Tuesday, September 10, 2013

You can make a cue for anything!

Yeah, it's been a while. New job. New puppy. In the last few months, Arya has transformed from this.....

to this...

We love her a lot. And we've learned a lot. And I'm wanting to chat more about our old friend....behaviorism.

Sometimes, I'll go for weeks wondering how to fix a smelly washer.  Or how to unclog my shower drain.  Until I remember...oh yeah...I can google this.

I had the same feeling when I went for weeks being frustrated with a puppy behavior and then remembered--oh yeah, I can train a more desirable behavior!  When you run into a frustrating behavior, saying "No!" will probably leave you blue in the face.  But if you reward and build a cue for an alternate behavior that you actually WANT, you and your puppy will be happy campers.

Basic early examples of this for me were "gentle" or "good playing!" When Arya was playing nicely with her toys rather than chewing on the couch or carpet, we'd randomly say "good playing!" and throw her a treat. When she'd nip during play, I get her attention with a quick "Ouch!" and then reward her for softer mouthing while saying "gentle." My husband played with her like a rough and tumble puppy (fun!)  Now, she'll still gently nip at him occasionally, but I get super soft nuzzles and cuddles.

I struggled a lot with rewarding her for stopping a naughty behavior.  Like giving treats for "off!" when she's jump off a couch or table she wasn't supposed to be on.  I didn't want her to learn that she could get a treat simply by trying something naughty, and then stopping when we commanded her to stop.  I'd praise verbally when she'd get off the table, or whatever.  But an especially useful early command that we rewarded with tons of treats was "something else!" A great example of building the desired behavior rather than cessation of a naughty behavior. If she started chewing on the couch, or a shoe, or a blanket, or whatever, we'd say "something else!" and then reward with a treat when she switched to an appropriate chew toy.

Some recent examples of building behaviors we want to see...Arya is half beagle.  She is very sniffy while she walks.  This can make it hard to move along down the sidewalk.  Almost unintentionally (getting out of the car, moving away from a smelly trash can), my husband and I have shaped "let's go!" as a cue for "get moving, because in 5 seconds this leash is moving ahead whether you like it or not." When we realized this, we started working on making "let's go" a more purposeful cue, and it's saved us a lot of time and energy.

Puppy barks while you're getting her dinner? Don't give her dinner til she's hanging quietly in her crate. Puppy jumps on people? Don't let them pet her until she's sitting quietly.  Frustrating behaviors will dissipate as you reinforce more adaptive behaviors. (Oddly, this is pretty much what I get paid to do everyday in people-therapy).

Monday, April 29, 2013

Puppy Supply List

There are a lot of doggie supply lists floating around online.  But I never found a really comprehensive list that includes everything you actually need to make life with a new dog as easy and awesome as possible.  And chances are, if you have a new puppy, making multiple trips to the store is not on your agenda.  There are a few things that I didn't see on most lists that are absolute necessities, or that I'm really glad I purchased (sling, carseat, first aid, food storage, stain/odor remover, poop bags...how does no one mention poop bags?)  I did almost all of my shopping through Amazon, which was convenient and nifty.  I especially liked being able to check the reviews for safety concerns, etc.  Below is my final shopping list, and then a rundown of what products I chose.

Arya's Puppy Supply List

Keeping Puppy Safe/Healthy/Comfy
Name tag
Puppy björn/sling
Dog carseat
Dog first aid kit
Anti-chewing spray
Heartworm/flea and tick prevention
Dog safety manual

Dog bowls
Dog food
Food storage container
Food scoop
Can lids
Treat dispenser
Doggie doorbell
Training books

Dog shampoo
Rubber bath mat
Dog brush
Grooming wipes
Grooming spray
Dog toothbrush/toothpaste
Dog nail clippers
Paw protectant
Stain/odor remover
Poop bags/dispenser
Pee pads
Paper Towels
Trash bags

What I bought

Keeping Puppy Safe/Healthy/Comfy

Crate: Midwest iCrate, all the way (selected at the suggestion of my brother-in-law).  This was my first puppy purchase.  Portable, versatile, easily cleaned.  We are thinking Arya will be around 20 lbs.  She was 8 lbs when we picked her up.  We got the 24"x18"x19" crate, which comes with a divider to make the crate space smaller for your puppy.  I actually bought two crates...this was due to misunderstanding/overkill on my part, but it worked out.  I knew that my sister and brother-in-law's dog had a living room crate and a bedroom crate.  It turne our they had to get a sturdy plastic crate for air travel once, and this ended up turning into their dog's bedroom crate.  Before that, I think my brother-in-law moved the crate back and forth between living room and bedroom.  I'm glad I went with two crates.  I have slightly different supplies in each.  There is a waterbottle in her living room crate, where she'll stay when we leave her crated during the day.  There is a little more bedding in her nighttime crate, plus a special wolf toy (yes, Nymeria).  She responds to her crate cue appropriately depending on what room of the house we're in (yay contextual cues!)

