A breakthrough?

Steve says I shouldn’t write this; that it’s too soon to say anything, lest we anger the Puppy-raising Gods. But I can’t help it: last night Dilly went through the whole night without awakening us!

Granted, it was not a super long night. We turned out the lights a few minutes after 10 pm. Sometime early in the morning, I woke up and couldn’t resist peeking at the clock. It was 4 am — far longer than this puppy had ever slept before. And still he didn’t stir. I miraculously went back to sleep and woke again around 5:10. Dilly slept on.

Steve was stirring next to me, and I could tell he was also awake. I had a fairly strong urge to pee, and I suspected Steve did too. But neither of us adult humans spoke or moved, lest we wake the baby canine and make him aware of his own full bladder. After 10 or 15 minutes, I couldn’t stand it and crept to the bathroom. Steve followed after I was finished. STILL Dilly slept on.

Only about 5:40 did he begin to whimper, at which point Steve, wide awake, sprung to take him out. “He peed a gallon,” he reported upon their return. “But NO poop.” Then he put Dilly back in his kennel (which is inches away from my side of the bed), and — another miracle! — silence returned for another 10 minutes or so.

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He’s a limber little fellow.

Now, in mid-afternoon, Dilly has produced three normal stools so far. This is enough to make me think we have beaten the diarrhea devils, through the combination of feeding him six times a day (but only a quarter cup of kibble each time), giving him supplementary Pro-Pectin and powdered pumpkin, and adding a tablespoon of low-fat cottage cheese to each feeding. Our vet’s assistant suggested the latter. We talked to her when we were dropping off a stool sample yesterday morning. The test cost $45 and came back normal. I have often found when we get desperate enough about some puppy digestive problem to pay for a stool analysis, it invariably comes back normal and the problem almost immediately disappears. So my second hypothesis is that paying the vet something somehow appeases the Puppy-raising Gods; they then cut you some slack.

Yet a third possibility was raised by Dilly’s mom’s breeder-caretaker, who told me his half-sister Zari had an allergic reaction to the anti-flea medication she was given. (Dilly developed his problem almost immediately after taking the same pill.)

I don’t know, nor do I care, which explanation is right. I just hope his gut stays happy. Even if he does wake up a few more times in the middle of the night, he’s given me hope we may all be sleeping better soon.

 

First lessons

IMG_6066.jpegThis is a time of focused education for Dilly and Steve and me. Here are some of the most important things we’ve learned so far.

DILLY:

I have no idea where my brothers and sister have gone. Or mom. But I seem to have acquired two human pack members. They seem a bit developmentally disabled. When I try to gnaw on them, they yelp and pull away, which is no fun at all as my littermates could tell them. But I can tell they like me, and I’m crazy about them, too, for reasons I can’t explain. It just feels natural.

I’ve come to understand that when they pick me up, take me outside, and say, “Hurry!” they want me to squat and pee. When I do that, they praise me lavishly. Oddly, when I look for a discreet place to do this indoors, they snatch me up and run outside. It seems to distress them when they fail to reach me before I start to relieve myself. Also, they often continue to say, “Hurry!” after I’ve peed outside, as if they want something else from me. I have found this confusing.

When they say, “Dilly! Dilly!  in a high, excited voice and I run to them, this seems to make them very happy. And that makes me happy too. IMG_6082.jpeg

Finally, when they put me in that box at night, I’ve learned no matter what noises I make or how loudly I make them, it doesn’t work as I’ve intended; they don’t release me to cuddle or play. This really upset me the first night or two, but I’m concluding this is their routine. And if I can hear them and smell them near me, I don’t feel panicky any more. I’ve got a new strategy: curl up in the box and sleep if my human pack members seem to be sleeping nearby (at least until I realize that I really, really need to be taken outside so that I can Hurry there.)

STEVE AND ME:

We’ve learned that diarrhea is very common in puppies up to 16 weeks old. We learned this by reading our CCI Puppy Manual after Dilly’s diarrheal attacks were forcing us out of bed and outside into the cold several times the first nights. Seeking guidance, we turned to the manual (which we hadn’t read because we thought we knew it all, Dilly being our 9th CCI puppy). There we found two and a half single-spaced pages of advice about Managing Puppy Diarrhea.

“Small puppies have developing digestive systems that can be overwhelmed with too much food at one time,” the manual advises. So we’ve begun feeding Dilly six meals a day, giving him only a quarter cup of kibble per meal. He seems happy and excited every time we present him with such a bowl (even if he only had the last one about two hours earlier.) But he eats like Beverly (two puppies ago), laying down and chewing each piece thoughtfully.IMG_6055.jpeg More often than not, he walks away from the bowl when there is still a sprinkling of kibble left in it. IMG_6063.jpegHe appears to grow bored with eating and hungry instead for petting (which he appears to find just as pleasurable as eating.)

