DENVER - February 24, 2014
Imagine my surprise to discover that not all Canine Companions pups are created equal. No, I'm not talking about who graduates and who gets released. I'm talking about Good Puppies (like me) and
Bad Challenging Puppies.
"Tell me about your other puppies," I asked Marianne recently. " I've heard you talk about your first puppy Trevin, who was PERFECT apparently, but then I've also heard about Stryker."
"How much time do you have?" Marianne said. "We'd better get comfortable." She patted the bed. "Jeb, jump!"
I love the jump command because sometimes it means I get special-but-infrequent cuddle time on the bed. I flung myself up and settled in.
Marianne petted my ear. "Well, Trevin was indeed a perfect puppy, never getting into trouble. But Stryker, oh my. He was an independent thinker and often got into trouble."
"Oh, like the time I caught him jumping over the baby gate in pursuit of the cat with the squirt bottle in his mouth. I never knew if he was going to squirt the cat or keep me from squirting him! Or the time at work when he yanked the leash out of my hand and went galloping down the hall, nearly knocking over the station manager. Or the time at the grocery store when the clerk asked if she could pet him. I said "Stryker, up!" Now, you know that means he was supposed to put just his front paws on the counter. But Stryker gave me a sly little wink and then jumped, all four feet and 80 pounds of black dog, flying onto the counter." Marianne shook her head. "You've never seen such a surprised clerk in your life. I had to explain that we have two commands, up and jump that Stryker had accidentally confused, but I know he wasn't confused -- he totally did that on purpose!"
I blinked. "Wow. That's pretty naughty."
"Yes, and after he was released from CCI for high prey drive, low work ethic and resistance to correction (none of which was a surprise) he went to live with a friend named Bob, and his wonderful family. We told Bob not to let Stryker have the run of the house until he proved himself trustworthy, but did he listen? Noooo. They went out one night and left Stryker out of his crate. Stryker opened the door to the garage and then opened the bin where the food was kept and ate himself silly. And even worse, he took the other dog with him, and she ate herself silly! Bob admitted they'd goofed and he would never underestimate Stryker again." Marianne sighed. "Stryker was the smartest dog I've ever known and we loved him to bits, but he was a handful."
It got me to thinking -- was Stryker an aberration or were there other CCI puppies like him? So I asked the puppy raisers for stories, and BOY was I surprised. Stryker was not alone in his um, naughtiness. I received a lot of stories about pups eating very inappropriate items and the uh, aftereffects, if you know what i mean. Jeez, puppies will eat ANYTHING. Here are some stories without gory details that might gross you out (unless you're a CCI puppy raiser -- nothing grosses them out!)
JANE: We have raised 15 pups, socialized six prison pups, and puppy sat upwards of 50 pups in the last 15 years. That is a lot of puppy teeth to go through or through one house. Some the items that were that those teeth chewed might have been saved had we been more vigilant, but not all, and yes, we learned from some of our mistakes. Here is a brief list of items chewed or swallowed: The names have been omitted to protect the guilty:
- tissues, baby wipes etc.
- the legs on the cast iron kitchen stove
- the parking brake on my car (just two weeks before turn in; this pup was so bad he never earned house privileges, and yes, he graduated)
- the only end table that had not been damaged in our 17 military moves
- the replacement check for the check the pup chewed two weeks before
- the rung on a restaurant chair while in an UNDER; I had my foot on the leash and would have sworn he never moved
- several oxygen hoses
- my best black dress shoes (see below)
- Boy Scout Dog Training Merit Badge Book
- the side of the brand new refrigerator
- the scariest: a piece of glass that we both saw at the same time, but being closer and faster the pup grabbed it first. After two nights at the emergency vet (and two sleepless nights for us) this too did pass
- a racquet ball that I still swear the pup swallowed, but never showed up in the area or on an X-ray
- one piece to the CCI puppy puzzle
- three wooden gates (we finally found an all-metal gate)
- many toys, balls and blanket edges
I am one of those humans that has very big but narrow feet and it is very hard for me to find shoes that fit. I don't really like shoes and sometimes wish that I were like you and did not have to wear shoes, but for various reasons I do, though I don't have many of them. My second puppy, Kelby, usually was not much of a chewer which earned him house privileges at an early age. However, one day he decided to chew my best black 10 AAAA dress heels (ask Marianne what those are). What made it even worse was that night the best shoe store in Virginia and maybe even the East Coast (and the only place I could find shoes to fit my big but narrow feet) burned down. SIGH.
