Good news and better news

IMG_3083.jpgThe good news is that Adagio seems to be recovering beautifully from his neutering surgery Monday. When I went to his kennel Tuesday morning, he sprang to his feet, tail wagging in spite of the cone. The woeful, crying animal of the night before had vanished — and has not reappeared since.

Equally encouraging news is that Adagio recently overcame his terror of walking up the open-tread stairs in the building where our friend Alberto lives (and to which Adagio accompanies us almost every week for our movie-night gatherings).  A month ago, he was still cringing and digging his feet in, rigid with fear when asked to ascend “the Tower of Terror,” as Steve referred to it. But two weeks ago, some invisible switch flipped. He had made progress going up a limited number of stairs at puppy class a few nights before. Maybe the lesson learned there stuck. Whatever, the reason, he sashayed up the two flights of condo stairs as if no problem had ever existed:


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/281018653″>Victory over the open stairs!</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user25079241″>Jeannette De Wyze</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

We’re proud of him — and relieved. His half-sister Beverly never overcame her fear of those same stairs. It’s nice to know this, at least, will not stand between him and eventual success.

The small amount of bad news, such as it is, is that Adagio supposedly will have to continue wearing the cone for another week or so. (Our vet’s post-surgical instructions said 10-14 days.) He doesn’t seem to mind it that much; seems actually less resistant to our putting it on than to his cape. But it can’t be pleasant to bash into things, which happens a lot when he’s wearing it.

We’re starting to give him limited amounts of time out of it when we can watch closely to make sure he’s not licking or biting at the stitches. And we’ve seen none of that behavior so far. Maybe if this persists, life will be almost back to normal for Adagio — minus the stair fear — soon rather than later.

 

 

Scaredy-dog

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Meh. THAT is not scary.

After CCI puppies are turned in for their Advanced Training (as Beverly will be four weeks from today), one of the first things that happens to them is that they undergo a series of exams, both physical and psychological. Over the years, we’ve heard about what’s involved in the temperament testing. A volunteer dons a cape and mask and approaches each puppy in a vaguely menacing fashion. Apparently this scares some of the dogs, and they bolt to get away. That’s a bad thing.

So the other day, we figured we would give Beverly some early exposure to this kind of creepy apparition, to prepare her for the ordeal. We had our son, Elliot, put on a cape and scary clown mask and suddenly emerge from the door opening onto our pool deck. Steve had Beverly on a leash outside, and we were delighted to see she didn’t flinch. Instead she wagged her tail a little and started to move toward Elliot. He pushed the button on an umbrella, and it popped open. We’ve had at least one (non-CCI) dog who was terrified of this. But again, it didn’t bother Beverly.

What does scare her are stairs that you can see through. As I’ve reported before, we’ve been working on getting her up these at the building where we attend puppy class. She’s still uneasy, but we can now usually coax her up one set there.

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This photograph was taken at our class last week. But when we tried to make her climb up another set of open stairs in the same complex — one where the lighting made the absence of a back to the stairs more obvious — she reacted with stark terror. She wouldn’t even look at them, let along try to ascend.

Will this one character flaw doom her chances as a service dog? That scares Steve and me.

Breakthrough

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Climbing up stairs with open treads can terrify puppies. It’s understandable. If you’re little and low, it looks like it would be easy to slip through the openings and fall to your death. We saw the effect such stairs had on Dionne (our fifth CCI pup) whenever we entered the stairwell in our friend Alberto’s building. Dionne was normally a bold and fearless spirit, yet she would freeze at the sight of those stairs. We worked for months to overcome that, trying in vain to lure her up with various tasty treats. But nothing worked until a fellow puppy raiser who is extraordinarily experienced broke through her phobia during an outing at Fashion Valley.

Kyndall has been having a similar reaction to the very same set of stairs. But last night we had a breakthrough. Our contribution to the evening’s potluck was hummus and sautéed lamb, and I had to slice off a lot of lamb fat while preparing the dish. Both Tucker and Kyndall watched me intensely as I did this. They stared. They drooled. To lift their spirits, we mixed in a few small bits of the lamb fat into their dinner kibble. But Steve cut up most of it into tiny squares and took a small bagful of it with us to Albie’s.

We entered the Stairwell of Terror. Steve got out a bit of lamb fat.

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Lamb fat in hand, he started up the stairs, and Kyndall bounded up after him!

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We cheered and praised her (including Albie, who is making a documentary about raising service dogs and so was filming the proceedings). Once or twice, she hesitated and we could see the old fear grip her.

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But Steve waved the lamb in front of her nose, and each time it did the trick.

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She walked all the way up to Albie’s place on the third floor, wagging her tail and licking her chops.

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It will be interesting to see how she does next time. (I’m thinking we need a little stash of that fat in reserve.)