Bedding/towels/shirts: I started looking into dog beds, but since I knew we'd be working on housetraining for a while, I decided to wait. I took an old 4'x6' fleece blanket and cut it into 4 pieces. She is very happy with these or with towels or t-shirts lining her crate. I put some of the fleece pieces and some old t-shirts in bed with us the night before we got her to give them some soothey hu-man scents.  After I wash one, I usually have Lee rub it on his head or I'll sit on the couch with it for a bit to re-scent it.  I also grabbed a set of three 36 inch "pet towels."  The texture is kinda weird, but they've been useful.

Babygate: We got a North States Supergate to partition off a doorless den.  We were still moving in, and this room was filled with boxes and various other hazards.  We didn't actually install it in the wall, we just held it in place with some boxes.  One BIG world of advice--baby friendly doesn't necessarily mean dog friendly.  I'd avoid accordion style gates, and anything else where a puppy's head might get stuck.

Collar: This was the first collar I found that seemed like it would be small enough, and it has fit well so far.  Lupine also has some great options.

Leash: Lupine has a nice assortment of patterns for both leads and collars (we got a 6 foot, 1/2 inch lead).  It's been very durable (and the products are guaranteed by the company, even if they are destroyed by chewing, which is pretty cool).

Name tag: I wanted to get Arya an ID tag to provide some contact info. before we got her license and got her microchipped.  I'd been thinking that there must be geeky pet products out there on the internet, and quickly discovered a little corner of Etsy that my husband and I have dubbed Petsy.  We got an awesome Direwolf tag with Arya's name and our phone number from id4pet.  Arya could get the small size in her mouth when we first put it on her, so we switched to the teacup size for now.  Catt kindly gave it to me at her discounted, "additional tag" price.

Harness: Arya's foster mom recommended getting a harness for longer walks since Arya was so small (a collar and leash have been fine for short trips/bathroom breaks).  We tried a small Puppia at first.  I liked the softness, but I had trouble getting it off her head and I felt like it still pulled on her neck when we walked.  We recently got an EzyDog and we're digging it.  She likes to chew it, which can make it a little hard to put on and she chewed on the chest plate while wearing it the first time, but this has stopped.  It is a skosh big for her right now (~11 lbs) but it's been working well and it's very nice for longer walks.

Puppy sling/björn: I never thought I'd carry a dog around in a sling.  But I also had no idea how many doggie diseases there are until we adopted Arya.  Her foster Mom recommended that until she was fully vaccinated we carry her around in a puppy björn. It didn't take too much to talk me into this. Arya is pretty long and I wasn't sure if a paws-out björn would fit her.  So I opted for the Alfie sling.  We leave it lying around on the floor now that we've stopped using it to carry her, and she'll sometimes curl up in it and take a nap.

Dog carseat: I knew we'd be driving a lot with Arya, so I really wanted her to have good early car experiences.  For the first 3-4 weeks, she was in someone's lap or in this Solvit Booster Seat for every car ride.  And she got lots of treats.  At first I put the seat in the front when Lee wasn't there and tightened the strap to make the seat fairly high so she could see her surroundings (my husband and I both get carsick very easily, but being able to see out a window easily helps a lot). Arya has done really well in the car. As she's gotten bigger and braver, she's started to jump out and explore.  So I hung the booster off a backseat, lower down, so she could easily jump in and out.  Now she goes right to it when she jumps in the car.  I didn't like the idea of leashing her to the seat, and I never have.  She's never gotten in my driving space, and usually sleeps in the booster seat if she's not in a passengers lap.

Anti-chewing spray: I was a little hesitant about buying a chew deterrent.  I'm not super attached to my furniture.  But chewing makes me nervous about safety.  I didn't want Arya to get shocked by a cord or swallow a couch staple.  So we bought some Grannick's Bitter Apple Spray, and it has worked great.  She rarely chews on couches or cords now.

Heartworm/flea and tick prevention: I purchased these from my vet.  Arya's foster mom also recommended entirelypets.com or kvsupply.com for cheaper supplies, but you'll need a prescription for the heartworm prevention.

Dog first aid kit: This was one of my last purchases...I didn't see it on many lists.  I got a kit full of items that would probably work just as well for humans for the most part (there are a lot of kits available on amazon, including this Lixit kit which has a lid that can be used as a bowl).  I think a smart addition to any kit would be some wound gel.

