The first visit
I'd been pointed to Thornwood Labradors by somebody on the Labrador-L mailing list when I asked about breeders who might have an upcoming litter. I liked the breeder, Cheri, instantly from her e-mail, and we spoke on the phone, as well.
Because of the indirect way I'd found Thornwood and Cheri, I wanted to meet her in person and see what her dogs looked like. I had a good idea that I would like her, and I'd seen photos of her dogs, but it's always best to see for yourself. Noel and I wanted to get out of town, anyway, so we drove up the coast and then over to Cheri's home in Klamath Falls.
What we found were some really happy, beautiful dogs, and we got to see close-up how strong the ties are between all of them and Cheri. We played with some puppies (Cheri told us we played like cat people, which I guess we are), met lots of dogs, and had an altogether nice visit.
We visited another breeder that weekend, and liked her a lot, too, but in the end, Cheri could give us a puppy who would come home after Thanksgiving, which was very important, and we liked that she had a lot of experience. With very little new-puppy experience between us, we decided that would be a good thing to have available.
Fortunately, Cheri liked us, too, and agreed to sell us one of the little black girls from her Bessie-Marie's litter, who'd been about a week old when we first visited.
Bessie-Marie and her week-old litter
Little squeaky piggies
When the puppies were about four weeks old, Noel and I had decided to make another trip out of town, and we asked Cheri if she'd mind if we visited. She didn't, so we dropped in and played with our puppy (and several others) for an hour or two.
When puppies are that small, they sound like little grunting piggies. They had just been moved out to the garage from the house, and they were a bit stressed out from it. They were all kind of shaky and grunty. We handled them a bit, then we got Bessie to come out and play a bit with us. Bessie's a great flopper, loving to lie on her back with all four paws in the air. As a dedicated tummy-rubber, I found this very endearing.
We took a bunch of photos, and Cheri and her husband Kevin were very obliging about the whole thing.
In the weeks after this visit, we got our household together. We bought a crate, some dog toys, bowls, and all kinds of medicines for a doggie first aid kit. Dogs are much more likely than lazy indoor cats to get injured or eat something stupid, so I wanted to be prepared. If you're looking for good pet supplies, I recommend two mail-order places:
Both places offer a good selection and good prices. JB Pet gets a big thumbs up from me for having absolutely terrific customer service. The crate we ordered arrived damaged, and the phone rep jumped through hoops to get us a replacement part. It was really refreshing to experience.
Noel holding two puppies
Noel and me with laps full of puppies
Rosie comes home
We drove up to Tracy to meet Cheri and Kevin, who were on their way to So. Cal. with a truck full of dogs. After juggling puppies in the parking lot of the In-N-Out for several minutes, we decided on the one Cheri thought would fit best in our household. She energetically wagged her tail when Noel held her.
We signed paperwork, handed over a check, got a pile of information and a bag of food, and Rosie was ours. The first few minutes of the drive she was all energy, exploring the back seat while Noel watched over her carefully. But then she fell asleep, snoring loudly, and didn't wake up all the way home. In fact, she didn't wake up when we took her out to see if she needed to pee; she just fell on her face. Oops. We took her inside and put her in her crate to nap.
We tried introducing her to the cats, who were less than enthusiastic about the new addition. Mikey was curious about the snoring coming from the crate, but Ana was angry and annoyed. She climbed up to a safe vantage point and glared down at us. We were sitting around watching her sleep when CLB came over to see her new niece, and Rosie was less than exciting.
Around 11:30, after we gave up on playing with her that night and were getting into bed, she woke up and realized her sisters are nowhere to be found. Much howling and whining followed, and I spent the night sitting by the bed and letting her sleep in my lap between trips outdoors. We had one pee accident in the crate, but Rosie is a smart dog and refused to get back inside until I cleaned it up thoroughly. Way to go, Rosie.
Rosie, tuckered out from the long drive, asleep in her crate
Ana, delicately arranged on a doily, is introduced to her new sister
Rosie is a bundle of energy
I'd been up all night and Noel had not, so he took morning puppy duty and I got to sleep. He put her in her crate and let her yap until she got tired and fell asleep -- something I'd been too much of a softie to do (the poor thing had separation anxiety). I woke up and the house was quiet. Noel had gone to play music for some sword dancers. Rosie was asleep in the crate.
