Monday, August 13, 2007

Epcot Comes to Visit

June 22 -- Puppy swap!

Our good friend Epcot, another tall, yellow and handsome male Labrador, needed a ride up to GDA for a vet appointment, so I took the opportunity to puppy swap with his family.

When you're used to an immature, opinionated, feisty five-month-old with the self-image of Napoleon and the brute strength of a tiny Clydesdale, you forget how blessedly "easy" it is to handle a big dog. Epcot was ever the gentleman, a pleasure to walk and cradle and command.

My neighbors were confused. They'd see me outside, relieving this big yellow dog, and the inevitable comment would come. "He's HUGE!" Then I'd wait for the sheepish question. "Is that...the same dog?" And I'd laugh. If we were living in a soap opera, where a child who was born two seasons ago is suddenly attending college, then yes. That would be the same dog. But I would politely explain, and introduce them to Mr. Epcot, who would smile to put them at ease.

He was a good boy. Very sweet, laid back, intelligent. But as much as he tried to convince me that the floor of the passenger side of my truck just wasn't comfortable for a dog of his size, I was not about to let him drive.


June 16 -- I found a great obedience class near my apartment, that's held in a private park. The park is gated, so after class we let the dogs who have been properly socialized run and play off-leash.

Truman is not the only "Truman" in class. Oddly enough, though, he IS the only Lab. The rest of the class is a picture of diversity (like commercials and TV shows where the directors are compelled to cast a child from every ethnic background). Wiemeraner, Corgi, Terrier, Poodle...I found the pairing of the Irish Wolfhound and the argyle sweater-clad Dachsund particularly amusing.

He did very well considering there were almost 20 dogs in class. Fairly distracted, which was to be expected, but his obedience was better than that of many of the older dogs. He would sit and lie down like a champ. His attention span was about done by the end of the hour, but I was impressed he'd held on that long. He only lunged a few times -- playfully -- which was typically brought on by close proximity of another dog who looked him in the eye.

Jacqueline, our instructor, is great. She understands that pups in training have different rules and doesn't want to get in the way of that. She's committed to getting the dogs properly socialized and the people properly trained. She gets to know the personalities of the dogs and keeps an eye on anyone with aggressive tendencies. Also, she charges a flat fee good for the life of the dog, so we can go however long we'd like to go; she even said if he's career changed and adopted by someone else, the deal still stands. And the bonus for me is, since Truman is a sponsored dog, I even get reimbursed for it!

And now, this is what he's doing. I already like this class.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Scratch & Sniff Photo

June 16 -- Clean dog, stinky shoes.


June 15 -- Truman's First Bath

Well...Truman's first bath since puppy pickup day, I suppose. At any rate, it was Truman's first bath at the (apparently very slippery) hands of his puppy raiser.

He'd been stinky. It was time.

I'd been working him up to it. For the last few weeks, I'd been desensitizing him to the shower in my bathroom. Encourage him to sniff from the outside. Open the door, get in, encourage him to hop into the dry bathtub, close the door behind us. Give him treats. Open the door, let him hop out, turn on the faucet, let him sniff from the outside.

He was all too happy to pose pre-bath, no idea what awaited him.

It was promising in the beginning, even after the closing of the door. Truman met the rushing water with gusto, perhaps a bit too much. My challenge was to keep him from shoving his entire head under the stream and flooding his little ears. Gusto became slight confusion as I pulled up the valve to redirect the water to the shower head in my hand. Slight confusion then gave way to "YOU'RE DOING WHAT WITH THAT, EXACTLY????"

That's right, pal. Washing you. Bath time for you, stinkbug.

Not part of his plan, apparently. Though he did not bite or scratch or freak out in any sort of vocal manner, Truman did manage to investigate every possible inch of the enclosed space in an effort to find an escape route. A few times, he even stretched as far as he could with his front paws up the back wall of the shower, perhaps envisioning an impressive leap over the shower door, or at least an attempt at signaling for the assistance of passersby.

The end result, though pathetic to look at, was an orange-cream-scented Truman who then received a towel rubdown and his promised reward of chicken chips, and "Labrador Shuffled" circles throughout my apartment until he was mostly air-dried.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Finally, He's Tired...

...and it only took four hours of running with ten other dogs.

Last night was Paige's last freestyle back yard romp with her buddies before turn-in for formal training. I'll leave the details of the story for Matt & Amy to tell, but I will say that it was a joyous gathering of friends and puppies -- our count at the peak of the evening was eight Labs, two goldendoodles and a goldador. Glorious chaos!

We wish the best of luck to delightful, cuddly, snorty, lovable miss Paige as she embarks on "Paige One" of the next chapter of her life. May she prove to be the top of her class, just as she is always at the top of the dog pile for the water dish....

We love you, Paiges.

Monday, August 06, 2007

From One DevilDog to Another (Semper Fur?)

We are feeding our Marines -- my official adoptee as well as the aforementioned K9 unit (both are in Iraq). That's why Truman's in uniform here, looking as tough as he possibly can.

My own personal "devil dog" watched (and sniffed) with great interest as I packed up four boxes of jerky, trail mix, dried fruit, candy, protein bars, toiletries, dog toys, sand scarves, cooling neck wraps, phone cards, letters, and probably dog hair. He accompanied me to the post office to pick up some customs forms, but will be napping in his crate at home while I actually drag the boxes back and stand in line for the big send-off. I only have so many hands, you know.

Many thanks to those of you who sent e-mail greetings and photos of your puppies! I'm sure the K9 team will be thrilled. I'll let you know if I hear back from them.