Sunday, December 30, 2012

A Scruffy Puppy Christmas with Cousin Homer

We spent Christmas at the home of my in-laws...a nice, quiet little place in a quiet little retirement community in Washington. We brought the whole Oregon contingent of the family, including my mother, Jamie's brother and our dogs Kirby and 12-week-old Remy. Also descending on the grandparents: another of Jamie's brothers along with his wife, their two adorable daughters (5 and 8) and their 5-month-old-but-gigantic-already scruffy puppy, Homer. We had not yet met Homer, and the rest of the family had not yet met Remy, although the human siblings have had a few "climb down off the ledge" puppy-rearing discussions by phone over the past few months.

To further set the stage: The grandparents have two bedrooms, no pets and white carpet. Bless their hearts, they invited everyone to stay at their house on Christmas Eve. Despite the warnings, we were fairly certain they had no idea what they were getting themselves into this year...

The adult kids, grandkids and puppies came with Aerobeds, sleeping bags, dog crates and Nature's Miracle (Homer and Remy are mostly housetrained, but still not 100% reliable). Kirby is completely reliable in that way, but he has always been a tad freaked out by large family gatherings, particularly those that involve children whom he is not allowed to herd around.
Homer, 5 months

We approached the whole thing with a bit of trepidation. We didn't know how we were going to choreograph the puppy situation, particularly since Remy and Kirby still can't spend five minutes together without turning the whole scene into a wrestling match. Homer, we were told, is a pretty dominant puppy with a fierce independent streak, a big, strong body and the smart-yet-wacky brain of a 5-month-old puppy (they were told by the shelter that he is a German Shepherd/Poodle mix but he also looks a LOT like an Irish Wolfhound). We feared he and Remy might duke it out for number one.

Needless to say, the excitement and anticipation of a merry Christmas was getting back-burnered by our desire to just make it through the two days without any tears, major injuries (dog or human) or property damage.


In fact, it was fun and merry and remarkably without incident. There were no "surprises" on the white carpet, no children's toys were maimed, the Nature's Miracle never even came out of the bag. I still can hardly believe it.

The girls loved having three dogs to play with (though I think we all missed Baxter's presence terribly... I know Jamie and I did.) Interestingly enough, without Baxter around, Kirby took on the role of "elderly statesman dog." No herding of the children. No excited barking. He left the rowdiness to the puppies and did a remarkable job of circulating, cheerfully accepting the hugs and kisses and pats on the head from every member of the family.

To keep the peace, we did control things a bit, though. We only allowed one dog out at a time in the living room unless the puppies were on leashes. This kept it from seeming like a three-ring circus and enabled us to focus on really having a good time with the girls and the designated puppy of the moment.

Remy and Homer played in the garage and the back yard and Kirby mostly just stayed out of the way. He seemed relieved that Remy finally had a gonzo playmate a bit closer to his own age. Homer and Remy wrestled, chased each other around and generally seemed to have a fantastic time together. Homer, though nearly twice as big as Remy, was appropriately gentle with him.

Remy discovered that he needs to look where he's going even when he's being chased, otherwise obstacles like trees can really cramp your style. He also discovered that he didn't have to run around bushes, he could run THROUGH them and they made great places to hide from Homer (Remy's such a Griff). The two puppies managed to wear each other out without any injuries (despite the aforementioned tree) and while neither of them particularly liked being put into their crates for some down-time, they seemed to accept it with only minor whining.

Remy, 3 months
Santa came. Gifts were opened. Dogs chewed on rawhide. Humans stuffed themselves on cookies and candy, turkey and ham. And, to top it all off, Remy found "treats" some rabbits had left for him in the back yard. He thought they were the best Christmas gift of all.

The day after Christmas we said our goodbyes, rolled up the sleeping bags, packed up the packages, loaded the dogs into their crates and headed home...fatter, happier and quite relieved that Remy and Homer's first Christmas was pretty great.

The Duck Tape Dance

Last weekend, after many days of continuous rain, we decided to let Remy burn off some cabin-fever by running around Jamie's art studio. Jamie moved the more delicate art items out of harm's way to give Remy access to romp around the fairly good sized warehouse space. After we arrived we realized we had forgotten to bring Remy's ball (he loves to fetch), so we improvised with a roll of duck tape... We spent the next 15 minutes trying to hold the cameras steady because we were laughing so hard.

