A BIRTHDAY . . . of sorts

7 months

Hello Friends!

Leia turned 7 months old on Wednesday.

She seems to be recovered from her injury but is still on antibiotics until her recheck with the veterinary ophthalmologist, Dr. Low, next Wednesday. It was a relief to set her free of the cone early this week. 

LEIA:  It’s NOT a cone! It’s an Elizabethan Collar.  Tell them how you made it pretty.

Yes, the Elizabethan Collar is very plain plastic — boring.  I decorated it with silk flowers. My friend Sharon said Leia looked like Frida Kahlo! She did, so I asked her to sit for a portrait.

channeling Frida Kahlo

Leia was exceptionally good wearing her Elizabethan Collar. I think it bothered me more than it bothered her.

It was just a matter of two days after her discharge from CARES when Leia was back to her shenanigans. She managed to navigate the stairs wearing her collar, went into the library room, and pulled a large, 607 page hardback book off the shelf titled A PORTION FOR FOXES. She carried it by the cover and gave it to me.  I think she knows I’ve been thinking about re-reading it. 


Along with growing up, Leia has been allowed more freedom in the house. I now proclaim her 100% housebroken.  She’s not had an accident for over two months and reliably goes to the door when she needs to toilet. She’s also been spending the evenings loose in the family room with me and Heidi. The only time she relapsed was the other evening when I accidentally fell asleep (she was unsupervised!), and she chewed my coffee table.  It looks terrible, but it can be fixed.

I’ve been keeping her occupied by giving her antlers or nylabones to chew, but the vets have forbidden them for a few weeks until she is fully recovered.  The soft toys no longer hold much appeal for Leia, and this is why I think she looks for the hard, unacceptable things like my coffee table.

And Leia still has a love affair with the toilet paper roll.

LEIA: Yes, it plays music! I like the tune it plays when I pull the toilet paper off the roll!

listen to the music!
waiting at TEAM Toyota

Yesterday Leia went socializing with me to TEAM Toyota while the Highlander got a free 7000 mile multipoint inspection. I really enjoyed having her company, and she did very well with relaxing and meeting a few strangers who asked if they could pet her.  She only tried jumping on two people but was unsuccessful.  It’s interesting. As soon as she makes physical contact with a person, she is less likely to jump. I’m optimistic that with consistent and concentrated work, we will eventually achieve FOUR PAWS ON THE GROUND.

What will the next month hold? Life is an adventure with Leia.

She’s such a fun pup!

And now a word from Daisy Rose Leaf from the Seed & Stem Channel. “It seems that the Zinnia War has achieved a major turning point in the battle. With the increase in the size and numbers of the zinnia troops, Leia has submitted official notice of her surrender.  A truce has been agreed upon and signed with a paw print in the soil.”

triumphant zinnias


I was cleaning and refreshing my hummingbird feeders on Tuesday when Leia came up to me.

I looked down to speak to her and noticed that she had a small swelling below her left eye. The eye was also weeping.  I wondered if it was a battle injury from the Zinnia War or whether she’d been stung by a bee. I gave her a Benadryl thinking it was probably a sting.   

She seemed to be fine until that evening.

She became uncharacteristically quiet and started displaying mouth discomfort any time she tried to pick up a chew toy.

I observed her closely all evening, and when I came downstairs to check on her at 12:45 am, the sclera had become bloodshot. I knew she needed urgent veterinary attention.

I called our 24/7 emergency clinic, CARES, and alerted them that I was bringing Leia.  I got dressed, put her into the car, and left the house around 1:30 am. It was pitch black, and there was no traffic on the back roads I travel to go to CARES. When we arrived around 2 am, the parking lot was empty except for one other car.  Leia was admitted immediately. 

Due to Covid restrictions, pet owners are not permitted to enter the clinic. A technician comes out to the parking lot to retrieve the pet while the owner waits in the car.  The veterinarian communicates by telephone with the pet owner.

Knowing this in advance, I had quickly typed up an information sheet with a chronology of the events leading up to Leia’s admission. CARES had already been alerted that I am hearing impaired and lip read – no telephone and no masks would be possible.  We arranged for all communication between me and the vet to occur via email.

