Monday, September 29, 2008

The Pool Boy

Somebody looks guilty...

Look who went in the pool!  

Guess what!??  My dog is now a swimmer.  Well, technically, he is a wader.  I was able to coax him into a pool after a hot and tiring walk, and then he decided he sort of liked it!  He even jumped in by himself!  In fact, after we'd played a while and I was on my way in, I looked back and saw Brillo run and jump into the pool and then get out again. HA!  He's a WATER DOG!

Here he goes again...

Today was an excellent learning day for my little student.  I have been reading some new puppy books, and each of them talks about clicker training.  This is when a little handheld thumb clicker (noise maker) is used to reinforce desireable behaviors.  Whenever Brillo does something I ask him to do, or whenever he engages in behaviors I like and want to see again, I click the clicker and give him a tiny training treat (tasty food tidbit).  It took all of about two clicks before he learned "sit," and it took another two clicks or so to learn "come."  I even give him clicks if he is just playing quietly, or acknowleges me when I call his name, or walks over to say hello, or gets into the pool, etc., etc.  When he does something I don't like, like bark or run around like a mad man, I turn my back and ignore him.  So far, we are making loads of progress.

Attack from the sea...our dog is a SEAL!

When we are walking, I have him stop and sit at each intersection.  He's so good at it!  He's even getting good at walking by my left leg and ignoring and/or quickly recovering from distractions. He's such a good boy!

Another training tool I am trying out istying him during the day.  What this means is, instead of putting him in his room or his playpen when we are inside, I leash him to me.  That way, I always have my eye on him, and he can't go in another room and chew or potty.  Today, he was very good and just laid on the floor while I watched Fox News!

Oh, before I sign off, I have to tell you what happened to him the night before last.  We were up at around 0300 for a potty break when he decided to play with a bug.  He always plays with the doodle bugs, so I didn't pay much attention.  Well, sharp and pitiful yelps and cries alerted me to the fact that the bug was no roly-poly, but a BEE!!!  Poor brillo was stung in the foot, and it HURT.  The poor little guy didn't know what to do and didn't know what had happened to him.  He ran to me, and cried and limped and bit his foot.  I grabbed my puppy book to see if there was anything I needed to do (there's not, unless he's allergic, which he isn't).  I picked up the little guy and sat with him in his room.  He was crying like a little baby, and I just massaged him until he was able to go to sleep.  Pitiful little poochie!  I felt so sorry for him, but there was nothing to do for the pain.  Maybe next time he'll leave bees alone.  I'm just glad it got him in the paw and not the nose, considering he had stuck both of them in the bee's business. 

Saturday, September 27, 2008

A trip to the vet and other adventures.

America's funniest home video:  This one takes the cake.  Brillo was scratching his tail when I noticed him do a somersault, and then another, and then another.  I ran in and grabbed the camera in time to capture this portion of his monkey act.  HILARIOUS.

Well, it has been a few days since I blogged, and Brillo has had several adventures in that time.
First, I'd like to mention that he had his well-puppy visit to the veterinarian's.  He sees Dr. McKitteridge at Eastridge Veterinary in La Mesa.  He and his staff are AWESOME, including wife Theresa and assistant Becky.  Thanks for taking such good care of my little guy!  The doctor checked him over and explained some hazards we might find on the trails around here.  The biggest are the foxtails, which are little plant pods that can hook into the dog's coat, expecially between his toenails, and find their way up his nose.  They work their way up into the animal's insides and wreak havoc, often requiring surgery and sometimes leading to death!  Another hazard is rattlesnakes, but I know about those.  I've seen them while mtn biking.  What I didn't know is that there is a vaccine that helps in recovery from a bite.  We'll be getting one of those... This was Brillo's second visit to the vet.  The first one was when my mom was in town a couple of days after we brought him home from the breeder.  He had been scratching a lot because something in my grass had bitten him.  The dr. was kind enough to see him when we dropped in unexpectedly.  Brillo seems to be healing from those bites pretty well.  My mom and I sprayed the lawn for bugs, and I had Corky's Pest Control come and spray for fleas and spiders.

