One morning last week Leia came out of her crate limping on her right foreleg. I figured it was either a soft tissue strain or perhaps a touch of panosteitis. Often abbreviated as PANO, panosteitis is a painful inflammation of the outer surface or shaft of one or more long bones of the legs. It is sometimes called growing pains. It is a condition that sometimes occurs in young, rapidly growing dogs. Heidi experienced it when she was a puppy.

Because I was uncertain of the nature of the lameness, I was taking Leia out for fresh air and to toilet on leash to keep her from excessive running and jumping.  One afternoon while we were ambling about the yard Leia pooped. I pulled out a bag from my pocket and picked it up. Because I have a landscape service and Heidi sometimes is tempted to eat stools, I am in the habit of picking up immediately. I also like knowing that I can freely walk about my yard and not worry about stepping on a turd.

Since I had my fence installed, I’ve gotten into the habit of tossing the “bag” over the fence to the special poop disposal can.  I have very good hand eye coordination, and my bags usually land right beside the can or within 6 inches. 

the special disposal can with white plastic liner

Leia was busy investigating under a shrub and going in all directions, entangling me in the leash. I was off balance but took a swing and heaved the fully loaded bag. It arced gracefully and sailed skyward, making a perfect landing on the porch roof. 

I just stood there, momentarily dumbfounded. Was that bag destined to disintegrate on the roof?

Then I started to laugh at myself.

I went upstairs and poked my head out the window nearest to where the bag had landed.  I quickly did some rough calculations and decided that my 15 foot leash would reach.  I grabbed a fence flag, bent it into the shape of a hook and snapped the end of the leash to it. 

Meanwhile I’d texted my neighbor Fran because I knew she’d get a huge kick out of my ineptitude. She enthusiastically said she wanted to be a spectator when I tried to retrieve the bag and would gleefully watch my failed attempts from her dining room window.

I proceeded upstairs with my line and hook and stuck my head and torso out the window.  I looped the end of the leash around my wrist so I wouldn’t lose it and need to retrieve that in addition to the bag!  I gathered the leash and hook and threw it towards the bag; it took about 10 tries before the hook finally snagged my target.  I pulled it very slowly until the hook slipped off. The bag was now about 6 feet from the window, and it took another 10-12 tries to hook it again and pull it within grabbing distance.  Success!

I then threw the bag down to the lawn below.  I went downstairs, out to the yard, grabbed the bag, and took my bow while Fran applauded me in person and via text message. 

This time the bag hit its target and landed right beside the disposal can. 

All those years of casting a fly rod finally paid off. . .


Author’s Note:  My parents loved word play, and I grew up listening to my dad prounce words phonetically, reverse initial consonants, and to my mother reciting alliteration.  Those of you who went to school with me may remember my Dad reversing initial consonants on the names of my classmates and cracking everyone up. There were Ran Doddick, Hancy Noke, Fronny Janklin, Hean Jowland, Baty Kollinger, and I was Glebbie Dessner. So it’s kind of natural that I still succumb to idiotic wordplay, and usually the only ones to hear me jabbering away are my dogs!

So here’s a goofy one for you. Just blame docial sistancing. . .

Twonce upon a twime the puppy had a twizzle at the end of her tail. But the twizzle got twaggled, and the pup twisted and twomped. So the twizzle got twimmed, and the twaggle twisted into a waggle. So much for twabberwocky and twibbles . . . This pup now has a twusty twagger.

(I set this up to appear as verse, but WordPress wouldn’t keep the formatting. Use your imagination.)


Are you telling me it’s too dangerous?!

When I made the decision to chronicle Leia’s puppy-hood, I vowed to be transparent and honest.  When one enters the blogosphere, it is unavoidable that you open yourself to the “naysayers,” people who can only make negative comments and argue points made. 

Have I ever been a naysayer? Absolutely!  When one gets into the senior years with lots of experiences under one’s belt, it’s not uncommon to be a bit opinionated. But there’s a difference between being downright negative and pessimistic as opposed to expressing an opinion tactfully with intent to share or to help.

I consider myself fairly dog savvy, having owned dogs, cats, and horses for over 60 years. Over these many years, my animals have been amazing teachers. Fortunately, I learned how to “listen” to them and accept their teachings.  Observations of animal behavior has led me to read more to better my understanding of behavior, body language, and how animals think. 

Social media has done much damage in portraying animals as “fur babies” with videos being broadcast of pets displaying mis-interpreted CUTE human-like behavior.  One video in mind, which has gone viral, shows a dog sitting with a Down Syndrome child.  The dog is putting its leg around the child and its paw on the child’s shoulder while the child tries to hug and interact with the dog.  “Awwwww,” viewers are saying. Those who understand animal behavior immediately see all the red flags being raised:  the dog’s stiffened body, hard eyes, ears back, all avoidance tactics . . . this is a bite waiting to happen. And if the bite occurs, the dog is blamed, not the person who allowed the interaction to progress to this point. 

