Thursday, April 30, 2009

An arms race

As you may recall, Doreen and I were concerned about educational toys and Dempsey's intellectual development. I suppose a lot of parents worry about this, but I think our concerns were justified.

When we first got Dempsey, he was the cutest little ball of fuzz. He also ate his own poop, crashed into sliding glass doors, chased his own tail, and startled himself when he farted. It was all very cute (except the poop eating), but as we watched him walk into a column for the fourth time in a day, we wondered: Is this puppy smart enough to be a service dog?

We are no longer concerned. We are afraid.

Below is Exhibit A, a doggie gate similar to the one we ordered (on clearance!) from Frontgate ("Outfitting America's Finest Homes"):

This is pretty much what we had envisioned for our house, sans the coiffed poodles. We thought the oiled bronze gate would complement the faux finish on the walls, all unsightly puppy messes neatly contained behind the gate in the mudroom, the cat safely in the powder room. As if.

Below is Exhibit B, which shows the product in actual use at our house:

It looks more Foxworthy than Frontgate, thanks to Dempsey. This has been an arms race, one that we seem to be losing to the puppy.

Step 1: We install the gate.
Dempsey looks at it, finds that one side has a slightly larger gap, and walks right through that side.

Step 2: We block the gap.
Fortunately, we had a nice matching oiled bronze French flower bucket that we used to block the gap. Dempsey, however, figured out that he's skinnier in the mornings than at night. In the morning, he walked through the other side, where he now fit.

Step 3: We block the other gap.
We were out of oiled bronze French flower buckets, so Paul found an old milk crate in the basement and used that to block the other side. It took about 30 seconds for Dempsey to figure out that he could just push it out of the way.

Step 4: We secure the crate.
Paul got out some used supermarket twist ties, and used them to tie the oiled bronze French flower bucket and the crate to the gate. However, it was still possible to rotate the crate out of the way, if you pulled it from the far corner. Paul did not realize this. Dempsey did.

Step 5: We secure the oiled bronze French flower bucket and the crate in two places to prevent rotation.
We're not sure how, but Dempsey managed to untie the second twist tie, and rotate the crate out of the way.

Step 6: We replace the bottom twist tie with a white cable tie.
Although Dempsey can't undo the cable tie, he found a workaround. Last night, he stood on the milk crate, and using his nose, unlatched the gate and pushed it open. Fortunately, Dempsey hasn't been able to repeat that, but he keeps trying whenever he thinks we aren't looking.

Step 7: Um, now what?
We're considering installing a combination lock, but we're afraid we'll forget the combination, and only Dempsey will know how to open it. Bailey has been watching this escalating arms race with concern from her room, but as usual, she only has one suggestion: "You guys better do something about that."

Thanks, Bailey.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Separated at birth?

We may have (accidentally) found the perfect Halloween costume for Dempsey.

Vacuum training

For perfectly good reasons, we own five vacuum cleaners. This has never struck us as gluttonous or blingy, but Dempsey objected.

At first, he was ok with the ShopVac I used to vacuum the pine cones from the lawn. He was even ok with the Mini ShopVac I used to vacuum the garage and cars. But when I pulled out the Hoover Wind Tunnel for the bedroom carpets, Dempsey growled and barked. 

I think maybe he's ok with cannister vacs, but not uprights? At any rate, regular vacuuming is very important to us, and our other three vacuums are all uprights. It was time for vaccum training!

We followed our teacher's instructions, and lined up the three upright vacuums in the room for a day without turning them on. The growling stopped after a while, but Dempsey still wouldn't approach the vacuums. So I did the obvious: I slathered peanut butter on the vacuums.

Hoover is now Dempsey's best friend. Though it's been weeks since I've slathered any peanut butter, Dempsey still comes to check. Dempsey even likes vacuuming now. When I suck up the puppy hairballs from under the chairs, Dempsey tries catching them with his paws, like a kitty would, if said kitty weren't a scaredy cat who flees at the mere the sight of a vacuum. 

The real coup de grâce came this morning. I wanted Dempsey to go in his kennel, but he insisted he wasn't ready for a nap yet. He kept following me and Hoover around the house. But wherever he would plop down for a rest, I chose to vacuum. Dempsey wasn't afraid, but he was annoyed I kept making him move. Eventually, he got the hint, and walked into his kennel on his own for his nap!

