Thursday, November 30, 2006

Is There an Oscar for Short Films About Poultry?

Ok, totally off the dog topic today, but still relating to animals and my fascination with the Internet...

Over the recent Thanksgiving holiday, we traveled to visit some friends and family. While killing some time in our motel room, on a lark, my husband and I shot a silly little one-take video with my phone...In honor of the day, it was a gobbling hand turkey (husband's hand, my gobble). My husband posted it on Treemo and linked to it on an art blog, Fluxlist. I don't know how many people read Fluxlist every day, but somehow our little video has become one of the "Most Viewed" on Treemo.

This fascinates me. Not just because I have an expensive film degree and my major public co-production to date was shot on a phone and posted on the Internet (although that does give me pause). It's because as of noon today, 382 people have actually watched it. Ok, a couple of them were us. But still.

Go figure. I'm pretty sure I haven't come anywhere close to having that many people read this blog since I started it this past summer. No, this is the power of video combined with the reach of the Internet (witness all the recent news headlines brought to you by camera phones). And it's also the element of human nature that makes us want to share the silliest thing we saw today with all our friends.

I'm humbled. And I have a whole new respect for Internet video as a medium to reach people. I'd better tell my husband to start his hand stretches, because I have a pretty good goat impersonation I'd like to try...

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

A Sparkling Morning Moment

It was frosty this morning with an icy blue sky and a pale yellow sun. Perfect for a fleece-clad walk with Baxter. Of course, the hills were lovely, dusted with snow, and the crunch of frozen leaves under foot was a welcome sound after many days of rain. But the most spectacular thing about this morning was something I find difficult to explain. Many a writer has attempted to describe the beauty of a frosty morning, and having grown up in the upper Midwest, I've tried it many times myself. I read once that when you put a picture into words, you lose a part of it. I think that's often true, but I like to think of it in terms of compression -- the writer compresses the picture into words and the reader opens it and recreates the picture in full size in their own mind. I hope you can recreate this picture, because my words are not enough...

As Baxter and I rounded a corner and came out of the woods into a clearing, the low morning sun burst through the trees onto the field of frosty white brush and tall grass. I've often seen ice crystals sparkle in the sun, but this was extraordinary. It looked like the whole field was lit from within by a billion tiny, colored lights in and around every leaf and stem. It sparkled in red and green and blue and purple, twinkling and dancing like the stars on a crisp winter night. It was as if all the stars had been plucked from their places in the sky and sprinkled across this field to shine in the soft light of morning.

Baxter and I stood motionless. Soon the sun would climb higher in the sky and melt the icy morning into day, but for this one extraordinary moment, time seemed to stop.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Baxter: The Human Whisperer

Baxter is a human whisperer. I'm not kidding. I never realized this before because Baxter was an only dog, so all the communication between us was, well, between us. I've recently noticed that Baxter has become a sort of translator for Kirby when Kirby doesn't know the right signs to help us understand what he wants. When Baxter wants to go outside, he comes to me, sits down, stares for a short bit, then begins tapping my leg with his paw. If I don't respond he digs in his claws as if to say "I really have to go outside now." Kirby has figured out that he needs to go outside to do his business, but up to now, his only means of conveying the need has been to go and sit by the door. If, per chance, we missed this signal, we just might find a wet spot on the rug in front of the door.

The other day, when I was working with both Kirby and Baxter in my office, Kirby apparently went to sit next to the door. I was engrossed in something and didn't notice. Before a crisis occurred, Baxter came over to me and did the leg tap. I looked up, noticed Kirby and took them both outside. Bax just stood on the patio and supervised as Kirby did his business and then came back in. Bax didn't have to go, he was just making the request on Kirby's behalf.

This past weekend we were visiting my husband's parents. Out of the usual routine, we neglected to pick-up Baxter's water dish when Kirby was let out to play, and he got a belly full right before bed. We held off turning in for about 45 minutes and kept taking Kirby outside, but apparently it took a bit more time to process. At 3:00 am Kirby started rattling around in his crate. Now sometimes he rattles around just in the course of changing position in the night, and we were half asleep, so our response was a bit delayed. Suddenly I heard Baxter get out of his bed, go over to the crate and then come around the side of the bed closest to the door. He sat there, staring. Then he nuzzled my husband's hand. Kirby really has to go out. I got up and took Kirby outside and he proceeded to do his business. At 3am. In the rain. And all I could think of as I stood out there, eyes half open, was how cool it was that Baxter came to us on Kirby's behalf. He's a Kirby translator. A human whisperer.

