SUBTLE SHIFTS

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.

POOL PARTY

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

ICEE TIME!

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 AND HER LIBRARY BOOK

Contemplation

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.

LEIA VERSUS THE ARMY OF 500

Leia 6 1/2 months

Leia is waging war on the Army of Zinnias. Their training base has been located in my backyard for over twenty years.

the brave volunteers

About a month ago the volunteers started to emerge from the trenches where they had wintered over.  Leia immediately pounced on the unsuspecting troops. She dug into their trenches and uprooted their supplies. 

The General put out a desperate call to the Horticultural Army for reinforcements.

Five hundred zinnia troops were dispatched and deployed to the demilitarized zone where they trained in canine deception tactics. 

The odds are not good.

Leia versus an army of 500 zinnias . . . the battle rages on, one platoon follows another in an unrelenting assault. 

The battle is sure to heat up during the long days of summer.

Zinnias are celebrated for their bravery and hardiness. They are most likely to triumph.

Ongoing reports from the Seed & Stem Channel will keep everyone informed about events occurring on the front lines.

Stay tuned . . .

When Leia abandons the battle, she turns to snooping. Heidi even suggested we call her Snoopers.

She scoped out the dishwasher when my back was turned and took a spoon. 

Leia and her stolen spoon

Hey diddle diddle
It’s Leia and the fiddle
And the cow jumped over the moon.
A little dog laughed to see such a sport
And Leia ran away with the spoon
. (apologies to Mother Goose)

Then I mistakenly trusted the little stinker, and she grabbed the current issue of the Chronicle of the Horse.

Perusing her magazine

Life is never dull with Leia around.

Dear Readers: I enjoy sharing my life with Leia, but sometimes there’s a lull in appropriate material on which to base a blog post. I’d love to have your requests and ideas for future posts.  You can leave your response in comments or contact me personally.  Thank you in advance for your input and suggestions. It will be very much appreciated.  

SIX MONTH MILESTONE

May 17, 2020 – Leia is 6 months old today.

She’s almost as tall as Heidi and can no longer walk under Heidi’s belly or run between Heidi’s hind legs.  One of the biggest six month milestones is the major breakthrough in Leia’s housebreaking.  About five weeks ago it was like a switch flicked on in her brain. Since then she has not soiled her crate or had any accidents in the house. She consistently goes to the back door when she needs to go out. I hope I don’t jinx myself by proudly proclaiming her achievement!

She now sleeps through the night; ah, it feels good to get a full night’s uninterrupted sleep. 

I continue to train regularly, but the pandemic quarantine has made it impossible to do close proximity training. As a result, Leia, unfortunately, still wants to jump on people when she first greets them. She is the first puppy I’ve had that does not want to keep four paws on the ground, in spite of my conscientious training attempts from day one. 

Leia and I go for outings without Heidi which is when we bond and work on leash manners.  She’s a pleasure to walk on leash in public.   

Then there are the days when I take both Leia and Heidi for off leash sojourns in safe venues.  Some of these places have water access, and Leia wastes no time submerging herself and getting muddy.  She’s still figuring out how to swim – she does a splashy dog paddle with her front paws.  She is so passionate about water, and it’s delightful to watch her joy. 

Heidi in foreground – Leia down creek (or should it be Leia is up the creek?)

But . . . I still can’t trust her loose in the house.

Why?  She’s still a thief!

She has discovered a box in the laundry room where I store random cleaning supplies. She loves the scrub brush, and the other day she stole a box of small trash bags. I’d gotten distracted by something and forgot she was loose.  By the time I remembered, she had completely demolished the carton and was whipping a trash bag around. 

She also likes to help me unload clean laundry from the dryer – unloading means stealing.  She stole a sock and ran off.  After she relinquished it, she rejoined me to see what else she could grab.

Yesterday she tried to swipe my mail-in voter’s ballot from my kitchen table. She claims she’s now old enough to vote. I explained that she would have to pass her Canine Good Citizen (CGC) test first before we could consider voting privileges.  (Note: The CGC test is administered and conferred by an examiner certified by the AKC. It is one test usually required as part of the process of becoming a registered therapy dog.)

Leia is also promoting herself as a wine connoisseur. She checks out the various wine bottles in the rack and allows the aroma to roll upon her palate.  She leans towards those varieties that have notes of raspberries intermingling with traces of tartness and a buttery melody.  <rolls eyes>

The puppy next door, Harper, is Leia’s playmate; they’re the same age.  Harper is a female Bernese Mountain Dog/German Shepherd mix, and she’s named after the Phillies player Bryce Harper.  Sometimes they get together to romp, and other times they play through the fence.  Heidi is the self-appointed umpire.

