Too Young?

Young BearBoth of us, that is.  Bear is nearly eight months old.  I am training a dog for the first time.  I’ve always had dogs around, but I’ve never had a puppy.  We always had adult dogs.  Looking at the positive side of things, could it be that my frustration with Bear’s lack of signaling, and his rambunctious chewing is merely a puppy thing?

Winter break is more challenging.  The teenagers forage through the night, leaving dishes at nose-level for Bear.  Wrappers lay on the ground.  Jackets and bags are scattered throughout.  It’s all I can do to not pull out the Glad bag, fill it up with teenager shrapnel, and drop off at Goodwill.  First thing in the morning I do a sweep of the house, gathering remnants of first-world teenage life: mostly eaten bag of chips, half-full glass of chocolate milk, bowl of ice cream, spoon on floor, candy wrappers, slippers, fingernail polish, fingernail polish remover, roll of toilet paper (I hope for fingernail polish remover)

My dulled human senses overlook some gems.  Bear follows me as I complete my sweep.  He simply follows, occasionally grabbing at a particularly choice wrapper.  What he is really doing is noting where all the un-mined gems remain after my initial sweep.  After showing some interest in my breakfast, he quietly departs.

Posing with Dec and Sam for the Nerf battle.

Posing with Dec and Sam for the Nerf battle.

Bear’s poops are now filled with a potpourri of what the kids leave out and I do not gather on my initial sweep.  It is difficult to not investigate what has been ingested, yet remains intact.  Wrappers and Nerf bullets abound.  Ritz cracker packaging and granola bar wrappers remain intact and would be able to be re-used if they weren’t torn apart.

Friday was a particularly active chew day for Bear.  Declan and Maggie had a doctor’s appointment, so Bear was left with Fiona and her friend (both sleeping) when we left at one.  We returned from the appointment to see Bear on the side yard, alone.  Always playful and happy to see anyone, Bear bounded up to say hello.

“What is Bear doing outside?” I asked Fiona, barely containing my anger.

“I don’t know.  He is so annoying.” She replied.

Having been gone for the past two hours, I chose not to engage in verbal combat.  Back inside the house, though, Bear had consumed a straw basket in the living room, found my shoe and Dec’s shoe (still serviceable, but with some rubber chewed off), and apparently opened the door into our room, chewing up a gardening book and two boxes.

“You left the door to my room open?” I stated as a pseudo question to Fiona.

“No, Bear opened the door.” Fiona responded.  Since when can Bear open a door?  Quickly calculating the costs and benefits of engaging an enraged teenager into verbal combat, I chose to start picking up what remained of our possessions.

I simply responded with, “Wow, Bear is really learning a lot.”

Carrying things in his mouth.

Carrying things in his mouth.

But here is where my ignorance clouds my judgement.  I am sure there are people who know how puppies develop, and come to think of it, I have been told by some of these people how puppies develop.  But it doesn’t sink in when someone tells you about the different stages.  It is too easy to simply nod at the explanation, agreeing with the expert that has gone through it themselves.  And it is even easier to suggest improvements (either out loud or in your head).  Why don’t you do this?  Would it help if you did this?

There are people out there training dogs to do amazing things.  I have watched a lot of their YouTube videos.  They go through step by step directions how to train your dog to pick up their toys.  Start by presenting something for your dog to grab.  Then have them hold it for longer and longer periods of time.  Then have the object on the floor, not in your hand.  The number of steps depends on how involved the “trick” is.  I’ve noticed that I am able to get Bear through the first one or two steps and then I hit a road block.

Similar to where we are at with the signaling of low-blood sugar, we get stuck on a preliminary task.  Bear can put the object in his mouth, but he won’t hold it for any amount of time.  When I withhold the click-treat, he quickly flops to the ground and begins playing with the object (I’ve been using a blood-glucose testing kit).

My new hope is that Bear and I are simply not at the optimal experience for this stuff, and that we will soon develop into something more.


Over my head

Immediately after waking, Bear heads to the couch for a nap.