I wonder what Baxter's telling Kirby about us...?

Thursday, November 23, 2006

On the Road

We've been preparing Kirby for road trips. Since our first trip home from the shelter, when little Kirby suffered from a bit of stomach upset, we've been working him into the concept of the road trip. When we go for coffee, go to the grocery store, go to the post office, the dogs go into the car for a little ride. Our strategy worked. Kirby is now just as excited about going for a ride in the car as Baxter is, and he starts bouncing up and down when he sees us head out the door with his crate.

When I was a teenager, our Cairn Terrier, Katie, had issues with travel. She was in a state of almost constant panic in the car...eyes wide, panting rapidly and growling, barking and chasing every car that went by us. I've read since that such agitation is one way dogs show that they're carsick. Fortunately, our dogs don't seem to have this problem.

One of tne things we've always appreciated about Baxter is his ability to go into what we call "travel trance." He goes into this sort of meditative state, curled-up on his bed, eyes unfocused as soon as we hit the freeway (offramps, corners and stoplights all elicit a quick pop-up and look around). Sometimes he sleeps, sometimes he just sits there. Fortunately, Kirby has picked-up on the vibe.We drove for nearly five hours on our Thanksgiving trek, and Kirby slept blissfully the whole way.

Another thing we've learned on this trip has to do with food and sharing. We assumed that Baxter wanted his own food. Every chance he gets, Kirby tries to steal Baxter's food, even though he has a full bowl of the exact same food in front of him. So we've taken to segregating them at mealtime. This morning, Baxter ate his bowl of food while Kirby was out on one of his "business trips." When Kirby returned, we put a bowl of food down for him. Kirby grabbed a few pieces and took them over to the carpet to chew. Bax then proceeded to walk over to Kirby's bowl and take a big mouth full of Kirby's food. He stood there, in front of the puppy, just munching away. Undeterred, Kirby reached in under Baxter, while he was chewing, and grabbed a few more pieces. There was no objection, no growling and no territoriality at all. They just stood there eating, one by one, happy as can be, until they were both full.

The wonders never cease.

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Accidental Body-slam

Kirby has a whole new respect for Baxter. Every day they wrestle, every day Baxter comes out on top with Kirby on his back, but so far that hasn't stopped Kirby from jumping right back up and asking for more. The experts call the phase Kirby is in right now (14 weeks to 6 months) as the "Toddler Phase" or the "Brat Phase." Kirby has just enough bravado to get into trouble, and not enough common sense to know his limits. Interestingly enough, the tone has changed slightly since yesterday...evidence that toddler time, as challenging as it can be, is also a time of great learning...

Lately Kirby has taken to provoking Baxter whilst out in the yard doing business. Kirby does his usual "jump-up-and-bite-Baxter-on-the-face" move, and Baxter responds in kind by chasing Kirby all over the back yard. Just like in the living room, this usually ends up with Kirby on his back, and is followed by another cork-like "pop-up-and-do-it-again" move. There are slight variations to this, such as Baxter rolling on Kirby and, my personal favorite, Baxter sitting on Kirby's head. Most of the time it's just playful, but when it starts taking on a more menacing fervor, we send them to their corners.

Yesterday Baxter, who is normally a pretty calm guy but who occasionally needs to get his own yayas out by running in circles in the back yard, decided it was his turn to go wild. Without any input from Kirby, Baxter just started running and spinning, changing direction and spinning some more. Kirby managed to get caught in the swirl of things and Baxter accidentally body-slammed the little guy onto the cement patio. My husband was observing at the time (I would have probably panicked) and he said it was clearly an accident. He said Kirby just stayed there a second on the cement, then popped up and didn't seem at all hurt. But from that point forward, Kirby gave Baxter a wider berth.

Last evening, as the dogs started their usual after dinner romp, Kirby jumped at Baxter, but instead of waiting for Baxter to respond, he ran and hid under the couch. Of course, a chase ensued, much like in the yard, but Kirby wasn't quite as bold about his approaches to Baxter. He gave up sooner. It seemed, dare I say (and I don't know how long it will last), that Kirby now has a bit more respect for just how big and strong Baxter is relative to him.