Dog safety manual: I grabbed the "Safe Dog Handbook" by Melanie Monteiro.  I haven't read it cover to cover, but it has been a great resource for researching different concerns that arise.


Dog Bowls: Foster mom recommended stainless steel bowls.  We bought some durabolz at PetSmart--a quart bowl for her water and a 2 cup bowl for her food (she was 8 lbs when we got her...I just eyeballed and these seemed like good sizes).  I also later purchased a travel bowl, which I keep in my purse or the car.  These are awesome.  This one comes in a 3 cup size or a 1 cup size.  You don't get to chose color, but dogs care not for your gender constructs.

Crate Water: Initially I got a glass water bottle for the crate where Arya will stay when we're out.  It driped a fair amount and was a pain to clean.  So I now use this hanging bowl when we'll be gone for a longer period of time.

Dog food: Foster mom was feeding VeRUS Puppy Advantage Chicken, Oats, and Brown Rice Dry Food, so that's what we grabbed, and we're still using our first bag.  I'll probably stick with this until she's 6 months...haven't looked into other options too much.  Every few feedings I wet it down a little bit (with water, or tasty broth if we have any).  A couple times when she's been in a lot of teething pain, I've really wet it down really thoroughly. UPDATE: When she his 6 months, we switched to Natural Balance. It was founded by Dick Van Patten!

Food storage container: I got a storage container for her dry food a few weeks in, after reading that it's a good idea in the Safe Dog Handbook.

Food scoop: Also got a scoop, just to make life easier, and avoid using our own cooking supplies.

Can lids: We don't use wet food for Arya, but I've played with different canned items for stuffing her Kong toy (pineapple chunks, etc.). And when we only use a couple spoonfuls at a time, it's nice to have a way to preserve the can for a few more days.  I didn't know lids like this existed until foster mom mentioned it...I'll probably get some for us to use in the kitchen, too. Very useful.

Treat dispenser:  Kong.  It looks like a sex toy (and, oddly enough, it will buy you 15 minutes of peace and quiet on a Sunday afternoon, even with a very needy puppy).  I got the medium puppy size...I think I could have gone even smaller.  I may also try Buster Cube, Squirrel Dude, or Atomic Treat Ball at some point.  But my main goal is to entertain her in the crate, and with kibble/small treat toys a few pieces of kibble tend to fall outside her crate, and I think this winds her up when she can't reach them.

TreatsZuke's Mini Naturals are one of my favorite finds.  They are the only treat we've used (we also sometimes use pieces of kibble for a reward, or scraps fed from the kitchen, not the table). They are small, moist, and perfect for clicker training.  They do dry out if left open, so I usually carry around handfuls in ziplock bags.  I've used the Peanut Butter, Wild Rabbit, and Roasted Chicken. I haven't gotten the Salmon because I'm worried they'd smell a bit fishy.   I use different flavors for different training tasks (crate skills, housetraining, etc).  I'm convinced that the Peanut Butter sped along our housetraining by a LOT. As far as other treats go....I read some reviews of Greenies that made me cringe (worms in the box? Meh). Rawhide also scares me.  I got a real bone and planned to put peanut butter in it, but the inside was very coarse/gristly, and I was worried she's cut he tongue going at it.  Zuke's all the way!  As for filling the Kong, I'd recommend good old Peanut Butter, Kong Stuff N Paste Liver, and then mix in some kibble or Zuke's.

Clickers: Fun for the whole family.  Really speed the training process along.

Doggie door bell: This has been working well for us so far (more on housetraining to come).

Toys: We bought a bunch.  If you get a puppy, that puppy should have a handful of appropriate toys to chew on AT ALL TIMES.  Fun fact: no matter how much money you spend on toys, a stick and a wet/frozen washcloth will be more popular any day.  Here are her top 5 toys that we actually purchased, and didn't pull from a tree or rag drawer:

Rope Bear: There are 5 rope strands just flailing around on this thing right now, but threads don't come loose too often.  It seems safe and it's been kind of fun to watch it slowly unravel.

Hagen Dogit Octopus: Plush and tug of war in one! One suction cup opened up, and I removed the stuffing.  Otherwise, it's holding up pretty well.

Nyla Bone: Definitely her favorite harder chew toy.  Very durable.  We have purchased several of the petite, in multiple flavors.  She usually chews on it before falling asleep (if she doesn't have a stick).