Leia’s admitting vet, Dr. Molly Maurer, VMD, was very thoughtful and accommodating. She sent me a detailed email on her findings and recommendations.  Leia was apparently overly excited and initially difficult to examine. Dr. Maurer said Leia was very reactive/painful during examination of her eye and mouth.  Her eye was inflamed with accompanying swelling of the conjunctiva.  What was of extreme concern to the vet was the elevated pressure (glaucoma) in the eye.   

Leia’s facial swelling and her painful responses during the exam, led Dr. Maurer to be concerned about a possible abscess in the back of the mouth extending up into the area behind the eye which is called the retrobulbar space.

Based on her findings, Dr. Maurer recommended that Leia remain at CARES so she could run bloodwork and start her immediately on pain meds, antibiotics, and address the pressure in her eye.  She also recommended that Leia be examined by Dr. Martha Low, DVM (veterinary ophthalmologist) in the morning. 

Leia with her nurse Evie

I agreed. I was literally shaking from worry and fatigue.

I managed to get 2 ½ hours of sleep before arising at my normal time to take care of Heidi. 

I called CARES for an update and was told that Leia had rested comfortably through the night. She was being prepped for a sedative so Dr. Low and Dr. Gary Puglia, DVM, (head of emergency and critical care emergency) could do a thorough ophthalmic and oral exam.

Their presumptive diagnosis was mild left orbital cellulitis and the beginnings of a retrobulbar abscess in the back of the mouth. They suspected that since Leia is a puppy, she may have been chewing on something like a stick that poked the back of her throat which started the inflammatory chain reaction involving the eye.

They complimented me for catching it so early and being proactive in getting her to the clinic.  (I watch too many vet shows on National Geographic Wild, and I enjoy trying to diagnose the cases presented.  I’ve always been a frustrated veterinarian in my heart, thwarted only by my hearing impairment.) 

Dr. Puglia told me that Leia’s treatment would continue with the antibiotics and anti-inflammatory pain medication. If Leia improves as expected, then Dr. Low will see her in two weeks for a follow-up exam.

a tummy rub from nurse Evie

Dr. Puglia was wonderful about emailing me, explaining things so clearly, and answering all my questions.

When I told him I would like to blog about Leia’s experience at CARES, he kindly took a few photos of her in the clinic with her nurse, Evie, and emailed them to me. I cannot speak highly enough of the professionality of the team at CARES in communicating with me and looking after Leia. They really care!

Leia was discharged late afternoon on Wednesday.

being discharged!

She walked out of the clinic, wearing a dreaded cone and still wobbling a bit from the sedative. She seemed a bit disoriented and didn’t act like she recognized me.  No, I wasn’t offended . . .

By the time we arrived home, she was perkier and greeted Heidi happily . . . no I wasn’t offended . . .

She ate well and rested quietly all evening. 

This morning she greeted me enthusiastically and is following her normal routine with some restrictions. She is coping well with the cumbersome cone, even whacking me across the legs with it.

sympathetic Heidi

Leia is on the road to recovery.

And now we need to interrupt with a word from Daisy Rose Leaf of the Seed & Stem Channel with a LIVE update from the battle front.  The Zinnia Army’s step barriers have been huge in nearly eliminating the Leia attacks.  The troops are increasing in numbers and size. Leia has had to retreat from her attacks to recover from injuries. The Zinnia Army will have an opportunity to reconvene and recharge for future encounters. Stay tuned. . .


Leia is almost 7 months old, and over the last week I’ve been noticing subtle shifts in her behavior. She seems to be settling down indoors and starting to grasp the idea of “chilling out” while not in her crate.  If I’m in the kitchen, she will lie quietly nearby with occasional breaks to annoy Heidi.  And in the evenings, she’s been more relaxed and not on the move every minute.

She’s growing up.

While she still retains her mischievous streak and still steals, her kleptomania seems to have waned slightly.  Now, when she disappears, and I make a dash to find her, she will often be lying in the family room or sitting in her crate. 