Whether this lesson sticks still remains to be seen.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

A Matter of Scale

Kirby is a chowhound. He eats his food, then comes for Baxter's every time he gets a chance. But we've had him a couple of weeks and he hasn't gained a pound. Not even half a pound.

Now we're used to the kind of growth a large dog puppy achieves in a couple of weeks. Kirby seems to be taking his sweet time. Perhaps he's just going to be a smaller dog than we thought and has plenty of time to reach his adult weight.

We don't think he has any intestinal critters. He's had his first dose of heartworm meds, which are supposed to take care of other worms as well...unless he faked eating it and somehow managed to stash it someplace else. His coat is getting thicker, his eyes are bright and he has an over-abundance of energy (just ask Baxter).

Perhaps during these couple of weeks, between 14-16 weeks, he's just building his brain. Or perhaps our bathroom scale is just really inadequate for measuring wiggling puppies (likely). I guess we'll see when he goes in for his third round of shots after Thanksgiving.

In the meantime, he does seem to be developing hormonally and is now convinced that he's the boss of Baxter. Baxter is occasionally convinced of that as well, but I'm sure the playing field will be evened out in a few weeks when Kirby has his little surgical procedure.

Kirby seems to be developing that trait common among terriers and other earth dogs (must be the dachsund in him)...he thinks he's a lot bigger than he actually is. I hope his real size starts to catch up soon...

Friday, November 17, 2006

Dog Social Hour

I saw a cartoon recently, and I can't recall where, but it showed a couple of dogs at some sort of convention or gathering and they each had "Hello my name is..." tags on their hind ends. I thought it was pretty funny. I was reminded of that cartoon this morning, as Baxter and I went on a long walk down a country road near our home. These walks are our alone time, sans puppy, and Baxter loves it. For me it's a workout. For him it's a sniffout. And we both enjoy the birdwatching.

This morning's walk turned out to be quite a canine social event. The farmhouse down the way has a young yellow lab and an older golden retriever. Baxter loves to stop by in front of their house to say hello, but today we want another way. Somehow the dogs got out of the yard and were running around in the hayfield. Of course, they found the one break in the fence and came trotting out onto the road to greet us. I just stood there in a mass of happily wagging tails and sniffing, trying to get everyone onto the shoulder so the occasional speeding pick-up wouldn't create a disaster. Eventually everyone was sufficiently reacquainted and we continued on as the yellow dogs went back out into the field to pick up more burrs in their fur.

As we approached our neighborhood we met another little black dog, on leash, and did the familiar "you go over, I'll go under" accomodations as the dogs did their swirling greeting and leash macramé. Eventually we humans did our own introductions and the woman said "Boy, aren't you glad we don't greet each other like that?"

Yeah, I really am. And this reminded me of the "Hello my name is..." cartoon. If you know where I can find this, please type me a comment!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Rawhide and Knowing When to Back-off

Our dog-free friends who came to dinner brought a nice bottle of wine and rawhide bones for Baxter and Kirby (the wine was for us). Baxter got a huge one and Kirby got a puppy-sized one. They were both thrilled. I think it was Kirby's first experience with rawhide (aka Nirvana). Baxter doesn't get rawhide very often because he has this nasty habit of chomping through it very fast and swallowing chunks -- a big no-no. He's never had any digestive repercussions, but I have had to fish a half-chewed chunk-o-rawhide out of his choking throat before (not at all fun). Needless to say, all rawhide chewing in our house is well supervised. And, in this case, photographed.

Baxter and Kirby have been developing some interesting habits when it comes to sharing. Basically, Baxter pickes up a toy, Kirby runs over, jumps up, knocks the toy out of Baxter's mouth (Bax has a soft mouth and has never been very good at hanging on to things) and runs away with it. Bax just stands there with this "oh dear" expression on his face. He doesn't even try to get the toy back. This is the way it happens 99.9% of the time.

Rawhide is different. I don't know if Bax knew Kirby had his own rawhide or if it's just too special to relinquish, but upon receiving his rawhide bone, Baxter immediately went into lock-down mode. Kirby, who saw right away that Baxter's rawhide was bigger than his and tried to take it away (puppies, where are the manners?) received a snarl that made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. Kirby realized that this time it wasn't a play growl. This was serious business, this rawhide-chewing. Kirby sheepishly went back to his own puppy-sized rawhide and gnawed away with his little needle teeth. Every time we give them their bones to chew on, the same events occur, with the same results.