Finally, we once had a pup nicknamed Houdini because he could wiggle any crate door or gate to open the latch. We learned to secure all latches with Bungee cords, hooks or locks. When he was in Advanced Training at the old Northeast Regional Center he opened his kennel door and then he opened all of the other kennel doors and let all of the dogs out! Fortunately, they couldn't get out of the facility but they had a great time playing together all night. The staff was surprised the next morning, to say the least.
KAREN: My first CCI pup, Lazer II, loved, loved, loved toys. We were at puppy class and the dogs were playing afterward. As usual, Lazer had several toys in his mouth (like 4 or 5) and was running around snorting his happy snort. Four days later he began to vomit, so off we went to the vet, who asked if Lazer could have swallowed anything, and of course I said no because we didn't have any toys at home that were small enough to swallow... then I remembered the toys at class the week before...uh-oh! They did an x-ray and could see little ears sticking up in his belly! So, into surgery he went!! A mere $1,200 later the vet retrieved a whole, completely intact stuffed toy from Lazer's belly! The good news was that it was still in his tummy and did not block his intestines. I truly believe that when he was snorting (that boy CAN SNORT), he simply inhaled the toy that was in the back of his mouth. There were three humans standing there watching the pups play and none of us saw anything amiss. Needless to say, when we finally went back to class we took away any toy that was smaller than a brick. He made a complete recovery and is now happily living as a Change of Career dog with a CCI family in Seattle.
SUSAN: Kenny the Cape Eater. That boy ate more capes – he’d chew the strap and come wiggling up with nothing on AND he only did it when he was with me. People would say, "Oh Kenny is depressed." He wasn’t depressed he was biding his time until he got home just planning out the latest escapade. We’d get home and he’d dig to China and run back in and do "spinners" on the bed. The worst, however was the time we went outside to check something and in less than 20 minutes Kenny chewed the carpet all the way across the wide opening to the dining room. Not the small entrance, but the wall sized entrance. It’s amazing we survived Kenny. (Note: Kenny graduated as a Facility Dog!)
VANESSA: My current puppy, Farrell, is learning to be a "good citizen" so he is earning more and more freedom. One morning I was working at my desk, which sits just outside of my bedroom. Usually Farrell sleeps on the dog pillow by my desk and plays with a toy. He'd been lying on the pillow rather nicely, but then I heard some crunching noises in my bedroom. He was no longer on the dog pillow - he was chewing his toy on MY bed! I told him NO and Off, got him back on his pillow, and went back to work. A few minutes later I looked up and he was BOUNCING on the bed, just so pleased with himself. Do you know how hard it is to convince a dog you really mean NO when you are laughing?
JILL: Ronan was my first CCI puppy so I really didn’t know what to expect. As the only black lab mix in a litter of golden retrievers, I should have known from the beginning that he was going to be a handful. Every picture I received from the Breeder Caretaker showed nine beautiful golden retriever puppies sitting perfectly and a black blur running towards the camera.
Ronan was very smart and learned all his commands very quickly. “Up” was his favorite command. Unfortunately he used “up” for evil instead of good. He would “up” on the kitchen counters and eat anything he could find. He even taught himself to hook his back paws on the drawer pulls so that he could boost himself and reach items from the very back of the counters. Eventually he used the “up” command to open doors. He could master any kind of door handle, round or lever. He would let himself in and out of bathrooms and bedrooms at his leisure, no one in the household had any privacy. If the doors were not locked he would let himself outside as well. Several times we got a call from the alarm company telling us that our back door was open. Each time we came home to find Ronan sunning himself by the pool in the backyard. Several times when I was working in our home office, I would hear the door open. I would get up to investigate and find Ronan on his way back into the house, dripping wet. On one occasion, he opened the door, let himself and our other dog out to take a swim, and then they both came chasing back into the house running like banshees dripping water all over the carpet and furniture.
On another occasion we had a visitor come over with their dog. Ronan was not behaving so I locked him in my bedroom. Since I had locked the bedroom door I assumed he was secure. Well that didn’t stop Ronan. He opened the bedroom French doors, ran out and around the house, opened the family room French doors, and ran into the house to greet his canine friend. Needless to say, Ronan was release from CCI Advanced Training after only four weeks. CCI told me that he was “too much of an independent thinker for the CCI program.”
