Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Life with a teenager

Yup, at just 7 months old, and only a few short months after losing his baby teeth, Orent is fully in the throes of teenager-hood. While the 7-for-7 post may have given you some idea about what Orent is like, I thought I'd share some of the less delightful aspects. So far, Orent hasn't started humping things and he hasn't been caught doing any obvious marking. What he has started to do is be naughty.

He definitely has more energy and needs less sleep. He plays more aggressively (anyone else with a teenaged puppy want to plan a playdate for some extra goofy dog rasslin'?). But mostly what I've noticed is that any command that we haven't gotten to perfection (that would be ok, hurry, sit, maybe Orent, maybe wait, and perhaps brief downs) he willfully ignores. For one thing, he's gotten good at the cost benefit analysis and he's hard to fool. He looks to see, "do they have a treat? Am I on a leash? Can they make me?" And whereas before he would stare at you with that, "hmm, I don't think I've heard that command before... remind me please?" Now he's been known to turn and walk or run away.

Keep away, which we thought we'd nipped in the bud, has re-emerged. Toys, sure, he'll bring those back (but won't drop them unless there's an exchange or he's really bored). But socks, underwear, sunglasses, lens caps, anything found on the floor he will go Tigger-bounding around the house and with pure devilment in his eyes, ignore all commands. Unless, of course, you have treats. In that case, he's Mr. Perfect. I guess like many early-pubescent boys there's a new organ in charge, and it's his stomach! I dread the day when it's that other organ...

Our response is that he's losing his off-leash privileges. Our hallway is 30 feet long, and so is his long leash, so hall-ball is now played on leash. We're always well armed with treats and ready to reel in a naughty dog who's doing his best to pretend to ignore us! And our fearless leader, Katrina, reminded us to wear him out intellectually and physically, so we're doing morning play sessions indoors and out, longer walks, and will try him on some new (hard!) commands and games like the pickle (listening) game, hide and seek, bed-bed-kennel, etc. However, the above is partly the best of intentions which we haven't done all of yet, consistently, and that's the big lesson...

Puberty means we have to be super good and super firm in our consistency! Some things, Orent just knows and knows perfectly. Like sit, hurry, ok. We taught those because we were consistent and we've practiced them several times a day, every single day, and they're always the same. Some of them, like hurry, have taken a long time of frustration. Ok happened almost instantly, because there's food at the end of the tunnel every single time, and Orent's brain is ON when there's food around. But "here" is not consistent for him. We aren't good at getting his attention... and it's because we haven't practiced it in the same patient focused way. We've given him freedom he hasn't earned. For example, in the neighbor's yard, he ignores me unless he knows I have food. I don't have it every time, and I didn't keep him on the leash until he was consistent, and so he learned, "oh, I guess I can do what I want here!" Now it will take a lot of patience and a lot of being willing to not focus on playing when we're over there. I need to always bring the long leash, the treats, get his attention early and often. I hope I can do it! I have no doubt he will do it if I just get my act together. His behaviors (and lack thereof) really reflect on us and our habits, which is hard in a way, but also good to realize how important our roles as puppy raisers are. It's good to see the feedback in the form of Orent's successes (he's polite, calm, a pleasure to be around, housebroken when we are reasonably responsive, waits patiently to be fed, etc.) and struggles (he's picky about when he listens, he's a floor licker, he's slow to respond to commands, we can't get his attention outdoors when he's off leash and even sometimes indoors, he plays keep away, etc.).

Sunday, December 11, 2011

7 for 7

Orent turned seven months old on Friday! Here's our list of what's interesting about him now:

1) He's not growing visibly overnight anymore. He seems to mostly stay the same size, and his weight isn't going up, but his body is changing. He's definitely going through puberty!

2) He's still got puppy floppiness, soft puppy fur, and awkward-sized feet and head. People still say "oh, what a cute puppy" to us when we walk by, which surprises me (Kaytee) b/c I see him as all grown up!

3) His favorite game is switch-the-toy in which we throw a toy down the hallway, and he comes back with a different one (or two) toys in his mouth! We can play this game for a long time, and each time he comes back with new toys. Throw a tennis ball, get a stuffed frog, throw a stuffed frog, get another (different colored) tennis ball... etc, etc.