Sometimes the puppy seems relentless, he jumps at Bax, pulls his ears, bites his chest with those tiny teeth and climbs all over him whenever he can. Bax gets fed-up, growls, rolls the puppy over and Kirby pops back up like a cork and does it again. I was beginning to think either Bax's response was too wimpy or the puppy is still just too young and clueless to get it when he's in the danger zone. The rawhide incidents just proved to me that a) Baxter can be very un-wimpy when he wants to and b) Kirby knows when Baxter means business.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Conversational Habits of Dog People

Having dinner with some child-free, dog-free friends of ours the other night, I was reminded that dog people have a whole different world of conversational topics that completely elude non-dog people. Of course, there's nothing wrong with that...they just live in a slightly different reality. It's like when friends have children and suddenly all they can talk about are what kind of diapers they're using, the best binky, how long to breastfeed and what to do about colic. Being a puppy parent has its own vocabulary, not entirely different from human parenting in many respects.

My husband works in an office where there are a lot of dog parents. Instead of having baby pictures on every cubicle, they have an entire cubicle wall dedicated to photos of their dogs. Some are also human parents, but they share the passion for talking about their dogs, sharing pictures and comparing notes on a variety of dog-related topics. While I miss having that dog-loving social milieu, I can't complain, because my co-workers ARE dogs. I still engage in a good dog person conversation whenever I can, and the topics that seem to come up most often include:

1) Housebreaking. Never in my life am I so obsessed with pee and poop as when I'm housebreaking a puppy. Doody is inevitable and location is everything. We compare notes on things like cue words (we say "do it" and "do number two" when the pup goes, so he'll associate the words with the actions...this worked like a Pavlovian charm with Baxter, when he hears those two words, he can't hold it for long). The other night our dog-free friend leaned over and asked "so do you really call it number two?" Yeah, we do.

2) Chewing. Teething puppies are ravenous. They'll sink their teeth into just about anything, from electrical wires to your favorite Ferragamos, so finding an appropriate substitute is paramount. Debate rages on about the benefits of rawhide vs. greenies, real bones vs. nylabones. All that seems to matter to the puppy is having something to chew on and all that matters to me is catching the puppy approaching a verboten object so I can do the old "NO!, distract and replace" trick.

3) Best food and treats. We're in a pretty environmentally aware and health-conscious community, so subjects like "raw diet" and "grains cause dog allergies" and "what digestive enzymes are you feeding your pup?" are not unusual topics of conversation.

4) Control issues. Gentle leader vs. harness vs. choke chain vs. prong collar vs. that thing that gives a shock. Everyone has an opinion. No one seems to have control over their dog.

5) On the furniture or not? There are the "I'd never dream of banishing my dog from the furniture, he's part of the family" people and the "I'd never let my dog up on the furniture, he's perfectly happy in his own bed" people. We tend to fall in the second category. Our dogs are part of the family, yet they know that their role is to keep our feet warm when we watch TV. It's a pack order thing. The alphas get the couch and the big bed.

6) Dog park or no dog park? I've heard people say that dog parks are terrible for dogs, they're dangerous, dogs fight, dogs pick up diseases, etc. Personally, I like 'em. Baxter and I have had mostly great experiences at dog parks -- fellowship, lots-o-smells, very little fighting and lots of playing. Of course, where there are young dogs, there's a lot of play-fighting, and I'm convinced some people think their dogs are little furry humans and don't know the difference between a dog wrestle and a real fight. That said, we have a really excellent dog park in our town where the dog parents kick-out anyone who brings in an aggressive dog.

7) Sibling rivalry. How do I know when the play fighting turns into a deadly game of "if I whack the little guy I'm top dog again?" This is also an issue with cats. A friend got a kitten and was concerned that her young dog was going to kill the kitten because the dog was so rambuctious. Her vet, who knows the dog well, said to let the kids settle the score on their own. Sure enough they did. And, as usual, the cat is now in charge.

Oh the subjects are endless. And I enjoy every minute of talking about them. Dog people know. And I can usually tell a dog person when I meet one...they see a puppy and they melt. They talk about their dogs with a love and devotion usually reserved for talk of grandchildren. I'm sure it's somewhat of a mystery to our dog-free friends and relatives. So we'll hold out until we're among our kind, and then let the conversation roll!

