A loaner puppy

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Steve and I have now been puppy-less for 28 days; we had to give up Beverly October 24. We’re unlikely to receive her successor for another 3-7 weeks. This interval feels strange. On the one hand, we don’t have to reserve a small part of each of our brains to constantly track the puppy’s whereabouts, a luxury we’re enjoying. Every time we go to the grocery store or the movies or on any other outing, we don’t have to decide whether to take the puppy along. There’s none to take. We’ve been lavishing much more attention on Tucker (who will turn 13 next week.) He seems to appreciate it, although we believe he also misses having a young canine housemate. We miss it too, and so we were happy to volunteer to puppy-sit Ressa.

Ressa is being brought up by a veteran puppy-raiser named Donna, who had to travel to Florida for the birth of a grandchild. Our puppy-raising colleague, Cyndy Carlton, took care of Ressa for about a week, then she dropped her off at our house yesterday. She’ll stay with us until November 30. Yesterday happened to be Ressa’s seven-month birthday. It didn’t take us long to realize: she’s a little gem.

She’s at least as calm as Beverly; spent most of the afternoon napping. In the late afternoon, we walked with her to the house of our closest fellow CCI puppy-raisers — Mark and Karla. They just turned in their first CCI puppy, Keegan, and almost immediately got a successor, a little black male named Truckee. Sleepy Ressa perked up at the sight of the little guy, chased him around Mark and Karla’s house, and appeared to terrify him.

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But he’s just a baby, only 9 weeks old. He seems in a world apart from big(ish), well-behaved Ressa. We’ll be returning to that more demanding world soon. For now, however, we’re very much enjoying our little loaner.

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A sleepover for New Year’s


It was a first for us: two highly reliable puppy-sitters who have taken care of puppies for us on several occasions over the years (Susan and Frank) asked if Beverly might spend the New Year’s weekend with them. They’ve hosted Beverly before, and they appreciate what a special girl she is. For us, this was a godsend. If there’s one day all year long when we dream of snoozing a bit later than usual, it’s January 1. (As much as we adore Beverly, she’s an early riser.) We wouldn’t have sought out a puppy-sitter just to enable us to sleep in, but we eagerly agreed to the outing. So off Beverly went Friday afternoon, wagging her tail.

Susan sent me a video and several photos over the weekend, giving me some insight into what a fun-packed excursion Beverly was having as Susan and Frank dined at Anthony’s on Harbor Drive downtown (photo above) and caught an indie film in Hillcrest…010117-movies

She got lots of play time at their home in Rancho Bernardo.


They dropped her off around 3 on Sunday afternoon. Sounds like a good time was had by all five of us.

Together again

We picked up Beverly from her puppy-sitters Thursday afternoon, just a few hours after our return from Asia. In some ways it felt like getting a new pup: “Wait! how many times does she need to be taken out daily?” I wondered. “How well will she sleep?” But in short order, we were reassured that a) this is the easiest puppy we’ve ever had the pleasure of living with, and b) if anything, she only got better in our absence.

The only bad habit that she seems to have acquired is a passion for curling up on the cozy chairs. I guess we’ll have to work at correcting that… but she tries to be so inconspicuous and looks so perfectly at home there.

She seemed mildly happy to see us, but I can hardly blame her for being less than wildly enthusiastic about returning to our rather dull household. In our absence, she spent time with five different families, three of which had young dogs for her to play with. Everyone seemed to love her.”I’ve never written the word ‘perfect’ so many times to describe a puppy,” one of her caretakers wrote in the Feedback Report. “It’s unreal how great she is.”

Steve offered a similar comment yesterday, after returning from a multi-hour grocery-shopping excursion with Beverly. “I don’t think we’ve ever had a better-behaved puppy than this one,” he said. “She seemed to be enjoying the outing, but there’s a serenity about her that’s extraordinary. She’s got an almost regal air.”

In our absence, she somehow learned to respond perfectly to the “Down” command (without any hand signals).  We’d been struggling with that. Another change is that since she turned 6 months old in October, she’s now getting fed only twice a day, and we’re amused by how excited she gets every mealtime. She all but pirouettes as we fill her bowl. She looks bigger and lankier. More hungry.

Friday, Beverly and I drove up to Oceanside to attend CCI’s fall graduation ceremonies. We watched our friend Kora being turned in for her advanced training.

Kora looked a little worried. But then she always looks a little worried. We trust she’ll do fine.

For the most part, Beverly stayed quietly in her Down position.

Although we didn’t know any of the 8 dogs from the Southwest region who were graduating into a life of service, we’d gotten word that TWO litter-mates of our previous puppy Kyndall (Kihei and Kimono) were graduating up in Northern California. Steve felt deflated by this news, seeing it as proof that Kyndall’s release from training resulted from something that we did.

I hope that’s not the case. With a puppy like Beverly, it’s hard for me not to feel new hope.

Bye-bye Bev (briefly)

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?

I added the penny to show the scale. (She didn’t eat that.)

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.