She is almost as tall as Heidi, and I’m guessing she weighs between 45-50 pounds. Amazing to think she’s been here five months already.

I continue to train and reinforce. When there are no distractions, she focuses on me and responds beautifully.  However, it’s typically more challenging if there are distractions, so I usually insert mini-lessons into our outings.

Leia had a beautiful recall as a puppy, but with the onset of the teens and a newfound confidence and independence, her recall has regressed.  I’m not surprised by this.  If Leia is focused on me, her recall is still way above average, but if other dogs, people, or distractions come into the equation, her recall regresses.  So, I’m back-tracking and working on rebuilding the foundation of getting and keeping Leia’s attention, regardless of what is happening around us. 

Along with reinforcing attention and recall, I have also had to address Leia’s tendency to jump on people when she first greets them. When she arrived home at the age of 8 weeks, I immediately did not permit her front paws on my legs in any way, shape, or form.  She persisted, and so did I. Eventually, after a few weeks she resigned herself to not jumping on me. BUT, for some reason, the concept did not transfer to other people. 

I’ve been working with her on leash and doing controlled meet & greets.  She’s improving and understands, but finds it extremely difficult to contain her exuberance!  She adores people and wants to be with them.

I’m hoping that Leia’s lessons in controlled meet & greets will eventually help her understand that keeping four paws on the ground is also required when she greets people off leash.  

This challenge has been exacerbated by the Covid quarantine and the inability to do close contact training.  KPT was terminated after one class, and group obedience classes are still not being offered. Obedience classes with an instructor, other people, and dogs is invaluable. There are no hard fast rules in training because each dog is an individual. The skill lies in understanding canine behavior, breed traits, and having an arsenal of techniques to apply. Some of the successful techniques I’ve used in the past have not produced the desired results. I find myself researching new approaches or ideas that may help me communicate with Leia more clearly.

In spite of the training challenges, I am enjoying Leia’s puppyhood. She makes me laugh every day, and she has the sweetest nature.  It’s all about believing in her.


Harper, the puppy next door, invited Leia to come over and play. 

It was the first time for Leia to visit Harper’s yard.  Harper lives with Ryan and Jen and their four girls: a three year old, four year old twins, and a ten year old. 

Not only were there lots of dog toys, there were also lots of kid toys in the yard.  Leia was in toy heaven!

She and Harper chased each other and wrestled. And every now and then Leia would grab a toy belonging to one of the girls. 

She would lead Harper on a merry chase and then eventually drop the toy. At that point, I or Dad Ryan would grab it and place it out of reach. 

Suddenly Leia spied the blue kiddie pool. Her eyes got big and her ears went up! She took a flying leap and belly flopped in the water. 

She dunked her head underwater and laid down to cool off.  She invited Harper to join her, but Harper wanted no parts of being in the pool. 

Maeve, one of the twins, asked – “Do you think the pool is big enough for both Leia and Harper?” 

I assured her it was.

Then she asked, “Do you think the water temperature is okay?”

“Absolutely!” I replied, suppressing my laughter.

At that moment, Leia leaped out of the pool with a Barbie doll in her mouth which had been floating in the water.  She took off with Barbie’s long blond hair streaming and her nude body flopping.  Harper was in mad pursuit trying to grab Barbie. After several circuits of the yard, Barbie was dropped unceremoniously and forgotten.  Dad Ryan quickly rescued Barbie from further puppy abuse. 

Leia repeatedly ran and wrestled with Harper and took pool breaks in between.

On another of her romps, Leia picked up an unidentified object from the grass.  Fortunately, after a few seconds it was dropped.  We picked it up to discover it was non-toxic kiddie sidewalk chalk — purple! Can you imagine what Leia’s poop would have looked like had she ingested it?!

After nearly an hour, we had two happy tired puppies. 

Leia said her thanks, went home, and immediately fell asleep in her crate. 

I can only guess what Leia will do when she is confronted with a real pool.  I promise to document that occasion when it occurs with a video clip.

Photos by Dad Ryan Curran


A few years ago someone told me they gave their dog Frosty Paws, a frozen treat that could be found in the pet aisle of most grocery stores.  Hannah and Heidi would love that, I thought. So, the next time I went grocery shopping I decided to buy a box for them . . . that is, until I read the ingredients. Ugh!