4) He's learning about under at restaurants, and practicing staying down even when delicious things like primanti brothers sandwiches are being served.

5) He's studying for a career in animal brain surgery

Giraffe friend, post-surgery. Frog friend has also had the top of his head torn off!
6) He's turned into a snuggler, and comes out of his kennel in the mornings all wags and leans. He's grown to really appreciate a good belly rub and is the world-champion at lap. What we're struggling with is teaching him that just because sometimes he can jump up on the bed (when he's invited!), that doesn't mean he can always jump up on the bed just because he wants to. But his little teenager brain seems to be struggling with this difference.

7) He met relatives! He thinks relatives are great and can't wait to meet more in a few weeks!

I think I can, I think I can

Today, Orent, Max and I went on an adventure on a train. We wanted to socialize him to trains before Orent's long trip next weekend to Charlottesville, VA on the Amtrak.

So we started out at 30th St Station, and went up to the platform early, to get Orent accustomed to the loud trains going by, and the people rushing around. He did wonderfully!

Even the trains whizzing past didn't freak him out.

Then we boarded the train. Orent was a bit scared of the gap between the platform and the train, but we gave him lots of cookies and he made it! 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

I'm thankful for...

A message from Orent the dog

Today, I am thankful for my jolly ball, and good friends to play with.

I am thankful that Robot the cat has stopped hissing at me, and started tolerating me.

I'm thankful for the people who groomed me, b/c now my people don't think I stink!

I'm thankful for road companions who help me find my head when I lose it in the car for a bit.

I'm thankful for romps in the park, and learning to fly!

But most of all, I'm thankful that no one left me in Philadelphia and I got to come to this great place called Cincinnati where tons of people fawn over me all the time. I am so lucky!

Sunday, November 13, 2011


Yesterday we drove with Orent to Long Island to attend the NE Region November graduation. Other than me deciding to take the AC Expressway to the Garden State Parkway, thus taking us an hour out of our way, we managed to avoid the epic traffic. The cool thing was, despite the 4+ hour drive, Orent was a quiet and calm passenger! While he did stand up and pull against his harness a few times, he calmed right back down! Way to go (ha!), little guy!

Thanks to my directional challenge, we arrived moments after graduation was supposed to begin. The room was packed! There were dogs and people of all ages. It was awesome seeing dogs in vests from yellow puppy capes to blue "graduation gowns" to blue service dog vests.

A dog that was there to start advanced training. He was very good!

We found a spot to squeeze into in the back and watched the ceremony, and watched Orent watch the ceremony.
Orent, being very good in a very chaotic room.
Here are some highlights:

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

6 for 6

Orent turns six months old on Wednesday! Can you believe it?

Here, how about a comparison shot:
Orent at 7 weeks old and 13.5 lbs.
Orent at 6 months old and 57 lbs.
So, what are we marveling at now that he's six months old?

  1. He looks like a service dog (when he wants to!) - As you can see, when he's in the mood (or is given lots of treats), he can look like any service dog you've ever seen. He sits up straight, and is very attentive. However, once the treats are gone, it's anyone's guess what he'll do and what he won't do.
  2. He has great, expressive eyebrows - If you didn't know better, you'd think Orent was watching Stephen Colbert to perfect the art of the skeptical eyebrow. If you flip through his photos (here, here, herehere, and here for starters), you'll see he's got the look down.
  3. He doesn't have to be boxed all the time - One of the best things about having a dog that's six months old is that we can leave him unboxed for hours, and unattended in a room for minutes (yes, just minutes!). He's learned to settle outside his crate, and has taken to beginning afternoon naps under Kaytee's desk (with his head on her foot), and then getting up and sleeping on his bed the corner. It makes everyone happier to have the dog out and about, rather than confined to his crate for hours each day.
  4. He has such a mellow demeanor - Nothing phases this dog (except the table at the vet that he has to ride up and down). He gets into stressful situations with lots of noise and people, and he just looks to us for what to do. Kaytee is a little worried he's so mellow, he won't be bothered by anything ("hmm... what's that smell? smoke? not sure, I'm going back to sleep!").
  5. He hasn't destroyed his giraffe yet (but don't hold your breath that it'll last much longer)
  6. He loves "adventures" - There is nothing in the world more fun to Orent than going out to get "socialized". He knows he gets tons of treats, and people get to pet him on his "breaks". Basically, we could take the dog anywhere, and he'd love it.
And one to grow on:
     7. He still wishes socks were toys - Orent's favorite game is to grab a sock and run around like crazy! We keep telling him it's not allowed, but it hasn't sunk in to his thick skull yet.

