My first charge, a scrawny, 8 pound, 10 week old, black, double doodle puppy, was literally plopped in my lap on July 9, 2013. This little gal would be my first experience at puppy raising for Pawsibilities Unleashed. She would eventually become a service dog for someone who needed her talents. I sat there with this no-named, squirmy pup in my lap not really sure what to think of her. If you are wondering what I am doing with this pup, you might want to read Combining Passions.
We named her Sophie and she proved to be smart, energetic, dramatic, and endlessly entertaining and nothing phases her. Sophie has beady eyes, like you would see on a teddy bear. Her tail is long and slender and eagerly wags when she works on commands. She has long legs like a poodle and her howl, whine and bark are all overly high-pitched and dramatic. Sophie was with us about three months. When she left us, she weighed about 20 pounds and was taller and longer than Pablo.
Puppies are cute right? And it is a good thing, because they are a lot of work. Pablo came to me basically house trained and healthy at about 3-4 months old. With Sophie, I got many new experiences – house training, an ear infection and a bout of worms. All learning experiences that will help with the next puppy in this house.
With Sophie, I realized you have to take a young puppy outside every hour, if not more often, and make a huge deal when they go to the bathroom outside. Eventually the light bulb goes off and the bladder grows up and can handle several hours inside at a time. Hallelujah!
Her ear infection become obvious when she would scoot the side of her head on the carpet and whine. She never scratched her ears excessively with her paws, but she tried to use the carpet for relief. Sophie’s ears are pretty hairy and a trick I learned was to twirled a Q-tip in her ear several times to pull the inner ear hair out to prevent dirt from gathering and infections from setting in.
Sophie seemed so skinny. She just wasn’t gaining much weight and always ferociously eating her food for the first month we had her. About week four or five with us she started throwing up on occasion. With maybe the third episode, I saw spaghetti-like items in her vomit – worms. She has not been treated for worms since we got her and apparently puppies are very susceptible to roundworms. I was so thankful to get those things taken care of, terminate the vomiting, and get some weight on that dog.
I did learn a lot about puppies with Sophie, and with the work came endless entertainment. She is quite curious and one afternoon I found her in the dishwasher cleaning dishes. I couldn’t help but laugh even if it was a behavior I’d rather her not repeat.
Pablo loved playing with her and the two of them romped around the house wrestling and chasing, growling and barking. A result of all this playing and biting was finding baby teeth throughout the house. I think I found the majority of the lost baby teeth from this girl.
Sophie has a fabulous nose. I would tether her to a door and she would lay down patiently waiting for me to hide her kibble around the house, in corners, beside furniture posts, under the corner of rugs, and on a bottom shelf. When I let her go she was off and it would not take her long to find all of her kibble. Pablo usually found a few morsels too. I put some kibble in a big box and she jumped right in. Like I said, nothing phases this dog.
One day on a walk with Sophie and Pablo, I dropped a poop bag on the sidewalk while picking up some additional business. To my surprise, Sophie picked up the poop bag and proudly with the poodle prance carried the bag back to the house. From that day on her job on walks was to carry her poop bag. She took on that task proudly and with enthusiasm.
In training class, we learned basic commands, sit, down, stand, wait, heel, among other things. I also taught her some commands just for fun. She could right shake and left shake.
Sophie is a poodle and her coat needs grooming. I recall the first time I took her for a puppy grooming and she came back with a bow in her hair!
I was called up north to work for several days in Ohio shortly after Sophie came to live with us. So she learned how to travel and travel well. She would chill in her crate and sleep during the drive. During our stay in a hotel I discovered the long hallways in hotels are great for practicing heeling. She also accompanied my friend, Stephanie, and I on a road trip to PA, MD, and VA. True to her curious, independent nature, she would explore and enjoy every stop and experience along the way. Sophie’s travel highlights included spotting a lion statue at a job site (she barked at the lion), meeting numerous strangers, family, friends, children, dogs, cats and horses, getting a ride in a wagon, and dipping her paws in the Potomac River.
I have to be honest and admit it took months before Sophie made her way into my heart. I think it was partly the Lord shielding my heart, partly the focus and work involved with a puppy, and partly that she was nothing like I expected. I laugh now when I think about telling Peter my guess was that the dog we would get would be white and brown with no black. Oh how often our expectations are way off base! But I remember exactly when I looked at Sophie and thought, this is a dog I am proud of, and my heart smiled. It was a training class in September and Sophie was rock solid. She was focused, attentive, spot on with all the exercises. It was as if she had left the puppy at home that night and boy, was I ever proud of the young dog she had become.
We had a vacation planned in October and could not take Sophie. So we made arrangements for her to stay at the trainer’s farm. I would be given a second dog after our return from vacation, but was fortunate enough to make arrangements to see Sophie again. She came to training class to meet us. Sophie had filled out some, found a wild side of herself (I imagine farm life would do that to any dog), but was excited to see us and still knew all her commands. Sophie was matched with a family and tasked with rounding up and keeping tabs on a child who has a tendency to bolt. I have no doubt she is providing a priceless service to this family. Thank you Sophie for the introduction into the world of puppy raising.