Tag Archives: puppy

Dead cats, working elephants, new schools, and other tidbits from Laos

It’s a public holiday here in Laos, so Mike and I are celebrating by working together at the kitchen table. Yeah, we really know how to do public holidays in style.

Actually, one of us does, anyway. Mike let me sleep in until nearly eight this morning and then woke me up with a tray loaded with cheesy scrambled eggs, grilled tomato, mango, dragonfruit, and half a cup of coffee (I’m just easing back into coffee after going off it overnight the minute I was afflicted with pregnancy nausea). So we had breakfast in bed together before we set up our two laptops downstairs and started typing away like disciplined little nerds.

Though if I really were a die hard nerd I’d be working on my consultancy, drafting the next chapter for this distance learning course instead of having spent the last hour perusing my email and google reader, looking at photos we’ve taken this last week, and now writing a blog post.

But this next chapter, you see, is on Wellbeing Economics (how and whether governments and managers should be paying attention to improving their citizens and employees wellbeing) and I feel clueless. So since it’s International Women’s Day I figure I should put off the hard work of getting less clueless until after lunch when I’ll be hot, and sleepy, and cranky because my back (which decided yesterday for no apparent reason that it wanted to really start hurting) is getting worse and worse throughout the day.

Yup, I’m a smart one all right.

But, today, instead of doing the smart thing I’m going to do the fun one and show you some of the things we’ve seen here in Laos this past week. I really wish I had a photo of what I saw yesterday afternoon but, alas, I was without camera when I took Zulu down the street to buy some Japanese eggplants from the woman who sells vegetables from a tarp on the sidewalk.

She had eggplants all right, and right beside the eggplants was a basket with two dead cats in it. The cats were crawling with flies, which the woman helpfully waved off with a coconut fond when she saw how interested I was in the cats. The flies rose up in a thick, dark, cloud, then promptly settled over all of the vegetables. I made sure to wash the eggplants thoroughly.

That was a first for me. I regularly see this woman selling birds (that’s what Zulu’s so interested in in the photo above), rats (sometimes dead, sometimes live), and occasionally dead bats tied in handy bunches. But I’ve never seen whole kitties for sale before.

So here are some images we did take this week of life here in Laos:

Palm tree at sunset from the deck of our house

Zulu, doing his new favourite thing (bringing a big clump of dirt into the house and chewing it to bits)

What Zulu lacks in leg length, he makes up for in ear size

Mike at a cafe on the Mekong on his birthday

Lanterns hanging above the Mekong

Checking out the construction around town on Saturday morning

Building roads and drains, the hard way

Burning rubbish around town – it’s going to get smokier and smokier throughout March as the farmers burn the rice fields after harvest

Rice fields on the way out to Phonxai

The brand new school that we went to see in progress together just two weeks ago – finished now and standing proudly beside the old school

The village surrounding the school

A working elephant alongside the road out to Phonxai

Is International Woman’s Day a holiday where you are? How have you celebrated it? And what cool things have you seen in the past week?

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Puppy lessons in parenthood (2)

It’s lunchtime in the McWolfe household of (temporarily) seven. Chaos is reigning. The three and six year old are loudly demanding their lunch, Mike is trying to finish his before he has to go back to the office. The baby’s been strapped in his stroller. Zulu is meandering around hopefully.

Mike and I watch as Zulu wanders over to the baby in the stroller.

“Awww…” we say fondly as our little dog sniffs nicely at the baby’s toes, then moves upwards to the baby’s hands – exploring ever so gently and sweetly.

“Good dog, good boy, nice gentle licking, good kissing of the baby,” we both praise him proudly, then pause as Zulu turns to trot away, tail wagging, and with something long and yellow hanging from his snout.

“What’s that in his…” Mike and I say in unison, just as the baby’s mother – from the kitchen – calls out, “the baby has banana!”

Zulu flicks his head back and the banana disappears.

“Awwww, Zulu!” we say in an entirely different tone, staring at our unrepentant puppy. “You stealer of baby food! You furry little thief! You should be ashamed of yourself – we are ashamed of you!”

“Welcome to parenthood,” says the mother in the kitchen.

