Life with Beverly has been so calm, so orderly, so free of bad behavior that it has left me with little to report on for this blog. Last night, however, Beverly made a breakthrough that was exciting.

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In general, she has learned all her commands with little fuss, but over the past few months she developed one terrible phobia. Faced with having to go up a set of stairs with open treads, like this one, she becomes frozen with terror. Most Friday evenings, we join a group of friends for a potluck and movie-watching in the Hillcrest condo of our friend Alberto. He lives on the third floor, connected to the ground by an elevator and a set of stairs — with open treads. Beverly is not the first puppy to be afraid of them.  I’ve reported on our troubles with various of her predecessors. But Beverly has been the most afraid. Week after week Steve has patiently worked with her, trying to lure her upward with increasingly irresistible treats. She descends with no problem, but she has mulishly resisted climbing.

So at puppy class last night, when our instructor, Shaina, asked if anyone was dealing with any problems, Steve lamented about what a challenge it has been to try and overcome Beverly’s open-tread terror.

“Let’s all go work on it together,” Shaina suggested. “Right now.” First she directed us all to pass our dogs to the puppy-raisers on our left (so every dog was being handled by someone more or less new to him or her). Beverly went to Mark, whom we know fairly well. (With his wife, Karla, Mark is raising an easy-going pure-bred male lab named Keegan.)

Outside, most of the dogs ascended the stairs without incident. 062717 Stairs2

Mark approached with Beverly, and for a minute I thought perhaps she would be swept up in the momentum of the group ascent. 062717 Stairs3

But then she seemed to realize what she was about to do. She froze, then turned away, cringing.062717 Stairs4

Oddly, a moment later, Keegan had trouble with the climb — despite the fact that he has gone up and down even scarier stairs many times. Happily, he was being handled by Dan Flynn, who along with his wife, Janice, is one of the most experienced puppy-raisers in the United States. (They’re raised more than 20 CCI pups — most of whom have graduated to lives of service.) Dan helped us in the past when one of our charges was terrified of open-tread stairs, so I wasn’t surprised to see him calmly coax Keegan upward.

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Mark waited, then walked over again with Beverly. She put her front paws on the lowest step…

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but then  she seemed to think better of what she was doing, and shied away. Mark led her back, and she got up two steps.062717 Stairs 8

She looked panicky and backed off again, but Mark led her back, and in a daze, I watched her timidly scurry all the way up to the landing, where her buddy Keegan was waiting. All of us assembled puppy-raisers cheered, and Mark gave Beverly many pats and a food treat.062717 Stairs9

He led her down the stairs and approached the stairs again. This time she hustled up the Treads of Terror with notably less hesitation.

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I’m not sure if she’ll bound up the ones at Alberto’s this Friday night. But if she balks, I now feel confident we’ll be able to get her over it. It was another lesson in how life is easier when one is raising one’s puppy within a supportive village.







Back to school

We attended our first Advanced Class session with Beverly last night, and the evening offered a couple of satisfactions. For more than a dozen years, we’ve been going to CCI classes (normally every other week) held in spaces near the Home Avenue exit off Highway 94. In the beginning, we met on the loading dock of a feed store that also carried dogfood. (The puppies thought school smelled divine!) Then we shifted to a public meeting space down the street. It was a nice enough classroom, but the nearby police shooting range regularly interrupted our drills with the clatter of gunfire, parking was limited, and there were no outdoor lights for those occasions when we worked outside after dark.

The new location is a little weird. The “classroom” is a conference space within a nondescript office building across Aero Drive from Montgomery Field. It’s not easy to find, but at least there’s unlimited parking and some outdoor lighting. And it should be easier to get there during rush hour.

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We had a relay race last night. That took up part of the class time.

As for the classwork, Beverly definitely needs to practice some of the Advanced Commands. She looked baffled by the “Up”– with reason. We had never introduced her to it before. Her “Visit” is shaky too.

But we have tons of time to polish these and other skills. This session runs through August 21, and then we’ll have to start it over again, at least for a few times. Until Beverly moves on to work with the pros up in Oceanside.

She knows nothing about any of this. All she knows is that she got to see her beloved buddy, Keegan. He smells almost as divine as dogfood.

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That’s her, on the right, loving his attention.

Puppy class fun

Our new puppy-class instructor, Shayna, took over at the beginning of January, and Steve and I are pretty happy about the way things are shaping up.  I missed class two weeks ago, but Steve went, and he came home exclaiming about the games that Shayna had had the group engage in. It piqued my interest enough that I made sure to attend the next gathering (last night).

Shayna’s not a flashy character. I’m not sure what her background is, other than that she’s taught obedience classes for some of the big pet food stores. I like the fact that she seems to have a learning path in mind, and she offers clear suggestions when asked about how to respond to various behavioral issues.