The vet trip was productive and informative, but it wasn't much fun for Brillo.  For fun and exercise, we have walked downtown almost every day, and it is pretty exciting.  We're trying to learn how to properly walk on a leash, but we're still not very good at "heel."  Brillo likes to tript me up and switch from the left to the right unexpectedly.  Sometimes he lags behind, and at other times runs ahead.  I'm tring to keep it fun while insisting he heel properly at my left leg.  Since he's not yet 10 weeks, I'll take it easy on him.  I just hope one day he'll decide to take it easy on me.  

Brillo isn't so sure he likes his new swimming pool...

Brillo got pretty hot on a couple of our walks, so I decided to buy him a swimming pool.  It's hard to find a good kiddie pool this time of year, and I couldn't locate a hard plastic one.  Instead, I bought a collapsible pool with a blowup edge.  I think it ought to do the trick.  The only problem is, Brillo is afraid of it.  I tried to coax him in by putting on my bathing suit and getting into the pool myself, but he wasn't falling for it.  I held him in my lap in about three inches of water, and he cried, so I let him escape.  I've no doubt he will learn to enoy the pool in his own time.  Right now, I have to be careful not to spook him.

One of the reasons Brillo isn't thrilled about his swimming pool is that he knows how silly he looks half-soaked.  He asks that you don't stare at his skinny legs.
Gillian holds the baby.  He can barely keep his little eyes open.

Wednesday evening, Brillo was invited to Gillian's for a garden party.  I brought his kennel, food, water, and some toys (his chicken is his favorite), and we drove out to Point Loma to play.  Brillo had a lot of fun exploring the yard, playing in the grass, and eating Gillian's parsley plant.  Later, after we had all eaten, he took a long nap on my lap, feet straight up in the air.  It was a lot of fun, and I know he is looking forward to our next visit with Auntie Gillian.

Awwww.  Poor little baby had too many margaritas and passed out.

Because he was so good at Gillian's, I decided he'd be ok accompanying me to Por Favor, a Mexican restaurant down the street in La Mesa Village.  Again, I brought his food and water, and I brought his little bed.  He did great walking over, and as per usual, we were stopped by everybody we passed along the way so they could admite him and enquire about his breed.  Because of that, we were about 20 minutes late meeting friends Sherri and Chris.  Oh well.  They server was very kind to allow Brillo to sit with us, and he had fun sleeping on my lap, again. 

Brillo is pretty proud of his new Republican neckerchief...

None of his admirers seemed to mind Brillo's display of partisanship.

Earlier in the day Friday, we walked through the La Mesa Farmer's Market.  Again, Brillo met dozens of new admirers.  I bought him a Republican scarf for his collar, in honor of the day's impending presidential debates, and he met an artist who wants to give him some bling for his collar.  We'll go visit her in a couple of weeks to visit her again and see if he'll wear it.  La Mesa residents/businesses are awesome!

Brillo is NOT a chow hound.  It's hard to get him to eat.  If I can get somebody to film us, I'll post a video of me spoon feeding him.  Yeah, that's right.  Admittedly, I spoon feed him.  It's often the only way he'll eat!  I use a gold plastic spoon from The Golden Spoon yogurt shop...Sick, aren't I?

We have just started some formal lessons, using food rewards as a motivator.  The problem is, Brillo is not very food motivated.  It did seem to work pretty well for a while, though, until he lost interest.  He is starting to get the hang of "come" and "sit."  Sort of.  In other news, he is still having a little trouble with peeing, although he hasn't peed in my house in about a week.  He has, however, peed in Handful of Wildflowers and Maxwell's House of Books, on more than one occassion.  Woops.  I hope to achieve better results in the next few weeks.