Friday, November 10, 2006

The Mystery of the Spritz


It's been puppy CSI around here lately. We're trying to solve the mystery of the "spritz" that happens each time we put Kirby in his crate and leave the house. For context, Kirby's crate is inside of a little newspaper-lined pen we've set up in our kitchen. When we leave for short periods, we put Kirby in his crate to keep him from chewing up artwork and electrical wires and causing other trouble in the house (ounce of prevention...). Before we put him in, we make sure he has gone outside to do his business and hasn't had water for a while.

The Mystery
As we leave, Kirby barks and starts pawing at the door of the crate. We figured he must settle down eventually because he's usually quiet when we come back. But each time we return, the front of the towel in his crate is all wet. There are little droplets of liquid all along the front of the crate and on the door. Outside the door, on the newspaper, is an array of droplets. Kirby's front feet are wet, but his back feet are not.

Our first thought was that he did his #1 through the door of the crate. But oddly enough, his beard is usually wet, and laying in it is not something he's inclined to do. The wet towel doesn't smell like #1 and usually the wetness is more of a spritz than a puddle (although it has, at times, made a tiny puddle in the front of the crate). This happens every time we leave.

The Surveillance
We decided the only way to find out what was happening while we were away was to set up a camera. So we took my laptop and Webcam into the kitchen and set it up to focus on his crate door. My husband sat in the back office with the other computer. We set up a video conversation on Messenger, then Baxter and I left for our morning walk. I could hear Kirby going into his micro-whine and bark as I closed the door.

The Act
What my husband witnessed was an act of tenacity, the likes of which he had never seen. As Kirby barked, he proceeded to flail himself against the sides of the crate and rattle the metal wire door with his front feet. He tried to chew through the holes on the side of the crate, then he pushed his snout through the bars at the bottom of the door and lifted up on it, trying to jiggle the door latch open. He did a pretty good job of rattling the door, but wasn't successful at opening it. (I should note that on his first night with us, while he was in Baxter's old crate, I didn't latch both the top and bottom of the door and Kirby managed to get it open...this he remembers, I'm sure.) He'd stop and rest for a minute or so and then start again, barking, digging at the bottom of the crate, licking and chewing on the bars of the metal crate door.

Puppy spittle. The "mystery spritz" is puppy spittle.

Now that we can close the books on this little X-File, we have to figure out how to warm Kirby up to the idea of being in his crate. He sleeps like an angel through the night now (the crate is next to our bed) and doesn't argue about it at all. But it's obviously a different story in the daytime. Perhaps we didn't do enough to get him used to the crate in a casual setting, letting him go in and out of the crate at will, so he now thinks of it as punishment.

I think we'll try leaving the door open and putting the crate into areas where we are, so he gets used to the idea that it's just a doggy bed and quiet place. And perhaps, if we're lucky, we can prevent the little guy from eventually digging a tunnel through the kitchen floor...

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Kirby Goes to the Vet

Yesterday afternoon Kirby made his first trip to a local veterinarian for a new puppy check-up. The vet said he's a very healthy and good-natured puppy (he let the vet roll him over, look at his teeth, etc. without any major wrestling). The news to us was that Kirby is a little older than we thought. The shelter had guessed about 12 weeks when we picked him up last Thursday, but the vet said, based on the number of adult teeth in his mouth, he's more like 13-14 weeks old now. That might explain why he's so precocious.

Of course, all the gals in the vet's office were cooing over what a cute puppy he is. There was quite a bit of discussion about Kirby's possible parentage. We know his mom was a German Shepherd mix, and based on the looks of all the puppies, dad was most likely a Dachsund or similar mix. The vet said he definitely had aspects of both Shepherd and Dachsund. How they got together, we'll never know. But Kirby looks like he'll be a nice, small-medium-sized dog when he grows up. Right now it's a mystery and it will be fun to see which characteristics blossom with age.

Kirby's Family

I neglected to mention earlier that my other blog, Adopt a Scruffy Dog, has pictures of the rest of Kirby's family available for adoption. His brothers, sisters and Mom are all extremely cute, and all the puppies but one is scruffy. I wanted to take Mabel here home, but I think one puppy at a time is about all we can handle.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


Puppy Tutoring

We are running a puppy school here, I think. Or, rather, a one-on-one tutoring session. Baxter's tolerance for the little satellite, Kirby, is improving. Sometimes he does get a rather grumpy "when are you leaving?" expression, but at least he's now letting the puppy touch him without getting up and walking away. While Baxter is practicing tolerance with Kirby, Kirby seems to worship Baxter. Un-fazed by Baxter's lack of enthusiasm, Kirby proceeds to cheerfully follow along wherever Baxter goes and copies what Baxter does. This is, for the most part, a very good thing. Having one dog teach another dog is way easier than having a human teach another dog. Either that, or this puppy is just wicked-smart for a 12-week-old. I think it may be a bit of both.