Sunday, November 6, 2011


Hi guys, Orent here. I've been learning to write about my life as a service puppy by updating my Facebook page, and so I thought I'd try to write my first blog post about the MOST EXCITING WEEKEND EVER!

Man, it was great! There were adventures and scary times and fun times and cozy times and things I don't even know what they were (I'm just a baby after all).

Let's start at the beginning. Thursday afternoon, the people starting putting a lot of my stuff in a pile by the door. They had my bowls and my box and my bed and my toys... Then they said "Let's Go!" and put me and all that stuff in the car. I couldn't even stretch out!

We drove and drove and drove. It was so boring. They don't even have one of those cars some puppies have where they can put movies on. They listened to NPR and I'm more of a rock n' roll puppy so I had to cry and fuss and chew the seatbelt a little. I mean, they didn't even ask what I wanted to listen to!

Max did one dumb thing on the way... I had to laugh, but I guess he can't smell the rain coming the way I can. He got me out of the car at the rest stop and took me for a run. It was good to stretch my legs and I really had to hurry (I got to practice going on the asphalt 'cause I couldn't make it across the whole parking lot!) Well, when we were about as far away from the buildings and the car as we could possibly be, it started to pour. We got wet (and yes, I smelled like a wet dog. What's wrong with that?).

Then we drove and drove and drove some more. I got scared when it got dark and the road got windy. Even Kaytee was stressed out. So I cried a little more, especially when we were slipping on the leaves of the gravel/dirt road down to our cabin.

But then we were there!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

In orent's world, down means up (apparently!)

The story of this picture is that I was training Orent while I was sitting on the couch. He was in an "up" against the couch and I wanted him out of my face for a second (he was very focused on me and treats and snuggles). So I said "down!" Orent's thought process was clearly, "if I put my belly on the ground I'm getting farther away from Max, and treats. Maybe "down" means, put your belly where your feet were?" So he sort of slithered his belly up onto the couch and draped as much of himself as possible over me. I know I should have corrected him immediately and put him back on the ground but Kaytee and I were laughing hysterically...

I guess that means we just have to spend 3 times as long working on going from up to down.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

I am Yoshi, hear me roar!

Orent got to get dressed up for halloween for puppy class tonight. He went in his cute little (homemade) Yoshi costume. Everyone loved him!

Wanna see some more photos from Halloween puppy class? Head on over to Orent's Facebook fan page and you can see!

A preview of another halloween-costume-clad dog here:

Going for a haircut

Lucky Orent! Today, he got to tag along with me while I got my haircut.

It was a quick clean up, and only took 15 mins. I'd gotten the OK from the salon (Rinse, in case you want to take your business somewhere service-dog-in-training friendly) in advance.

He was great! He hung out in his "sit" so I could reach him to keep feeding him his lunch.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

We all knew he was a pumpkin

Not a lot to say today, but I wanted to share some photos of Orent on our adventure to go pick out pumpkins.

He wasn't sure how he felt about them.

But he stuck by Max's side...

And eventually realized they were a vegetable worth looking up to!

Then we learned how to walk next to a rolling object. Orent wasn't really sure about it, but he did very well. It probably helped that we were armed with a ton of treats!

Then we went into "Goods" (basically the Mennonite Wal-Mart), which was Orent's first trip into a big store. He did so well. Some people wanted to talk to us, but we just kept on walking and sniffing. That is, until we got to the toys section! Then we needed to stop and rest.

We all think we should do more of this in the future. It was a blast!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Max is away, and Orent STILL plays!