Zulu playing nicely with another baby – the puppy next door

…And playing less nicely with the puppy next door

…And playing less nicely still

…And this was the end of that particular play session

Monkeys, puppies, and pregnancy yoga

So much has been happening that I’m not sure where to start. Perhaps with the bad, sad, news. I have been informed that Abu, the monkey, has escaped from his abode and has now been missing for ten days. This means no more monkey play time for me in the near future, and no more monkey photos for you. Mike said that Abu probably ended up in a perfectly lovely soup somewhere. I told him that no one likes him (Mike, that is, not Abu. Everyone liked Abu.)

Well, everyone liked Abu except the person who actually had to live with him when he squeaked like a wind-up toy for hours on end, or leaped up onto the bench and took a single bite out of twenty different bananas, or tormented the puppy to distraction.

Abu, may you rest in peace. I’ll miss you, anyway.

To continue with the less than great news, Zulu’s not himself. Last week he threw up all over the house in the middle of the night. Poor Mike, who got up first and cleaned most of it up, reported that he hit three of the four corners of the rug in the study, and deposited one offering right in the middle.

Post puppy-vomiting Zulu went right off his food, and has refused to eat anything but rice soaked in chicken soup for most of the last week.

Yesterday I came downstairs at lunch to find Zulu galloping around and foaming at the mouth. It looked as if he’d swallowed a whole container of bubble bath. Foam was just dripping from his little jaws and flying around in big, white, bubbly clumps every time he shook his head. He shook his head a lot. This was when I said a small prayer of thanks that I do not have to mop our floors (right before I said a small prayer that went something like, “please don’t let our dog have rabies.”)

We took Zulu outside and poured buckets of cold water over his head to wash away all the foam and then tried to take a look in his mouth to see if anything was in there. He wasn’t a fan of this plan, but as far as we can tell he didn’t get into any of our cleaning products, and we still have no idea what caused the bubble mouth. After an hour it just stopped.

The vet doesn’t think he has rabies (plus, she pointed out, he’s been vaccinated). She thinks he’s been eating geckos or toads. I don’t think so, as he has a lovely habit of bringing whatever he values into the house and dropping it on the floor (this includes large rocks, dead sparrows, big clumps of dirt, and bones) and I haven’t seen any mangled geckos or toads among his treasures.

“Living with Zulu is good training for not needing to have the house neat and clean all the time,” I said the other day, as I stepped over a pile of dirt and shredded newspaper that had been lovingly constructed in the middle of our living room over the weekend.

“So is living with you,” Mike said.

My guess is that Zulu has been sharing a virus with his new five-week-old friend next door, as that puppy has the same symptoms. I did learn something new from the vet yesterday, though. Zulu will take three injections without even a whimper as long as someone is feeding him a steady stream of tiny cheese pieces and/or buffalo meat. I wonder if that will work with babies?

Speaking of babies, I’m at week 14 now and I’ve had more than a week of feeling so much better, but nausea’s back today. What’s up with THAT? I definitely have not been eating geckos or toads (though I was vastly entertained last night to see our local vegetable seller just down the street is now also selling dead rats and toads by the bunch, right alongside the Japanese eggplants and beans).

If only humans hatched babies so I could let someone else sit on the nest for a while. I wouldn’t let Zulu do it – he’d doubtless eat the egg. But Mike’s pretty responsible, I’d let him take the egg to work with him and he could sit on it there.

Given that I can’t palm this off onto Mike, however, I feel I’ve been doing my part to keep the little egg healthy. We regularly walk around town, and I’ve been doing prenatal yoga three times a week. I don’t have a yoga blanket, but I’ve found that the couch cushions work quite well. I don’t have a yoga strap, but one of Mike’s belts is an adequate substitute. And I don’t have a yoga block, but finally I have found a use that my beloved mother will wholeheartedly approve of for the item in the following photograph.

What unusual uses have you been putting household items to lately? And any ideas on puppy bubble mouth? And while I’m asking questions, has anyone seen Abu?

Until next time, thanks for dropping by.

Two extremes on the fun scale – monkeys and colds

I’ve had a cold this week. Not a bad one – about a five out of ten. But it’s amazing how even a five out of ten on the congested/sore throat/headache/coughing scale can rob me of most of my energy and desire to do anything productive. I have accomplished things, but the whole week’s been an effort. I have to coach myself through these days, reminding myself after Mike leaves the house around 7:30 to get out of bed, and then eat breakfast, and then make a to-do list, and then make some sort of reasonable attempt to accomplish at least half of what’s on that list. On the fun scale, colds don’t rate.

