Saturday, August 14, 2010

Bad Timing and Good Times

This week has been a tough one on Parker. My first week back at school coincides with Monkey's professional conference in San Diego. This meant two things. First, I had to scoot home for lunch each day to feed and walk the canines (one hour minimum time commitment). Second, Parker had to spend way more time than he's been used to the past two months in the crate. Not to mention that this week's heat and humidity have made walking the dogs even around the block a sweaty uncomfortable chore and spending time in our bedroom upstairs (where Parker's crate is) a warm (but breezy thanks to the floor fan) proposition.

Needless to say, the little bit of time we have spent outdoors has been greatly appreciated by the little guy. Yesterday, in a sort of celebratory TGIF moment, he spent at least twenty minutes just tearing around the backyard as fast as he could, looping around, and jumping low walls and flower pots. I think he really needed to blow of some steam. Good dog!

Today, it is not so terrible. There is a nice little breeze at the moment, but, when the breeze is gone, the stickiness fills up the space right quick. However, I am trying to give Parker as much time as possible out of the house, since plans this evening will call for more crate time. I feel bad doing it, but he doesn't complain much.

By the way, his trip to the vet last week to remove his stitches went swimmingly. He is now over fifty pounds, and he is consuming five cups of food a day! (Not all at once, of course.)

Saturday, August 7, 2010

A Quick Recovery

The above picture gives you an idea of what Parker may have felt like on Monday afternoon when I picked him up from the vet. Still a little drug-addled, bordering on sore. He slept most of the day and was pretty lethargic, in general. There was no wrestling with Ripken, no hi-jinx, not much of anything but snoozing and looking sleepy-eyed.

Tuesday, it was back to normal. I had to physically convince Parker not to jump on Ripken at least twice. He tore around the back yard at full speed for a few laps, he tugged his usual tug on the leash. We did our best to keep him from rupturing his sutures. We were successful.

By Friday, the puppy and we were behaving as if he were as good as new. He gets his stitches out on Tuesday, and he has resumed normal activity as of yesterday. His stitches look good. There is no swelling or weird coloration. He is recovering just fine. On Tuesday, he'll be one hundred percent, no doubt.

After only a few days, Monkey and I both see a slight change in Parker. This might be due to some new equipment (a control collar--just like his big bro's), or a slowly progressing maturation process (he is creeping up on six months), but we are finding Parker to be a bit more tame on walks and a bit more compliant as well. He still tries our patience several times a day, and I secretly (well, not so secretly) suspect that he is not quite as sharp as Ripken. But, I think we are going to have us a fine dog--a big (he is now fifty pounds!), fine dog.

In about five years.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Disappointing Our Friends

This morning, we dropped Parker off to get neutered. This is a no-brainer decision for Monkey and I; however, a couple of our friends don't know why we'd do such a thing. They would like to breed Parker with their dog, when he is old enough. But, well, no.

I don't know why I am so against the idea. It's not like I can say that bringing another litter of dogs into a world full of already unwanted dogs is wrong, since we got both of our dogs from breeders, leaving a host of pound and rescue dogs to the rest of the world to take care of. I think it's mostly just that, that's what we did with Ripken. He turned out wonderfully. I want the same thing to be the case with Parker.

Of course, more and more, Parker is proving himself to be very un-Ripken. That in itself is also great. The dog has to have his own personality. But, there are a number of things about our old dog that I would like our new dog to pick up on. Given time, perhaps he will.

But for the rest of the Lab loving world, there will never be any tiny Parker's out there for them to take care of, for better or worse.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Just Like We Expected

We returned from our trip to Colorado in the late afternoon, yesterday. After unpacking the car, we ran over to Aunt Eva's to pick up the pups. When we arrived, we found that Aunt Eva had several other dogs under her care. More than we had imagined. Her house was mayhem, and Monkey and I were surprised. There were, it seemed to us, more dogs than she could adequately care for at one time. Even she admitted that she had too many. It didn't make me happy, nor did it fill me with confidence that Parker and Ripken had been supervised adequately.

When we returned home, Parker's week of puppy excitement, coupled with his excitement at returning home from his first experience at Puppy Camp, and added to Monkey's and my exhaustion after a long travel day, conspired to allow Parker to have two accidents in the space of three hours. Bad accidents. It was like the day we brought him home from the farm all over again.

Which was disappointing, but just what we expected.

So, this morning brings us back to square one, putting Parker on his schedule again, reminding him what sit and leave it mean, and, perhaps, finally breaking down and buying a bell for the door, because I don't think this dog will ever get the handle of alerting someone with his voice that he needs to go outside.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Separation Anxiety

We just returned from Aunt Eva's, where Ripken and Parker will spend the week while Monkey and I are in Colorado. This is a big occasion, since it will be Parker's first separation from us since we got him. How will he handle it? If his reaction to our leaving him at Aunt Eva's is any indication, he doesn't seem to mind one bit. This might be due to the fact that he has two other dogs to play with there (not including Ripken), or that he immediately jumped on a sofa when he got there and was not scolded. He thinks he is in doggy heaven. He's not worried, at all.