Max is away for work for a few days, so all the puppy raising has fallen on me. This morning, he woke me up with his typical "haaaaarm"s and whines. It wasn't so bad though. Orent's now officially a reasonable morning dog! He goes outside, he eats breakfast, then he chills in his box or his crate til I'm awake enough to play with him.

We just finished a rousing game of "hall ball" with his new toy. Here are some videos so everyone can enjoy the game! He was a little slow this AM. Maybe in the future I'll get a video of him tearing down the hallway and running his head into the wall?

Did you see that "drop"? DAMN! And with no treats either. He just did it 'cause I said to. Oh man, he's a smart guy!

This afternoon, we're going to play with our friend Shasta! Photos of that coming soon, for sure.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Orent has got some 'splainin' to do!

So me and Max just got home from being gone all afternoon. We walked in the door, set the groceries down, and noticed a large yellow furball walking down the steep loft stairs to greet us. "ORENT! What are you doing out of your crate?" we say as he looks at us, slightly perplexed.

When we finished laughing at how funny the whole situation was, we went to investigate. No idea how long he was out, but it appears he busted out of his crate b/c the side "door" wasn't properly latched.

While out, he:
  • destroyed one cat toy (her favorite!)
  • chewed a tube of all-natural sunscreen
  • peed* upstairs in the loft (where he is NOT allowed and has never been to)
  • removed one jacket belt from the jacket and carried it a few feet before depositing it in front of the wine bottles (have we mentioned that our dog has an uncanny attraction to alcohol?)
But otherwise, he managed to do very little harm. He did not eat the cat food. He did not destroy any clothes scattered around the bedroom. He did not overturn any garbage cans. He did not remove anything from the counters or bed. He did not get into his food. He was a very well behaved dog, especially in the rooms he's had free reign of.

But still, he's got some 'splainin' to do!

*Maybe the cat framed him, but we doubt it.

Weekend adventures keep us busy!

We spent so much time playing with Orent this weekend, there was no time to update ya'll!

On Saturday morning, we went for a nice walk to the Swarthmore creek with Max's coworker Annie.

She knew that lots of lucky dogs go swimming early in the morning, and Orent maybe coud get convinced to swim if other dogs were swimming.

Orent, it turns out, doesn't really like water. All the other dogs were diving in and swimming and chasing tennis balls. Orent mostly stayed on dry land, chasing Scarlet the maybe-sheltie.

Our biggest challenge was the leash. Orent's not allowed off-leash, so we were constantly having to chase him around and ask people to move so he didn't trip them. I don't think we can play this game again in the future, as long as he has to stay on a leash... maybe later in the day when there are fewer people?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

"Boo!" said Max. "Yummy treats!" said Orent.

Two weeks ago, we received instructions that we had to socialize Orent to the Halloween store. Well, that's the easiest assignment to date! You see, Max's birthday is on Halloween, so it's a very VERY important day in our lives. Anything relating to Halloween is basically the most fun thing we could do.

So today, the three of us called the manager of the Halloween store on Delaware Ave, and asked if we could bring the puppy. They agreed, and we set off.

At first, we let Orent sniff the outside of the store. He was intrigued by the reflections and the masks. But mostly he just wanted more treats. This dog doesn't get freaked out by anything if there are treats around!

So we decided to lead him in. We had a brief encounter with the real manager (the person we talked to on the phone said OK, but the manager apparently hadn't), who wasn't too thrilled about having a dog in the store.

Proof he's got a brain in there somewhere

Orent, asleep ON his bed!

Monday, October 10, 2011

5 for 5

Orent turned 5 months old yesterday! For the record:

1. He now weighs 44.3 lbs, and is officially too big to carry around. Also, his ears just keep getting bigger and when he swings his head, they look very cute!

2. He got his vest in the mail, and looks dashing in it.

3. Because he's old enough, he can now go to places regular dogs aren't allowed! he's already been to get ice cream with us, and into a coffee shop. He did so great!

4. We made friends with the nice girl across the street who has a fenced in yard. We've been over to play a few times, but Orent hasn't quite mastered the idea of fetch. He runs after things, but almost never brings them back. But he loves to play without a leash!

5. He's allowed to roam the house while we're home now. Not without supervision, but we hardly have to box him anymore!

That's all for the 5 for 5 update!