By last night, however, I was feeling well enough to leave the house and venture out on a hot date with Mike to see a monkey.

Yup, a monkey.

Apparently our recent adventures in puppy ownership inspired someone we know in town, Ryan, to pick up a puppy of his own when he was out in a village recently. When we saw him on Sunday he mentioned that the most fun he’d had in ages was watching this puppy play with his monkey.

“You have a monkey?” I asked suspiciously.

Ryan is naturally deadpan in much of his delivery. This means that half the time we’re talking I (being Australian and thus culturally hardwired to suspect multi-layered straight-faced mocking is taking place whenever anyone speaks without noticeable emotion) suspect that he is making fun of me, or just flat out making things up. This is despite the fact that in the three months I’ve so far interacted with him, I think Ryan has only actually made fun of me once or twice and I don’t think he’s ever fabricated something like a pet monkey out of thin air. This leads me to believe that I am either: (a) a slow learner; (b) mildly paranoid; or (c) that Ryan has devious depths I have not yet glimpsed but can sense are there.

I’m still running with theory C for the time being – at least until I gather a critical mass of evidence to the contrary (which may take another year).

When it appeared that Ryan was not making up the existence of this monkey, or the amusing monkey-puppy antics, I promptly invited Mike and myself around to witness this fun and games.

“OK,” Ryan said, imperturbable, when I announced that we would be descending upon his house sometime that week armed with wine, cheese, and a camera. “Sounds good.”

So round we went last night, and it was great cold medicine. When we arrived the monkey, Abu, the size of a doll, was suffering a bath in the sink. But after he was all toweled off he put on a proper show for us while four of us sat on the porch and took in the sunset.

Abu hung upside down off the edge of the railing and taunted the puppy by flicking her ears, then dropped down and tussled with her (the puppy, even at only five weeks, has the advantage in terms of weight and teeth, even if not agility). He scampered up into my lap, clung to my arm, and chattered up into my face. He moved incredibly fast to steal skittles out of my hand, showed prurient interest in the wine, and begged shamelessly for cracker crumbs. Then, as night fell and Ryan was busy explaining why he shaved the sides of Abu’s head to give him a little monkey Mohawk, and exactly how much of a pain in the ass Abu could be when he got going, the little monkey settled down in the crook of my arm and to suck his thumb and sleep.

For me, monkey rate very highly indeed on the fun scale. Do animals rate on your fun scale? What’s the most fun you’ve had with an animal recently?

Puppy lessons in parenting – resource guarding

It’s been a while since I updated you about our little chew monster (aka kea-puppy, shark mouth, demon dog, and Zulu) so here’s a puppy post.

We had a “clueless parents faced with a defiant toddler” moment this week. Zulu is, on the whole, a sweet and friendly dog. He adores people and when we walk him he looks up at the passerbys, wagging his little tail, clearly curious as to why they’re not stopping to shower him with affection and attention. He takes himself off to the toilet outside. He doesn’t chew on the furniture, our shoes, or destroy our trash can. We must admit that he is, overall, an excellent puppy.

Except…

Two things, really. First, he doesn’t chew on the furniture, but he still loves chewing on us. The minute we sit on the floor he’ll climb (or, more frequently, leap) into our laps then immediately start chomping on our hands and arms. As he is now significantly bigger and stronger than he was when we bought him home this can really hurt. We’ve tried all sorts of things, but so far nothing’s worked except coming to love-fests armed with a chew toy to substitute for our more delicate fingers.

Incidentally, the vet we found here suggested we cut off or file down his canines to render this puppy biting less painful – apparently that’s standard practice here. Puppy lovers never fear, that’s one practice we won’t be adopting.

The second issue is potentially more serious.

On Saturday our neighbor bought over a treat for him – a big, meaty, raw, bone.

How did Zulu show his thanks for this unexpected bounty? By jumping up, ripping the gift out of her hands (plastic bag that it was still wrapped in and all) then scurrying off with his prize.