And I love the idea of getting us engaged in puppy-training games. So many of us have been through the classes over and over again. Certainly we continue to gain new insights into training from time to time, but it’s also easy to feel jaded. When Shayna asked if we wanted to play Puppy Tic-Tac-Toe, that got my attention.

I had never played Puppy Tic-Tac-Toe before. To do it, Shayna laid four very long leashes on the floor in a familiar cross-hatch pattern. She said we needed to divide ourselves into two teams, and we instantly recognized that we had five black dogs and six white ones. The battle lines were drawn.

The idea was to put your pup in a Sit position somewhere on the grid, with the goal of getting three dogs of your team in a row. The twist: if your pup broke its Sit, then it was out, and that square could be refilled.


I’m sad to report that the Blacks won the first game. But that was entirely HUMAN ERROR (how can anyone forget how to play Tic-Tac-Toe? Apparently… it happens.) In the second round, some doggy errors did occur, but the game still wound up a tie, as it did when we  moved to the more challenging phase, in which the puppies had to execute Down Stays.


The puppies seemed to find the whole exercise only mildly amusing. But it made us humans perk up. And I feel a whole lot more interested in attending the next class in two weeks.

Kindergarten pup

We finally succeeded in getting Beverly to a puppy kindergarten class last night. (She attended once before when she was being fostered while we were traveling, but this was our first time together.) It takes some mental gear-shifting for us to get to the baby class, as it starts so early. We have to leave the house a bit before 5 p.m. and slog through downtown traffic to get there by 5:30. Last night we arrived late. But we found a congenial group assembled, including Keegan from our neighborhood, Target/Tarzhay (Cyndy Carlton’s handsome black boy), and two adorable babies — Weasley (whom Beverly was beating up at last Saturday’s play group) and a fluff ball named Vienna, being raised by first-timers.

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Vienna seems like a party animal.

Beverly barked once or twice, but for the most part she watched the proceedings and cradled calmly. 072616 puppy class

She didn’t try to rub her halter off during her turns to walk around the group. I had to lead her into the Down command, but once there (and rewarded with a microscopic piece of jerky treat), she obeyed my “Stay” command nicely. Staying comes naturally to Beverly. She eats even tiny bits of food slowly and thoughtfully, preferably while lying down.

It felt like we were off to a good start.



The worst possible puppy class

We were looking forward to seeing how Beverly would react last night to her first puppy class. But it couldn’t have been worse. When we arrived, the gate was locked and the classroom dark. I called another puppy raiser and learned that our instructor apparently posted a notice on Facebook around noon yesterday, stating that he wouldn’t be showing up (and apologizing for the last minute announcement). That’s the first time I’d heard about this page (or had any clue it should be checked to confirm the classes would proceed as scheduled). We weren’t the only folks who were clueless. I got a call an hour later from another puppy-raiser with an older dog who had just arrived downtown for the Advanced class — to find no one there.

We felt particularly bad about the cancellation because we had given a ride to some new puppy-raisers who livenear us; this would have been their very first class in San Diego. Their pup is a lanky young male named Keegan, just one month older than Beverly. We transported the two of them in side-by-side kennels, but when we arrived and learned the bad news, we let Beverly and Keegan sniff each other. If anything, he seems a calmer and milder-mannered fellow than Beverly (who’s pretty gentle herself). It will be interesting to see how they play — but there was no place to do that last night.

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Later last night, I gave Beverly an A+ in Nocturnal Puppy Behavior. Steve and I turned out the lights around 10 pm and she slept well until 5:30, when she began rustling in her kennel and I got up to take her out. The milestone was that for the very first time, I did NOT carry her down the stairs but let her walk down them on a leash, and then out to the lower level of the yard. She waited until she was all the way back there before relieving herself. Today she got the third of her four sets of puppy shots, and we learned that she weighs 25 pounds. So if the days of carrying her are over, my back and I both are very, very happy.


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.

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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!”

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Kyndall is the one on her back, reveling in the menage-a-quatre.
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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.

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

Back in the groove

It feels like we have started our descent in preparation for landing (aka Turn-In), now less than three months hence. Kyndall has learned all the commands she’s supposed to know, but we nonetheless returned to Advanced Class Monday night. We’ll continue to attend because we feel like it’s a good place for her to practice. One thing that was new was the presence of her BFF, Kora, who just moved up into the highest group. Although we’d wondered if their mutual presence would distract the girls from the lessons at hand, this proved not to be a problem. Steve and I even gave Kora and Lisa a ride to class (since we live so close to each other). We made Kyndall and Kora both ride in the big cloth kennel  we keep in the back of our van. We’d half expected that containment vessel to explode with motion and raw doggy energy, like something in a cartoon, but the two girls seemed to settle down almost instantly (perhaps a result of all the recent time they spent together  at the Holiday Pet Hotel.) In the classroom, we sat on opposite sides of the room, and an observer wouldn’t have guessed that Kora and Kyndall had ever met.