For a believer in regular vacuuming, this is nirvana. I can't believe all the training is actually working!

I'm eager to try these training techniques on Bailey, but I suspect vacuum training the cat may not be as easy. 

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Getting Dressed

At long last, our new camera arrived and we can resume our obsessive documentation of every cute thing Dempsey does. This week Dempsey is working on getting dressed for work.  He even figured how to wiggle his nose to get the pack to slip over his shoulders. 

Friday, April 17, 2009

No rest for the wicked

Dempsey finally learned last night how to enter his kennel on his own! We had been trying for about a week now, and for the first time in a while, I felt like a proud, perhaps even competent, puppy parent.

That feeling didn't last too long.

Earlier this morning, I had Dempsey in his kennel, happily taking a nap with his Nylabone and frozen water bottle. Bailey was napping on the blanket in the Longaberger basket she had claimed for herself. The floor was clean, the TV off. I felt like the master of my domain.

I thought it would be a great time to dash off to the store to pick up some staples (i.e., more Coke). When I came back twenty minutes later, my world had been turned upside down. Literally.

Before I even got in the door, I could hear both Bailey and Dempsey howling. When I opened the door, I found Bailey on the floor, her leg tangled in one of the fringes of the blanket. She's had this blanket for years, but somehow today would be the first day to get tangled in it.

I calmed Bailey down and tried untangling the fringe, but couldn't. I went to get the scissors, but as soon as I got up, Bailey started struggling again, making the knot around her leg even tighter. I picked her and the blanket up to carry them to the scissors, when a fresh piece of kitty poop fell out of the blanket and bounced onto my foot. Apparently, she had been trying to get to the litter box when she got tangled.

Kicking the poop off my foot, I headed towards the kitchen. I saw that Bailey had overturned the Longaberger, and knocked her food and water all over the floor in a struggle to free herself from the blanket. What a mess!

When I got to the dining room, Dempsey was still howling like crazy. I took a peek in the kennel, and lo and behold: He had chewed a hole in his frozen water bottle (again, first time ever) and was sitting in a puddle of ice water, looking at me with very sad puppy-dog eyes.

Since I'm a sucker for this look, I thought I should release him. With Bailey and blanket in my left hand, I opened the kennel door with my right hand. Dempsey dashed out and immediately yanked the blanket. Bailey cried out in pain. I couldn't reach any toys or treats, so in violation of Helping Paws policy, I offered Dempsey my right leg.

Now with Bailey and a blanket in my left hand and Dempsey attached to my right leg, I hobbled over to the kitchen. In violation of house rules, I put Bailey and the blanket on the kitchen counter. With my right hand on Bailey to calm her and Dempsey still on my right leg, I leaned over and opened the refrigerator with my left hand to get out a carrot and peanut butter.

Next I put my right elbow on Bailey to keep her calm and used both hands to make a quick Kong treat for Dempsey. That done, I tossed it on the floor, and Dempsey finally let go of my pant leg to get the Kong. Free at last, I cut Bailey free and checked out her paw. Phew -- it was fine.

Dempsey was still happily occupied with his Kong, so I took Bailey back to the powder room, and started cleaning up the mess there. I had cleared the poop and the food and was scrubbing the floor when I heard a loud crash. Dashing out, I saw that Dempsey had knocked over the trash can, and was scarfing down the wet cat food I had tossed in there. I kicked the Kong over his way, but no dice -- forbidden cat food is always way better than peanut butter.

I picked up Dempsey to put in his kennel, but I had forgotten it was still filled with ice water. Bailey was heading toward the garbage strewn on the kitchen floor. With Dempsey in my left hand, I tried picking Bailey up in my right hand -- not the best idea, in retrospect. Since Dempsey moves a lot quicker than Bailey, I put Bailey back down and ran to the patio door. Again in violation of Helping Paws policy, I dropped Dempsey outside in the fenced yard, slid the door shut, and ran back to the kitchen to pick Bailey up. I tossed Bailey into the powder room and shut the door on her.

With Dempsey scratching at the door, begging me to let him back in, and the cat howling in the powder room, I quickly cleaned up the kennel. That done, I put Dempsey back in the kennel and locked him in. I cleaned up the garbage from the kitchen floor, and then let the crying cat out so I could finish cleaning the powder room. Whew!