Until next time, the Brill Man will be here, patiently holding down the fort.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

First Successful Leash Walk

Brillo, like most dogs, loves plastic bottles.  He likes chasing this water bottle around the yard.

Today was a pretty big day for the Brillomeister.  He had fun this morning, playing in the back yard, chasing a water bottle, and playing in the hose out front.  His most exciting adventure, though, was his trip to downtown La Mesa (about 3-4 blocks) on his leash.  I've put the leash on him before, but he couldn't be convinced to walk anywhere.  All he would do was bite it and pull on it.  Today, however, he decided he might as well cooperate so I can take him more places.  He walked with me all the way to my friend Sherri's shop (A Handful of Wildflowers), and he barely stopped or had to be carried at all!  When we got there, he had fun saying hi to Sherri and her customers, and he even went with me to Cosmo's Coffee Cafe across the street.  He did get a little bored and restless there, but he did pretty well!  Later, he fell asleep on the floor at Sherri's.  He was tired from being admired by so man people all morning.  He really draws a crowd and can't go anywhere without everybody wanting to pet him.  I have to answer, "What kind of dog is he?" zillions of times a day, and my answer, "Wirehaired pointing griffon," isn't much help.  Nobody has heard of that breed.  Have you heard of that breed?

When we got home, the tired boy slept for a few hours.  He was so sleepy!  At a little after 6 pm, whe woke up from a nap and peed on the floor.  OOPS!  I don't know why he did that.  He got some on his coat, so I gave him a bath in the new flea shampoo I bought.  The F'ing neighbors' cats are all infested and have spread them to our yard, I think.  Brillo is on Advantix and is flea-free, but I found one on my stomach.  I haven't found any since, but the exterminator is coming tomorrow, anyway.  He wasn't happy about his bath, so I made it up to him by playing with him with a big towel.  He LOVES towels, and he had fun being rubbed down and getting covered up.  He loves being covered with towels.  He was all spun up after that, so we took another walk.  This time, we went to El Guapo's in La Mesa Village, where I knew a lot of my local friends would be congregated for Taco Tuesday.  Brillo had fun talking to all his new admirers down there, but he was ready to go home by the time I finished my beer.  I think he's going to sleep well tonight!

Brillo also loves the hose.  Look how he uses his paws.  He uses them alot, to hold things and investigate things.  I think that is evidence of his extreme genius.

Monday, September 22, 2008


Brillo loves to play with the frisbee his grandma gave him.  He does better when it is flipped over, but it's more fun to watch when it's like this.  Check it out.

In this one, the opening is the gem.  Check out what happens when a puppy gets overzealous with a frisbee attack.

Sunday, Brillo and I wnet to Lake Murray, which is right down the road from my house.  He had fun exploring, bu he wasn't as interested in the water or the birds/ducks as I thought he'd be.  Everything is a little overwhelming for this little guy.  Here's his first view of the water and the ducks.

When I beckoned for him to come into the water, he didn't hesitate.  Once there, however, he got a little nervous and bailed on the idea.  Poor little guy was a little confused.  

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Settling Right In

Well, Brillo has been a La Mesa resident for more than five days now, and he seems to be acclimating pretty well.  There is no doubt this dog is spoiled, but I maintain that he is not spoiled rotten.  There's a difference, you know?  He's over-indulged, but he is a good boy.

My dog has at least 10 chew toys, two krates, a play pen, a backyard, and a room of his own, but that doesn't mean he's spoiled rotten.  I mean, he doesn't sleep in my bed (a constant inner battle, I admit),  nor does he have free reign of the house.  Sometimes I even ignore his pitiful cries and make him spend time alone.  I've even practiced tough love by barking at him for playing too rough with me.  I think he works hard for his luxuries.

I need to hurry and catch you up on what has transpired since my boy Brillo came home.

Let's see...where do I begin?