When Mike went to unwrap it for him he was rewarded with a growl. A serious, “I’m not messing around here” growl. And it was when I heard this and said we should take the bone away for a little while to show him who was boss that the trouble really started. When we went near him with his new bone our sweet, lovable, affectionate puppy was transformed into a snarling, growling, hellion who did his best to bite us – really bite us – and twice succeeded.

I did some research online while Mike engaged in a battle of wills with Zulu over the bone and was deluged with contradictory advice regarding how to deal with this behaviour.

Some sites said that a puppy who growls over his bone is confused about his place in the pack and is trying to dominate us. We should, these sites said, pin him to the floor, smack him for being aggressive with us, and take away his treat.

Some sites said that he wasn’t trying to dominate us at all, merely instinctively guarding something he thought was very valuable. Punishing him harshly for resource guarding, these sites said, was only likely to make him guard more fiercely and earlier in the future as he’ll have learned that we (unpredictable owners that we are) tend to swoop in and take away his treats with no warning. Instead of punishing him this time we should work on gradually teaching him to let us give and take away at will less valuable items – toys, smaller treats, etc – and work up to things like raw bones.

“What do you think?” Mike asked me, washing the blood off his hands – the fruit of his latest “I can take your bone away because I am your pack master” foray.

“I don’t know,” I sighed, watching our recalcitrant puppy, who was crouched under the stairs keeping surly eyes on us even while he chewed away furiously.

“I guess this is like parenting,” Mike said. “People tell you different things and sometimes they conflict and in the end you just have to trust your instincts.”

“What do your instincts say?” I asked.

“Smack him,” Mike said. “Smack him hard for trying to bite us, and keep taking it away until he learns.”

“I don’t know,” I said doubtfully. “I was that puppy that smacking never did any good for. It never made me sorry that I’d done something, it just made me sorry that I got caught. And it made me angry.”

“Yeah.” This time Mike sighed. “I bet you were that puppy.”

So, puppy lovers out there, any thoughts on this? I think we have a strategy in place we both feel good about now but I’m curious about your experiences with your dogs guarding their food. Oh, and any advice on how to stop Zulu from chasing chickens that are unwise enough to wander onto this property also welcome.

Until next time, here’s a look at Zulu in action the other day…

A mishmash of chocolate, cashew, and pineapple

I’ve quit cloudy Ballina for cloudy Melbourne for a little while. I know people all over the country are hating the almost constant grey and frequent rain here at the moment – it’s ruining many a crop and a holiday. But I must say I will take cloudy and rainy over bright and sunny most of the time now, my foot is just so much happier when the temperature stays under eighty degrees. I really don’t think the happiness of my right foot trumps entire wheat crops and thousands of beach vacations, but me being miserable about the rain alongside everyone else isn’t exactly going to help, either. So I am reveling in the unusual rainy coolness of this season in Australia even when it means (as it did yesterday) that I get absolutly soaked walking home from the shops when I go out without an umbrella.

Mike flies in tomorrow leaving our friend Chloe to take care of Zulu (who Mike described in his most recent email as a “manic, chew-monster, bounding, bat-of-out-hell, kea-shark, puppy.”). There is no such things as a kea shark, in case you’re wondering. A kea is a large alpine parrot found in New Zealand. They are very smart, very mischeivous, very curioous, and very determined – the sort of bird that rips all the rubber off the windscreen wipers of cars when they’re bored. They get bored a lot. Zulu can be a bit like a kea, one with very sharp teeth. We are anticipating not only that Chloe will feed and care for our little chewing machine, but will also have somehow transformed him into a perfectly obedient, relatively-docile, dog by the time we get back. One who never chews on us, or yips and moans when we put the hated leash on him and then runs under the ant pantry to sulk and refuses to come out unless bribed with meat. One who sits, stays, lies down, and drops things on command, every single time and without delay.  

Chloe’s cool. I have faith that she can work this miracle.      

So in lieu of a coherent update today I offer two things. One, I just ate a chocolate, cashew nut, and pineapple muffin. You wouldn’t think those three things would work together, but they do. And, two, for those of you who are writers, go on over to Dani Shapiro’s blog and read this week’s piece called On Practice.

“Discipline,” she says. “–if I were to think of a physical manifestation of it–would look like a very tense person.  Gritted teeth.  Furrowed brow.  Squinting eyes.  Focusing hard.  Practice, on the other hand, requires a kid of looseness.  Writing from a softer, more porous, interior place.  A forgiving place.”