Both Bailey and Dempsey are enjoying "time outs" now, and though it's before noon, I'm going to have a beer. It'll be the perfect look when the social worker shows up to take the animals away.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

New sounds (and sights)

As you might be able to tell from some of the videos here, I tend to have country music playing in the background when I'm at home. One of the socialization assignments this week, however, is to expose Dempsey to new sounds, so I sadly turned off the new Hayes Carll album I'd been enjoying and turned on Daytime TV. Oh, the things I do for this puppy.

Being frugal, we've long resisted paying $100+ per month for premium cable. After a day and a half of daytime basic cable, I now understand why people pay that much: They have to. 
Happily, Dempsey and I have exactly the same reaction to over 90% of what we saw/heard on Daytime Basic Cable TV. I'll let you guess the one thing we disagreed on. (Hint: It is not "Judge Alex.") Here are his reactions:

The Young & the Restless: Snooze. 
MHz Worldview news: Snooze.
Curious George: Let's go kill that monkey!
Julia Child: What kind of animal is that?
Blue's Clues: Snooze. 
CSPAN: I need the frozen water bottle for my head, please.
Cops: Enough with the sirens! 
Jim Cramer: Will that silly man please stop making so much noise?
Family Guy: I really need to go outside and pee now.
Judge Judy: Snooze.
Judge Mathis: Didn't we just see this?
Judge Hatchett: Enough already!
Judge Alex: If you don't give me the remote right now, I will tear this rug to pieces with my bare teeth.

I think we may be crossing from "socialization" to "animal abuse," so I've turned the TV off, and Dempsey is now happily napping in peace and quiet.

P.S. If you're wondering why we haven't posted pics lately, it's because our beloved Canon Powershot A75 has broken. Here's a photo of our kitchen, which looks like Salvador Dali painted it:

This is such bad timing, with Dempsey growing up so quickly. We're frantically shopping for a new camera, and hopefully the pics will be back soon. Please stay tuned!


Sunday, April 12, 2009

Sassy cat

After about two weeks, we think it's finally dawning on Bailey that Dempsey will be staying with us long-term. She's no longer content to sleep in her basket in the powder room all day. Now she comes out, whether or not Dempsey is around, and tries to find a nice sunny spot to nap.

The last couple of days, it seems like Bailey has been actively taunting Dempsey. For example, she'll sit very conspicuously outside his kennel, stretch, and maybe take a bath. Today, she actually followed Dempsey around, practically provoking him to chase her. Of course, this got Dempsey overexcited, eventually resulting in a "time out" for him. 

Here's  a video of Bailey sitting with Doreen, contentedly flicking her tail as Dempsey whimpers in the background. If you look closely, you can almost see Bailey twirling her whiskers.

That sassy cat got her comeuppance, though. After we figured out what she had done, she got the timeout the next time she tried provoking Dempsey. 

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Stair Master

Dempsey has grown a lot in the two weeks we've had him. 

The first week, he could barely go up the stairs, and couldn't come down at all. Now, Dempsey is the Stair Master, going up and down at will. He has a tendency to leap to the bottom from the third step, but that's a puppy for you!

Here are the "before" and "after" videos.



Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Crate training in 5 easy steps

We are on Day 4 of training Dempsey to lie quietly, happily in his kennel when we're busy. We are failures.

I've been told crate training is a five-step process. Here is a recap of what I think the steps are:

1. Pity. Your puppy will wail and whimper, and you will feel very, very awful.

2. Bemusement. After about 10 minutes of wailing, it will occur to you that this is kind of funny. Despite being in a nice, clean kennel filled with his favorite toys and treats, your puppy will howl like he's being waterboarded at Guantanamo. (Dempsey, however, says my description of his "nice clean kennel" sounds suspiciously similar to Dick Cheney's description of Gitmo.)

3. Scorn. After about 20 minutes, you will start thinking, "You dumb dog! When are you going to learn that wailing won't get you anywhere?"

4. Impending baldness. After several days of repeating steps 1-3, you will start running out of hair to pull out.

We have not yet reached Step 5 ("The Peaceable Kingdom"), but we hear it usually comes sometime after your third toupee.   We will not be posting any pictures of that happy day.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Dempsey's new outfit

Dempsey went to class last night and got a chic new outfit: his Helping Paws vest! It's blue, so it doesn't match his accessories (green collar and leash), and even though it's a size small, it's still way too big for him. He looks like a child playing dress-up (i.e., badly). We might have to go accessory shopping this weekend.

