The human has been busy writing other things, so the dog blog has been sleeping. But we’re back now, and we promise to catch you up on all the latest fun very soon!
I introduced Sonny to the vacuum cleaner the other day. I let him sniff it when it was just sitting there and unplugged, and then I let him approach it (read: a bunch of hopping around and play-bowing) when it was sitting there and running. He didn’t seem too afraid of it once I started moving it around to clean the stairs; in fact, he quickly grew bored with the whole lesson and decided to wander off in search of naughtiness, which resulted in my crating him until the chore was done.
But this Roomba is a different story. It moves by itself. Sonny sniffed it while it was docked and charging, and then I pushed the button. Once again, not terrified…but he looked upon it with what I would consider a healthy respect. Didn’t chase it, but was fascinated enough to watch it. He would move away when it got too close to him, but then he’d move cautiously toward it when it turned and rolled away from him.
To show him the Roomba is nothing to fear, I sat on the big dog bed and called him over to join me. I’m typing this as we sit here, calmly observing our helpful little robot dog-hair-sucker.
No sudden moves, Roomba. We are watching you.
We took Sonny to church with us for the first time today. He’s ten weeks old, so I wanted to keep things as easy for him as I could. We sat wayyyy in the back corner (near the door to the outside, just in case), and parked him at my feet between our pew and the one in front of us.
Of course, it was Communion Sunday, which always makes for a longer service. And it was our beloved interim pastor’s last day with us as well, so there was a special little presentation at the end. And then there was the annual holiday dinner afterward in the multipurpose room, where we purposely sat at the table farthest from the food lines and foot traffic…only to find ourselves dead center in front of a pair of speakers and a microphone for people to use in expressing appreciation for the pastor. I was prepared to take him out of the room if he showed any signs of “TOO MUCH!”
But you know what? Sonny was fantastic. He took a while to settle into the church service — mostly because this is the first time I’ve expected him to be quiet for a longer period of time in public — but once he did, he was solid (even if he did snore during communion). He had a couple of appropriate chew toys, and eventually got the hang of my placing him and re-placing him in a down. I took him out to relieve in the parking lot, which he was happy to do. Then I sat him under our lunch table and he figured that out as well (without even being too sniffy/floor-licky). He didn’t seem to care about music playing or people talking or kids running around or the wafting smells of food. AND everyone was really cooperative about not petting him or distracting him (sometimes that’s the hardest part).
I thought he’d be exhausted when we got home, but after an hour or so of running around and playing with Truman, he is finally, FINALLY asleep. He’s napping, Truman’s napping, the pack leader is napping, and I…well, I’d nap too, but I have things to do that can’t be done with wide-awake puppies in tow.
Hooray for my confident little dog!
Since Sonny’s still wee (lots of wee, as it turns out), training starts slowly. At ten weeks old (and 16.3 pounds at last weigh-in), he’s now made the typical transition from sleepy little snugglepuppy to bitey little piranha puppy. Here’s what we’re working on:
Housebreaking — pretty good. There have been a few little accidents, but nothing major, and we typically catch him in the (very speedy) act. Can I tell you how happy I am to have non-carpeted floors for a change? And as much as I’ve always sung the praises of Nature’s Miracle, I gotta tell ya, Simple Solution smells a heck of a lot better. And it’s cheaper.
His name — he seems to know it, and responds pretty well to being called unless there’s some really powerful distraction in the way (like Truman the Instigator). But I’ll bet the neighbors are tired of hearing me call “Sonnyyyyyyyyyyyyy!” in a high voice, clapping and making kissy noises.
Sit — this one’s coming along nicely. Like most puppies, he’s quickly learning anything associated with meal time.
Down — always more of a challenge than “sit,” but also coming along, with the help of a little kibble.
Stairs — though his legs are still short, he’s doing pretty well going up and down the front steps that lead to his potty spot (an unused parking place in front of our house). The steps are more like big landings, however, so he’s better at those than he is at the indoor stairs that lead to the second floor. They’re steep for such a little man, so we’re working on those in small increments. I’ll put him a couple of stairs up from the floor and encourage him to come down, or put him a couple of stairs from the top and encourage him to climb. They’re carpeted, so that helps. He’s seen Truman go up and down, so he knows it can be done. And for the last day or so, when I bring him inside from relieving and take off the leash, he’ll wander over and put his front paws on the first step, sometimes even climb two or three. Brave little puppy!
Grooming — we work on that in short sessions every day, with a brush provided by GDF that has soft bristles on one side and dull-tipped wire ones on the other. And this is all I’ll say about that: “Brush is FRIEND, not FOOD.”
Other house manners — this dog is a hoover. Wants to sniff, sniff, sniff EVERY FLOOR in the house, and eat every last molecule he finds. He also finds a number of forbidden furniture pieces and shoes delightful to the palate. Fortunately, he is actually deterred by bitter apple spray. But what I really need is a holster to carry the spray bottle in, because when the piranha strikes, it is inevitably in the other room.