Experiences like these are when my naysayer tendency appears.

But, I digress . . .

As a responsible dog owner, I make decisions daily regarding the welfare of my dogs.  Those decisions include, feeding, vet care, exercise, training, bonding, and mental wellness. Owning a pet is all about establishing balance.  I truly believe that if we work hard to set balance in our own lives that we better understand how to extend it to our dogs. 

When I write my posts, they reflect my PERSONAL approach to being an informed custodian of my dogs based on 60 plus years of experiences with animals. I DO step outside the boundaries at times, especially when it comes to my strong belief that dogs need time and freedom to BE dogs. They need time to run and romp, sniff new odors, and interact in the natural environment.  Are there risks? Certainly. But as a dog owner, I conscientiously work to minimize those risks by making sensible judgment calls where to allow my dogs to have the joy of being able to sniff and run to their heart’s content.  I have found my dogs to be intuitive and sensible about interacting in the natural world because they have had the opportunity to learn how to deal with freedom from an early age. 

But in the blogosphere, the ever present naysayers are like a broken record.

Don’t . . . shouldn’t . . . too dangerous . . . irresponsible . . . the negativity flows ceaselessly.  The naysayers are certainly entitled to their opinions based on their own experiences, but the expression of those opinions would be more readily welcomed and accepted if stated in a positive, sharing, and caring manner.

“One of the keys to success is an unflinching belief that there are no rules. Anyone who’s ever succeeded has gone on that premise, not buying into established procedures, business or otherwise. The naysayers are inevitably left behind amid their shouts of ‘it cannot be done’ and ‘should not be done’.”    Anton Szandor LaVey 



AUTHOR’S NOTE:  I am not a person that subscribes human emotions and behavior to my dogs, but this morning while watching Heidi and Leia play, I couldn’t help but hear an imaginary monologue from Heidi running through my head.  Definitely stream of consciousness. . .

“She’s a stinker!  I should be canonized as a saint!

I am working hard to teach her the concept of fair play! She’s slowly starting to understand, BUT she still insists on walking under me and between my hind legs!  She must think it’s a safe zone. . . I give her the benefit of my submission, but she takes advantage of my generosity.  She pulls my ears and grabs my ruff . . . no question about it, she plays ruff!

So I give her the gift of hair balls. Makes me chuckle when she coughs up a wad of my hair. Serves her right for trying to make a meal out of me!

She then resorts to stalking me – just like a cat!  I pretend not to see her which fills her little puppy heart with glee.

Then she goes into tail attack which I absolutely HATE with a passion.  I am so proud of my ‘wagger’.  When I feel her grab my tail, I give her HELL. I growl and show my teeth and chase her.  As soon as I think she’s gotten my firm message, she just comes back and attacks again! I deliver my ultimatum over and over, and she just sasses me with her yappy puppy bark. Good Grief! 

the tail attack

But I do have to say, that her grabs are carrying less bite these days because she is losing her teeth! Glory Hallelujah!  Pretty soon all she’ll be able to do is ‘gum me”.  <chortle> The tooth fairy is going to be busy.

Miss Leia also thinks she’s in the Blue Haven Band. She grabs her stainless steel dish and plays the cymbals. Heaven Forbid. . . my poor ears! Just so she doesn’t advance to the glockenspiel!

I repeatedly have to lay down the law to the little stinker. I’d better frame my canine PhD diploma in puppy discipline and hang it over her crate. Then perhaps she will accord me the respect I deserve. 

I tell ya, life ain’t boring with Miss Leia around. She’s no cherub; she’s a royal pain in the ass!”

Signing off . . . Saint Heidi, PhD


16 weeks

A grateful thank you to those of you who responded with thoughts and suggestions to my last post of frustration. The support really helped me jump start my coping mechanisms.  Last Monday, I made a spontaneous appointment to take Leia to my vet. I sensed a potential relapse in her UTI infection based on her drastic change in toileting after having five great days.  Dr. Jackie is such a good listener and so supportive. She ultimately decided to change Leia’s antibiotic to one slightly stronger than the amoxicillin. She said we would re-evaluate Leia this coming Monday when she goes in for her last round of vaccinations. Hopefully Leia’s follow up diagnostics shows the infection to be cleared up.

In the meantime, my new black chain link fence was installed. The fence guys were great and so meticulous. It took them two days (puppy fixes included), and we were blessed with gorgeous weather.  A physical fence is giving me such peace of mind. It is such a joy to now allow Heidi and Leia the freedom to run and romp without worrying that Leia will take off towards New Road or to visit with the neighbor’s children.