The last time we had a lesson with Kristin was a while ago.  Long enough ago that I don’t remember.  I vaguely remember her saying that “adolescent” dogs can be a pain in the butt.

At six months old, I think Bear might be an adolescent.  We’ve had him for four months.  In the beginning it was all exciting and new.  “Look! Did you see him go to the door before peeing on the floor?”  We’d announce to anyone willing to listen to the amazement of a dog learning not to pee and poop inside.

Like your child first eating solid food, or sitting on their own, the “firsts” are important when they happen.  But I’m not sure we hold onto them.  If you are with a new baby or puppy, I’m sure you’ll never forget, but I was in a doctor’s office yesterday filling out information for Fiona.  It is a family practice office with a lot of newborns, so they had questions about developmental milestones, like sitting up, walking, eating, talking, etc.  I had to guess on most of them.  At some point when they are real young you tell people how old they are in weeks.  Then at some point you tell them in months, in half-month increments.  About the time you switch to half-year increments you’ve forgotten what it is like to get up three times a night; you forget about changing diapers; and you start thinking how nice it would be to have another baby.

Fiona’s Crayon art has increased Bear’s colored wax consumption.

With a dog’s accelerated development, I still remember the excitement I had about some of Bear’s firsts.  As I pick up a poop with a M&M’s wrapper, a Lego, a plastic bedazzled jewel, and blue foam that might be part of a Nerf bullet, I think about how astonished I was scooping up the Lego-filled poop.  What a rookie move.

It’s hardly worth noting the multi-colored droppings now.  (The latest installment is crayons).  There is a condescending air of importance as you work your way through the developmental stages.  Oh yes, the challenges of getting the dog to go outside.  Thank goodness we don’t have to deal with THAT anymore.  Oh I remember when he would just run away from me at the park.  How frustrating!  Not anymore, though.

I am experiencing both sides of this condescension.  There are times when Bear can be a great dog, walking nicely beside me on the street, sitting next to me in a restaurant, or signaling for a low-blood sugar.  There are also times when “good” dog owners have the opportunity to look down at me.  As we near the park on walks, you can witness me yanking Bear around as he pulls on the leash, anticipating running free.  Even worse is when I try to get him to run alongside the bike.

Declan, Sam, and Bear prepare for trick or treating.

Bear continues to annoy the teenagers of the house.  This morning he chewed up a headband (“I HAAAAAAATE BEAR!!!!!!!!!!!”).  Last week he finished Maggie’s Halloween candy (“Daddy, you have to buy me two pounds of candy.”).  He also chewed up Fiona’s friend’s shoe and bike helmet (“He is SO annoying.”).  He threw up in the car again (“Why does he have to come in the car?”).  Bear is oblivious to their annoyance.  He continues to greet them at the door as if their presence just made his day.

Declan, however, not being in the developmental stage of life involving only oneself and possibly the two foot radius around oneself (aka adolescence), continues to pet Bear.  Declan will even work on some obedience with Bear.  And he likes it when he sleeps in his room.  Declan’s friends talk about when Bear will be able to come over to their house and when he might be able to go to school.  When I witness these conversations and the warm gestures from Declan, I almost feel bad about how angry I get at Bear while attempting to get him to run alongside the bike.  Almost.


  • Does Bear smell the cotton swab in the low-scent sample or the actual low-scent?
  • Will Bear be able to wake up if he smells a low-scent while sleeping?
  • Will Bear ever be able to control himself around other dogs?
  • Will Bear ever “come” when called?
  • How many shoes will he chew?
  • How many Nerf guns will he disintegrate?
  • How many cups of food is enough?

Turf Wars

It has begun.  I woke Saturday morning to see the note.  Scrawled on an envelope it was clear Fiona had been wronged.  It said, ” Bear is no longer allowed in the basement.”

Since the end of summer Bear has had an all-access pass to the house.  He ventures down to the basement to escape the heat.  He also finds a lot of treasures in the kids’ rooms.  He’ll often come up to his favorite couch in the living room and tear apart the remains of a bag of corn nuts, or lick the inside of a Kit Kat wrapper.  It makes me wonder what other living creatures are feasting on the remains of summer in the basement.