For example...from day one, the puppy got the house-breaking idea. Baxter went out to do his business, Kirby watched and proceeded to do exactly what Baxter did. Next time he had to go, Kirby went and sat by the door. It was like magic. In fact, the only "accidents" Kirby has had in the house were 1) on the rug in front of the door where he goes out, and 2) in his crate, which is our fault for not getting him out soon enough and is doubly amazing because he somehow managed to get himself up against the door so he could urinate through the wire door onto the newspaper outside. Only the front rim of the crate had any evidence. (Males have a slight advantage in this regard.)

Day two, we go for a walk. Kirby is not leash-trained and starts jumping around and grabbing it and chomping on it. He sees Baxter walking nicely by Jamie's side, immediately he turns and starts trotting along beside me as if he'd done it forever. It took about 30 seconds. And it stuck...I took Kirby out for a walk by himself yesterday and this pup is leash-trained.

I decided to try something slightly more complicated... I got out the biscuits and told Baxter to sit. Baxter sat and got a biscuit. Kirby watched this and proceeded to sit immediately. Wow.

Meanwhile, Baxter seems to have gotten the idea that he needs to supervise. When the puppy goes outside (which is often) Baxter wants to go with him. Instead of milling around in the grass like he usually does, Baxter stands on the patio and watches the puppy until the puppy does his business, then accompanies Kirby back to the house. If Baxter sees the neighbor girl out in the yard next door, he does his usual "hark, who goes there" bark. Kirby looks alarmed for a few seconds, then gives a little bark himself.

Kirby has also figured out "go to work." For Baxter, this has always meant accompanying me to my office, looking briefly out the window, then laying down on the floor to snooze. Kirby now does the same thing (minus the window because he's too short). He goes immediately to the footrest under my desk and lays down to sleep. This is nice, because I can work peacefully, with only the sound of a big dog snore and a little dog snore as background.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

A Puppy in the Prince's Court

Baxter isn't quite sure what to make of Kirby. I think it's dawning on Baxter that Kirby is sticking around, and little by little he's getting used to the idea. At the moment, both are sacked-out under my desk, Baxter on the right and the puppy on the left. Peace. This is a relatively new development, however.

Baxter's first reaction to Kirby was "if I ignore him, maybe he'll go away." This has worked well for Baxter when we've had the occasional dog visitor in our home. If the puppy touched him or approached him, he'd just get up and walk away with a rather annoyed expression on his face. After a bit, when it was apparent that the little tike wasn't going anywhere, Baxter's look got a bit more hang-dog. He would acknowledge the puppy, (hard to avoid a determined puppy when he's jumping at your snout), but he wouldn't really interact. He looked kind of mopey. We'd play with Baxter, throwing a toy and having him chase it. But Kirby chased right along, and whenever Kirby jumped up at the toy, Bax just dropped it and walked away to lay down, looking up at us with his expressive, light brown eyes as if to say "when is this going to be over?"

We were concerned about introducing a new puppy into our home, where Baxter has been the only dog for more than seven years. I have a tendency to assign human emotions to Baxter, which I know at an intellectual level, is not right. But Baxter's hang-dog reaction had me feeling particularly guilty. Baxter is my little dog prince, and he always will be. He is such a gentle soul by nature, it was hard to see him so overwhelmed by this confident, playful, tenacious puppy (definitely some terrier in there somewhere). We wanted Baxter to feel like he has a higher rank in the pack than the puppy, after all, he was here first. But whether it's because the puppy is still intact or because the puppy has a slightly more dominant personality, Baxter seemed to be having a hard time figuring out who was in charge.

The dog behavior and training books we've read all say that when you introduce a puppy, you need to let the dogs sort out the pack order and never punish the older dog for being dominant. If anything, you should support that, otherwise the puppy will get a false sense of confidence and the big dog will get bent out of shape and that's a recipe for tears. But how much do we broker the relationship? At what point should we step in?