GoDog Mini Road Kill Wolf: She loves this one.  It has a squeaker and a crinkle tail.  But mostly she loves it because it lives in her nighttime crate and that's the only time she sees it. Bonus: named it Nymeria for themey goodness

GoDog Dragon: Whoa, I just realized while writing this that her wolf toy and dragon toy (her two favorites) are both made by GoDog.  Yay them!  And it looks like they have Zombies...we'll definitely be getting some more toys from these guys.  The dragon also has a squeaker and a crinkle tail.  It seems very durable for a dog of her size/temperament.  These toys have "chew guard technology."  They are double seamed.  No fuzz leakage or concern about her getting to the squeakers so far (we had a bigger crinkle toy but it ripped open after a week). The nice size means she can easily make it squeak (not the case with larger squeaker toys for her).  Bonus: the dragon is also awesome and themey.

Books: "Reaching the Animal Mind" by Karen Pryor and "On Talking Terms With Dogs: Calming Signals" by Turid Rugaas.  I've only Skimmed Pryor's book so far, but I'd read "Don't Shoot the Dog" previously, which is a nice intro into the philosophy of positive reinforcement training.  I finished Rugaas' book during a DMV/MVA nightmare. It's short, and has some nice insight into animal body language.


Dog shampoo: I've been using Earthbath Oatmeal and Aloe.  The smell is pretty good.  Arya had a little puppy dandruff when we got her, and it seems to have gotten better. 

Rubber bath mat: I got this to help stabilize her in the bath and make it less slippery/scary.  I have wound up just carrying her into the shower, so it hasn't seen much use.

Dog brush: This will vary depending on your dog's coat.  Arya has a wirey coat.  Eventually we'll look into professional grooming/stripping.  I got a smallish bristle brush for now for use at home.

Grooming wipes: Again, I got Earthbath.  Great for spot cleaning.

Grooming spray: I tried one that was way too strong for me (and didn't last long), and hated it.  But I just got Hartz Groomers Best Waterless Shampoo, and it's great.  Fun fact: if your puppy is really cute, she will smell like perfume from all the random fancy ladies that come up to you in the street and ask to pet her.

Dog toothbrush/toothpaste: Yeah, so apparently, these exist.  I got peanut butter flavored toothpaste.

Dog nail clippers: Apparently these also exist.  Don't jump in without reading a bit about nail grooming first!  I started by taking off just a tiny bit of nail off to get her used to them.

Paw protectant: Not gonna lie--I love massaging her paws.  Musher's Secret seemed like a great option to soothe/moisturize.  

Stain/odor remover: I started with a bottle of Nature's Miracle, and it's my favorite enzymatic stain remover so far.  I recommend getting a spray bottle and a refill bottle (or two) to start.  I also ordered a couple bottles of Kids N Pets, which is almost the same formula, but they didn't arrive until a few days after we picked Arya up, so I grabbed the Nature's Miracle instead.  I just ran out and started using the Kids N Pets.  It seems to be almost the same formula, but I don't like the smell as much.  I also noticed that there is a Petastic brand which claims that it invented the original Nature's Miracle formula, and that Nature's Miracle stopped using this forumla in 2003.  It's also well reviewed on Amazon, but less widely used.  Nature's Miracle has gotten he job done nicely for me.

Poop bags/dispenser: We started with the Lavender Scented Earth Rated bags, and their dispenser.  The dispenser works fine.  We don't love the scented bags, and they are really hard to open.  The Earth Rated Unscented bags are our favorite so far, and they open a lot more easily, but I've only been able to find them in a 4 pack.  I recently got 16 rolls of these, which were way cheaper--they don't have a cardboard core, so they don't roll as well, but that makes it easier to tear them off.  First bag tore when I took the tape off, but they seem easy to separate.

Pee pads: We weren't going to grab any of these.  But, as my housetraining post will detail, it became a good idea.  I bought two EZwhelp pads.

Paper Towels: I've gone through a lot more of these in the last month than usual (and we use a LOT).

Trash bags: I've also gone through a lot more of these than usual in the last month. 

Rags: Have rags?  Great! You'll have plenty of chances to use them with a new puppy.

Oh my...there were not nearly enough photos near the end there.  Here you go:

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Puppy's First Day Home/Puppy's First Night Home

We got our home visit scheduled the day after we met the pups.  The rescue worker in our area didn't know about our weekend trip, and seemed put out when he called to schedule, but very quickly and kindly agreed to come by late Wednesday night.  It was a laid back visit. We discussed our plan to start crate training immediately (my brother-in-law is a huge crate enthusiast, and we are very happy he introduced us to the world of crates).  The rescue worker seemed skeptical.  "Her file says she hates being crated."