Bear also runs to the bathroom as he hears cat food being poured into their bowls in the safety of the bathtub.  He’ll lay impatiently outside the tub, waiting to devour the food.  He hasn’t gone over the tub threshold.  The cat food remains safe in the tub.

The First

I don’t think it was planned out.  It was more of a third degree offense.  Bear needed to relieve himself and the tarp smelled like the outdoors, so he went ahead and made a steamer in Maggie’s room partially on the tarp.

Maggie had been vocal about not wanting Bear in her room.  He had chewed up a book of hers, eaten quite a bit of stashed goodies, and spread her garbage across her floor searching and finding more treasures.  So it is not shocking Maggie attempted to revoke Bear’s visa to her room.

It is worth noting Bear had been mining treasures in Fiona’s room as well.  However, the state of Fiona’s room prohibits any sort of detection of foraging for treasures and spreading garbage around the room.  Maggie’s room, however, resembles a military cadet’s room who happens to have a lot of colorful clothes, makeup, and a lot of purses.

Though I was upset Bear had an accident indoors, I was partially tempered by the fact that it was done on the tarp, and that it was mostly a healthy poop.  I chalked it up to not letting him out on time and the tarp resembling the outdoors; in a dog’s odorous world, smell dominates.

The Second

Not sure when it happened, but the result I saw was the note scrawled on the envelope.  Bear had an accident in Fiona’s room.  Again, I don’t believe this to be a premeditated crime, more of an accident of coincidence.  Say Bear had a big meal, had a nap, woke up to find some dessert in Fiona’s room, and suddenly the meal is done processing.  To the victim, however, it is an assault on the sanctity of her room.

A line has been crossed.  Suddenly the presence of Bear in her room is very obvious.  Though he’d been foraging in her room for days, and some chips and crackers and cookies may have gone missing, this is the first time Fiona has really felt Bear’s presence in her room.

At this point I am a bit worried.  Though the basement often looks like a dumping ground with Legos, clothes, towels, and papers scattered around, I do not want Bear to think it is his dumping area.

Fiona is not happy, and she lets Bear know.  She glares at him and tells him to get away.  As a puppy, I am not sure that Bear picks up on any of the subtleties of a teenager’s verbal and nonverbal cues.  Maybe an “angry” scent is released, keeping Bear a safe distance from his new nemesis.

The unfortunate thing is we are to drive to Seattle for a family celebration.  We have a room reserved and Bear is coming with us.

It’s a three hour drive.  There is a fair amount of positioning in terms of who sits where.  The preferred seat changes depending on the age of the kids.  A few years back, Fiona and Declan preferred the backseat so they could annoy and beat each other up as we crossed the Rockies.  Last year Fiona and Maggie preferred the second row as they were able to help choose the playlist, and at the same time staying away from Declan.  With Fiona’s recent musical tastes straying from Maggie’s tastes, and with Fiona’s anger still bubbling over, she chose to sit solo in the backseat.  Sitting in the middle of the backseat allows her to stretch her legs as she blasts Watsky on the iPod.

The First Counter Action

Bear is getting bigger.  In fact, at his last visit to the Vet he weighed 45 pounds.  As he grows he prefers human furniture more and more.  Early on during car trips I tried to get him up on the seat, thinking that it would be more comfortable and less apt to car-sickness (being able to see the horizon).  He would whine on the seat and find his way to the space between the seat and the sliding door.

Soon after departing on the three-hour trip to Seattle, Bear was eyeing the right-side of the backseat as a nice napping spot.  All would have been smooth had he not recently pooped in Fiona’s room.  Fiona eyed him with contempt, wanting nothing less than to have him share her seat.  Though there was room on the floor, Bear now preferred a seat.  He pushed his way up onto the seat.

Bear sipping water at the pumps

Fiona continued to glare at Bear, complaining about how much space he was taking up.  Now is the time that Bear began reacting to all this negative energy coming from his seatmate.  Instead of settling down and sleeping, Bear sat up, staring out the window.  And he began drooling.  A lot of drool.