After she woke up, Rosie and I played chase in the back yard. She was "it." She learned how to go up stairs, but was afraid to go down because on the first try she rolled down in a bundle of puppy. She stayed close to me in the yard, because she was still unused to the area.
Elaine came over and I showed her all Rosie's tricks. Well, her one trick. Much of our time was spent carrying the puppy outside when she seemed to need to pee. Rosie hadn't gotten the hang of going quickly and getting it over with.
In the evening, I went out to the grocery store. I stopped at Pet Food Express and got Rosie a slightly smaller collar, as the adjustable one was a bit too large, still, and it was dangling dangerously. Important factor: the collar had to cost less than $5, because it will be outgrown fast. I also got her a rope chew toy which resembles the carpet fringe she likes to chew on.
The second night was easier than the first. We didn't coddle her with lap-sleeping. It was cold and rainy out, so she learned to get her business over with quickly. Also, Noel did some of the nighttime potty care. We marked places where she'd pooped with oranges from the homicidal orange tree, so they'd be easy to find later.
Puppies in the grass, alas
In the morning, we had to adjust Rosie's collar out a notch, already.
Noel decided to do yard work while Rosie and I were playing in the yard. Our yard is a big muddy mess because the gardeners never show up. He started raking, which was pretty exciting stuff for Rosie. She chased the rake around the yard. We also played a bit with her ball. Rosie knows how to chase, but is not so good at bringing back. She did manage to get her mouth open enough to carry the ball around, which is very cute.
We also started putting Rosie's food in her Kong, which makes her work for her supper, and also keeps her attention long enough for her to finish the meal. She's used to free-feeding, and we want to get her on a schedule to help with housetraining. She seems to have a great time with the Kong.
We could tell that she was getting comfortable being outside, because she stopped sticking closely to our sides as we played in the yard. She was more interested in exploring and sniffing around.
After a fairly harrowing day of puppy care, we went out for Chinese food with CLB, Froggie, and Elaine. They came by to meet Rosie afterwards, and Rosie was gracious enough to get all hyper and then poop right in the middle of the living room. I cleaned up while Noel took her outside, then we crated her for the rest of the visit. Too much stimulation. We decided that evening to buy a pen for her, so she can be out of her crate and playing without us having to be constantly on guard. I'm getting better at seeing that she needs to go out, but still need to learn.
Rosie is very mouthy, and we're working on making sure she doesn't bite. Part of this is yelping when she bites down too hard. Part of it is removing things she's not supposed to eat from her mouth and replacing them with her toys. It's slow, but she's getting better.
Rosie and her ball
The Bunny Doctor
In the morning, Rosie went to see the vet, Dr. Harvey at the VCA Bay Area Animal Hospital. Dr. Harvey is renowned as a bunny doctor, but she also sees puppies. We loved her. She gave us all kinds of information, checked Rosie out carefully, and gave her a shot. We bought a "puppy package" through the vet clinic which works out to a discount on all her shots and appointments for getting through puppyhood. It also includes a bundle of goodies, including a heartworm info kit, pamphlets on flea and tick prevention, a cheapo leash, a sample of dog food, and a stool sample collector -- a step up from the Ziplock bag we used for this appointment. The kit also included several "puppy diaries" and a form for keeping track of shots and so forth.
In the evening, I stopped at Petco on my way home, and brought home a pen, a small litter box, and some pine shavings. Rosie grew up in a pen full of pine shavings, so we thought she would prefer to pee in there rather than on the floor (it's all about familiarity). We set this up, put her inside, and she almost immediately piddled in the litter. She was a bit resistant to not being able to destroy everything in sight, but I spent the evening making cookies with her in the pen in the kitchen, and she settled down OK with only a bit of yelping.
On her potty trips, we worked on going down the stairs, which Noel did during the day, as well. She did OK, but was still very afraid.
The night went smoothly. She slept most of the time, woke us up when she needed to go, and went promptly when we took her outside. She's a very good puppy.
Rosie in her new pen, with litter box and Busy Bee at paw
Rosie and I were playing in the yard when she rolled over, and I noticed that she had puss-like discharge on her vulva. I grabbed her, took her inside, and examined her under the light. Noel swabbed the stuff with a paper towel. It was officially yucky. It probably explains why she always took so long to pee at night. We called the vet; they said she could come in in the afternoon, but she had to see the cats' vet, Dr. Grandrath, because Dr. Harvey was booked up.