It’s a neat, short, piece that shifted (for today, anyway) how I think about writing and has encouraged me to be a bit more gentle with myself. Not that I needed that sort of encouragement this week, perhaps, given that I’m spending more time eating chocolate muffins than writing at the moment. But January will undoubtedly come, and with it my time to focus on draft three of this next book.

Have a great weekend. I’ll be celebrating Tristan and Amber’s wedding (hooray) and then heading to Tamania for a mini getaway with Mike on Tuesday. So see you next week from Tasmania.

New moon dawn

“What are you writing about for the blog?” Mike asked.

“Um,” I said. “I started out by writing about how it’s a full moon because I found that cool photo you took of the full moon over the temple. Then I wrote about how you were doing the grocery shopping on a bicycle. Then I wrote about the dog.”

Mike looked at me blankly.

“That’s totally random,” he said.

“I know,” I said, a bit defensive. “I’m having a hard time getting my head back in blogging territory after the last week of being only in resilience report territory.”

“You should call it Lisa Gets Her Groove Back,” Mike said.

“But I haven’t gotten it back,” I pointed out. “I’m still firmly in the Lisa Is Random zone.”

“Yeah, Mike said. “Maybe you’ll get it back next week.”

Maybe.

In the meantime here are the Lisa Is Random offerings:

It’s a full moon here tonight, so tomorrow morning the monks will get double (or triple?) their regular offerings of sticky rice and other food. Apparently it’s particularly auspicious to offer alms to the monks when the moon is full. Vendors line the streets for a couple of days before-hand selling incense and little cones made out of leaves topped with orange flowers. I think those are for the temple offerings, the food given to the monks is made by women who rise before dawn to prepare it and then venture out to gain merit for their families. If you go out here at dawn you’ll see women (usually) kneeling alongside the road at various points in the town, waiting to make their silent offerings to the monks as they file past.

On a full moon dawns there are so many people making offerings to the monks that they are each followed by a young boy carrying another pot to store their loot – sort of the Buddhist equivalent of an altar boy, I guess.

But all of that is tomorrow, and today Mike is out doing the grocery shopping by bicycle. We are without vehicle this weekend (sometimes we can borrow an organization vehicle and pay mileage, but this weekend they’re all out in the projects). We have now not owned a vehicle of any sort since the first week of June, which bothers me not at all. We will buy a motorcycle in January, but I’m in no hurry. I have a love/hate relationships with motorcycles. They are undoubtedly good fun, but I am also scared of them. Whenever Mike makes fun of me for this I point out that in comparison to being scared of flying, or being hit by lightening, or being eaten by sharks, it is perfectly rational to be scared of having a motorcycle accident. Given Mike’s respect for logical and reason you would think this would stop him making fun of me. No.

By the way, I am a little bit scared of being eaten by sharks, but not much. Really. Except when I am swimming in the ocean I am much more scared of motorcycles than sharks.

So Mike’s ridden off on his bicycle (with a helmet on) and I am puppy sitting.

Zulu has already woken us up before seven this morning. He has ripped a newspaper to shreds, chewed the leg of his toy puppy wide open, refused to eat his breakfast until we warmed it up, and moaned piteously whenever we left the room (and anytime we entered the kitchen). He has stuck his nose in a tiled corner and licked it furiously for ten minutes. He is, as Mike pointed out this morning, “a stinky puppy,” and later today he will be getting a thorough bath with jasmine rice scented puppy shampoo, which he will loathe.

He has also wagged his tail furiously in greeting whenever we reappear from somewhere, rolled over so that we can scratch his belly, climbed into my lap and looked up at me as if he had just entered doggie heaven, and taken himself outside to the toilet. I think we’ll keep him.

That’s it from me for now. Maybe I’ll get my groove back next week, maybe not. But I’ll see you then.

PS, This is what Zulu looks like most of the time…

Deep into resilience

Apologies about being MIA on Monday, it’s a very busy week here in Luang Prabang.