It’s quite a load.


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.092916-affection

A post-Kyndall puppy

One thing that’s made life after Kyndall easier is that we’ve still had Kora, another CCI puppy who’s being raised by first-time puppy-raiser Lisa Matthews. Lisa and Kora live

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Unlike most of the the dogs we’ve lived with, Kora appears not to be a member of the Sloppy Sitters Club. She sits beautifully.

just a few blocks from us. Even though Kora is 6 months younger, she and Kyndall became great friends and spent a lot of time together over the past 10 months. When Lisa asked us if we could take care of Kora while Lisa attended a conference and went on a Mediterranean cruise, we were happy to do so. Despite our normal conviction that three big dogs is too many, we knew we’d only have three for about 10 days, because Kyndall was turning in. Then for a week or so, we’d be down to just Kora and Tucker.

And having Kora around has indeed been a comfort. With Kyndall gone, Kora’s own distinctive personality has come more sharply into focus. She sleeps less than Kyndall, and I’ve been fascinated to see how ingeniously she entertains herself. She chews on her toys (only), and one day I watched her play ball all by herself for a solid hour or so.

051816 Kora1She’s less cuddly than Kyndall, who would climb into our laps or snuggle up next to us given the slightest opportunity. Yet she wags her tails in a friendly manner that convinces us she’s happy to hang out with us (even if we’re much less entertaining than Kyndall.)

Most charming of all: Kora does something I’ve never seen from any of the 10 dogs Steve and I have raised from puppyhood (or the countless ones we’ve cared for briefly.) She has a beloved blanket that Lisa told us to put in her kennel every night. Not only does Kora NOT destroy it (as all ourCCI puppies have done with similar blankets), but Kora routinely goes to the kennel and drags the blanket out, hauling it around the house with her and curling up on it. It’s clearly a security blanket, akin to that of Linus from the Peanuts gang.

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Kora’s ultimate source for comfort will be restored tomorrow night, when Lisa returns from her travels. I expect it to be an ecstatic reunion and will have a video recorder ready.



Hiking with young dogs

We’re settling into our temporary routine as a three-dog household. I’ve discovered that if I take all three dogs out first thing in the morning off-leash, Kora and Kyndall race out wildly to our lower yard, but then they can be verbally bullied into leaving each other alone while they attend to their first toileting duties of the day. They seem to notice when the other is engaged in relieving herself and to conscientiously refrain from tackling her at that instant. I think that’s cool — in part because it means Steve and I both don’t have to get out of bed super-early in order to accompany them.

We also have had some fun with them. Although we walk the dogs in the neighborhood, we hike with them all too rarely. Tuesday morning was an exception. We seized an opportunity to go for an 8-mile hike in Los Penasquitos Canyon, one of San Diego’s loveliest preserves. Eleven-year-old Tucker is no longer up to lengthy outings, but we took Kora and Kyndall, and both were little angels. Dogs are allowed in the canyon, so they didn’t have to wear their capes, but the rules dictate they be on leash at all times. That was fine with us. This is rattlesnake season, and although we didn’t see any serpents, we heard from a cyclist who saw several. Both girls walked nicely at our sides.

One of the special features of Penasquitos Canyon is the small waterfall about halfway through it, which is at its best when the rainy season is ending (i.e. right now.)

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Don’t they look like they’re having fun?

We found it looking lovely, but neither Kora nor Kyndall are swimmers, and they seemed a bit alarmed by it.

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This place is weird. Could be dangerous!

Both finally waded into tentatively, at our urging.

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and then Kyndall grossed us out by flinging herself down and trying to rub off her halter. This is an everyday behavior at our home but a messy move in a creekbed.

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The rest of the hike took us through some lovely shady areas (which sun-averse Kyndall in particular appreciated) and gave us the opportunity to cross a rather wobbly footbridge.

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Come on, girlfriend! You can make it!

We were home again less than four hours after we set out. A minor but satisfying adventure for humans and beasts.

Let the good times roll

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The white stuff scattered all over those stairs is dog hair. Although Steve just vacuumed this room (his office) yesterday, since then it has accumulated a truly shocking quantity of blonde fur.

In less than eleven days, we’ll hand over Kyndall’s leash and she’ll be led off to the kennels at CCI’s Southwestern regional headquarters, to begin her Advanced Training regime. We’re feeling sad at the thought of her vanishing forever from our lives, but we believe for her it will signal the start of a much more sociable phase of her life — living and training with dozens of other young comrades, including a kennel mate with whom she’ll spend all her non-training hours. And through a twist of fate, the party has begun early for her.

I’ve written several times about her great friendship with Kora, the other CCI puppy who lives only a few blocks from us. Kora’s puppy-raiser, Lisa, recently asked us if we might take care of Kora while Lisa is in Italy and Spain for a combined business and pleasure trip.  We said yes, in part because we like being able to help out other members of the CCI family. But we also figure it will take a bit of the sting out of Kyndall’s departure if we have another puppy in the house. (Kora is six months younger than Kyndall, so she won’t begin her Advance Training until November 5.)

