Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Puppies: Dealing with soft stools, teaching self-control and getting them socialized

Eclipse is a pretty cool pup. He leaps and yips and is pretty much joyous all the time. But he had one issue that is not uncommon with young puppies: soft stools. Kind of the consistency of soft-serve ice cream. This went on for a week. During that week I was in touch with the breeder and the vet and waiting to see if it would correct itself. It didn't. I tried adding yogurt and pumpkin to his food. That didn't work. At this point, the vet recommended prescription food for a week plus daily probiotics.

The first night after the new food was introduced was filled with loose stools and some diarrhea. Then the vet added a daily dose of Albon to the mix and that did the trick. From that day to this, Eclipse has had normal puppy stools and just as important: he tells me when he has to go potty by whining. There have been no more accidents in his crate, he's sleeping 8-9 hours a night and all of those barks and howls and yowls he made at the beginning are going away. Why? Because I ignore them. Pretty good for a 10-week-old puppy. While potty and crate training Eclipse, leash training has been in full swing. When he's out of his crate, he's on leash with me - except when it's off-leash play time. Tethering him to me prevents him from wandering around and getting in trouble. He's curious about everything and even though my house is pretty darned puppy proof, he could still find ways to get in trouble. Not every electrical cord is hidden, there are rugs he could chew on, and all kinds of furniture he could jump on - habits I don't want him to start here and continue in his new home. Teaching self-control to a puppy goes something like this: teach the puppy to sit and wait. For everything. Especially food. Here's a video to illustrate.

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Socialization - meeting lots of people - is key to a puppy's well-being. In Eclipse's case, it also means getting him out and about to places other puppies might not go because he's training to be a service dog. We visited a friend's home recently, introducing him to Beca, Jeff, and Sammy, their adult Lab. Thanks, you guys!

Thanks to my friend, Sue, for arranging a visit to VCU. I'm not sure who had more fun, the puppy or the students.

And thanks to Jack Trammell for hooking Eclipse up with his students at Randolph Macon. Here he retrieves a cell phone. Good boy!

Eclipse has also been to Lowes, Target and BassPro today. If you see an adorable black Lab puppy in a blue "service dog in training" vest, stop us and say hello.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

A tribute to two great dogs

I said goodbye to two amazing Labrador retrievers this year. Cody, my yellow Lab, died at home on March 30. She was 13-1/2 and died of natural causes. LuLu, a black Lab and a working diabetic alert dog, died on October 29. She was 4-1/2 and died of cancer, first diagnosed in December of last year.

Words can't describe the loss or the feeling of helplessness when a dog you love dies. Here's how it felt for me: forget the rainbow bridge. I want my dog back. But it doesn't work that way.

So here are some pictures of both of these amazing dogs. The pictures make me smile and they make me cry. But most of all, they let me remember.

I will be forever grateful to all the dogs who have taught me so much.

This is my Cody playing "catch me if you can" with my Murphy. She was 4, he was 1. He never caught her. She ran like the wind.

When I finally got Cody to down/stay, I had to have a picture of it. Being still was not her strong suit.

This was Cody training as a wilderness search and rescue dog. She loved it!

And here she is as an old lady with a white muzzle, hanging out with her pack. 

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This is LuLu when she was a wee puppy with her boy, Christian.

Always together.

No matter the weather.

As the boy became a young man, LuLu was there.

To the very end, they were together. To the Hall family: I am so very sorry for your loss. LuLu was a wonderful dog. 

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Saturday, November 7, 2015

Puppies: Boarding school at my house

Eclipse left the only world he knew four days ago. He was one of a litter of nine black Lab puppies living in a beautiful country setting.

He didn't know what awaited him when he was plunked in a crate in my car. But he knew enough to vocalize about it.

Half an hour later I pulled into my driveway in a suburban neighborhood. Imagine his surprise at how different this new place looked, smelled and sounded. Did he wonder if his litter-mates were here, too? What a surprise when he saw no other baby puppies but three adult dogs. He wanted to engage with them immediately. Another surprise: boy dogs don't provide mother's milk from their under parts.

It's been a busy four days getting Eclipse acclimated to a new environment and starting crate and potty training. He had his first vet visit and was pronounced a happy, healthy puppy.

He's learning how to be on a leash and that no matter how loud he gets ..."I want out of this crate NOWWWW and I'm gonna make noise until that happens!" ... it doesn't work. I tell new puppy parents all the time: ignore puppy vocalizations that are purely attention-getting mechanisms. The noise will stop eventually. Puppies do what works. If being quiet gets the attention they want so badly, quiet will ultimately win out. And just so you'll know, I haven't entirely won that battle yet but will persevere.

Puppy Eclipse will be here for a while - until his forever family gets moved into their new home. They will do most of his training, with guidance from me along the way. That's because Eclipse is in training to be a service dog for a very special little boy.