I’m working hard on drafting this resiliency report I’m working on all day, every day. I’ve asked 15 fabulously interesting people all over the world questions such as, “do you think there are differences between the qualities that can make someone resilient in the short term versus the long term?” and woefully underestimated the amount of time it would take me to data crunch 25,000 words of interview notes. It’s a good thing I’m interested in the topic, or I’d be a bit dark at the way it’s consuming my life at present (and all my email, blogging, and showering time).

Just kidding. I have been showering. Most days, anyway.

Then there’s the toddle… I mean, the puppy. He’s not shy anymore, more’s the pity. Zulu has fully recovered from his brush with rabies/panic. He alternates between looking angelic and adorable (when he’s fast asleep) to racing around the tile floor in here as if all the hounds of hell are after him, yipping and screeching just for the fun of it. He also has a charming habit of biting hands. Playing with him when he’s excited (so, basically, anytime except the first 47 seconds after he wakes up from a nap) is like juggling a set of very small knives that have no handles. Any number of gentle admonitions not to bite have yet to break him of this habit. So has smacking his nose, although that does sometimes make him go and sulk under the ant pantry where I cannot reach him.

One of our friends here, Chloe, took pity on me this last couple of days and has come over twice to dog-sit while I am trying to write. Bless her.

So that is my life at the moment – report and dog. Oh, and pain in my bad foot.

Mike and I have been trying to find an English speaking physiotherapist here in Luang Prabang on and off, and on Sunday we followed up on a tip and went to a hotel on the Pennisula where, lo and behold, we met a lovely woman who did indeed speak some English.

She also looked as if she knew what she was doing with my leg – at least until she started working on it.

I think she probably is good at treating some issues, but not lymphedema, because she subjected my foot to everything that all my research thus far suggests is bad for it – deep pressure massage focusing only on the foot itself, and lots of heat. She also recommended acupuncture, which I had the good sense to turn down.

I let her go with the rest of it because I wanted to see whether it might help. Perhaps she knew something I didn’t. She studied here in Laos, I thought, and perhaps Western medicine isn’t all it’s cracked up to be?

Yes, well, unless continuing pain and swelling three days after treatment is a good sign, I now doubt it. In this case, anyway.

I stared at it crossly at my foot after I got up this morning. Then I had a heart to heart with God about it that went something like this.

“Look, God. I was trying to do the right thing here and be proactive in taking care of this stupid foot. And so it didn’t exactly work out, but I think three days of pain is enough to learn my lesson about treating it gently. So you can just get your act together and sort it out now, OK? Be a pal and do your part.”

“Well my child,” Mike said from the bathroom where he was shaving (and eavesdropping). “One could say I have done my part by organizing against the odds for you to procure a very expensive piece of medical equipment called a lymphatic drainage pump before you left for Laos, and then moving your medical insurance company to reimburse you for two thirds of the cost, and then moving the pump company to ship you a new part for that pump at no extra cost all the way to Laos when it broke six weeks after you go there.* You have not used this pump in three days, so get your ass upstairs this afternoon and do your treatment.”

“Wow,” I said, amazed. “That was a really good impression of God you just did there.”

“Thank you,” Mike said modestly.

That’s it from me for now, I need to go and rescue Zulu from Mike, or vice versa. I’ll be back later this week, hopefully to report that the resilience report is fully drafted and that the foot has demonstrated resilience.

*Whether they believe their actions were divinely inspired or not, I must give a heartfelt shout out of thanks to Flexitouch for all the remote troubleshooting they’ve helped me do with the pump since I got here. They’ve gone above and beyond. I’m grateful.

Puppy lessons in parenthood

OK, I’ll say right here and now that, despite my joking on facebook this week, I do not doubt that babies are harder work than puppies. And, obviously, the stakes are just a little bit higher.

But, that said, I reckon that there’s some truth to puppies being a crash course in parenting.

I so had no idea.

A good friend, Jenn, wrote me several long emails about puppies before we bought Zulu home.

Jenn is one of those amazing friends who is interested in my life and reads all my essays, but who also doesn’t hesitate to take a keen editorial eye and a red pen to those essays and (occasionally) to my life.

Jenn’s keen editorial eye and red pen are not always entirely gentle.

Once I got back an essay with the comment “you are boring me now” planted halfway through it. Another time she told me that I was at serious risk of sounding like Paris Hilton whining about her privileged life. The fact that she was completely right in both cases didn’t make it any more fun to hear.