Arya hadn't really been in a crate much yet, as far as I knew.  Foster mom fenced the dogs in the kitchen when she left the house, and they hated being left alone.  But Arya's feelings on crates were yet to be decided, and we knew it was our job to help her develop some positive feelings ASAP.

On the advice of my brother-in-law, I went with the wire iCrate, our first puppy purchase (more on start-up supplies to come).  We ordered pretty much everything on Amazon, while away in Boston for the weekend.  Weather was murky in Maryland on Monday morning, but our flight made it in on time.  We headed home, unpacked our puppy supplies, and made it to the foster mom's home by 1pm to pick Arya up. She ran up to us when we got there.  A little bit of paperwork, many thanks to foster mom, and we were puppy parents.  Lee scooped her up, and we headed to the car.

Lee remembered bringing Shelby home in a box.  She had been a ball of energy, and I think he assumed Arya would try running around the car, so we brought a little file box with a blanket in it.  Arya froze when he tried to put her into it.  She quickly wound up in Lee's lap.

She was scared, and trembled the first few miles.  But she soon calmed down.  We made a quick stop to grab the last couple supplies we needed--dog bowls and some Nature's Miracle.  Lee stayed in the car and put her collar on for the first time.  Near the end of the drive home, she had perked up considerably.

We got home a little after 2pm.  My plan had been to take Arya to our proposed "outside spot," and perfectly initiate our housetraining agenda from the get-go.  Nothin doin.  It was sleety, and freezing.  She sat outside trembling for 5-10 minutes before I scrapped this plan. More on housetraining later.  We brought her inside.

The afternoon was spent letting Arya explore.  First our apartment.  Then her crate.  Later on...some toys!  We immediately introduced her crate cue ("Winterfell." Because we are those people).  We gave her ample treats for getting inside her crate.  And we fed her dinner in her crate that night (and every meal since).  She wasn't fluent on her crate cue by any means that first day.  But she quickly caught on to the fact that the crate was a neat place where good things happen.  And she eagerly, frequently got inside her crate that first day (whether or not we were cueing her...a key sign that she didn't quite get it yet, but she was on the right track).

That first afternoon, the crate officially became a happy place.  We'd had a choice between picking Arya up at 1pm or 8pm.  And I'm really glad we got her in the afternoon and had the time to expose her to some happy crate experiences before her first evening with us.

Happy crate exposure was the first good choice we made as new puppy parents.  The second good choice--by far the decision I'm most proud of so far--was how we handled sleeping arrangements.  I was especially worried about how sleeping would go because foster mom had told us that the puppies and dogs all slept happily in a big pile at her place.  Arya was especially close to one brother, Carlos, and they loved to cuddle.  (I apologized to Carlos profusely when we picked Arya up).  Foster mom told us there would likely be a lot of crying that first night.

We planned to keep Arya crated in our room at night.  My husband and some friends and family joked about how quickly I'd cave and pull Arya into bed.  Now, I am a softy.  But I am also a scientist.  I wanted a happy, healthy, well-structured life for this puppy.  And I knew that bed sleeping probably wouldn't facilitate this.  I worried about accidents in the bed.  More importantly, I knew I wouldn't be able to sleep if I was worrying about her falling out of bed or wandering around the bedroom unsupervised.  Maybe someday, after a good routine is in place, we'll pull her into bed on a lazy Saturday morning, but it was never part of the plan for our first night.  (In the meantime, I get plenty of naps with her on the couch during the day).

I wanted to temper routine with puppy comfort--she was going to be stressed and missing her siblings.  I also didn't want to reinforce any whining.  I knew that if she started whining, I'd probably want to get down on the floor and sleep next to her.  So I just planned to do that. That way,  I wouldn't reinforce whining.  And I'd help her feel at home her first night.  This is actually really similar to what my husband's family did with Shelby.  Shelby slept in the garage.  The first night, Lee brought a sleeping bag and slept out there with her. Put the sleep system you want in place, but feel free to build in a little extra comfort BEFORE whining starts, especially if you know you're likely to cave.  This is best puppy tip I can give.  If I'd gotten down on the floor AFTER whining started, I think I'd be a very sleepy lady today.

At bedtime, we cued her to get into her crate in our bedroom, next to our bed--one "Winterfell" and she was in.  And then I settled down with a pillow and a blanket that I'd left right next to her crate on the floor.  She whimpered for literally 2 seconds, then fell asleep.  For 7 hours.