Yesterday we went out and bought the puppy a collar, a new crate (Baxter's old crate was far too big) and a couple of toys: a chew-bone for Baxter and a puppy teething toy that looked like an oversized keyring with colored keys dangling from it for Kirby. Baxter showed no interest whatsoever in his bone, but immediately loved the keys and proceeded to take them to chew on. Of course, the puppy thought this was a fun game and tried to get the keys back. At first Bax just stood there with the keys dangling from his mouth and the puppy jumping up to grab them. Then he did a low growl, which we'd only heard him do a couple of times with the pup. Finally, when Bax was laying down to chew and the puppy boldly barged right in to take the keys (which had worked with every other toy so far), Baxter bared his teeth and let out a growl that made everybody's hair stand on end. The puppy immediately rolled over on his back, like any self-respecting puppy would. Then Bax, suddenly realizing he may have done something wrong, looked at my husband (the Alpha male in Baxter's worldview) and me to see if he was going to get punished. When the Alphas (who were rooting for Baxter to stick up for himself) clearly didn't mind, Baxter got a whole new sense of confidence. The transformation was so fast, I almost worried he'd go overboard the other way.

Today, when some friends came over to see the puppy, Bax and Kirby had a second playful interaction, and this time it took on an even more significant tone. Kirby has been steadily building confidence over the past two days and now has no qualms about running right up to Baxter and jumping on him. Today the puppy started doing his little play-bows and running in circles around Baxter, jumping on him (as if to say "tag") and then running away. Of course, Baxter used to do this mercilessly to the older dogs at the dog park when he was a pup...but the tables were turned. Suddenly, Baxter had had enough and decided to join in the play, but this time the gloves were off.

At first it was pretty hilarious, because the puppy is so quick he managed to evade Baxter's moves. But the play got a little too rambunctious and when Bax finally caught him, we got the impression that Baxter didn't realize his own strength. Concerned for the puppy's welfare, we called a truce (without punishing anyone), calmed everybody down and peace was established once again. After that little event, Baxter seemed somehow more satisfied that he'd established his seniority. Since then, Baxter's been letting the puppy walk up to him when he's laying down without getting up to walk away. And Bax seems more content to have the puppy follow him around. So now they're both sleeping peacefully under my desk.

This is going to be an interesting process. Baxter is a pretty trustworthy guy, and I don't think he'd ever deliberately harm the puppy. But he doesn't realize just how big he is. And, like any terrier-type, I don't think Kirby realizes just how small he is. So I think close supervision will be the rule until Kirby's size more closely matches his personality.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Friday, November 03, 2006

Introducing Kirby

Originally uploaded by ScruffyDog.
A funny thing happened yesterday, as I was searching through the Petfinder website looking for adoptable scruffy dogs to add to my Adopt a Scruffy Dog blog. (I do this about once a week, and if I see a particularly cute dog and my husband is home, I'll call him in to have a look.) I came upon a litter of scruffy puppies recently put up for adoption in a county shelter. Shepherd/Dachsund Mix was the listed lineage and absolutely adorable was my immediate impression. I did my usual "hey, you gotta see these guys" call to my husband.

I pulled up the page with a little puppy the shelter had named Milo. He was black with tan eyebrows, nose and legs and he looked like a slightly longer-legged wirehaired dachsund. "Wow, he's pretty cute," my husband said. Along with Milo were two brothers and two sisters, different colors, and all but one was scruffy. Then we both looked at each other and some serious mind-reading went on. Instead of "good ones for the blog" my husband said "I guess we could go get one..." "They are only a couple of hours away..." I replied.

We talked about the pros and cons of getting another dog. This wasn't a new conversation -- we've been discussing it for a while -- but this time it had an air of possibility to it. We've been saying we want to get another dog while Baxter is still young enough to play with him and enjoy the company. And we thought it would be good to have Baxter, who is such a well-behaved dog, teach a new puppy some good habits. We just hadn't figured on getting one right now. But right now there was a heart-breakingly cute puppy staring back at us wistfully from the Webpage and we had the afternoon off...

We decided to go "have a look." Baxter loves car rides and the fall foliage is lovely (even in the rain) we figured. Of course, when it comes to puppies, it's tough to just "have a look"...