I am so thankful that my mom was with me for the first few days of Brillo's journey.  I swear, this is like having an actual, real baby (as far as I know).  When that little fuzz ball came into my possession, my entire life changed.  Husband Dave is still away on business, and my mom took up the slack by helping me with this 24-hour-a-day job.  Puppy parenthood is serious business.  When she was here, we were able to tag team to get things done, like showering, for example.  Without her here, I've just been waiting for him to nap so I can dash off to the store, or wherever.

My goal is to make Brillo the world's best dog, so I am being super careful to do everything right in raising and training him.  That means I have to be with him all day, every day, to take him out for potty breaks, keep him from eating the wrong things, and make him feel safe and confident.  This is especially important while he's in his "fear stage," which will last thorugh about 12 weeks of age.  He'll be nine weeks Tuesday.

Right now, everything is about play, and his lessons are sort of subliminal.  He's learning while we play together.  Whenever he chews on the wrong thing, I distract him with an approved chew toy.  He is especially fond of his chicken, his catfish, and his lobster, by the way.

Brillo was a little quiet and reserved when we got him home, but after a full day here, he started to come out of his shell.  We heard him bark and growl for the first time on Day Two, when he ripped into his catfish (a stuffed, colorful fish with a cat face--it has something crinkly in it that makes noise when gnawed on) that his grandma gave him.  He really ripped it a new one, and now he does that a lot when he gets really excited.  By Day Three, he had even started doing it to me.  I scared him by barking at him ferociously like his mom would do, and now, on Day Five, he is responding very well to the word "easy," although I do have to bark at him sometimes.  He has stopped biting too hard and is mostly dolling out kisses instead of nibbles.

Here's a brief list of other accomplishments/milestones:

1.  When I first put it on him on Day Two, he couldn't stand to wear a collar, and it would make him walk funny and move his head like Stevie Wonder singing "I Just Called to Say I Love You."  By his second day with the collar, he didn't even realize he was wearing it.  Now, it is a part of him...and I must say it is VERY cute.

 2.  His first night home, he got me up at five or six times.  He has been sleeping better every night, and he only woke up at 10:30 pm, 2:30 am, 5:30 am, and 7 last night.  That's the latest he has let me sleep, so far.  By the way, I had him sleeping in his crate in my room the first night, but I moved him into his space in the kitchen halfway through his second night.  Our kitchen has a small little breakfast nook, and I took the table out to make room for him and his kennel.  He has plenty of room to sleep and play, and there's a nice spot for his food and water.  I've closed it off from the rest of the kitchen using a baby gate.  He does better in his room than in the kennel, because he likes to stretch out on the cold linoleum and flop around alot throughout the night.

3.  The amount of scratching he does daily has decreased a lot.  Something in the grass ate him alive his first night here, and he has hardly been able to play without scratching every second.  My mom and I sprayed the lawn for bugs, and I also sprayed and killed all the spiders we had all over the place.  I lost count at about eight black widows.  EEW!  We got him some Advantix, and I'm hoping the old bites will heal and he won't get any new ones.

4.  I was able to leave him alone for the first time today to attend a birthday brunch with my friend.  I kept him active and awake from the time he woke up until I left at 10:00 am.  We ran around a lot in the front yard, played in the backyard, and took our first trip to the lake (he went in to his knees without much coaxing, but then he decided it wasn't for him).  My neighbor checked on him several times while I was gone, and he did great.  He slept for two hours, and then he woke up and went outside with Catherine for a potty.  He was asleep again when I returned shortly thereafter.  

5.  Although he was already good at being alone while sleepy/sleeping, I hadn't made him spend more than about 10 minutes alone in his room while fully awake.  This evening, I put him in his room and left him so I could go mow the lawn.  He barked and cried for a few minutes and then settled down to play with his toys.  He did great!