Thanks to Jamie for editing the highlights into this little video... Enjoy!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Mouthfuls of Hair

The relationship between Remy and Kirby is still under negotiation. From day one, Kirby has been remarkably tolerant of Remy. Kirby wants to play and always comes over when Remy comes out of his crate, but I think Remy is a little more gonzo-puppy than Kirby wants to handle most of the time. Remy, who is now 11 weeks old and growing like a weed, is relentless in his attempts to tackle Kirby. He seems to think that pouncing on Kirby from behind and proceeding to grab and twist wads of Kirby's long hair is great fun. Kirby has always enjoyed a good wrestle as much as the next dog, but he's never encountered such a hair-puller. And the fact that Remy is now the same height as Kirby adds a whole different dimension to the puppy attack.

Remy has learned "leave it!" and is now very good at NOT chewing our shoes, rugs, etc. Amazing how quickly he learned those house rules (I hope this sticks). The one "leave it" he does not listen to is about Kirby. I take that back, if we are standing right next to both of them and we catch Remy just about to pounce, a forceful "leave it" tends to make him abort the attack. But if we look away for one second, it's hair-pulling time.

All this makes me feel a bit sorry for Kirby, but it bears remembering that when we brought Kirby home as a puppy six years ago he was absolutely relentless in his attacks on Baxter. But at the time, Kirby barely came up to Baxter's knees so his ability to de-beard his big brother was limited to a few jump-and-grabs. Baxter was remarkably tolerant of Kirby, even though he wasn't particularly happy to have him around for the first few weeks. He would even lie down so that Kirby could wrestle with him. We always treated Baxter as the elder (he was seven when we introduced Kirby as a puppy) and, from our perspective at least, Baxter was always the top dog. But that didn't stop Kirby from attempting dominance over Baxter for the next six years. He would steal Baxter's toys (Baxter always let him) and Kirby would attempt to climb on top of Baxter when the big guy was sleeping. We sometimes called Kirby "Little Napoleon" for his big attitude.

Perhaps due to this upbringing and Baxter's gentle nature, Kirby has always been fearless around big dogs. When we were first thinking about getting another Griff puppy and took Kirby over to visit with some adult Griffs, he attempted to dominate all of them, even the intact adult male. So our biggest concern about bringing a puppy into the house was that Kirby might be a little rough with the puppy.

Much to our surprise, the opposite has been true. Kirby's immediate reaction, when we introduced them in the motel room that first night, was to hide under the bed. He growled and let Remy know that the underbed was Kirby's realm. But when we got home, the sacred under-sofa realm of Kirby was immediately violated by Remy and, much to our surprise, Kirby didn't defend it very assertively at all. He growled, but never laid a tooth on the puppy, even when Remy was chewing on Kirby's ears, moustache and tail. When Remy pounces on him now Kirby always looks up at us with the same "please help me" look Baxter used to give us when Kirby (or our toddler neice) had hold of his moustache. And when Remy latches onto the scruff of hair on the back of Kirby's neck and won't let go, Kirby hardly fights back.

Right now they're close to the same size (Kirby weighs more and is a lot stronger, but Remy is taller and more agile).  It won't be long before Remy is too big to fit under the sofa, so Kirby will get his safe haven back. For now, though, we've had to gate the stairs and give Kirby the upstairs during the times Remy is out of his crate. Sometimes Kirby sits at the gate and begs to come out and play. This lasts all of five minutes before he's had enough of Remy's antics and Kirby asks to go upstairs again.

Concerned over how much we should intervene, I posted the question to the Griffology group on Facebook (a group of people who share their photos, stories, trials and joys of living with Griffs) to ask for advice. Some said to let the two dogs duke it out (within reason). Some said Kirby was just giving Remy a pass because he recognizes that Remy is a puppy and once he gets older, Kirby will be a bit more assertive with him. Some said we need to pull Remy off when he gets too rough with Kirby and assert our human dominance, keeping the puppy as the low dog in the pack. What we've ended up doing is a combination of those things. Sometimes, as one person suggested, we just keep a leash on Remy and use it to pull him back when he's trying to jump on Kirby (this is much to Remy's frustration and Kirby's relief).

We have achieved detente on a limited basis. The one time they will lie down side by side is when they both have a giant rawhide roll to chew on. But that can only be for short, supervised periods before someone (usually Kirby) rips off a chunk and tries to swallow it. Remy still has little baby teeth, so it takes him a lot longer...

I look forward to the day when these two can play together and sleep curled up next to each other. I know Kirby would like that. He always wanted to cuddle up next to Baxter and kept trying even when Baxter wasn't particularly interested. I honestly think he would do it with Remy right now, if the little guy would just give him a break.

Patience Kirby. Patience.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Remy the Cat Whisperer?