I am worried. I am not worried for my dog's safety or well-being. Aunt Eva will take good care of him. What I am worried about is that when we get back in a week, the little bit of progress we made in the last five months teaching this creature how to behave in our home will be lost. He won't get training sessions this week, and Eva and Monkey and I did not sit down and have an exhaustive talk about what differences there are between her rules and ours. But, I have a good idea. Going to Aunt Eva's is like going to Grandma's when you're a kid. The boys will be indulged.

And like any father, I am not going to begrudge them that. But I know that when Ripken comes home, as much fun and sacking out on the bed as he enjoyed, he will know that the dog bed is where he sleeps, and the living room sofa is off limits. I wouldn't be surprised if Parker immediately runs to the nearest piece of furniture and starts tearing it to pieces.

We'll see.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Puppy Teeth

As we settled down to sleep the other night, I kept hearing a slightly disconcerting sound coming from the vicinity of Parker's crate. A sort of tinny rattling would periodically come from the corner where the dog sleeps, almost like a small screw was being tossed around by a playful canine. I got out of bed to investigate and found that Parker was indeed playing with a foreign object. However, that foreign object was one of his back teeth, which had apparently fallen out either just that moment, or some other previous moment he was in the crate. He seemed a bit miffed to lose his tiny, new toy, but after I removed it, he only paused a moment before starting to gnaw on his rubber bone with teething-puppy gusto!

So, another milestone. And, perhaps more importantly, a preliminary answer to an earlier question. In the last few days, Parker has started to develop that tell tale puppy breath. Granted, it is nowhere near the radioactive scent experience that Ripken's exhalations are, but the little one is beginning to develop a grown up dog breath profile. Is it a coincidence that this is occurring as his permanent teeth are coming in? I would bet not. I am curious to find out if this change in mouth emissions is temporary, or the first step down Smelly Dog Breath Road.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Doggy Dreams

It is highly likely that dogs dream in their sleep. I have watched Ripken as he kicks his legs in a prone running motion. I have heard him woof and watched his ears twitch. Occasionally, his tail wags in his sleep. Parker, as well, and, it seems, far more frequently, displays dreaming-like behavior. His breathing becomes irregular, his legs move, his tail wags, he whines and barks, and he shimmies like he has St. Vitus' Dance. In both of them, it is rather cute.

No one can know what dogs are dreaming of, of course. They can't tell us; they can't draw a picture. I suppose, with a long period of training on yes/no responses (one paw scrape for "yes," two for "no") to simple questions, followed by exhaustive Q and A sessions that might transcribe like the most involved game of Twenty Questions ever, researchers might be able to sort out the most basic of canine dreams. (Imagine: "Was it a good dream dream?" One paw scrape. "Okay. Were you chasing?" Two paw scrapes. "Hmmmm. Were you in a car?" One paw scrape. "Great. Were you hanging your head out the window?" Two paw scrapes. "Alright. Were you driving?" One paw scrape. "Excellent.")

Some theorize that the human dream world is populated by symbols. If I dream of a dog, it has a meaning, depending on whether the dog is healthy or dead, happy or chewing on my leg, behaving or tearing up my sock drawer. This begs the question of whether or not dogs dream in symbols. (I know I am out of my element here, but that has never stopped me before, so I am just going to plunge in on this one.) A dream is a dream, be it a dog dream or a person dream. It is instigated by the same neural processes, I imagine. So, I suspect that there is no intrinsic difference between the dream I had last night (which I no longer recall) and the dream Parker is having right now (complete with a moan and a head bob). Thus, if my dreams and my dogs' dreams are formed of the same elements (theoretically, since they really don't seem to be formed of anything, at all), then their dreams have the same symbolic significance as mine (i.e., either none whatsoever, or total).

The question, for me, is whether the archetypes are the same between the species. It would seem to me that a dog attaches a different sort of significance to things in the world than a person. After all, a dog's world is presumably much smaller than a person's. (At least, the world it is aware of. A dog is like Herodotus of the fifth century BC: the world consists of the Mediterranean and the land around it. That's it. The rest is ocean or vaguery.) In that vein, the symbolism has to be abridged, also, doesn't it?

So, for me, a dream about chewing on a shoe would add up to what? According to some, eating symbolizes the intake of new ideas. Okay. Shoes, it has been theorized might represent one's beliefs, the ground upon which you travel (spiritually, philosophically, what have you). So, a dream about eating shoes might symbolize my reaffirmation of my personal dogma. I am ingesting the same tried and true beliefs.

Well, what about a dog dreaming of eating a shoe? A dog eats everything, doesn't it? It seems to be the primary way that a dog (especially a puppy) interacts with the world. It is solace, recreation, and investigation in the life of a dog. Perhaps eating in a dream (for a dog) is a symbol of enjoyment, contentment. The shoe is clearly a symbol of wealth. Dog's have no need for shoes (products available at your local PetCo not withstanding). Therefore, shoes are a luxury. So, for a dog, a dream of eating shoes is a reaffirmation of its contentment living in the luxurious surroundings in which it finds itself: a house, abundant food, companions.

There is, also, the other possibility: that we're both just eating a shoe. Dream on, puppy dogs, dream on!