Dempsey will be wearing his vest when he's working, which is to say not very often at his age. For now, he's using the "Please Don't Pet" warning as a "Do Not Disturb" sign for his naps. Smart dog!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Learnin' some culture

I heard on one of my favorite radio stations that today is the great Merle Haggard's birthday. In honor of Hag, I decided to introduce Dempsey to some of his music. I played "Seeing Eye Dog" and "Mama Tried," a story about what happens to a youngster who doesn't listen to his parents. Hint, hint, Dempsey:

Despite all my Sunday learnin',
Toward the bad I kept on turnin',
Till Mama couldn't hold me anymore.
And I turned 21 in prison,
Doin' life without parole.

While on the classic country theme, I also played Hank Williams' "Howlin' at the Moon." Dempsey really enjoyed that one, looking like the RCA dog when Hank howls. I'll try to get a video of that one.

Bailey, not surprisingly, isn't a fan of country music. She requested a rare Beatles cut: "Leave My Kitten Alone." Perhaps not coincidentally, Dempsey decided to go pee on the rug when I played that one.

Uncouth animals! Looks like we have to work on music appreciation for both of them. After we finish potty training.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Auto Kong

The Kong is supposed to provide mental stimulation. And it has. But we assumed it would be for the dog. Spurred by the success of le carrote avec beurre d'arachide we decided to get creative with two of Dempsey's favored toys and thus far - other than the cat's food - his most favorite ingredient.

1. Take a NylaBone puppy teething key and stick it in the jar of peanut butter -- make sure it's puppy's jar of peanut butter -- scraping off excess.
2. Stick the key in the "ignition" of the Kong.
3. Voila, a whole minute of peace and quiet while puppy figures out how to get the key out of the Kong to reap his reward! Ahhh.

Sick kitty!

Saturday was a busy day: Dempsey up at 6am; conference call with folks in India and London at 9am; a sick kitty cat peeing blood; mopping the entire first floor; an encounter with a mean, can-collecting trash picker; chewing a dead squirrel; practice tooth brushing (several times); mastering the "watch" cue; more getting used to the Gentle Leader; a trip to the mechanic to pick up Doreen's Jeep (which has now been in the shop 6 times in the last 4 weeks to fix the same problem); a trip to the vet for Bailey; a near-miss car accident on Lowry (Bailey slept through it all); trying to give Bailey medicine; more playing and training with Dempsey; 3 loads of laundry; and finally cleaning the kitchen.

The vet thinks Bailey's urinary tract infection is stress-related, so we're trying to spend more time with her away from the puppy. Despite all the cleaning, it still looks like Taz went through the house, which is a fair description of Dempsey in the morning.

Dempsey loves the snow, which is a good thing for a Minnesota dog.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Une nouvelle recette pour le chien

Despite having spent almost $80 on highly recommended educational toys for the puppy, Dempsey's favorite toys are trash. Literally. An empty water bottle, a cardboard paper towel tube, a hole-y old sock -- you would think he's being raised by stray wolves.

There is a toy called the Kong that puppies are said to love. It's supposed to work like a puppy piñata: fill the rubber cone with treats, then let the puppy bat it around until the treats fall out. This is advertised to provide mental stimulation. (For the puppy.) Since we're neurotic about Dempsey being expelled from the training program, we really wanted him to play with the Kong and get smart.

Over lunch, I finally figured out how to make the Kong more appealing to Dempsey. Instead of using treats, I developed a new recipe. Here it is:

Le carrote avec beurre d'arachide
one organic baby carrot
1/2 Tbsp organic creamy peanut butter

1. Peel the baby carrot. This releases some carrot juice aroma.
2. Smear the peanut butter onto the peeled carrot.
3. Optional: Microwave on high for 5 seconds, just enough to warm the peanut butter and release some aromatic oils.
4. Insert peanut-butter-smeared carrot into the Kong.
5. Bon appetit!

Okay, so it's not quite as fancy as Doreen's recreation of entrecôte et sauce beurre blanc, but Dempsey says it's très "bone."