Noel took her in to the vet, where she was too squirmy for them to get a urine sample. They sent him home with orders to follow her around with a cup to get a sample for testing. Fortunately, she had to pee immediately, and he got a sample right away without all kinds of theatrics. I once spent a day stalking Mikey in a most cruel way when he seemed to have some kind of bladder infection.
We decided to change her food. She'd been eating Costco brand food, which is cheap and generally fine, but on Lab-L people were talking about how food can cause UTIs, so it was worth it switch to a different food. We had to do it soon, or we'd have to buy more Costco food just to make the transition smoother. With all the excitement and the infection, Rosie didn't eat her lunch, drank too much water, and was kind of grumpy. Poor puppy.
In the evening, it was clear she was not doing well. Rosie was quiet, sleepy, and subdued. We fed her her new food, Nutro puppy food, mixed with the old, and she ate, but she was uninterested in playing. I felt bad about how sick she seemed, so I kept her in the office with me while I did some work.
Rosie, feeling unwell
Rosie slept a whole five hours (1:30 am to 6:30 am) before waking me to take her outside. What an amazing puppy! Then she pooped on the kitchen floor after breakfast. Bummer. We had given her breakfast in her pen and gone to get dressed, which was apparently too much for her. We'll be more careful next time.
In the morning the vet called to say that it wasn't a UTI, but could be puppy vaginitis, which is apparently fairly common. She prescribed antibiotics and started a culture on the pee we brought in.
I did some web searching, and found these links on puppy vaginitis:
So this should not make her be very subdued, which may mean that she's actually being a calm puppy because she's, well, a calm puppy. Which makes me feel much better than I had been about the nice quiet night we had last night.
Leaps and Bounds
Noel spent much of the day working on going downstairs with Rosie, and by the end of the day she could do it by herself. Which is a good thing, because she's actually getting kind of heavy.
It was very good that he got to spend the whole week being home with her, even if work did keep interrupting.
While we were sitting around in the evening, Rosie let us know that the adjustment to the new food is going slowly by letting out a really stinky fart. Unlike her occasional bout of hiccups, her farts are definitely not cute.
Rosie sits in Noel's lap
I've been working on "settle" with Rosie on a regular basis, but it's rough going. Even rougher is the way she wants to play with us, which involves a lot of biting. She doesn't seem to "get" it when we try to tell her we don't like that, so she ends up having some down time in her crate.
Today, while I was giving Rosie her lunch, she peed on the floor again, and was so excited that she tracked it all over the place. I'm going to have to make myself something to eat before taking her out of her crate, I can see, because she really needs to go outside and run all over the place like a crazy puppy.
No More Biting
After a minor breakdown and a hysterical phone call to Cheri, we learned that we were being too nice to Rosie on the biting issue. A firm squeeze on the lips when she bites, until she squeals in pain, and suddenly she stopped biting almost entirely. Thank heaven for Cheri.
Rosie slept through the night, mostly. Rather, she didn't need to go out at 4:30am as she had been, although I was nervous about it and stayed up making sure she didn't squeak to get out. Our little puppy is growing up.
She's also getting quite large. When she naps in the evening, her head hangs out of the open crate door. It'll be time for the Big Girl Crate very soon, and then Elaine can have her Baby Dog Crate back.
One interesting thing I discovered today is that when Rosie is in her crate, she'll often play with her bee toy quietly by herself, although occasionally she gets very excited and barks at it. I wasn't sure what she did in the crate during the day, while we are at work, but now I don't feel as bad about leaving her at home alone.
Rosie's new tricks: she knows "sit", "settle" (a less-formal version of "down"), and "hurry up". She will come fairly well to "come here!" if she's in the mood. We are working on playing "catch" which is going slowly.
Rosie sits nicely, waiting for her Kong of food
Rosie Eats Lunch
OK, It's not the most exciting diary entry in the world, but I took some photos of Rosie eating her lunch.