Instead, I opted to make my own.

I boiled chicken breasts and did not add any salt or seasoning to the water. I had saved small yogurt containers to use for my **Icee Treats. Tapioca, individual fruit (i.e. apple sauce/mandarins), or rice pudding containers also work well.  Since my broth is bland and wholesome, I fill the entire container and stick it in the freezer. This size works great for my Labradors.

The broth can also be poured into ice cube trays if you prefer a smaller sized treat.

If I haven’t cooked any chicken, I sometimes use commercial organic, no sodium chicken broth. If I’m unable to find no sodium, I buy low sodium and only fill the container 1/4 to 1/3 with broth and top it off with water. 

If you have a dog that needs to gain weight, you can add calories by dropping a dollop of ***xylitol free peanut butter into the cup of broth. Sometimes I even throw in a few bits of kibble for a surprise crunch.

My dogs KNOW what Icees are and will run to the kitchen and stand in front of the fridge in happy anticipation when I say the word. I only feed Icees in the yard as it’s a bit messy.

Leia in foreground and Heidi

Now that the weather is getting warmer, I always make sure to have Deb’s Icees in the freezer. 

If you have a dog, try it! I guarantee they will become Icee Addicts too.

**I originally called them ice treats; that eventually became icy treats. But then I started dragging out the E sound when talking to the dogs, so it became Icee.   

***Xylitol is toxic to dogs and is used frequently as a sugar substitute. Be sure there is NO xylitol in your peanut butter.

Leia enjoying her brain freeze



Leia disappeared.

Heidi alerted me that she’d left the room.

I’d absentmindedly left the family room gate ajar – just wide enough for an adventuresome puppy to squeeze through. 

I scurried up the stairs and stopped just shy of the top landing, waiting to see from where Leia would appear. 

In matter of a few seconds, she rushed out of the guest room with a book in her mouth. 

She had chosen carefully – it was titled HISTORICAL CATS.

L: <mumbling> Hey Deb! Look! It’s a really cool book!

D: Where did you find it Leia?

L:  In the library room!

D: Oh, of course . . .

L:  I want to be like the dog on your blue T-shirt!

D:  I had no idea you even noticed.

L:  Reading dog! How cool is that?!

D:  Very cool. Your ancestors are historical as well as hysterical. Many wonderful Labrador Retrievers before you have been “reading dogs” in the Nor’wester Therapy Dog organization.

L:  I want to do that!

D:  Absolutely Leia. When you get older, and stop stealing things, and pass your tests. 

L:  Tests? Do I have to study?  <starts leafing through the book>

D:  <sighs and rolls eyes>

L:  Look at these pictures! Alexander Graham Bell’s cat didn’t have a good recall like I do.

D:  Way to go Leia! I’m so proud of you.  <whispers, 75% of the time>

L:  (wags tail vigorously)

D: I think Albert Camus’s cat is pretty cool.

L:  Who’s a “strange” dog? Heidi?

D:  Depends how you interpret “strange.”

L:   I think Karl Marx has the right idea!  Dogs are the opium of people. . .

D:  And how! Remind me to tell you about the man who had 10 dogs! He even bought a king-sized bed so they could all sleep with him.  His wife divorced him.

L:  <giggles> Can I sleep on your bed, Deb?

D:  You will be welcome to sleep in my bedroom on your own bed when you get older, but not ON my bed.  You shed too much!

L:  I can’t wait!! 

D:  <smiles>

L:  Well, I guess I’d better get back to the battle with the Zinnias.  Did you see the barriers they erected?  <wags her tail furiously and races off>

D:  And we need to break for a news flash. . .

This is Daisy Rose Leaf reporting from the Seed & Stem Channel with a LIVE update from the battle front.  The Zinnia Army erected step barriers in hopes of slowing the Leia onslaught.  They achieved some measure of success as Leia was boxed in and only able to attack one trench.  Meanwhile, the Zinnias are increasing in numbers and gaining an anchor . . . stay tuned.