Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Power of the Cone

So far we've been really fortunate that the puppy hasn't done any damage in the house. He has, however, done some damage to our older dog, Baxter. At least we think he has. Last week we noticed some blood on Baxter's face, on the cheek behind his mouth. It was a scratch and it was pretty enflamed. In all fairness, it's possible he got it from a shrub (Baxter has a tendency to go through shrubs rather than around them...something Griffons are known for). But a more likely scenario is an unfortunate encounter with one of Kirby's dew claws. Kirby came with a set of cat-sharp dew claws and an unquenchable desire to jump up and bat at Baxter's face.

In any case, the wound wasn't healing. Every time it would get a scab, Baxter would start scratching it and open it up again. We took him to the vet when Kirby went in for his shots last week and the vet shaved an area around the wound to get a better look. This only made things worse, because every time Baxter scratched, he'd create new wounds on the unprotected skin. (I never realized just how protective that hair is...)

We knew it was time to get a cone. Quite surprisingly, Baxter didn't object to it at all. I figured there would at least be a struggle getting the thing on him, as there usually is when we try to put on his Gentle Leader. Nope. I think this is because of two things: 1) psychology and 2) the antler effect.

1) We decided to try a bit of psychology on the dog first by making the cone a good thing. Jamie put it on himself and I praised him profusely. Baxter was intrigued. Then we put it on Baxter and praised him profusely and gave him a biscuit. It seemed to work because Baxter has worn the cone pretty much day and night for two days and has never even made an attempt to get the thing off. When we take it off to let him eat or chew his toy under supervision, he sits calmly and even sticks his neck out to help us put it back on him afterward. It is amazing.

2) Methinks there is another reason Baxter likes his cone, however. He has discovered it can be an effective, antler-like weapon (i.e. puppy repellent), when used properly. The first time Baxter, with his cone on, approached Kirby, the little guy ran and hid under the sofa. When Kirby finally came out, Baxter put his head down and charged at him. Kirby took off, tail between his legs. Even now that Kirby has sort of gotten used to seeing Baxter with this thing on, he still gives him a pretty wide berth.

And Bax has discovered that the cone offers a few other advantages as well. When he wants something and I'm not paying attention, he's found that coming up behind me and butting me with the cone usually has the desired effect. The cone also acts as a sort of parabolic dish for focusing-in on new, bark-worthy sounds coming from down the street. And, perhaps best of all, it serves as an isolation device when he wants to keep Kirby away from a toy or a piece of food.

Yes, the cone is a weird and wonderful thing. I think Baxter will be glad when it comes off for good, but for now, he's taking advantage of the situation. And my husband and I have experienced a few bouts of side-splitting laughter watching Baxter and his new-found "antlers" charging the puppy and bouncing off the furniture. It's rather like a circus around's all in good fun as long as nobody gets hurt. And the clowns really do make us laugh.

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