Apparently cats are attracted to Remy. At least that is how it seemed today when we discovered a feral litter of adolescent kittens emerging from our shrubbery...

It all started with an innocent trip to the back yard for Remy to do his mid-day business. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a gray and white kitten with a pink nose came bounding up to Remy. Having been raised with a cat during his first 9 weeks, Remy was thrilled to see a potential playmate and began tugging at the leash and swatting the air with his front paws. I didn't let him get too close to the feline stranger, not knowing if the kitty was truly friendly or just canine-curious. The kitty appeared to be an adolescent female, lanky, yet young enough that I would still consider her a kitten. Though thin, she did not look malnourished or sick, but she was not wearing a collar or ID. I figured she must be a new neighbor kitty.

Remy and I went on with our walk around the house and the pink-nosed kitty proceeded to follow us, right up to the front porch. I opened the door just enough to tell my husband, Jamie, that a stray cat was hanging about. He came outside and just as he was looking the cat over we heard a little "mew" coming from the shrubbery... Another collarless kitty, same age, with pretty gray stripes came trotting out to say hello. He (definitely a little male) was followed by another little gray and white female. By this time we realized we didn't just have someone's lost kitty, we had attracted an entire "lost" litter, all of whom were well beyond weaning. They were all friendly, but they seemed more like a little band of vagabonds than anyone's trio of pets.

So now what?  Several of our neighbors have lost their pet cats to coyotes in the past few months... If we left these younglings out to fend for themselves they would likely suffer the same fate, not to mention the toll they would take on our local songbird population. 

We decided the best thing would be to take them to the animal shelter - at least there they would be safe and warm, for the time being and hopefully, if they belonged to someone and were just lost, they would be chipped and/or the owners would think to look there. We brought out some dry dog food (all we have) and water and the bigger male immediately dove into it. The females were a bit hesitant to eat at first, but each ate a bit of kibble. We figured we should wait a bit to see if any more kitties emerged. As soon as I squatted down the male jumped into my lap and snuggled up next to my fleece coat. Jamie went to get a box (all our dog carriers are in use) and we proceeded to pick up the kitties and try to put them in the box. That was a trick...I'll spare you the details of the multiple failed  attempts to get three cats into the large box, but let's just say I'll never use the term "herding cats" again without remembering just how crazy that process truly was. Interesting thing is, despite the multiple efforts at their capture, all three cats kept coming back to us when we called them (they all answered to "kitty," of course). FINALLY we got them all in, put the box into the back of the Subaru and headed for the shelter.

I was greeted by a young woman who seemed not to believe me when I said we had found a litter of kittens and were turning them in. I suppose that's the line everyone uses when they're dumping kittens at the shelter. She asked me to fill out a form and informed me that it would cost $10 to drop them off. I explained that these weren't our kittens, they were strays that wandered into our yard. She replied "It's only ten dollars" and gave me that "you are dumping kittens, aren't you" look again.

I'm all for supporting the animal shelter, and $10 is not a huge sum so I didn't really mind, but I thought it a bit odd and counter-productive -- punishing people for turning in stray cats is not the way to reach the goal of getting highly reproductive cats off the street. Anyway...we brought them in and the girl took one look in the box and said "these aren't kittens, they're adolescent cats, so that will be $10 per cat."

Seriously? You are charging us $30 for the privilege of being good samaritans who just spent the better part of the past two hours chasing three cats around our yard, putting them into a box and driving them across town to the shelter? I suppose they have no way to determine if we are telling the truth or not so it's easier to apply the "rules" to everyone. But that's quite a sum, and a financially strapped potential do-gooder might be hard pressed to do the right thing if they had to choose between turning in a litter of stray cats or putting dinner on their family's table.

Jamie went to the cashier to pay and a couple more girls came out from the back and proceeded to photograph and vaccinate the cats. By this time I had told them all our story and I think at least two of them believed me. I told them I just hoped there weren't any more cats because doing the right thing was getting kinda spendy.

We left, $30 poorer but feeling good that we had prevented those cute kitties from becoming another coyote banquet. (We love coyotes but wish they would stick to rabbits and squirrels...) We got home, took Remy out again and I saw something moving in the bushes. No....Yes. Dang. It was another gray striped kitty, same age, no collar. The sibling that was left behind.