Leia keeps a sharp eye peeled for an open gate so she can dash upstairs. She makes a beeline for my bedroom where she grabs my slipper and slobbers all over the L.L. Bean insignia. She would love to take permanent possession.

So that’s where its at folks – life with six month old Leia is delightful.   

Leia at six months

SEEDS OF HOPE

HANNAH

Hannah would have been 13 today.

When she died last September this paw print was enclosed in the sympathy card I received from my vet. 

It is handcrafted from 100% cotton with annuals and wildflower seeds embedded.

I saved it to plant this Spring in memory of Hannah.

Then Leia arrived – the garden digger . . .

I knew that if I wanted the seeds to grow that I would have to look for a creative alternative.  So I decided a pot would be my best option. 

I had a little ceremony this morning to celebrate Hannah’s birthday, and gently buried the paw in fresh potting soil. It’s now sitting in the sun behind a Leia barrier. 

I can’t wait to see if they germinate. 

There’s something perpetual about gardens and blooms. . . joyful expectation.

They teach us to nurture our own garden of hope.

MOTHER’S DAY WITH LEIA

Leia at 5 1/2 months

She looks innocent, doesn’t she?

Don’t believe it!

Her Mother’s Day gift to me so far has been a variety of mischievous pranks.

After a quiet breakfast with Leia and Heidi relaxing peacefully in the kitchen with me, all hell breaks loose.

Leia disappears, and it’s a few moments before I realize she’s no longer in the kitchen. I scurry to the family room and find her with my coat. She’s riffled through the pockets and seems content to lie upon it. I gently convince her to “give,” all the time chuckling under my breath. I hang up my coat out of pup-reach and turn to find that she has taken my shoe. Again, we practice “giving,” and she very kindly relinquishes my shoe. Happy Mother’s Day – woof!

I place the shoe out of pup-reach and decide that it would be a good idea to let Leia and Heidi out into the yard. Out they go!

When they come in, I give them a bowl of water.  Leia drinks first (no manners), and then promptly picks up the bowl when she’s finished and dumps the remaining water all over the laundry room floor.  She does have a fixation on indoor pools! I quickly grab a towel to soak up the water, and Leia disappears. 

Unfortunately, I left the gate open to the living room when I carried the laundry down.

I know where she’s gone – upstairs!!

I call “LEIA!” in my sternest boss voice, and she magically appears at the top of the landing where she’s been up to nonsense in the bathroom.  “Hi Mom! Happy Mother’s Day!”

I run upstairs – fortunately, she had not unraveled the roll of toilet paper.  When she saw me coming, she ran into my bedroom and tried to steal my slipper.  She dropped it when I said, “NO!”  Then she hopped into Heidi’s dog bed for two seconds before running to the rear corner of my bedroom where she put her paws up on my bed. 

She then runs back to the bathroom and investigates the bathtub – think indoor pool . . .

By this time Heidi has appeared.  Heidi always wants to help keep order, but Leia just snuffs at her.

I finally took Leia’s collar gently and escorted her downstairs. 

She went into the kitchen and took an unsuccessful swipe at trying to grab my fleece jacket hanging on my chair. 

I continue escorting her to her crate for some chill-out time.

All that LOVING energy!

I guess there’s a Mother’s Day walk in the works. . . and I can’t stop laughing!

CELEBRATING APRIL’S SEND-A-CARD MONTH

April is designated by the US Postal Service as national send a card or write a letter month. When I read about it, I decided it would give me a creative outlet and an opportunity to reach out to friends. I only sent out cards that I made. Some were my dried leaf cards and others were newer creations designed for specific persons.

I hand wrote personal messages in each card knowing it was a special way to let my friends know I was thinking about them during the COVID quarantine. I have discovered that one of the most difficult things about the quarantine for me is missing my friends, touching, and hugging.

This card went to a friend who celebrated her 65th birthday on April 27th. I came across the pen & ink sketch when I was cleaning out my craft supplies. The frame was salvaged from another card I’d received many years ago and decided to repurpose.

This card was designed specifically for a husband and wife. He is a writer and knows how to facilitate change and get people involved. His call for action is always a type of revolution. And she is a an artist who incorporates the figures of goddesses into her work. She messaged me and said how much they loved this card. I knew it was perfect for the two of them!

This card was designed for a childhood friend and her husband. The three of us all have a warped sense of humor. We certainly are prime examples of disorderly, vigorous, and disreputable senior citizens.

When I found this horse picture, I knew right away it would make a great card and who would get it. As I started working with the image it made me think of a carousel horse, so I used strips of craft paper and washi tape to create a linear effect. I almost kept it for myself!