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It may have been her first Advanced Class, but Kora’s behavior was exemplary.

Around the house, Kyndall seems calmer than ever. It’s hard to avoid wondering if that second heat cycle didn’t affect her personality positively (although it was already good to begin with). Basically, she’s not doing anything around the house that’s a problem. In the yard, she still gets tempted from time to time by flowers and leaves that apparently call out to be ingested, and she can’t resist the occasionally urge to dig. We’re going to try to continue to tune her up. But it’s a stretch…





A kinderpup no more

Puppies turn into dogs so fast. Few things drive that point home harder than attending CCI puppy classes. On the first night of the 7-session Kinderpup class that started January 12, Kyndall looked like this:

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She was not quite 3 months old then.

The session ended last night, and she already looks and acts like a poised and (mostly) obedient canine companion, deeply relaxed during the class’s initial cradling exercise,

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Is it possible to BE more relaxed?

…and calmly controlled during the long stretches when all she had to do was watch her fellow students perform.

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Note how she’s resting her chin on my foot, which is several inches off the floor.

Yet even if the time has evaporated way too quickly, it conversely also feels like it’s time to move on and up. Newcomers like the cutie in the photo below have joined the Kinderpup class, and the 6- to 7-month-olds like Kyndall seem legions ahead. The next set of 8 classes, knowns as the Basic course, starts May 4. I’m pretty sure most of the dogs in it will be stars.

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What’s not to like about a CCI puppy cape? They’re a cheery bright yellow, adorned with the iconic blue patch. We’ve seen definite resistance in some of our puppies over the years to the halters that are supposed to go around their muzzles, when they’re on leash. But Kyndall has never balked at the halter. Instead she’s developed an aversion to her cape.

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At least once the cape is on, she doesn’t sink into a depression.

In the past few days, when she has seen us with it in hand, she’s bolted. Yesterday Steve couldn’t corner her; he had to call me in to help trap and dress her. A while later, when I was filling out my Puppy Report, I noticed for the first time that among the Grooming/Handling Problems, there is a box for “Resists putting on the cape.” For the first time, I checked it.

As it happened, last night was also our second Kinderpup class. When Bob, our teacher, asked if anyone was grappling with any “issues,” I mentioned this new, unwelcome development. It immediately became clear that the cape-ophobia is something that happens from time to time — and can even be worse. One veteran recounted having a dog whose personality changed dramatically when it was dressed. That puppy, when naked, was a frisky, happy soul, but as soon as the cape went on, it lay down and looked mournful.

Someone else told about making a puppy wear the cape day and night for weeks — until finally the cape-ophobia melted away. Several people, including Bob, advised us to get Kyndall to associate the cape with happy events — getting delicious treats, for example, or being petted. We came away with plenty of ideas to work on.




Kinderpuppy garden

Kyndall attended her very first class last night, the first of the 8-part “kinderpup” session. I came away feeling elated for at least 2 reasons.

1) Unlike a few of her fellow classmates, she didn’t whine or bark or shriek or lunge to play with the other dogs. Mostly, she sat or went into a down-stay and watched attentively.

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2) Having been through all the classes (5 times before), we’re aware of how much time we’ll be spending with our classmates over the next 15 months. And this promises to be an excellent group. It included 8 puppies, but one is 5 months old and will probably be moving up to the next older set. Among the remainder, three are first-time puppy raisers.

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Of the veterans, Steve and I are the least experienced. We know all the more senior hands. Candy Carlton’s Hawk is #9 for her.

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He’s a handsome fellow.

Willie Crawford’s Miso is her 10th.

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Look at those adoring eyes. (In the background is Bob Schneider, one of our friends who are working on a documentary about raising service dogs.)

Rounding out the group are Dan and Janice Flynn who enjoy an almost mythic status. Their current gorgeous baby golden retriever, Meri, is the 20th CCI puppy that they’ve raised; the vast majority of them have graduated.

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She’s not only a blonde bombshell, but she also seemed to know about 10 commands already.

That means we’ll have regular contact with a deep pool of puppy-raising talent. And that’s not to mention Bob Smith, our instructor. Just last night he give Steve and me a couple of useful concrete suggestions, e.g. where to position our hands while cradling Kyndall in order to best control her. It was yet another reminder of how much there is to learn about the complex task of transforming a clueless baby animal into a revered service companion.