"We can't let her fend for herself...especially now that she doesn't even have the protection of her litter mates." I think I said it out loud, but I could tell Jamie was thinking the same thing. He went to get the box. She was a bit more skittery than the other kitties, but eventually she came to us. Then came the battle. This little kitty, the smallest of the four, put up an amazing fight. It took as much effort to keep her in the box as it did all the other three cats combined. We struggled to tape it shut so she couldn't jump out the top -- she sliced through the tape with a little box-cutter-sharp claw and proceeded to stab me in the hand, then slice through my husband's palm before making her escape. This happened two more times, with a different box and a new set of wounds. Even with gloves, poor Jamie ended up with blood running down his arm. Expletives were said. Boxes were thrown. We went inside to swab our wounds and left the kitty mewing in the yard.

We contemplated leaving her there. I cried (mostly out of frustration). Finally, after both our tempers cooled down, we decided to give it another go. The shelter said we could come in and get a cat carrier, so we drove back across town again, got the carrier, came home and found the cat sitting in the neighbor's lawn, still mewing. The gloves went on, the cat was successfully stuffed into the crate, we snapped the metal door closed behind her and drove her, mewing all the way, across town to the shelter.

Another girl helped us. She was a lot nicer to deal with as she took the carrier and handed us another slip for $10.  Yes, today we paid the local shelter $40 for the privilege of dropping off stray cats.

We called the doctor to ask after cat scratches and possibly bites (it was hard to tell with all the kerfuffle exactly which sharp object the cat was lashing out with). I just had one tiny scratch, but Jamie's hand and arm looked like Swiss cheese. His doctor said to come in. Antibiotics...just in case. Can't wait to get the bill for that.

Four hours later we were home and wondering when the next kitten would be wandering out of the bushes. We may just have to walk Remy around the other side of the house from now on...

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Remy Comes Home

I can't believe it's been a week since we brought home our little Wirehaired Pointing Griffon puppy, Remy. The fact that I haven't yet updated my blog with the news of Remy's home-coming is, mostly, because of his home-coming. As anyone who has ever introduced a 9-week-old puppy into their family knows, there's a lot of hoopla. There's the good hoopla -- family and friends and neighbors ooh-ing and aah-ing over the latest addition, lots of playing, snuggling, reveling in sweet puppy kisses, taking pictures.  And there's the logistical hoopla -- figuring out the feeding, potty and crate schedules around another dog, work schedules, puppy bladder size and other necessities like feeding the humans and letting them get some sleep. Then there's the relationship hoopla between Kirby and Remy and trying to get them off to a good start (more on that in a later post).

In the coming months, this blog will be filled with our experiences around all of the above. First I want to capture a bit of our experience bringing Remy into our lives. The whole thing has been completely different from how we adopted our other canine family members. Baxter was found through an ad in the paper, Kirby was found through a Petfinder listing from an animal shelter. In contrast, we were on the list for Remy before the little guy was even born. Wirehaired Pointing Griffons are a fairly rare breed so there aren't that many breeders out there. And because they are starting to become a bit more popular, it is even more important to find a reputable breeder who really knows the breed's history and traits, is super careful about genetic health and who provides the type of environment little puppy Griffs need in order to be properly socialized. There are a few such breeders around the country and their pups are quickly spoken for.

The owners of Supreme Point Kennels, veterinarian Lisa Boyer and her husband Robert Miller, are just that type of breeder and they are in a neighboring state, so we considered ourselves fortunate to get on their puppy list. (There are some good breeders here in Oregon too, but timing was also an issue for us, and the timing of this litter was ideal.)

As noted in previous posts, following Mama Trey's pregnancy, whelping and puppy-rearing through photos and videos posted by the breeders on Facebook enabled us to engage in Remy's birth and early puppyhood in a very personal way that wouldn't have been possible back in Baxter's puppy days, at least not from a 10-hour drive away. After our whirlwind-long-drive-weekend visit with the 6-week-old puppies and the confirmation that we would be getting "Supreme Point's Do I Feel Lucky," the wait to bring our little guy home seemed interminable. He was available on Thanksgiving, but we weren' another week passed. was time to make the all-day road trip down to lovely Loomis, CA. We had planned to pick Remy up early Saturday morning, but we got in fairly early, so we called to let the breeder know. It turned out coming that evening was actually more convenient for them, so off we went. The whole thing was quite the family affair. On a rainy Friday night we received a warm welcome from Lisa and Robert; two of their children, Pavel and Becca; puppy-mama Trey; grown-up half-sister Blaze; Max the mini-but-mighty Maltese and the family's amazing dog-loving cat (whose name escapes me).  The two remaining pups, our little Remy and his sister, Supreme Point's Grand Torino (also to be named Remy, totally a coincidence) were still downstairs... We and the breeders knew that once we set eyes on the puppy, paying attention to paperwork and asking essential questions would be next to impossible.