We’ve also been giving him CCI-recommended tablets (Pro-Pectalin) that are a combination of probiotics, pectin, and clay (kaolin). And after hearing strong recommendations from some other seasoned puppy-raisers, we’ve ordered powdered pumpkin to sprinkle on his food.

It’s hard to tell if all this treatment is having any effect. Some of what Dilly is now excreting is semi-solid (rather than liquid), and yesterday, he excreted it more regularly during the day (instead of only at night.) He’s been peeing and pooping (outdoors and on command) just before bed, once in the middle of the night, and once as soon as he begins to hear us stir, before dawn.

And once again, I am startled and amused to be spending so much time thinking about  and spending money to influence the digestive tract of a single small animal. Just a few weeks ago, Steve and I were avidly discussing politics, philosophy, literature. Now all we seem to talk about is Dilly’s toileting habits.

From experience, I know this will end and fairly soon. It only feels like we are trapped in Toilet Mode forever.

 

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.)

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Adagio, peeing in an acceptable spot

 

Adagio’s kidneys

So, roughly $160 poorer, we now know that Adagio’s kidneys are probably just fine. As I reported the other day, we freaked out when, after two accident-free weeks, he suddenly seemed seized by an urgent need to pee every few minutes. Including in the house.

It made us fear he might have developed a bladder infection. So, bleary-eyed, both Steve and I staggered out with him shortly after dawn Tuesday to collect urine. Steve delivered it to the vet’s, and several hours later, he and Adagio returned to learn the results. The good news was that the test found normal levels of sugar in Adagio’s pee (so: no diabetes!) Also no evidence of a bladder infection. Less good was the presence of higher- than-average protein precipitates. This might signal trouble with his kidneys, the vet said. Given our frightful experience with Beverly (Adagio’s half-sister) and her malformed kidneys, we agreed to have blood taken from him for examination.

The vet called late on Wednesday with more good news: his kidney-function values were normal. So why the sudden peeing frenzy? Why the protein crystals? We don’t have a clue. But at least our vet now seems unworried about Adagio’s renal health. When I spoke with the puppy program director yesterday, she also sounded unconcerned. Apparently some vets think protein crystals in dog pee is reason to switch the dog to special food. But others think it’s perfectly normal and doesn’t mean anything.

If the vet and Becky aren’t worried, Steve and I have resolved not to worry either. Furthermore, Adagio is once again relieving himself predictably — outside the house.

Given that, I decided today to take him for the first time with me grocery shopping. My list wasn’t long — maybe two dozen items. He accompanied Steve on a short excursion earlier in the week, and that went okay. So I crossed my fingers, caped him, and loaded him into the car kennel.

I have to confess, I found our time together to be somewhat nerve-wracking. Adagio is still less than five months old, and being in such noisy places, filled with so many people and smells, he looked a little amazed (to the extent that the face of a coal-black dog can communicate wonder.) Shopping for even just two-dozen items involves some searching and decision-making. If you have a dog with you, that dog has to take the inevitable pauses and back-tracking in stride. Adagio isn’t used to that, and he was prone to distraction.

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Where was the coarse-ground Vons brand pepper? I searched and searched before concluding it was out of stock. Adagio found this incomprehensible and boring.

Still, he didn’t bark or lunge at anyone. He had many admirers, and for the most part he sat obediently as they questioned me and showered him with praise. Best of all, he had no accidents in Vons. Or Trader Joes. Or Sprouts. Not a drop of inappropriate pee. By the time we give him back to CCI in November of 2019, he’ll be expected to conduct himself flawlessly in any sort of public setting. So this was a small but necessary start.

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Some weeks I return with two or three times this amount of groceries. We’re going to work our way up to going together on such occasions.

 

 

Cape Fear

Cape_fear_91 2.jpgWe’ve had several puppies who haven’t liked their halters, and a few who have seemed unenthusiastic about being “dressed” in their capes. But never has anyone developed the reaction that Adagio began displaying last week.

Presented with his cape, he turned tail and ran from us. We responded by offering him unusual and tasty treats, but they didn’t tempt him. Even a bowlful of dogfood, for which he normally is ravenous, wouldn’t persuade him to approach us and submit. In this video, you see me trying to tempt him both with his lunch and selected morsels of fat trimmed from the previous evening’s pork roast:


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/262685511″>My Movie 1</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user25079241″>Jeannette De Wyze</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

No dice. He wasn’t going for it. And yet, once dressed, he seemed perfectly content to trot along on walks. It was baffling.

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We finally decided to routinely dress him in the cape for every meal, even if we had to apply duress to get it on him. After just a few days, this seems to be working. He doesn’t look thrilled about getting caped up, but at least he’s no longer bolting.

Instead, he’s discovered other forms of mischief. Sunday we found him gleefully tossing around rocks that he obviously had snatched from inside the hearth of our living room fireplace. (Happily, it was cold.) The next morning, I found him with a roll of toilet paper from my office bathroom; he was having his way with it.

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In the puppy world, these are pretty minor infractions, not too worrisome (assuming he knocks them off.) More discouraging was a raft of peeing accidents in the house, after more than two weeks of perfect toileting behavior.