6.  He learned how to climb the stps on the back porch on Day Two, but then he got spooked and was skittish about it again until about Day Three.  Now, he loves to bolt up them.  The only trouble is, he doesn't know how to come back down the steps, so he just gets all hyper and barky until I bring him back down.  He kept going up there, so I now have another baby gate at the bottom to keep from having to go and rescue him all the time.  He has learned how to take single and double steps, like the ones on my front porch, but only after a few faceplants and several subsequent refusals to try again.  Today, he gained the confidence to go up and down those double steps without hesitation.  Good boy!

Now that we are all caught up, I will try to keep my yapping to a minimum.  I realize this blog is getting boring, so I'll jsut start explaining things with photos and videos.  Apparently, each picture will save me about 1,000 words.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Royal Point's Admiral Brillo Comes Home

PUPPIES! After waiting about two years, I finally met my future puppy.

This blog is dedicated to Royal Point's Admiral Brillo, the wirehaired pointing griffon. I am certain he's destined for doggie greatness, and he is therefore absolutely worthy of his own Brillo log.

It is 0545 on a Saturday morning, the 20th of September, and the subject of this blog has just (nearly) slept through the night for the first time. I was in a deep stupor when I heard his puppy noises and playing sounds creep into my dreams. It took me a moment to sort of come-to out of dreamland and realize those sounds signalled a very real, and usually very pee-filled, puppy waking up!

But let me back up and start from the beginning, before I get ahead of myself...

I have been wanting a dog forever, or at least since graduating high school and moving away from a family that had always included at least one laborador retriever. But I know, and I wish more people would realize, that owning a dog is a huge responsibility that requires A LOT of time and effort. In fact, it is life-altering and much akin to having a child. As puppies, they require 24-hr care and surveillance, and although adult dogs are less intensive, they require a whole lot of daily care. With a dog, you can't just decide at the last minute to fly to Italy or spend a weekend at the beach. Your doggie needs you...and I dare say a proper dog owners needs his doggie.

With my active lifestyle (USMC, traveling, never sitting still), a dog was always out of the question.  But I have settled down a little, and I am married, and we have a house with a yard, so it's Doggie Time.

My mom gets credit for finding this breed. She was out on a walk in Boise with her Newfoundland, Bentley, when she met an extremely well-behaved, seven-month-old female. She had never met such a well-mannered dog, and at seven months? Incredible. She knew I was looking for an athletic, smart, eager-to-please, medium-sized breed, and she had just discovered it in the wirehaired pointing griffon. And for an added bonus, these little (not really little, at 50-70 lbs) hunting dogs barely shed! She called me immediately and said I should look into the griff.

This is Brillo's papa, Ruckus. He's a big boy, so I expect a similar size out of Brillo.

Here's the proud mama griff, Tipper. She looks like a wookie. Haha. Her littermate is the #1 griff in the country!

I guess it's pretty obvious I liked what I found during my research. The only problem was locating a breeder who was expecting puppies and who would sell to a non-hunting family. The bred is rare and good, and a lot of the "good" has to do with the fact that it is rare. Somewhere around 300 griffs are registered each year, as opposed to 300,000 golden retrievers, just to give you a point of reference. Griff breeders and owners want to keep it that way.

Look at that mess of pups. That's Brillo on the right, with the spot on the middle of his hind quarters. Can you also see how his coat is different than the others? He has longer white hair on top, and darker underneath. I think his coat is the cutest... Everybody thinks he looks like a stuffed animal.

They say if you don't hunt a griff, you will break his spirit. To keep that from happening, I am going to keep Brillo active every day by taking him hiking with me, letting him run with me while I mountain bike in the San Diego hills, letting him romp around and swim at the lake and at Dog Beach, and making him my running partner. I also plan to do agility trials with him. If you aren't active, DO NOT get a wirehaired pointing griffon. You and he/she will both be miserable.

I began my search for a griffon back in 2005/2006, when I was in Iraq. I found a local breeder who was planning on having pups, but his bitch (not being rude here) never went into heat. He recommended the breeder he bought his dog from (sic), and I gave her a call. Ginger at Griffon Ranch vetted me like a VP candidate (good on ya, Ginger!), and I got on the waiting list for a pup after passing the doggie mommy test.