Many of my friends got one-of-a-kind leaf cards which I’ve been making for several years. I’ve accumulated quite an inventory, and I love choosing which card goes to an individual. These leaf cards are very time consuming to make, and many recipients opt to frame them. I enjoy sharing my creative efforts as much as I enjoy receiving cards and letters myself.

I got so absorbed in the project, the days in April just flew by; it certainly helped cope with the challenges of the non-routine quarantine. Unfortunately, I forgot to photograph most of the cards I made before I sealed them in an envelope and mailed them.

And I, too, received cards and letters from friends during the month of April along with text messages and emails commenting on and thanking me for the cards I’d sent.

Everyone said the same thing, “It’s such a treat to get personal mail delivered!”

PROSECUTING THE THIEF

Preface:  Around the age of 5 months, a puppy’s canine teeth start to come in, and the developmental teen stage starts. It will last until the dog is about eighteen months of age. During this time a puppy’s immature brain is changing and developing, and it’s often a challenging period. An adolescent dog can be rowdier, mouthier, jumpier, and more obnoxious than at any other time in its life. They tend to test their humans and even downright ignore them when given the opportunity.

Deb: Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury, Miss Leia is growing up. Now 5 ½ months of age, I am starting to observe those little nuances of the onset of “teen” behavior.  She has become a thief!

Leia: Hello Jury. I am present to defend myself against the accusation of thievery!

D: Miss Drama Teen . . . < rolls eyes>

L: Deb says I am now a teen. Isn’t that good news?!

D: Unfortunately, the “teens” last until puppies are about 18 months of age. This is a very challenging time.

L: Challenging? You keep saying I am a sweetheart and that we are bonding.

D: True, true, but . . . you have tendencies towards kleptomania.

L: Huh?  Me? Noooooo waaaay!

D: I think you are going to have a tough time establishing your defense.

L:  I have good arguments!

D: OK, explain stealing the newspaper and dog catalogs off my table.

L: Well, newspaper is easy – you’ve heard all about fake news. If it’s fake, it needs to be edited – ripping it to shreds is the best way.  As for catalogs, I like that IN THE COMPANY OF DOGS catalog – lots of cool things I want to order. I need a crate pad. . . <hint, hint>

D:  And then there’s the time you stole my date book!

L: I was just looking to see when we were going for our next walk . . .

D: And why do you steal dish towels and take them down to your crate?

L: They’re perfect puppy napkins!

D: OK, OK, but stealing my craft stamps is totally unacceptable. 

L: Perfect chewing combination, rubber and wood.  Besides, I really liked the alphabet stamps.  I even spelled my name!

D:  Good girl, a teen should be able to spell her name, but stealing my craft supplies is a misdemeanor. You could be incarcerated.

L: What’s incarcerated?

D: Being put into jail!  And then there was the time you stole my grocery bag.

L:  I was just trying to help you carry them!!

D: Yeah, good thing the toothpaste and box of band-aids trail helped me track you down.

L: <sighs> I can’t do anything right.  <hangs head>

D:  Miss Drama Teen. <throws hands up in air>

L: <hang-dog look>

D: You know, Leia, if you look that way the jury will know you are guilty for sure!

L: I. am. NOT. a. THIEF!

D: Well, what about the time you stole the TV remote?

L: I only wanted to watch Animal Planet!  Puppy Bowl was on! GO Retrievers!!

D: But when it comes to my fleece jacket and shoes, that’s the ultimate NO-NO!

L:  You’re always saying NO! Do you ever say yes? Besides I like the smell of you on your jacket and shoes.  You’re my favorite person after all.

D: Flattery will get you nowhere.

L: Flattery?! That’s the dog-gone truth!

D:  So tell the jury about the toilet paper. . .

L: <whispers, “That was fun!” – puppy snickers, hehehe>

D: You unraveled the entire roll through the family room! <chuckles behind hand: I only wish I’d had the video running on my phone for proof>

L: Don’t you know there’s a serious toilet paper shortage? I was just bringing the roll to you!

D:  OK, Leia, I think the jury is ready for your closing remarks.

L: Sires and Bitches of the jury. With all due respect, I know I do not have to defend true puppy valor and devotion to my dearest companion, Deb. I am a Labrador Retriever, and it is in our DNA to retrieve, not steal. We love to carry things in our mouths, and we love to have a job.  <wags tail for emphasis>  

Judge: Thank you Leia. Deborah, are you ready to give your closing remarks?

D: I rest my case.

Judge: Jury, have you reached your verdict?

Foreman of the Jury: We have your honor.  In view of all evidence presented, it is predominantly hearsay, so we find the defendant, Leia, NOT GUILTY of thievery.