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When he peed no less than FIVE times on his walk around the block with Steve yesterday, we began to worry. Does he have an infection? Some more serious kidney problem (like his half-sister Beverly)?

We collected a jar of pee this morning, and Steve will take Adagio in to see the vet later this afternoon. We have our fingers crossed that this will be just another passing idiosyncrasy. Like the cape terror.

 

 

Pee is for Progress

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Adagio was a very good boy up in Julian.

I struggle to pick the best phrase for that oh-so-important task of all new puppy-raisers. In my youth, we called it “house-breaking,” but that sounds retro, if not downright violent. “Potty-training” seems coy; “toileting instruction” too stuffy. Whatever you call it, we’re making progress at it with Adagio.

I think he pooped indoors maybe twice in his first days with us. (He arrived four weeks ago this coming Wednesday). But he never does now, and yesterday, for the very first time, neither one of us found any puddles in the house. That’s not to say we won’t see any more ever. We only have to let down our guard and fail to take him out immediately after he wakes up. Or too long since the last outing. He still doesn’t know how to alert us of a sudden urgent need to relieve himself. But we can all but see his little mind working; he’s beginning to understand that there are rules.

We felt particularly exultant this past weekend when we drove to Julian (in the local mountains) for an annual gathering in a cabin owned by some friends. They are generous about inviting our CCI trainees. Tucker came when he was less than one year old, and he has come every year since for the past dozen years. (He gave us our worst experience ever as puppy-raisers there in 2012). Julian is one of Tucker’s favorite places on the planet.

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This could well be Tuck’s last visit to Julian. He was thrilled to return. (Photo by Christy Zatkin)

Our friends’ house is beautiful, but frighteningly, off-white carpet covers the floor of the main room where we congregate. To forestall it being sullied by Adagio, Steve and I brought a big blue tarp with us, along with a portable pen in which we confined him. We also took him outside frequently for toileting breaks.

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Photo by Christy Zatkin
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Photo by Christy Zatkin

It worked. He never even had any accidents on the tarp.

As another tactic, I bought him a new puppy bed. Every time we’ve had one of these before, our pups have ended up shredding them. But I have argued that everyone deserves a fresh chance; we shouldn’t assume that the sins of puppy predecessors will be repeated every single time.

Adagio certainly seems to like the bed. But mostly, he has enjoyed wrestling with it and dragging it around, like this:


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/254396410″>My Movie 1</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user25079241″>Jeannette De Wyze</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Maybe the bed will not be long for this world. But maybe at least it won’t be peed on.

The first 24 hours

Steve and I each got up once with Adagio last night — Steve going first in response to  urgent cries and unfortunately not getting to the kennel before Adagio had deposited a massive pile of puppy poop on the towel in it. This was surprising, as Steve had taken him out at 9:30 p.m. and come back reporting not one but two poops then. When Adagio started crying about 2:30 a.m., I figured it was my turn. Out in the cold, dark lower yard, the little guy circled around for a while, then deposited a small gloppy pile under the fig tree.

We chalk the latter up to the stress of his flight and all the other excitement yesterday — coupled with the new thrill of free-range snacking. One of us accompanied Adagio every second he was outside yesterday, but he still managed to pick up and chew on dirt, assorted pebbles, leaves, seeds, berries, and God know what else was within striking range of his muzzle. Once again, I felt astounded by how thoroughly I’d managed to forget the insatiable drive of retriever puppies to pick up and eat stuff. Also, to chew. While I was out this morning for a few hours, Steve kept a list of all the things the little guy sunk his teeth into. They included:

The corner of our tatami bed platform

The knob on a bathroom drawer

The bathroom mat

The bedroom room lamp cord

My oak dresser

The TV cord in our downstairs room

The rug in downstairs room

The frame of the big crate

The frame of the small crate

The dish in the small crate

A living room lamp cord

The edge of the butcher block island

A redwood patio chair

The wheels of our puppy stroller

The hedgehog/doorstop in Steve’s office

The door mat in his office

My garden clogs

A bathroom door stop

His toys

Still, we’re not complaining (much). Over the last 24 hours, Adagio has several times settled down for long naps in his kennel. He whimpered a few times last night, but there was no shrieking, no prolonged protestation, as so many puppies emit on their first night.

This morning Steve took him for a block-long ride in our puppy stroller to the closest mailbox. He jumped out once, but then Steve zippered him in and reported that Adagio seemed to enjoy the brief outing.  Later, he tolerated his first bath.

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He was stoic. But does that little droop in the tail betray a hint of doubt?

He still has not once urinated or defecated in the house (unless you count the kennel last night, which I don’t). And whenever he has been awake, instead of napping, he’s displayed a solid confidence that impresses us. He’s the only puppy we’ve ever raised who has confidently walked up and down all the many stairs in our house, right from the start.

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If Tucker is up there, it must be worth following him. 

It feels like we’re off to an excellent beginning.