He sure is a cute little thing, and he seems to be not only confident but also pretty sharp. I continue to give thanks, however, that he is not criminally insane like Truman was at that age…pretty sure I’d already lost a pint or so of blood by the time he was ten weeks old.
The first snowfall of the year is always…well, I have no idea how it is always, because I’m from California. And last winter (my first in Pennsylvania), I was out of town for both weekends that it snowed here, so what do I know?
But we got the first snowfall of the year today, and I thought a little snow shuffle on the back deck (our only enclosed outdoor area, sadly) would be just the thing to tire out the energetic nine-week-old dog and the nutburgers big dog.
They had a great time. Sonny wasn’t apprehensive in the slightest, and Truman — who spins when he’s excited and needs to blow off some steam — did no fewer than eight consecutive donuts in an amazing display of some physics principle that eludes me at this time.
This is the point at which someone nags me about not getting any video, followed by the point at which I ask that person how many times they’ve single-handedly attempted to exercise a cyclone dog and a breakable dog in a small, slick, snow-covered space while it was still snowing, and then bring them both inside for a complete towel-dry on a small floor mat, while the puppy (who is not yet used to such things) goes all Tasmanian Devil on both the towel and the hands attempting to dry him.
And my plan worked! I’m exhausted! Oh, wait….
So far, we’ve had Sonny for about a week and a half, but he’s already had a number of adventures.
Just to get here, he had to travel by car all the way from Smithtown, NY, where GDF is located. That’s no mean feat for an eight-week-old puppy. My area coordinator said he was a good traveler.
He hasn’t had all his shots yet, so I’ve been carrying him into public places with me. Looking for a way to build your biceps? Carry a puppy through the grocery store.
So far he’s been to Trader Joe’s, Giant (twice!), Starbucks, and on a few brief car rides so he can get used to riding on the passenger side floor. He’s been to the vet, and I’ve even carried him on a couple of walks around the development where we live so he could sniff the air and get used to the sights and sounds of the neighborhood — cars, delivery trucks, other dogs, wind chimes, wind in the trees, etc.
Speaking of wind, I’d forgotten just how exciting wind can be when you’re housebreaking a highly distractible puppy.
“Busy busy, Sonny. Busy busy. Busy bu– NO, we don’t eat leaves. Give me that. Thank you. Busy busy. Busy busy. Busy bu– HEY now, enough with the spinning. Come on. I know you have to pee. No leaves. Give me…stop it. Hold still. Come on. BUSY BUSY….”
I swear there were three leaves in the entire parking lot, and every one of them blew into Sonny’s path. And then there was the day where it was nothing BUT leaves, blowing around and making noise and — I am not kidding when I tell you this — swirling right around us in a circle as I was trying to relieve him. It was also about 38 degrees that day, so you can imagine my level of patience with this whole process.
We’ve been having some car repairs and inspections done, so we’ve had just the one car between the two of us since Sonny got here, and it’s been nice to be able to deal with him while someone else is driving (he’s a pretty good traveler, but he’s at a very active age). I have yet to experience the fun of the first time driving by myself while little dog is on the floor but wanting to be in my lap. I have also yet to experience the magic of driving in snow or ice. And Sonny has yet to be introduced to sitting still under my chair during Bible study. On Thursday, we may experience all three of these things together. Wish me luck.
I don’t do “Black Friday.” There’s just no sale good enough to get me to go out there and camp out, fight the crowds, push and shove…or get up and go shopping at three in the morning the day after Thanksgiving, especially now that I live somewhere that’s cold. My sanity and holiday cheer are worth more to me than the discounts! I mean, hey — if it’s something you enjoy, go for it. I’d rather stay home, and am happy to leave more space at Best Buy/Target/Wal-mart/Kohl’s for you.
But since we have one car right now (mine’s in the shop), and the pack leader is off work for the weekend, I wanted to make sure Sonny got out and about once today. So we went to Starbucks. A to-go order at a coffee house is a nice quick trip for a little dog (especially a little dog I have to carry everywhere because he doesn’t have all his shots yet). I got my peppermint mocha frappuccino, the pack leader got his strawberries & creme, and Sonny got more practice in the car and in his tiny yellow puppy jacket as well as exposure to a venue with interesting sounds and delightful smells.
And since he’s only slept through the night once in this past week, I was also more than happy for the caffeine.
Now we’re back home, feeling pretty good about the fact that this “weekend” is only half over. The pack leader and I are working on our own projects, sleepy Sonny is taking a pre-dinner nap, and Truman is hard at work being handsome, as always. Happy Yellow Friday!
That’s the sound Sonny makes.
Lomax said “moof,” Truman says “rowmf” (and still makes his grunt-grunt-grunt-whiiiiiiine “grumpus noise”) and Jethro went from little beeps as a tiny puppy to a silly Chewbacca sound that defies my attempts at transliteration. And cute little Sonny says “NYURF!”
I found out his birthday (nyurfday?) is September 19th. That means I’ve had two September puppies — Sonny and Lomax, just a few days apart in the month. That also means he’s nine weeks old at the time of this writing. And he already looks different from the squishy furball I received last Friday! They change and grow so quickly at this stage, in noticeable ways. I’d post a pic, but I’m having technical difficulties today (too many dogs, not enough hands and uninterrupted time).