We had a pretty exciting day doing some yard work. Rosie "helped" me pick up some old concrete blocks on the side of the house. This pretty much wore her out, and I discovered that a sure-fire way to exhaust the dog is to take her along while doing chores around the house. We already take her with us on our weekend excursions, driving around doing errands. She mostly sleeps.
One thing I'm working on with Rosie is generally sitting nicely and not jumping up or biting, even when she's very excited. She went from calm and able to handle new things to extremely excitable in, like, a day. Now I have to calm her down again.
Rosie licks a piece of food from my hand
If Rosie could have a hobby, it would be gardening. Well, ripping up plants in the garden, at least. Or possibly just playing with plants I've ripped up. She really likes to lie in the compost pile.
Today we did some garden work, and then we ran errands (like grocery shopping and buying a Buster Cube) in the afternoon. Rosie slept through the errands, and we took some pictures during the garden work.
The Buster Cube, highly recommended by trainers, friends, and specialists, is clearly above Rosie's intellectual capabilities at this point. She could NOT get the food out of it without our help, mostly because she had a hard time fiuring out how to roll it. However, by adding peanut butter to the Kong, we were able to make that harder for her to eat from. Anything to extend dinnertime as moderate playtime.
We also remembered how much fun she had with an ice cube her second day with us, and gave her another. Much fun followed, although of course the kitchen ended up very wet.
We continue to teach Rosie various commands. Now we're making her sit and wait before coming in the back door. She is doing very poorly at this, because the wait command seems like an invitation to play. She is only 11 weeks old, of course, so we're not going to stress her out too much with obedience commands.
On Monday, Rosie has her next set of shots, and there's only one more after that, in another three weeks. We can hardly wait to be able to take her for walks outside the back yard and to be able to enroll in puppy kindergarten. It's easily the most-anticipated day of the year for us. We invited another dog, of known health, to come and play with us, but his person is away for Christmas, so Rosie is stuck with us boring humans for now.
Oh, yes, she's also sleeping through the night, now. No more 4:30am wakeup calls to take the dog out in the freezing cold rain. Whatever possessed us to decide to get a new puppy in the coldest, wettest months of the year I do not know.
Rosie the Explorer
Rosie does not seem to be put off by the fact that there are blackberries growing behind the shed. She went dashing back there all the way today, so I blocked the entrance off with concrete blocks that are currently too tall for her to climb over. Pretty soon she'll be able to get over them, but by then hopefully she will have given up her dreams of scratching her paws up on the blackberries, and the smaller barrier will be enough.
I did some pruning of the bamboo against the back wall today, and Rosie took the trimmed pieces and ran around the yard with them. She settled in a pile and chewed some of them up. Bamboo is delightfully fibrous when dead and dry, and it obligingly fell all to pieces in her mouth.
I would have raked, which is ever so exciting, but somebody hid the shed keys.
When we finally went inside, Rosie was pretty exhausted. She settled down in her crate and fell asleep, which was a good thing, because it started raining out at around 2pm, and as I've griped about before, there's little more miserable than taking the dog out to pee in the rain. She woke up when I moved into the office, and we had a quick potty break, but it was solid snoring from there on in.
It's also convenient to have the dog be asleep when I'm trying to do laundry, which needed doing after nearly three weeks of puppy-obsession. Household chores are ever so much harder when you have to pay attention to a scampery puppy who may at any time squat and pee.
(Noel and I remarked recently that our lives now seem to revolve around the dog's bowel movements to an almost unhealthy degree. I assume this will go away with time, but then again, knowing my friends with children, it may not.)
Rosie examines a concrete block
Rosie with her favourite stick
Rosie makes her pug face. No puppies were harmed in taking this photograph
Waiting for Rosie to pee
Rosie still thinks she's in charge
Rosie's Christmas Message
Being the sort person I am, I was unable to resist dressing Rosie up in a Santa hat. She also got a candy cane squeaky toy for Christmas, which she likes a lot because she can actually make it squeak all by herself (not possible with the duck).
Rosie in her Christmas hat
Rosie with candy cane
Big Girl Walks
Rosie got her next to last set of vaccinations, a thorough ear cleaning (note: this was easily the most disgusting dog maintenance act I've ever done), and permission to go for walks in the neighborhood. Since we had to go to Santa Cruz so Noel could perform for First Night, she had her first big-girl walk there. Very exciting.