In conjunction with the physical fence, I had my existing Invisible Fence reconfigured to keep the dogs out of my shade garden, away from the generator, propane tanks, and cables, and to deny them access to bird seed on the ground. 

Leia also started her KPT (Kindergarten Puppy Training) class.  It was a bit boring because there was only one other puppy in the class; it’s so much more enjoyable and entertaining with multiple dogs and owners and better for the puppies. KPT is now on hold, like almost everything else, due to the COVID 19 pandemic. 

Thursday, Heidi, Leia, and I had a fantastic walk in Tyler State Park with our dear friends Sharon and Tom. It was Leia’s first time in the park, and our walk took us through a corn field where visibility is so open that it was safe to allow Leia some off-leash fun.  She enjoyed chewing on corn cobs, thinking about sampling fresh horse poop, and romping with Heidi.  Sharon took this wonderful photo of us which really captures the joy we feel when spending time in nature. 

This morning Leia and I went to visit our good friends Nan and Bob so Leia could meet their dogs April and Penny.  She had a great time romping with April and Penny but also took time to dive into Nan’s fish pond – total immersion.  I think the cold water was a bit of a shock to her, but after I quickly pulled her out, she just shook herself off and went back to playing.  She’s going to be a real water dog.

Sometimes I think Leia is Hannah reincarnated. So many of her shenanigans and her joie de’vivre are pages taken out of Hannah’s book. These smart dogs who have a mind of their own are often challenging to train. It’s an effort to constantly stay one step ahead of her so Leia doesn’t turn the tables and try to train me!

Leia has now had five great crate and housebreaking days, and I finally have a good feeling about her progress and recovery.

Obviously, the coronavirus social-distancing recommendations throws a monkey wrench into continued socialization. When restrictions are lifted, we will resume visiting new venues and meeting new people.

Warmest wishes from Heidi, Leia, and me as we all negotiate these challenging medical restrictions and sold out toilet paper.  Stay healthy and stay tuned!


Miss muddy nose at 16 weeks

I need help.

The first two weeks Leia’s housebreaking was proceeding fairly normally for an 8-10 week old puppy.

And then her E coli UTI infection threw a monkey wrench into the housebreaking process. The infection was so severe that it affected both urination and defecation.  She started toileting in her crate, no matter how frequently I took her out.

Obviously, with a crate being instrumental in successful housebreaking, I could not use it to reinforce that Leia should toilet outdoors.  I was taking her out every half hour, and she toileted faithfully, but she also continued to soil in her crate.  One morning I had her out, she toileted, and I brought her in and crated her.  Two minutes later she pooped again in the crate!

Now that Leia is on antibiotics for the UTI infection, she has improved greatly.  She is able to hold her pee and poop longer, and the crate is staying clean for longer stretches of time.  This week she kept her crate clean for 5 days, and then bingo! — she relapsed.  Each relapse seems to trigger the whole negative cycle all over again. 

I have been giving Leia additional free time in the family room and kitchen, the only two rooms she’s allowed to frequent at this point. She is learning how to chill out when she is at liberty. She’s showing herself to be a very sweet, companionable puppy; she will follow me and lie near me if I’m reading or working at my kitchen table. I quickly discovered that Leia IS alerting visually, and repeatedly goes to the door when she needs to toilet.  I was surprised and pleased.

So, here’s the challenge:  If I do not let her out immediately, she will eliminate right by the door.  Obviously, this means constant visual monitoring, and I live in a split level house.  So, if I’m in my kitchen and she goes down to the family room, I need to follow her to maintain visual observation.  If I don’t see her leave the kitchen, and she has a minute or two unsupervised, it’s enough time for her to go to the door and eliminate if I don’t appear quickly enough to let her out.

I am also still getting up once during the night to toilet her; often, she will both pee and poop at this time. We’re up to a 5 1/2 hour stretch, and I hope she will soon be able to hold through the night.  She’s 16 weeks old, and most 16 week old puppies no longer need to be toileted in the middle of the night.

Now, I believe the root of the problem is that I’m hearing impaired.  I often do not wear my hearing aid in the house because I’m very sensitive to the earmold.  So, if Leia barks or whines, I do not hear her.  Even when I do wear my hearing aid, I will not hear her if she vocalizes unless I am right beside her.

I have investigated assistive devices for the deaf trying to find something that would be helpful. Visual monitors have not worked because I constantly need to watch the monitor and carry it everywhere I go. I also don’t hear Leia through the monitor. And obviously visual monitors don’t work while I’m sleeping.  So, no matter what I’ve tried so far, I’ve not been able to successfully address the challenges in confirming Leia’s housebreaking.