Second night, I slept on the floor but backed up a few feet toward the bed.  Third night, I got into bed.  She never whimpered for more than a couple minutes.  When she stopped, I'd softly say "Good girl, quiet.  Now sleep."  And whimpering quickly died down.  The worst night was actually the 4th night.  Lee was puttering around in the bedroom and the light was on for a little bit and she was riled up.  But she stopped whimpering after 6 minutes.  She's never whimpered longer than this at night, and it's rare that she does it at all (daytime is a different story).  We take her outside right before bed so we know she's not asking to go out if there is a little whimpering.  In those first couple weeks, when we had no control over bathroom time, we went to bed soon after her selected bathroom time around 10 or 11pm, with a little bit of time built in for winding down.

Puppy lessons from day one/night one; if you're going to crate train, start building happy crate memories the second you get your puppy home.  And if you think you're going to cave and give a puppy extra comfort if it whines the first night, PLAN TO GIVE THAT EXTRA COMFORT FROM THE START, and then gradually ease the puppy into your actual longterm sleep arrangement.  I did this by sleeping right next to the crate, and then backing up toward the bed over the next two nights.  This will look different depending on your plan.  You could start the puppy in your room and gradually move the puppy outside your room if that is your goal.  The most important thing is: make a plan for the night and stick with it.  Your puppy won't learn that whining is a way to get things, and you will be a much better rested puppy parent.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Finding Arya

I'm sitting on a couch in Maryland, watching "Lady and the Tramp" with an awesome puppy sleeping next to me.

How did this happen?

I've wanted a dog since I was a kiddo.  It took me 31 years.  Family allergies/lack of dog enthusiasm took dogs off the table for us.  My mom almost got suckered into bidding on a husky puppy at a fundraiser once, but that was the closest we ever came to dog ownership. We had the requisite carnival goldfish growing up.  I caught plenty of frogs and lizards.  We got a hamster after my sister's classroom hamster died and my parents volunteered to replace it, only to pick out a female that happened to be pregnant.

My mom asked for a tarantula one Christmas--she named it Noel.  None of us ever handled this fuzzy critter, but she was a great pet...we only had to feed her once a month and she made a nifty conversation piece.  When we turned 10, my sister and I were allowed to pick out a pet we could independently care for (but no birds!)  My sister got a lop.  When you get a rabbit, you learn quickly that most rabbits don't like to cuddle, unless very well handled and socialized.  Cuddling = "Something is about to eat me!!" to a bunny.  She was about as friendly as the Monty Python rabbit. She lived in a fenced area of the backyard.  Eventually she lived on our roof for a couple months...but that's another story.

When I turned 10, I picked a lovely pink and lavender ghost corn snake.  I named her Blossom.  I maintain that this wasn't a reference to the TV show.  But I was 10.  Blossom was neat.  I loved taking her to the park and showing her off.  In high school, I also owned 3 chameleons.  The first, Vladimir Adrian Chernabog Dodgson III, died after 2 weeks (an unscrupulous salesperson sold me a sickly critter with an abscess from a cricket bite).  The two who stuck with me a bit longer were Byron Caliban Mission de Bergerac (3 horned Jackson chameleon) and Dolores Augusta Persephone Liddell (Senegal chameleon).  I was 16.  I liked books.

I thought about getting another snake in college.  But the smell wasn't the greatest.  And Blossom got cranky and bitey near the end.  My husband Lee and I got married in 2005.  Within a few months of getting married, I made a PowerPoint presentation for him titled "Why We Should Get A Chameleon."

He didn't go for it.  He doesn't like keeping wild, tropical things in terrariums...fair enough.  He had a couple family dogs growing up.  The one I knew, Shelby, was a gorgeous Australian Shepherd.  Lee's family got her when Lee was 15 years old.  She was a puppy--he picked her out.  The breeders noted that they'd named her Terminator.  My mother-in-law did not heed this warning.  In hindsight, she felt this was possibly a poor choice.  But Shelby was a wonderful dog.  At first, she'd jump like crazy when I came into the house, and bark whenever I hugged Lee.  Over time, she mellowed out around me.  I thought this was because she'd accepted me as a member of the family.  In all likelihood, it was simply her failing vision.  Shelby got more and more wobbly, and was put to sleep last year, at the age of 16.

The puppy fever really kicked in for me about 5 years ago.  Since I didn't grow up in a dog family, I was always a little daunted by the prospect of owning one.  How does that work?  But about 5 years ago some grad school friends brought their 2 dogs over during a BBQ. The dogs ran around our home.  They jumped on our bean bag.  They didn't bite cords and electrocute themselves.  They didn't destroy the house.  They were lovely.  I told my husband that if he wanted to surprise me with a puppy, I was officially totally cool with that plan.  I began to think more and more about living with a dog.  Pups started catching my eye. An early one was a lovely pekingese border collie mix at the local shelter named Gomez. But it was not our time. From July 2010-July 2011, I had to live 2 hours away from my husband during weekdays while completing internship.  I started spending inordinate amounts of time on petfinder.com.  Often while tipsy.