Up, Up, and Away!

Kaytee has class Wednesday nights, so Wednesdays are now Max 'n Orent bonding time. And boy did we have a great Wednesday. The little guy has really hit a new phase in maturity and learning.

Right now, he's working on "Up." He's not a very physically energetic guy, so our initial attempts were met with deep skepticism. Even with a tasty lure he would try sit, down, roll, and shake, then look at us dolefully while we tried to lure him into an "Up."

Finally last night I had the brilliant idea to try him on the easiest possible "Up" I could find. There's a 4-inch high wall around a lot of the yards in the neighborhood, so we went over to one. I sat on the wall and gave the "Up" command while luring his nose up and forward. He immediately stepped up and I gave him a whole handful of kibble while showering him with praise. Finally, his tail was up and wagging and his ears relaxed. Next I tried up on my right side. He was back to sitting and staring with his tail down. So we did it a few more times in the exact spot he'd been successful once. There, he could happily put his front paws up and receive lots of treats. After 3 more ups in the good spot, I stood up and tried a whole new section of wall. He leaped to put his paws up for more treats and praise. Yes!

We ended up walking 3 blocks, stopping at every low wall or step. He was loving it, tail wagging, eager for his treats and new trick.

The clincher was the slanty wall on Chester Ave. I got him to do "Up" on the 4-inch high part, then moved down to the 6-inch high part. Then the 1-foot, then 2-foot. He barely noticed he was doing an up at a height he'd been scared to try just 15 minutes ago.

By the time we got back home, he was happily doing an "Up" on walls that came up to his armpits when he's fully upright. He's a quick learner!

Orent can do up's just about anywhere now!
Then, he got free range of the house while I had dinner. He sniffed but did not chase the cat, and collected all his toys and brought them first to her, then to me. I tried not to feel slighted. After dinner I rolled the tennis ball down the hall until his tongue threatened to hit the floor with each step (granted, for our lazy guy that's less than 10 minutes).

He lay down in the hall right by the doors to both the outside and bedroom where his water is. I assumed he wanted water but he wouldn't come into the bedroom... he was signaling he had to "hurry" by waiting by the door. He let me put his Gentle Leader on with no kibble lure and went easily down the stairs (both signs that he's really got to "hurry"). Sure enough, as soon as we hit the ground he was ready!

Then, he wanted to go for a walk. He never wants to go for a walk, but he pranced eagerly around the block and even consented to run part of the way. He also met his friend from when he was a baby, a toddler in the neighborhood. She wanted to pet him and admire his feet and "hold his hand." We weren't sure what that meant but it didn't seem like it would work too well. When we passed her house again on the way home, he sat down on their sidewalk and clearly communicated, "hey, let's go visit that toddler again!" So maybe he wanted to have his hand held!

The evening ended with two amazing miracles. The cat sat on the floor and let me pet her while Orent got to sniff her all over. He just lay down right behind her and she stayed put and didn't even hiss. Then Orent actually fell asleep... on top of his bed! Not under, not beside, but on it.

Orent meets the cat and she doesn't run away!
Well done, little guy!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Occu-puppy... or Orent learns "Under" while putting the "Sit" back in Sit-in

Kaytee and I decided to check out the 2nd planning meeting for Occupy Philly today. Because of its coinciding with dinner time, and Orent's sudden burst of calm maturity, and the fact that we didn't want to stay long or sit in the front or speak, we thought it would be a good time to bring the dog.

We first tried to wear him out a bit in the park near my work. That consisted of me running around like an idiot while he stood there watching me and eating dirt. I thought the puppy was supposed to do the running around...

Then we headed downtown. The crowd to get in stretched around the building! We sensibly waited in the grass across the street, resting and practicing commands.

Then, when the line died down, we went in. It was clear that the church was full to the brim (over 1000 people!) and we would not fit (though we saw a pocket dog and a pit bull head in after we did). Instead, I asked Orent to "Under" (for the first time!) under a bench. He settled right in and I hand-fed him dinner. As long as he stayed in a "Down" he got kibble, and so he caught on to "Under" pretty quickly. Highlight: a guy came over and started petting him aggressively and he just lay right back down under the bench. No stress, growling, snapping, or jumping up to respond energetically, just holding his command. It was glorious.

