Sunday, April 24, 2011

Yaxley's Four for Four

The little Lord Yaxley is now four months old. Let's celebrate this adorable yeller feller's milestone with four things about him:

1. Yaxley has a ridge on his muzzle.

Call it a cowlick or a Rhodesian ridge-nose or whatever you want. A little line of fur on top of his nose is growing in a different direction. Went we brought him home from CCI, I spent the first couple of days trying to rub that funny little smudge off before I realized that it was indeed a permanent part of him.

That's right, it took me two days to figure that out.

Think of the mom spitting into a tissue and rubbing dirt off her kid's face. It was kinda like that.


2. He has three black nails and one clear on each front paw.

Yaxley is a 50-50 lab/golden cross. His mother is the beautiful Keara, a golden retriever, and dad is a black lab, Hickman.  I won't even try to bluster my way into pretending I understand a thing about canine genetics. Coat color, dudley noses, toenail color and all that.

I'll just say that black toenails on a pup are not my favorites on grooming day. Dog Toenail Clipping for Dummies is not the book I need to have on hand. I need the one for klutzes.

3. He is from a litter of eleven.

The Yuletide Y Litter was born on December 22, 2010.  Breeder/caretaker Susie Nash is absolutely awesome - in the purest sense of the word.  She whelped this litter and cared for the newborns until they were eight weeks old and ready for their puppy raisers. Yaxley showed up crate trained, responding to his name and following the Sit and Here commands. And much more that is making my part of puppy raising so much easier. And she made this magic with eleven puppies. During the Christmas season.

As a volunteer.

Puppy flower
(photo courtesy of Susie Nash)

Each pup in a CCI litter shares the same first letter for their names.

The Y's ready for their health check by the CCI veterinarian.
(photo courtesy of Susie Nash)

The Yuletide Y littermates of Yaxley are:

Nine yellows and two blacks. Six male puppies, five female. In the photo above, Yaxley is the pup in the green collar on the far left.

4. Yaxley is not afraid of running with the big dogs.

He is, however, concerned with being run over by the big dogs. During some energetic play sessions, he'll hang back and use me as his personal bodyguard by sitting between my feet.  Like the kid brother who wants to join the football game, but knows he'll just get creamed out there.

Now this isn't a lack of confidence, you know. This fellow can strut through a new situation with his tail held high. Bring it on, World, he says, I'm ready for ya.  It's more of an awareness of self-preservation. Any ordinary puppy would be right out there joining the melee - and doing gymnastic-style somersaults with every impact. It's the clever ones that can analyze the situation and know when the odds are not in their favor.

And Yaxley is one smart little puppy.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Table for three, please

 After I fed the boys their kibble this morning, Micron came up to tell me how much he enjoyed his bowl. Just the right crunch, he says, wagging his plume tail into my coffee mug,  absolutely delicious stuff.

Then he released a full two-second burp in my face. While holding a dirty sock in his mouth. Ah lovely, thanks so much for sharing that spring blossom with me, Micron.

Compliments to the chef and all that. Better out than in, as they say.

The boys watching dinner prep like it's a sushi bar or something.
As puppy raisers, CCI tasks us with introducing thirty commands and behaviors to these pups. We work towards proficiency of the basics any well-trained dog would know - sit, down, wait.  Then some higher end behaviors like being comfortable walking by the handler's side on either the right or left. And Under, which we use to tell the pup to go under a restaurant table and lie down.

Now these are labs, goldens or a cross between the two breeds.  Chow hounds, all of them.  (Well, most of them.  I've heard of the occasional pup that is a picky eater, but those stories do tend to lean towards the anecdotal.) A food motivated dog is a dog that is easy to work with. And with kibble eaters like these, you learn behaviors, too.  Like spelling out the words hungry and eat while making dinner plans with a fellow human bean.

So while we don't really have a command to Eat Kibble, we do ask the dogs to maintain a level of self-control at mealtime. To help prepare them for their service dog careers, it's important that they know how to sit quietly with a full bowl of kibble in front of them and wait for the release command from their handler.
crunch crunch crunch crunch crunch [burp] crunch

Ok, I will admit that in my youth I had no idea this was even possible. Mealtime with the pet dogs involved a quick finger count after the bowl was set on the floor. What a difference a Wait command can make.

And if you need convincing that dogs can indeed tell time, just put them on a strict feeding schedule. And their doggy circadian rhythm takes over. These boys get fed at seven o'clock in the morning and again at seven o'clock at night. The new guy, Yaxley, gets a noon meal as well, until he gets a little more room in his adorable puppy gut to move the kibble through. Not that that blows the minds of the older dogs or anything.

'Scuse me, Food Lady?  I asked for a private table.

So indeed, whatever I may be doing in the evenings, I'm never alone. Every room I enter, twelve paws are echoing my steps. These are my bestest buddies. Until chow time, of course.  After the kibble goes down the gullet, they're like uncles at Thanksgiving looking for a comfy spot to loosen the belt and take a nap.

Sleeping off the kibble.
At a recent CCI presentation, I was asked about any tips for housebreaking a pup. My advice? Portion control feedings on a tight schedule - never free feed. If you know what's going in and when, well then it's just a matter of time until it makes its way on out. Easy nuff, logically speaking, to forecast your pup's recycling schedule.

Hey Food Laaady!  It's seven o'clock!
It's good to have a household of chow hounds. Never a complaint about what's set in front of them. Always appreciative and more than willing to compliment the chef in their special doggy way. And of course, that's just fine with me.

Ya know, the sooner we get these groceries put away, the sooner we can E-A-T.

They call me Chicken Legs.  Dunno why.
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