“Ohhhh GROSSSSS!  He is drooooooling!” Fiona screamed.  This normally wouldn’t be a big deal, but being an experienced road-tripper, Fiona has a setup in the backseat with all her stuff, which appears to be most of the contents of her room.  She has both ends of the seat laid out with books, sketchpad, shoes, makeup, and other sundry items.  Not seeing a solution, Heather suggests that Fiona put her stuff all to the left side of the seat.  This keeps the drool from her stuff, but it doesn’t take away the already drooled on stuff, nor does it take away the poop from yesterday.  The glares continue.

It takes a while, but Bear finally settles down and goes to sleep.  We arrive at the hotel, change for the party, and find out we are in someone else’s room, which would explain the grapes on the table that Maggie ate to treat her low blood-sugar, the suitcase on the couch that wasn’t ours, and the toiletry bag that resembled a lunch box that also wasn’t ours.  They will find us another room, but in the meantime we have to pack our stuff.  I am amazed how quickly we can fill a room with our junk.  One bed is completely covered with Fiona and Maggie’s clothes.  There are five pairs of shoes by the closet, and Bear’s pen is set up in the corner.  We pack everything back into the car and head to the party.

Counter Strike Two

Again, I don’t think it is premeditated, but Bear strikes again.  Because of all the people in the party, with food and drink everywhere, Bear stays in the car while we go inside.  This may seem cruel, but in actuality is much kinder to Bear, where he can enjoy the entire backseat to himself.  Granted he is alone, not his preferred state, but he is not bombarded with strangers and noise and smells.  Overall, a healthier place for him to be.

And he did not stay there in solitude the entire time.  Like parents in a previous era who would go to the bar and drink while their kids played in the car, we came out occasionally to take Bear on short walks and make sure he was alright.  Also, some people at the party wanted to meet him.

At 1130 we piled into the car with Leer, a friend of Fiona’s from camp.  She lives in Seattle and came to the party to see Fiona and was coming back to the hotel with us.

Fiona, Leer, Maggie, Dec, and Bear in the van. Bear sits on the side that he puked on.

As they climbed to the back of the van, Leer noticed the vomit.  Bear had thrown up on the seat and on the toiletry bag.  Had it only been on the seat and the floor of the van, it would not have been so bad.  But all our stuff, including the toiletry bag, was back in the car.

Not sure what to say at this point.  I don’t even want to consider some stomach ailment.  In fact, I only think that he was nervous.  A car ride, being glared at, a hotel room, back in the car, and then all alone.

We cover it up with a blanket and get on to the hotel.


Bear is back on the bland, low-fiber food until things firm up some more.  I think he actually prefers that food.  After getting to the hotel room, I take him outside to do his business.  Since he pooped on one of the walks during the party, I am not concerned that he doesn’t poop.  But it is strange.  He normally poops several times a day, and he has pooped once.

And the next day he only poops once.  And then the next day he doesn’t poop at all.  That low-fiber food is doing its job.

Then Bear puts one pile on a some Legos and two more piles close by.  And the basement officially becomes the dumping grounds.  So maybe he actually only weights 140 pounds now.

This brings us back to the opening note scrawled on the back of an envelope. I need to put the gate back up so he doesn’t wonder back down there and leave a deposit.

Bear is no longer allowed in the basement.

The ins and the outs

Jelly and Bear share food and water

Much like with a new baby, I find myself focused on what goes in and what comes out of Bear.  My mood throughout the day is largely dependent on the healthfulness of Bear’s poops.  You can tell how the poops are on how I walk.  I walk confidently with a healthy firm poop.  Not only are they easy to clean up, but it is an indication of a healthy internal system.  All the mechanisms functioning smooth.  Second to the firm poop, is the Lego siting.  Everything is functioning, but I begin to wonder how many remain?  If one made it out, how many are stuck?  Looking out for signs of stress and pain, I worry about a pointy Lego-arm caught in Bear’s duodenum, causing some inflammation, some internal bleeding, and potentially a cut in the GI tract.