JENNIFER: There was Halinah, who snatched a $95 prime rib roast off the counter....luckily we heard it hit the floor and were able to rescue it before she ate it! And the morning we let the dogs outside to HURRY. A few minutes later our neighbor knocked on the door. "Um, did you know that your dog is on the roof?" he asked. We gasped and ran outside. Sure enough, Halinah was standing at the top of the pitched roof, surveying the neighborhood. We ran to the back yard, where she met us, tail wagging. We figured out that she had trotted up to the second floor deck and then used some potted plants as stair steps to the railing and then hopped to the slanted roof. Needless to say, we made sure her access to the upper deck was closed off.
DAVID: My first puppy, Padma, loved the sun, and she used to love hanging out on our rugs by a window with our cat Bernie. Like most CCI puppies, she chewed everything in sight when young. But as she got older, she would fool us into thinking she could be trusted, and then prove us wrong. Her specialty was oriental rugs. After a couple of months of perfect behavior, she decided to chew a corner off a rug.
After a few more months of perfect behavior, we thought we could trust her again. HA. She chewed yet another oriental rug.
After she was released from CCI for kennel stress, Padma was adopted as a pet by friends of ours. Our friends loved her so much, that when they were on vacation in Istanbul, they brought home a small oriental run for Padma to use as a dog bed. You can guess how long that rug lasted. We had a good laugh when we heard what happened.
SARA: Lexus was a SMART happy, goofy golden puppy that was just always getting into trouble. Here is a short list of just some of the many, many naughty stories I have:
The very first week I had him he ate something (still don't know what) that he had an allergic reaction to...had to rush him to the emergency vet. Just 3 weeks later he somehow managed to break his toe in his crate. He once broke into a Costco container of olive oil -- he was covered in oil, my carpet was covered in oil, and he drank a ton (you can just imagine what it was like coming out the other side.) He once broke open a container of wood polish on my newly carpeted floor; I STILL have the stain to prove it. He ate an entire box of macaroni and cheese (and I do mean ENTIRE: cardboard box, noodles and the seasoning packet.) Lexus learned how to open his crate door and I once came home to the house completely ransacked (toilet paper everywhere, couch cushions flipped off the couch, garbage everywhere, etc) I found him covered in sparkles from getting into my craft bag, stretched out fast asleep on my bed, exhausted from destroying the house.
Lexus turned into a wonderful adult dog and graduated as a Skilled Companion. He outgrew the naughty behaviors, but his quirky goofy personality stuck with him for life!
DONNA: I would say Micron's not a problem solver, but he showed some savvy when he stood on his hind legs, circus dog style, to pull the stuffed animal ornaments from the Christmas tree. Always waited until we were out of the room. And never once knocked the tree over, the clever boy.
But here's a story I've never told: It was not long after we moved to the new P&G offices and my cube is located in a quad with a couple of vacant workstations used as drop-in space. High level managers prefer this space because it's a quiet corner amid our open office atmosphere. And my area is pet friendly, a bonus. A director was in for the day, leaving his stuff parked while he was off in meetings.
While I'm in conversation with another co-worker, I wasn't paying really paying attention to Micron. Until he came up to me wagging his tail the way he does when he's really, really happy about something and wants me to know. He's sweet like that. But knowing my dog, this is his behavior when he's rolling something high value around in his mouth. His Best Day Ever! tail wag.
While my colleague is still talking about business, I go elbow deep into Micron's maw and pull out ... oh guess. Go ahead. Right, a pair of boxers. Men's boxers. Oh sweet mama, Micron has rummaged into the director's unzipped gym bag and scored him some skivvies.
What does one do when this happens? I didn't have the life skills to know the next step. Does one fold them back neatly before replacing to their proper place in the gym bag? Or just shove them back in and hope the slobber dries quickly? I mean really - does one even admit to it at all?
My colleague, bless her heart, observed the whole thing without missing a beat. Never stopped talking, like this was just another day in the office, with me clutching the director's damp underpants in my hands. But she was a witness, so I knew 'fessing up was the right thing.
It was later that afternoon when he came back. I say to this man I had just met, "Hey Bob, you know that game Boxers or Briefs? Yeah? I win." Bob's a good sport. And a dog lover. He continues to share this Micron story while I stand by blushing five shades of red.
Wow. I don't even know what to say to some of those horror stories. Just....wow.
BUT I'm going to remind Marianne about some of these stories the next time she scolds me for some tiny infraction like pulling a tissue out of the trash. Heh.
Chow for now!
Love dogs, puppies and funny stories? Get your copy of "Let the Dogs Speak! Puppies in Training Tell the Story of Canine Companions for Independence" from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or your local independent bookseller. Author's royalties are donated to CCI.