because Steve and I were relaxed and not in any hurry, I experienced all these interactions as pleasurable. We’re not deeply involved with the club, so we don’t know many of the other members. We’d never talked before with any of the folks who approached us that night because of Beverly. But she did for us what the dogs who graduate often do for the humans they serve — serve as a social bridge, a conversation starter, a facilitator of connection.

That’s not as flashy a trick as turning on a light switch or fetching something from the refrigerator. But I’ve come to appreciate that it’s as least as satisfying.

Puppy pack goes to the movies

I was disappointed when I learned that only three other CCI puppies (and four of their puppy-raisers) would be attending the movie matinee at Liberty Station Saturday with Beverly, Steve, and me. “Yeah, it won’t be a total clown car,” the PR who had organized it said. She and I agreed we both were rather fond of clown cars.

But the outing still proved entertaining. The movie we saw was the Dog Movie du Jour, Lasse Hallstrom’s A Dog’s Purpose. Controversy has surrounded this film, stemming from the allegations that one of the animal actors was mistreated (forced to jump into a body of water when she was terrified). But I’d read enough about the incident to make me think the allegations were unfounded. A separate question was the wildly sentimental plot (“It’s canine Buddhism!” Steve exclaimed with it was over.) He and I normally tend to avoid tear-jerkers. But we wound up enjoying it in spite of ourselves (and all our tears that the film jerked.)

All the pups were well-behaved, although our seats were located at the other end of the aisle from the others, which limited the chances for doggy misbehavior.

She sat at our feet. In The Lot theaters, each seat us surrounded by tons of space, though there is the distraction of waiters serving food and drinks.
Target and Dharma sat at the other end of the aisle. Note that both of them appear to be watching the screen ahead.
Beverly appeared to be fascinated by many of the parts about Bailey, the retriever who is the film’s central doggy character. But she dozed off during many of the corgi and shepherd sections.

None of the cinematic parts were as interesting as the (brief) opportunity to schmooze with the other movie-goers.


Then we all left the theater and made the pups line up for a photo. THAT was no fun at all.


Movie mutt

There’s comes a time in every one of our puppies’ lives when we take them to the movies for the first time. I mean, of course, to a real movie theater with big screens (not just our friend Alberto’s Friday Night at the Movies gatherings in Hillcrest). For Beverly, it came last night.

Having nothing else to do, Steve and I and our younger son decided to catch a screening of Hell or High Water at the Fashion Valley mall. I bought tickets online, so we got there at the very last minute, and to our dismay found the only empty seats were in the first row. But since we had Beverly with us, this turned out to be a blessing, particularly as the seats weren’t horribly close to the screen, the location gave us lots of room to spread out Beverly’s “place mat,”and it was easy to keep an eye on her.

090416 moviegoer
The screen was several feet in front of where she was lying.

I needed to pay attention. Although she stretched out and snoozed for one 20-minute period, she squirmed a lot and spent a lot of time trying to explore under my seat, where I can only assume popcorn morsels were present. She paid almost no attention to the screen (except for one moment when the Jeff Bridges character’s coonhound appeared. She thought that was interesting.)

Still, we’ve seen a lot worse behavior, over the years. She didn’t make a sound. Didn’t have any toileting errors or stick her nose into anyone else’s affairs.

With the improvements in home-based movie-viewing and programming options, we don’t get out to the big screen as much as we once did. But after last night’s experience, we wouldn’t hesitate to take Beverly with us again.

Puppy therapy

In our final days with Kyndall, our social schedule is accelerating. Early yesterday afternoon took 050916 Scripps sign copyus to a volunteering activity I couldn’t resist: an annual event hosted by the nurses at Scripps Memorial Hospital to thank the support staff there. Throughout the day, aides and orderlies and other such folk are invited to stop into a large hall on their breaks or after work to get massages, aromatherapy, and other soothing services. Apparently last year someone had the idea of adding in a station where dog-loving workers could get a puppy fix. The dogs were such a hit that CCI was the first organization asked to participate again this year.

Kyndall and I signed up for the 2 to 4 p.m. shift, which we shared with 7-month-old Raider (a dead ringer for Tucker when he was that age), 8-month-old Daisy, 1-year-old Nairobi, and their respective puppy raisers.

050916 Scripps1 copy
That’s Kyndall furthest toward the front, being attended by another volunteer while I take the photo.

Throughout the shift, we had a slow but steady stream of visitors who seemed eager to plop down on the carpet and get themselves covered with yellow fur. Kyndall’s attitude toward them all seemed to be: “If this is the life of a working dog, bring it ON!”

050916 Scripps3 copy

050916 Scripps2 copy
Kyndall is the one on her back, reveling in the menage-a-quatre.
050916 Scripps4 copy
Is she sleeping or just in The Zone? Hard to tell.

After our shift, we returned home, then headed out with both Kyndall and Kora a few hours later for Kyndall’s very last puppy class (before Advanced Training.) It was a shockingly large group — 17 dogs (including the Flynns’ adorable 11-week-old Mai-Tai, in attendance because the Flynns still have Merry, their goofy golden retriever who will also be turning in with Kyndall Friday.) We all walked our dogs around the parking lot (in the dark) and practiced recalling them at some distance. Once inside again, we did Laps and Ups and Unders. Kyndall seemed distracted. But I think she was probably just tired out from all that “service” work in the afternoon.

050916 class
She was even sluggish when ordered to Lap. But she’s pretty blasé about cuddling with Steve.

Canine hiking companion

One of the first big series of storms of this season has finally begun, but over the holidays, the weather was still glorious enough to allow us to get in one of our favorite winter activities — hiking on the beach from La Jolla to Del Mar during one of the super-low tides. Good friends organize this outing every year, and in late 2014 we couldn’t bring Kyndall because she was still a tiny fur ball. (Instead we found a puppy sitter for the afternoon.)

This year, one of the delights of her not going into heat over the holidays was that we were able to bring her with us on the annual outing.

It’s a challenge. The route covers 7 or 8 miles, and moreover, the early parts of it require scrambling over some slippery boulders. At one point, the going threatened to be too dangerous for her to cross, unscathed, but one of the strong young men in the group stepped in to act as her bearer.

010216 hike1

After that it was a piece of cake, and Kyndall settled down and seemed to enjoy it all. Who could not?

010216 hike3

010216 hike2

We appreciated the stunning physical beauty, but I know she appreciated the fascinating smells. The takeaway for me was that one of my New Year’s resolutions is to hike more in 2016. With Kyndall, if possible (providing that we get enough dry weather between now and the time she turns in for Advanced Training.)