My sister had told me several years earlier that if I ever got a dog, she'd need to stay in a hotel when she came to visit (allergies, general dog dislike).  Then she fell in love with a boy who had a fabulous sheltie named Atticus.  In November, 2011, my sister and this boy got engaged.  We visited them soon after for Thanksgiving.  Three days with Atticus really fanned the flames. I had a fever.  And the only prescription was...more puppy.


In December, 2011, I was preparing to head home to California to visit my family for Christmas.  I expanded my petfinder search to California.  That's when I submitted my first adoption application.  Amber. A lovely, golden, Benji-ish mix. Sweet eyes. In need of some good meals. Scruuuuuffy.  I love me some scruff.  Scruff = looks like a puppy forever.

The rescue specifically said that they didn't do out of state adoptions.  We were living in Iowa.  I spent 2 hours on the application--offering to do a home visit via skype.  I may also have been avoiding some job-related paperwork at the time.  I got a rejection email in 3 minutes.

I kept up the puppy-stalking.  I fell in love with a dog named Beau in Des Moines, a black schnauzer mix, but they wanted someone who was home all day.

In March, 2012, this beautiful girl popped up on petfinder about an hour away from us:

Lilly.  Schnauzer-dachshund mix.  Lee was smitten.  But she was adopted in a couple hours before we could even make a trip to see her. We also saw "John Carter" around this time.  I proposed adopting this inexplicably bald beauty and naming her Woola.

But she had some pretty severe stomach problems.  A few weeks later, I took my husband to an adoption event to meet Franklin.  A little black cairn mix.  He was shy.  I adored him.

We went home.  I wrote up a puppy budget.  The budget was reasonable.  Our schedules were not.  I was working over an hour away, and was typically gone from 6am-6pm or longer.  My husband was typically gone from 8am-6pm.  I'd never really thought about these logistics. Ten hours alone, minimum, didn't seem like a very happy time for a dog.  A dog walker or doggie daycare was not in the budget.  I stopped seriously proposing adoptions.  However, I didn't stop visiting petfinder.

I contacted a couple local rescues and volunteered my services for weekend fostering, but nothing came up.  I also strongly considered trying to foster this gorgeous 3 legged husky, but they wanted a fenced yard.

In November, 2012 my husband finished his dissertation.  He quickly lined up a postdoc in Maryland.  They wanted him to start ASAP.  I began job-hunting and dog-hunting in earnest.  I developed an extensive Chrome bookmark folder (hundreds of dogs).  My husband headed out to Maryland in February, 2013.  The plan was for me to join him in early March.  As February unfolded, it became apparent that the job I was most excited about was also going to involve a pretty big raise.  Combined with my husband's raise, groovy dog care was a definite possibility.  I submitted an application for Reilly, an adult corgi-scottie mix (what?!) a week before moving to Maryland.

Reilly was adopted a few days before I got to town.  I also submitted applications for Scout (a young terrier mix)...

...and for Carrie (a two year old black terrier mix with white paws and little white tip on her tail).

Didn't hear anything.  I made it to Maryland.  We got our stuff moved in.  My husband expressed some reservations about adopting rather than going to a reputable breeder.  He shared that he was worried about doggie emotional baggage, and really wanted to be able to bond with a new dog.  I indicated that getting a rescue was important to me, that the dogs come from lots of different situations, and that I was sure we'd be able to find a dog who was a good fit.

On St. Patrick's Day my husband, typically a light drinker, had 3 beers.  I truly though I'd talked him into adopting a 10 year old border collie with arthiritis and failing vision.  On waking up the next morning, this turned out not to be the case.  My husband and I have always differed in breed preferences.  He likes bigger dogs.  I have often joked that I will get a little black yorkiepoo the second he dies.  But he was the one who pushed for an apartment in Maryland (5th floor, 900 square feet) so he conceded that a smaller dog would be a better fit.  Also, my husband was really in favor of adopting a puppy, despite the time and energy required.  I really liked the idea of adopting an older, less desirable dog (Heartworm? 3 legs? But ideally housebroken).  Puppies get snatched up pretty quickly on petfinder--I liked the idea of getting an older  dog that was really in NEED of rescue.  I also liked the idea of getting an older dog because you know more about what you're getting in terms of personality and appearance.  My other ideal traits included:

Good Apt. Size/Energy Level
Kid Friendly
Dog friendly
Good in car
Low shed
Medium to long fur = Scruffy
Adorable/goofy looking (give me a gorgeous puppy or a hairless Chinese Crested)
Not too snouty (is this weird? I love dogs with rounder muzzles or smushy faces)
Dark fur (I wear black pants pretty much everyday)

While discussing dogs that Sunday, 3/18, Lee mentioned a fondness for beagles.  I've never loved beagles...primarily due to the sea-monkey-esque let-down where they don't live up to their cartoon likenesses.  We joked that a beagle/shih tzu mix would be a great compromise (google image confirmed--bea tzus are pretty friggin cute).  A scruffy beagle.  Good call.