I don't think Orent has political views, so much as he likes to be where the people are. The "other 99%" is about 99 times more fun than 1%, because it's 99 times more people! And he believes that people with disabilities should have access and resources to live independently... I mean, that's his job after all.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Little Guy Is Growing Up!

He's staying with Liesl, and getting to spend some family time with his sister Omega, this weekend. They are going to the Blessing of the Animals. And guess what he gets to wear to church?
A big-dog vest!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Big news

I have big, big, big news...


wait for it...


You're not going to believe it....


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Orent's challenges (or, really, my challenges in raising Orent)

  • While Orent likes to play, he likes to eat & sniff & lick more. So outdoor play doesn't wear him out much, and indoor play isn't quite as effective. If only he had a big brother or sister or best friend with a fenced in yard in the neighborhood! When we play outdoors with no other dogs, he'll run to the ball, and either run back without it or stop and eat the ground where the ball landed. And sometimes he'll do everything he can to initiate chase, wrestle, and tug. Orent, those are dog games, for playing with dog friends. Silly dog!
  • Raising him, a super dog, still takes infinite patience. I just don't always have that. His high energy points correspond to my low energy points (7am crazy dog, 11pm run down the hallway, seriously dog?). When we want him to "speak" he's silent and incredibly well behaved. When we want him to behave he jumps and mouths and barks and grabs the leash! I don't know how we could ever raise a non-CCI puppy!
  • CCI puppies come with some extra guilt. If we raise a non-CCI bad dog, it's embarrassing and might annoy the neighbors. If we raise a CCI bad dog, we've failed. I know that's not really true and a) we're doing a pretty well, and b) it's not about being perfect. But still, when he fights to get out of the bathtub I think, "how will this work if your partner has cerebral palsy and needs to bathe you from a wheelchair?" When he jumps up on toddlers I think, "what if your job is to be a companion for a young person with brittle bones?" Lots of times when I ask myself, "what is he learning?" the answer is "bad habits!"
  • September is a hard month, because I work in schools and with teachers and everyone has extra needs in September. I don't feel like I'm giving him enough "be a puppy" time because, frankly, he's annoying & exhausting to be around when he's being a puppy.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Growin' Up! (or, 43 things for 43 pounds)

I've never raised a lab puppy before, but I think crossing the 40lb threshold at the age of 4.5 months is pretty impressive. The internet suggests that he will reach 50lbs by 7 months, so I think he's ahead of the curve!

So, here are 43 things that show me Orent is growing up, for his 43 lb birthday:
  1. He jumps up less! It's still an occasional response to a command he doesn't think he knows, or a really exciting event like turning the faucet on, but he's increasingly likely to sit instead.
  2. He is consistent with "Drop" when there are treats involved, so we can play fetch. And we can wean him off the treats and focus on the game after a few tosses!
  3. He goes for longer walks with fewer balks.
  4. He sleeps until 7am.
  5. When he's healthy and we aren't too slow (note: find shoes and leash before waking a dog from nap!), he's accident-free.
  6. When we meet other puppies, he's the big dog that has to be reminded to play gently.
  7. He asks to play with other dogs more politely now.
  8. He makes better decisions about what to do with stuff on the floor like shoes or dropped food. Maybe 60% of the time he walks by it with only passing interest.
  9. He wags his tail when we come home, and wants to say hello.
  10. He's enormous. He almost bumps his head sitting up in his large dog crate, and when stretched out can touch opposite corners of it.

The tooth fairy comes tonight

Orent lost 2 teeth! That means the tooth fairy gets to come tonight and bring him little bits of kibble to eat. Lucky dog!

Max found the first tooth the other day, while they were playing "chase the toy down the hall, and then bring it back". Orent is good at the first half of the game. We need to work on the second half...

Then, yesterday at the creek, we noticed his mouth was bleeding. There was some glass around, so we were worried he'd swallowed some of it. Much fussing from the dog ensued, as we sat there in the field, trying to look in his mouth. Eventually, we saw another tooth was missing. Phew!

Sunday, September 25, 2011