At this point, in desperation, I’ve kind of adopted the attitude that I just need to do the best I can and that eventually Leia will mature to the point where she can wait to eliminate and will totally understand the housebreaking concept. 

The constant visual monitoring is exhausting. It brings back memories of when I was caregiver to my mother, and she was confined to her bedroom upstairs.  I was running up and down 2 flights of stairs to visually observe her.  I tried both a baby monitor and a vibratory monitor. Neither solved the problem. 

I didn’t run into this difficulty when I housebroke Hannah or Heidi.  Hannah was challenging to housebreak, partly due to my inexperience as a new dog owner; I allowed her too much unsupervised time too soon.  Heidi housebroke in 5 days with only 3 accidents. 

Dog savvy owners and trainers/behaviorists: I welcome your thoughts and suggestions!


treats for Leia

Puppy pockets are unmistakable.

One does not dare venture forth without enough pockets to hold puppy and human necessities.

My favorite jacket has 6 pockets, and my jeans have 2 more which I routinely use.

If you rummage through my pockets you will find my car keys, cell phone, dog treats, poop bags, Kleenex, maybe a slip leash, gloves, more treats, extra poop bags, and perhaps a random shopping list.

Contrary to my organizational self, my pockets are not organized. I usually rummage through my pockets until I find what I need. However, I typically keep treats in my right pocket since I hold the leash in my left hand. 

The other day I needed to take Leia out on leash for a quick toilet before I left the house to run errands. I went outside without my jacket, and when Leia toileted, I reached into my jeans pocket to find one single treat. Excellent! I thought. I grabbed the treat, asked Leia to sit, and rewarded her.  Within 3 seconds I saw her spit out the treat! That’s not normal!

But it wasn’t a treat! It was a white pill!

Immediately I grabbed the pill and rushed Leia onto the porch to flush out her mouth with water.

I crated her and ran to telephone my vet.

The pill was one of my prescription pain pills, and I’d totally forgotten I’d put it in my jeans pocket!

How FORTUNATE that Leia didn’t like the taste and spit it out while I was watching her.

My vet said if she didn’t swallow it she’d probably be OK but to email her the drugs in the pill, which I did. She responded and said that the narcotic was such a low dose that it would have only made Leia sleepy, and the acetaminophen which is normally toxic to dogs was also such a low dose that it would not have harmed her.

WHEW! What a scare!!

CAUTION: What you pull out of your pocket may not be what you think it is!!


Personal trainer Leia at 15 weeks

This puppy runs a tough fitness camp.

I guarantee you’ll never meet a drill-sergeant personal trainer like Leia.

The workout starts as soon as my feet hit the floor in the morning. 

We start with the stair-master – 13 steps down, 4 steps up, 4 steps down, 4 steps up, 4 steps down, and 13 steps up – only to repeat throughout the entire day. 

Then we move to jumping leash – step over and step back, twirl around, hand off from right to left hand, and repeat every time Leia is attached to the other end of the tether.

Deep knee bends follow to pick up turds, feathers, bits of paper, and random sticks. 

Lunges follow the deep knee bends when Leia does surprise bolts.  The object is to lunge forward and grab her securely before she jumps out of the yard boundaries. 

Squats are performed to pick up and retrieve all toys that Leia has scattered randomly. Then these items are returned to the storage bin which is dumped repeatedly throughout the day for additional squats.

Leia then provides a yoga break where we run through all the dog poses, starting with Puppy Pose and ending with Downward Facing Dog. By this time, facing downward is the only thing I can do.  

Weight-lifting is next. Leia makes me lift the dog food bags, starting with 15 pounds and graduating to 30 pounds.  Then she makes me pick her up; I swear she adds 2-3 pounds per week! Pretty soon I’ll only be able to manage her front end!!

Juggling bowls is very important and is done three times a day.  Leia makes me include Heidi’s 2 bowls, so I am constantly juggling 4 bowls – 2 for water (no sloshing), and the other 2 for meals.  And this has to be performed quickly, within 45 seconds.  

Push-outs replace push-ups. Pushing open and holding the doors for both Leia and her assistant, Heidi.  The pushes vary in intensity – some are short endurance, and others require a long hold while Leia and Heidi intentionally proceed very slowly through the opening. 

Walking is ongoing throughout the entire day, both indoors, and outdoors. Outdoor walks are dictated by Leia and Heidi who are romping about unrestrained.  I am required to be vigilant to be sure they don’t pick up or ingest anything not on the walk list.  My walks are interspersed with sprints and high steps. 

Finger dexterity is also enforced all day long.  Leia makes me lock her within her crate and let her out again – flip, slide, and push down, over and over again.  More finger dexterity is provided by opening and closing treat bags and containers. 

By the end of the day, every bone and muscle in my body aches. A perfect remedy is a glass of Lab red wine with dinner.