We hit some construction traffic and we ended up getting to the shelter just before closing. The nice young woman who worked there showed us in to the large kennel where the five puppies were milling about, along with their grandmother (apparently three generations of the family were surrendered for adoption) and a cute, but completely gonzo, dalmation puppy. The woman let us in. The dalmation proceeded to jump all over us but we eventually were able to pick up and hold each puppy except one -- the non-scruffy pup just sat in the corner and wouldn't come near us.

We wanted to take them all home, as well as the grandma (apparently the mother had been taken to rescue, as I'm sure the post-weaning pups were driving her crazy). But we knew one puppy would be plenty for us right now. So it became less a matter of "should we" and more a matter of "which one?" Out of the litter, "Milo" stood out immediately -- not only because he was the only black-and-tan pup, but because he had that Baxter-like quality of being able to inquisitively look you straight in the eye without being aggressive. He wasn't the most assertive, and he wasn't the least assertive. He was comfortable in our arms and equally as happy bouncing around with the other puppies. One of the little females was also a real charmer, but she was definitely more assertive, jumping on grandma and nipping at her face and ears. There was something about Milo...

kirby 2006.11.02
Originally uploaded by ScruffyDog.

It was time to close the shelter. We had to decide. Milo (to be renamed) was our little guy. We said goodbye to the grandma and the other pups, did our paperwork, paid the shelter, introduced the puppy to Baxter (who was curious, but non-plussed) and were on our way home. We tossed out a variety of names. Milo was OK, but is the name of a friend's father, so it didn't feel quite right. Fergus. Duncan. Kirby. Kirby! He really looked like a Kirby. Baxter slept in the back of the car and Kirby squirmed around in a box on my lap. After about 2-1/2 hours of riding and squirming and cuddling and one bout of car-sickness (the poor puppy had just eaten dinner) we were home.

We let Baxter in the house and followed with the puppy. Bax was remarkably calm with the puppy. I could tell from his panting and expression that he was thinking "ok, is this for real or is this just a visit?" but he was very tolerant of the puppy's enthusiasm. Everywhere Baxter went, the puppy followed. Everything Baxter did, the puppy copied. It was adorable. At one point the pup stood directly under Bax's stomach and looked up, as if searching for teats. Sorry, none to be had. Baxter let the puppy know his boundaries, and we let Baxter know that he's still our #1 dog and always will be. The puppy will find his place in the pack over time. But for now, we're just charmed by his adorable scruffiness and sweet, inquisitive, good-natured personality. Kinda like a miniature Baxter, but with a little more of an independent streak.

More puppy stories in the days to come...

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Dog Prince

There are little, lingering clues that while we were away, Sir Baxter got the royal treatment. He now thinks he needs to go out and run around the yard at least every couple of hours. Playing with ball and bunny should really be a full-time job. And of course anything we're reading is much less important than paying attention to His Highness (as conveyed by the paw on the paper and the wet nose on the knuckles).

It's quite sweet, actually, because we're missing Mom. And Baxter's current expectations give me a happy view into the three weeks of nearly full-time playing and cuddling he experienced while we were away. Sure beats the kennel any day.

So even though our little prince will have to get used to fewer outings and play sessions (I do have to get some work done), I can't help thinking he's a pretty lucky dog, whether he knows it or not.

ScruffyDog sends a ROYAL THANK YOU to Mom for doting on the grand puppy while we were away.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Pirates, Fairies, Pink Poodles and a Lot of Nose Squeezing

We had lots of trick-or-treaters last night. We went clear through three bags of candy before finally turning off the light (just as well, because the late-comers were all teenagers dressed as, well, creative). And, of course, all evening long Baxter had to fully announce each successive wave of little doorbell-ringers with a rousing "Egad, there's a pirate on our doorstep!" round of alarmed barking. Some of the children looked alarmed as well, but as I opened the door, Baxter immediately melted into his usual child-loving self, curiously sniffing the little costumed strangers as they reached into the bowl for candy.

By far, our favorite moments were when a couple of extremely cute toddlers...a fairy and a pink poodle respectively...decided that Baxter was more interesting than the candy and reached out to grab his nose. I'm not sure what Baxter made of all the nose-fondling and moustache-pulling, but he just stood there with a most dignified expression and let it go on. My husband and I, however, found it particularly charming, especially when Baxter reached out to lick their little faces and rounds of giggles ensued.

I don't think we've ever had so many trick-or-treaters in our neighborhood and I haven't enjoyed a Halloween as much in years. But I was looking forward to having some leftover candy...