Unbenounced to Lee, I had some 10 week old scruffy beagle-terrier mix pups squirreled away in my bookmarks (at this point, an elaborate series of folders--best, best of best, best of best of best).  These puppies had been listed the week before.  They were being fostered in Falls Church, VA, about 30 minutes away.  It was unclear whether I'd be starting my new job in a week or a month.  We were going to be at PAX East over the next weekend and had agreed we couldn't bring a dog home until after this trip.  Surely adopting a puppy was crazy?  Would we have time to train it?  Would we have time to help it feel at home?  Surely these puppies were adopted already?

On Monday morning, I called several local doggie daycares.  They indicated that they accept puppies as young as 16 weeks, once their shots are complete.  I also contacted my future employer.  They indicated that I wouldn't start work for at least 4 weeks.  I looked at possible interim dog care options (after I started work, before vaccines were complete).  It seemed like we could possibly make this work.  I submitted an application.  I didn't tell Lee...the puppies were too great, I didn't want it to be a let down.

Lee came home for lunch. I heard from the pups' foster mom at 12:45pm.  She still had puppies (it turns out a lady had said she'd wanted two puppies, then called a few days later to report she had allergies and couldn't take any).  We went back and forth...the online application forms hadn't saved correctly.  But the foster mom was really sweet and helpful.  We finally set up a visit for Tuesday night.  I told Lee he was really pulling one over on me--this would be a lot of work, and no one would believe he'd twisted my arm into adopting a puppy.

Clockwise, from the upper left, these are "Carly," "Carlos," "Cameron," and "Cailey." Carly was my favorite from the start.  The runt.  I was also pretty fond of Cailey.  When we arrived, there was a lot of barking.  The foster mom's pack of big dogs came into the room first--4 or 5 or them.  Two were hers--Hurricane Katrina rescues (a yellow lab and a very dignified chow).  Plus a few other foster dogs.  The puppies flopped into the room a few seconds behind (tiny legs!)  There were 3 pups.  Cailey was already adopted.  Cameron was there, but spoken for.  Carly and Carlos (top row) remained up for grabs.  We began to coo over them.  The most recent foster addition got feisty and got ahold of one of the pups' ears (we're not sure if it was Carly or Carlos).  There were whimpers.  Foster mom removed the offending dog.  In the midst of the chaos, Carly plopped herself down right in front of me and looked up at me expectantly.  I grabbed her.  

We sat and talked with foster mom.  The puppies had been found in rural West Virginia before making it to their foster home in Falls Church through Homeward Trails rescue.  The foster mom regularly makes trips to rural areas to rescue unwanted dogs and litters.  She was fabulous.  She noted that the puppies were likely a genetic grab-bag...beagle? terrier? dachshund?  I've finally settled on schneagle, but more on that later.  I eventually plopped Carly in Lee's lap.  Carlos continued to chew on him.

Foster Mom confirmed that the pups were actually 12 weeks now and had received 2 rounds of vaccinations.  Job timing should work out well.  The pups were excited and nibbly for a few minutes, but then curled up in our laps.  I said we probably needed to get in the car and debate whether we wanted Carly or Carlos (I thought Lee was favoring Carlos).  Lee said we should get Carly.  We agreed we'd pick her up in 6 days, after our geek-convention, if the requisite home-visit went well.

On the drive home, we talked about names.  I'd been considering Seymour ("Little Shop"/"Futurama") or Toby ("Greatest Mouse Detective") for a boy.  Lee has always joked that if we have kids, our first born will be named Phlogiston Aether (two debunked theories of matter).  I noted that I would happily use these names for a puppy instead.  I'd definitely fantasized about calling "Phlogi! Pholgi!" to a new dog (boy or girl). Lee said that for a girl, he'd just want to go with Aether.  Pretty.  Any other ideas?  As we drove through the tidal basin, I thought about other things my husband and I have been enjoying together recently.  "Game of Thrones" was high on the list.  "Arya," I said.  "Yeah, Arya."