The random Lego siting is much better, however, than the excrement that resembles a Coke-flavored Slurpee.  With a Lego siting things are working inside,  but with a Slurpee something has shut down.  Could it be something he ate?  Or maybe he caught some virus (parvo?)?  How long do we wait before calling the vet?  And if we go into the vet, what will they be able to tell me other than to make sure he gets enough fluids and to get a sample?  And getting the sample turns my stomach, putting into question the entire puppy experience.  I begin to wonder if there might be a nice farm where Bear might be happier.

After witnessing a Slurpee, I am watching what he eats and making sure he doesn’t steal away to some hidden corner of the house to make an unwanted deposit.  It is tiring.  And beyond being on constant watch, I am anticipating what the next experience may be, updating how I might react to another Slurpee and hoping it will not occur in a neighbor’s yard.

Fresh from a walk, I am thankful that Bear has gone from the Slurpee to a goat cheese log: soft but holding form.

Another alert while sleeping?

Going to bed last night, Declan was 394, which called for a two+ unit correction.  In the past we might leave that alone, not knowing how it might metabolize through the night.  And there were times, depending on how active he was, that he woke up with a low blood sugar after having a 400 reading before bed without a correction.

But Bear was sleeping in Dec’s room last night, so Declan received a correction.  At 530 this morning Declan brought Bear to our room.  I lay in bed thinking Bear may have alerted Declan of a low blood sugar.  Should I get up and test Dec’s blood sugar?  It was early, though, and I needed to sleep.  When the alarm sounded without any more sleeping, turns out Declan was low.  He didn’t test, but he grabbed sugar tabs on the way back down stairs, and he was 107 when he finally tested at 630.

I am chalking this up to Bear’s second low-alert.


Not exactly sure why it happened, but Bear took a dump in Maggie’s room last night.  It could be that she had a tarp down while painting the walls (some last-minute redecorating before the first day of school); or it could have been the chicken scraps I gave him.  Needless to say, he deposited a soft-serve mound in her room.  He was considerate enough to leave three-quarters of it on the tarp.

Sidenote: Bear and the cats, Jelly and Ashley, both male cats, are more comfortable with each other.  Jelly doesn’t react at all to Bear yapping and general annoyance, while Ashley has taken to hissing and punching.  One or both of them come on the walks with us.  They generally lag ten feet behind us.  They must know how much this annoys Bear.  They saunter along behind, and he continually checks where they are.  Today Jelly followed us across a busy street.  This was a first, and I was worried he might not make it back across.  We lost site of him on the walk, and I wondered if he might find the underside of a tire.  I listened for tires screeching.  While typing just now, Jelly slinked in through the window.

Back home

After one last trip to the beach, and some swimming in the pool, we left the land of “nice cars” and “fancy houses”.  We departed the land of Mercedes, BMWs, and Audis, heading north to the land of Mazdas, Subarus, and trucks.  We traded the nice water of Del Mar beach for the murky chlorine of Sellwood pool.

Aaron picked us up at the airport with Bear in tow.  He was very happy, but tired.  After licking hellos, he quickly settled back down to sleep.  Once we got home and went inside, however, he was really excited.  He was happy to see his people, but overjoyed to be back in his digs after his five-day stay at the hospital, three days at the Souther’s, and one day at Aaron’s.  And he was hungry.

He scarfed down the bland food from the vet, and moved onto the kibble from the pantry.  He looked the part of a starving dog, and was acting as one as well.

We went through some of the training from ten days before: Go to bed, scent-training, and obedience.  I am curious to see how he picks these skills back up.  Going on walks is clearly something he has not done very much of.  The obedience and scent training is also something that he needs more practice with.  On the whole Bear still needs a lot of rest, and his excitement for being home is masking somewhat his need to mend.

It’s nice to be back home with Bear, though our time in San Diego was great.

Maggie at the Del Mar racetrack, viewing horses before the post.