It’s Thanksgiving Day here in the United States, but we are quite happy and grateful to be spending it at home, with no travel or turkey or football or stress. We’re making tacos tonight, actually, and will celebrate the blessings of togetherness and everything else God has provided for our little family. There will be a fire in the fireplace, a DVD to enjoy, and probably some ice cream. We hope you’re feeling blessed today as well, whether or not you’re celebrating an “official” holiday wherever you are.
Anyway, the rest of the pack and I wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving. Or, as Sonny would put it…NYURF!
“What kind of dog is that?”
“He’s a Lab.”
“Really? He doesn’t look like a Lab! He looks like a Golden.”
“That’s just because he’s fuzzy. He’s only eight weeks old.”
“Is he part Shar Pei?”
“Nope. He’s wrinkly because he’s only eight weeks old. He’s just got a big Sonny suit. Full Labrador.”
“Are you sure?”
I forget just how many interesting moments you have when you raise puppies. I’ve had Sonny for less than a week now, and I’ve already had people challenge me about Sonny’s breed, distract him by whistling at him when I’m trying to get him to relieve, reach out to pet him when I’m carrying him in public, try to give me money to buy him dog food (because that cost is not covered by the guide dog school), and beg me — from the next checkout line over — to bring him to their house to play with their 18-month-old twins (whaaa…?).
I’ve known some weird dogs, but people are always much weirder. I realize that a lot of encounters are simply due to ignorance and that educating the public — graciously — is one of the responsibilities of a puppy raiser, but sometimes I am simply perplexed.
Guide dog handlers, I salute you. I’m sure you have some crazy stories.
Truman looks thrilled to have another mini-me in the house, no? Riiiiiiight.
That’s okay. As I recall, the Jethro adventure started out in similar fashion. At first there was wild-eyed shuffling and living room donuts at the excitement of another dog to play with. Then, the realization set in: “Oh. He LIVES here. And he’s small, and loud, and annoying, and wants to chew on me. And the humans pay attention to him.” (By this I mean not that Truman is neglected in any way, but that paying attention to anyone but His Royal Grumpusness — at any time — is a serious violation of the Truman Penal Code.) And finally, the boys became friends.
I know we’ll get there.
So, to catch you up, yesterday was quite a different experience from my GDA puppy pickup days. I didn’t know as far in advance when I was getting a puppy, I didn’t get to choose his name (though I’m really happy with Sonny! Who knows where else that could have gone?), and I didn’t go to the school to get him. GDF is in New York, but they have a number of OOA (out of area) puppy raisers, so this is pretty routine for them. At least I’m within reasonable driving distance, and didn’t have to deal with getting my little guy at an airport! Fortunately, my Area Coordinator, who has been knowledgeable and helpful throughout the process, was able to bring him right to my house.
There’s not much else to tell, really. I got my bag of goodies — bowl, brush, collars, nylon leash, leather leash, chew toy, ear cleaner, fecal sample containers (a necessary “bleahrgh”), heartworm preventive, bag of dog food, and tiny yellow GDF puppy jacket — asked my AC some clarifying questions about some things that were in the manual, and that was that. For some reason that I’m sure is related to recent weather craziness (thanks again, Sandy), things on GDF’s part were a bit discombobulated, and I was missing a few items (training whistle and special training bone)…and my paperwork. Thus, I don’t yet know when Sonny’s birthday is, or when his shots are due, and I haven’t signed a contract. So, apparently, now’s the time to skip town with my cute new puppy!
I kid, I kid.
The rest of the day and night went pretty much on schedule. A little sniff-and-explore, a little chaos a la Truman, some logistical “uh…it’s been two years…how do I do this again?” moments, some brain farts regarding commands that are different, and a night full of unhappily crated puppy sleep interruptions. I will say that it’s a heck of a lot colder here in the middle of the night than it is in Southern California.
Little Sonny is a sweet, cuddly puppy. He’s easy to pick up and hold. He’s picking things up quickly and seems to respond to his name and “sit” already. Relieving on hard surfaces is coming along, but sometimes it takes him a while. He’s not too bitey, not yet hoovering too much (though he has a specific taste for cabinet and drawer knobs/handles) and he doesn’t jump inappropriately, even when he’s excited. But I can tell that he’s got confidence, and a stubborn streak (in a Labrador? SHOCKING).
But here’s the best part of the story. Sonny was supposed to come to me last week, but the delivery person got the flu, so we had to reschedule for this week. I don’t know why — maybe his other littermates had gone out to their raisers or something — but Sonny apparently stayed at the home of one of the trainers for a day or two. My AC told me that the trainer said, “I hope this one’s going to an experienced puppy raiser….”
And I just had to laugh.
That’s all for now. I need to go get some sleep. At least, I hope that’s what’s going to happen. I’ll leave you with one more shot of my yellow fellows, who are definitely settling in and becoming…if not friends just yet, at least Tolerant Big Dog and Only Slightly Annoying Apprentice Dog.