Trey and Blaze padded around the dining room table and took turns putting their heads on our laps as we went through the paperwork with Lisa and Robert. They answered many of our questions before we had the chance to ask them -- chip, vaccination schedules, food, best toys, etc.

Then they brought up the puppies, who proceeded to wrestle around the living room in various configurations with all of the aforementioned human, canine and feline family members. At one point, I looked over and Remy -- all ears and giant feet -- was in the middle of the living room floor rolling around with the cat, who was gently swatting at Remy's little moustache. A few minutes later Remy was in the middle of the living room floor rolling around with Max. Then with the other Remy. Then with Pavel. Becca carried the puppies around. It was obvious that our little Remy not only came from a very sweet mama dog, Remy's first 9 weeks of life were spent in a home filled with much caring, cuddling, playing and love from every member of the family.

We posed for pictures (the puppies were having too much fun to sit still) then it was time for Remy to say goodbye to his mama and the only family he had ever known. It was a bittersweet moment.

Remy adapted remarkably quickly. That night we put his first collar on him. No struggle. We attached a leash. Again, no struggle -- he got the gist of it almost immediately. I held him on my lap as we drove to the motel. He sat calmly looking out the window and seemed fascinated by the lights and cars whizzing by. At the motel we introduced Remy to his little big brother, Kirby, who had been observing things from the gated area in the back of our car this whole time...

Kirby wasn't quite sure what to make of this puppy as they sniffed and circled and sized each other up. I think it helped that we were on neutral territory. And, for Kirby, it also helped that there was a bed he could crawl under to get away from the little gonzo guy who somehow still had tons of energy, even after all that wrestling around on the Boyer/Miller's living room floor. (Kirby made it known, in no uncertain terms, that the under-bed area was strictly off-limits to the puppy.)

We spent the rest of the evening playing, reveling in the joy of having a new puppy (and hoping we might tire Remy out so we could get a decent night's sleep). We introduced Remy to his crate and he went in and out, brought toys in there to play with and seemed immediately to think of it as his space -- which was great. But when that crate door closed and the lights went off around midnight, little Remy began to whimper. I stuck my finger in through the door and he sucked and chewed on it. Soon, the tired puppy had nodded off, and so did we.

Then came the 3am "hey, I'm not in Loomis anymore" wake-up call... The adorable little creature we had put into the crate only three hours earlier had turned into a little ball of fury, unleashing a repertoire of progressively louder whimpers that turned into yelps that turned into howls that morphed into an other-worldly yodel and finally a very high/very low growly yowl that was accompanied by kicking and biting at the door of the crate. Not wanting to get kicked out of the motel, but also not wanting to immediately teach him that whining would get him out and onto the bed, we took turns crouching next to the crate, talking calmly, until Remy dropped the volume a bit and finally wore himself out.

Remy was bright eyed and rearing to go at the crack of dawn. As Jamie took the dogs out to do their duties I shuffled, bleary-eyed, over to the coffee machine in the room, to discover that it only came with decaf. We fed the dogs (Remy's a chow hound) and happily hit the road in search of caffeinated beverages.

Remy, it turns out, is a great little traveler. He protested initially at being put in the crate, but after a few minutes he calmed down and went to sleep. After a while I took him out of the crate and he sat happily on my lap, playing with his toys, watching cars and scenery go by, chewing on my hands and licking my face. He particularly enjoyed watching large semi-trucks as we passed.

We decided to make the trip home over the course of two days, to allow plenty of time for play and potty breaks and a couple of visits with friends. The first night we stopped in Ashland, Oregon and had dinner with a dear friend who was, of course, smitten with the puppy. Remy must have been worn out by the end of the first day on the road because that night he slept seven hours straight, no whining, which the sleep-deprived and road-weary humans greatly appreciated.

The next morning we visited a few of our old haunts (we lived in the area for 5-1/2 years) then hit the road...stopping to visit another friend in Grants Pass along the way. Remy took it all in stride. Truck stops were fascinating places with lots of loud noises to investigate (here is where the difference in wiring between Kirby and Remy was apparent -- at every loud noise Kirby cringes and tries to find a place to hide...Remy startles, then immediately wants to go toward the noise to see what's going on).

We were careful not to let Remy onto the grass or dirt (he has only had one set of vaccinations, so he doesn't yet have full immunity to Parvo and other puppy diseases) so the little guy had to get used to doing his business on pavement. No problem.

The rest of the drive home involved a lot of drive-thru coffee (humans), sleeping (dogs), potty breaks (everybody) and good tunes.

Next stop...Hillsboro!