Maggie and Declan on our way into Legoland (one of the low points of the trip)


Before leaving for San Diego, we visited Bear at Dove-Lewis pet hospital.  He didn’t look that good.  We now get twice or thrice daily updates from Dove-Lewis, my mom (yes, she is on the call list), and Kristin (the trainer).

As we left our visit with Bear, after we took off the gowns, rubber gloves, footy slippers, and dipped our feet in some toxic solution to kill any remaining Parvovirus, the technician warned us that dogs with parvo often don’t make it.  She told us that we should be realistic but still be hopeful.  She had told us that he was doing better in the morning, but then tailed off as the day wore on, which is often how I feel on any given day.

Most of the updates about Bear are stagnant.  They don’t change much.  He really hasn’t eaten anything aside from 16 kibbles of food.  He had really bad diarrhea, but that has since diminished, along with the blood in the diarrhea.  His blood work has remained decent for a dog with parvo.  Other communications I’ve had with Dove-Lewis is with their accountant giving more permissions to charge our Visa.

It is worth noting that they knew exactly how many kibbles Bear ate.  This and the other list of things they know about Bear (white blood cell count, protein levels, and others I can neither pronounce nor spell) is an indication of the bill accumulating.


We are in San Diego and enjoying the environs, including Legoland.  Just before Maggie, Declan, and I loaded into the car I gave consent to use the feeding tube to get some much needed nutrients to Bear.

Legoland sucks.  I would get much more bang for my buck playing Lotto or PowerBall.  The buildup is similar.  There is great expectation about the fun to be had.  You fantasize about what would be your first move.  With the lottery you wonder where you would live and what you would do everyday.  With Legoland you wonder about which ride to go on, which models to build, and how much fun the kids will have.

Then reality hits.  With the lottery it is over pretty quick.  The last lotto ticket I had, which was given to me as a birthday present, I did not have even one matching number.  Shouldn’t there be some sort of “total loser” prize for not getting even one number matched?  Like they’d give you the price of the ticket back, or half the price of the ticket?

At Legoland reality creeps up to you slowly.  It starts with parking.  You drive into this giant expanse of a parking lot.  There is nothing around.  No one would drive out to this place and park and not shell out the $89 to get into the park, yet they charge you $12 to park.  And that is the economy lot.  You can pay $20 for the privilege of parking closer in.

At the airport there is short-term, long-term, long-long-term, and then there is economy parking.  This is the economy parking; at the airport it is one or two exits before the airport with a 15 minute shuttle ride to departures.  For $12 we found a spot that was a 15 minute walk to the entrance.

Once in the park there are the lines, and the heat, and more lines to get food, and then paying for food.  The bill for lunch, which I abstained from, was $25.  Dec had a grilled cheese kids meal, and Maggie had a roast beef sandwich and a drink.  The drink was $3.50, which I had high hopes for until seeing the “Sorry no refills” sign at the fountain (I learned my lesson trying to dupe food service at a ski area cafeteria in high school).

I got more bitter as the day progressed with more incidental fees being tacked on (you have to pay $5 to dry yourself outside the squirt gun zone).  Not sure it was worth the couple of pictures captured.  I’m hoping there will be more lasting memories for the kids than the relief felt as we entered the “Build it…Test it” room that was both “free” AND air-conditioned.

Aside from the AC, the highlight for me was getting a text from Kristin.  She had just spoken to the vet, who told Kristin that she expects Bear to make it.  She said that he’ll likely be able to go home after another two to four days.  Kristin also said that the pharmaceutical company that we got the vaccinations from might pay for part or all of Bear’s bill.

My immediate thought was relief.  Then I quickly wondered if Kristin had any idea how much the bill was currently, let alone what it will be after another four days.  I am also considering, somewhat seriously, putting our “project” on for funding.  I just need to come up with a catch name.  I already have plenty of cute pictures to reel people in after they have clicked on the catchy name for our project.

San Diego

Aside from Legoland, San Diego has been awesome.  We went to the beach the first day.  The day turned to evening.  We made a run to Roberto’s for fish tacos and had dinner at the beach while the sun set.  One of my favorite things to do.