Kora has visited us before many times and even slept overnight once or twice, but never has she lodged with us for anything near this length of time — 19 nights/20 days. After less than 24 hours, we’re sort of stunned by the amount of hair that can be generated by three large dogs (the third, Tucker, particularly seems to be shedding copious amounts at the moment.)


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The girls also play so energetically that they mess up the rug in my office.

It’s also no small challenge to muscle the girls out to the backyard first thing in the morning. Although Kyndall and Tucker normally sleep up in our bedroom, we think the three of them simply take up too much space, so we’re having them all sleep in Steve’s office.050216 K&K3This morning, Kyndall and Kora were so overjoyed to find themselves in each other’s presence at dawn’s early light that all they wanted to do was race around and wrestle, rather than obediently poop and pee. To handle them, Steve and I both dragged ourselves out of bed and trooped downstairs so that each of us could take one of the girls on a leash. That will likely have to be our routine for the next 18 mornings.

Still, we like Kora, and we can see how much fun Kyndall is having with her here. If it also means a bit more disorder and squalor, we’ll have to deal with it (or vacuum a lot more often.)



Village life

Steve and I have long felt that one of the best things about raising puppies for CCI is the community it connects us with. Puppy-raisers come from many walks of life, and they span the range of political affiliations. I guess. But we never talk about any of that. We talk about dogs, and somehow I come away thinking that most of the dogs are being raised by decent, likable humans.

Though that’s been our experience for more than 10 years, the past year is the first time we’ve ever lived close to another CCI puppy (Kora) who’s so close in age to one of our trainees (Kyndall). As the girls have gotten older and better behaved, it’s become more routine for Kora’s puppy-raiser (Lisa) and us to find opportunities for them to get together. This weekend was particularly golden. While Lisa golfed on Saturday, she dropped off Kora at our place. Then on Sunday, Steve and I went on an outing to Tijuana that we knew would consume at least six hours. Kyndall is now old enough to be left in her kennel for that long. But it’s hard not to imagine her feeling lonely and bored. So I asked Lisa if Kyndall could hang out with them during our absence.

Clearly the girls had a great time:

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They were in Lisa’s condo for part of the morning.
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But they also got out and about. Did a little shopping. Went to the beach.

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They’ll see each other tonight again when we carpool to puppy class.

Old home week

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#1 (Tucker), #4 (Darby), and #6 (Kyndall)

Steve and I have had 6 CCI puppies in our career as puppy-raisers (including Kyndall, our current trainee). At the moment, 50% of them are with us.

That’s because Darby, who was released from the program and went to live with our friends Joe and Kerri, is staying with us while her family celebrates the Thanksgiving holiday in New Mexico. As Steve notes, it’s always particularly pleasant when Darby visits, as she has done several times. She lived with us from the time she was 8 weeks old to a year and a half, so she fits in better than almost any other canine guest; falls immediately back into our daily routines.

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Darby knows that in the evening we sometimes all go downstairs to watch television and groom our hairy friends.

She seems a little less ravenous for non-stop wrestling with Kyndall than some of Kyndall’s young pals (like Kora), but that makes sense. Darby will turn 5 at the beginning of January. We noted with a little pang the first sprinkling of white among the hairs on her otherwise coal-black chin.

Still, the two girls seem to be enjoying each other. They’ve done some playing and some chilling.

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Darby is wet in the photo, which I took almost immediately after her arrival, because one of the first things she did was to jump in the pool and cruise around. But look at that smile on Kyndall’s face.  That’s her reaction to pretty much any young houseguest. She’ll be among those of us tomorrow who are giving thanks.


Home again, home again

Steve’s mother became ill when we were in Asia, so we cut short our travels after two weeks to come back and help her out. This mean we collected Kyndall much earlier than anticipated from her gracious puppy-sitters. We were delighted to hear the positive comments about her behavior in our absence — and delighted to have her back again. We missed her on the road.

But I suspect if she could talk she’d be less than enthusiastic about returning to her mundane routines around here (particularly when we’re still dealing with jet lag and re-entry.) Although she wasn’t staying with another puppy, life away from home was probably less boring.

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I’d like to point out to her that things could be worse. All over Bangkok and Bhutan  we saw lots of dogs who looked like they were dead. They actually weren’t dead but were sleeping in dead-dog positions. You can walk right up next to them and they don’t so much as twitch. Our friend Howie was so struck by their appearance he began a series for a photo essay.  Here are two examples:101415 Dead dog1

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Photographs by Howie Rosen

I showed these to Kyndall, who told me she was pretty sure she would enjoy the roaming-around-free and pack barking sessions and scavenging enjoyed by the faux-dead Asian street dogs. But she doesn’t have a choice. She’s not going to Asia. Moreover, now that we’re back in the groove, we have no plans to place her with any puppy-sitters again until her Turn-In next May.

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Turn-in will probably be very exciting. But it still seems like a long way off.