I think that's Brillo behind me, and that big guy in the middle in front, facing to the viewer's right, is the one we wanted at first. I am so happyhe was taken so that we ended up with the dog we were supposed to have--my Brillo!

Well, the pups were going to be ready in June/July of 2007, and Dave was going to be just a couple of months into a 6-month deployment to Iraq. Reluctantly, I called and cancelled, wanting Dave to be a part of the dog's life from the beginning, as I would be. So, we waited, and I did a tour in Iraq, and then we both came home and I called Ginger again. She wouldn't have a litter until the following year. I looked around and found a breeder in Boise, and, luckily, that bitch had a false pregnancy (again, not trying to be rude), and I called Ginger again. Taking the false pregnancy as a sign that I should have one of Ginger's pups, I put in a deposit, months and months before the dogs were even bred. I was first on the list for the boys. They were born July 22, 2008, and they would be ready in 8 weeks! Yay!

That guy is saying, "Pick me, pick me!" But I didn't pick him.

As soon as she called and told me they were born, and that I had seven to choose from (!), I started buying baby presents. This dog has more toys than most human babies. He even has his own room, a modified kitchen nook. But he deserves it!

A long time ago, I thought if I ever got a wirehaired dog, I'd name him Brillo. I kept that in mind while Dave and I discussed other names, and we both decided we really liked "Admiral." The only trouble with Admiral is its length. Two syllables is pushing it, and three is just ridiculous. But if you tune into your southern side, you can slur it into two syllables: "Admirl." Nah. So we decided to wait until we met him to determine his name.

Dave had to take an unexpected trip to Germany for work, and we realized he'd be gone on puppy day, 16 September. Dang! My mom came to the rescue by volunteering to go with me to help pick out the puppy. Mom lives in Boise, and the Griffon Ranch is an hour north of Sacramento, in Brownsville, Calif. She flew into Reno on the 15th, and I drove up to meet her. We met the litter later that night.

When my mom and I met the pups, we both immediately picked a sweet one with a broad head and two spots on his shoulder. He stood out for his sweetness (ran right up to us), and we both said, "That one." Well, that one was the pup Ginger had chosen to keep for herself. The special attention she had been giving him made him extra warm and friendly toward people. Just as Ginger was telling us that one was taken, a darling little fur ball with a white face and a bed-head appearance to his coat introduced himself to me. He did a great job selling himself, and I decided he was the one. He wasn't the biggest, and his head wasn't the broadest of the bunch, but he sure had a big personality! Also, Dave and I were both hoping for one with a lot of white on his head, and this boy was the whitest, with a shock of white on the top of his head like a blond surfer boy. How could I not pick him?

Grandma Katie holds the new granddog.

Oh, and, by the way, he is DEFINITELY a Brillo. His pedigree name is Royal Point's Admiral Brillo. He's very swank.

We picked him out and then had to leave him to get his puppy shot and microchip, and we returned the next morning to pick him up and drive home. He was such a good boy! He slept in his kennel in the back of the Mini all the way home. Twelve hours in the car is a lot for a new puppy, but he didn't complain once. We stopped every hour or so on the way home so he could potty, play, and stretch his legs.

At our first stop, he put his paws on something other than linoleum for the first time in his life. I put him on the ground, and he was walking funny, walking sideways and picking up his feet funny, and he appeared to be sort of dizzy. I was panicked, thinking something was horribly wrong with him. We figured out that he was just confused by the new surface of dirt and leaves he was feeling under his feet. Haha. Everything is so new to this little 8-week-old wonder hound. It's really fun to watch him explore his new world.

How can you not fall in love with that face?

And here's daddy saying by to little Brillo. One day, I'll have one of those big behemoths in my home instead of this fluffy little puppy. Haha.