Jenn, who owns a dog and a cat, was both excited and a bit concerned to hear that we were getting a puppy, and in the week leading up to Zulu’s arrival I received more than one email full of good advice and seasoned with a hint of sternness.

“PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE,” Jenn wrote, “be prepared to work hard on training the dog in more than just house breaking & little things like sit & stay. I highly recommend crate training, and puppy gets NO unsupervised time outside the crate. You want to avoid dress rehearsals of bad behavior as much as possible. Don’t give the puppy the chance to have an accident when you’re not paying attention.”

This gave me pause. First of all, what was crate training? Secondly, I hadn’t thought much about housebreaking, but I suddenly realized that the puppy probably wouldn’t know where the toilet was, and might take a little while to learn – a couple of days maybe? A week? Two? Surely not three?

“I must say I snickered aloud at the prospect that you might be done house breaking in three weeks,” Jenn wrote back in response to this. “Unless the breeder has been working with them (& God bless her if she has!). You really have no idea what you’re getting into, do you?”

In a word, no.

Neither Mike nor I had anticipated our routines being so thoroughly disrupted this week. Mike hadn’t expected that one tiny puppy who needed feeding, toileting, and attention in the morning would make it so much more difficult to accomplish things like making lunch, answering personal email, or eating breakfast. I hadn’t expected to have to get up to check on where the puppy is every five minutes that he is awake, and break concentration every half an hour to engage in vigorous games of “let’s run around” or “shake the towel”. Or to have to work sitting on the floor sometimes so that the puppy can lie near my legs. Or to have to learn to be cautious every time I turn around lest I step on a tiny being.

We certainly hadn’t expected that he would cry every time we left the room, or that we’d have to crate him in our bedroom at night to prevent him from whimpering for hours (though, I must say, it’s a bit heartwarming to see how much happier he is just to be in our presence, and how he’ll settle down and go right to sleep as soon as he’s installed nearby).

Zulu’s been waking up between 5 and 7, so I’ve been sleep deprived and distracted all week, and last night I got a very tiny taste of what it must be like for parents to watch their kids get sick when there’s no one there to help.

Mike’s been up in the villages for the last two nights, so I’ve been single parenting. Last night I took Zulu out the back to do his business. When he went to run back inside he started to skid as soon as he hit the tile floor – all of a sudden he couldn’t use his hind legs properly, he was just scooting himself around on his front legs and sort of rabbiting his back legs along.

Then he went a bit crazy. He started whining and crying and wouldn’t let me touch him – just scooted around, terrified, until he found his crate. Once he heaved himself in there he spun in wobbly circles, yelping and digging and pawing, until he collapsed.

Ten minutes later he cautiously got up and came out, still whining and shaky, but seemingly much better.

We may not have any vets up here, but we do have Dr Google, and Jenn’s sister, Danielle, is a vet.

“I know tele-diagnosing is frustrating at best and impossible most of the time,” I wrote to Danielle via facebook last night, “but is there anything really obvious like parvo or rabies that this is a classic symptom of?”

An immediate consultation with Dr Google – who is always open for business – suggested that I should watch out for further symptoms of a tick-borne disease, and Dr Danielle had the following to say by email this morning:

“I wanted to tell you that it sounds like early rabies, but my coworker tells me that is too mean to say ;). It sounds to me like he slipped and then panicked (we see similar-sounding panics when we put some dogs on the metal exam tables; they try to dig their toenails into the table and stand perched on their nails which does not exactly help their stability).”

“So, Zulu either has rabies or he had a panic attack last night,” I announced to Mike by phone this morning.

“Right,” Mike said. “Let me encourage you to use this as an opportunity to focus on the least catastrophic of the options presented to you.”

“He might have rabies,” I said darkly – more because I felt like being dark than because I actually think he does have rabies.

“He might,” Mike agreed cheerfully. “But he probably doesn’t. We probably just have a dog who is very good at expressing his emotions. You could learn something from him.”

“Ha ha ha. Come home tonight and I’ll express some emotion to you,” I said, still dark – this time because sleep deprivation has apparently reduced my repartee to the level of “ha ha ha”.

“Gee,” said Mike. “That’s the best offer I’ve had in three days.”

“It had better be,” I said.

Zulu’s asleep at my feet right now, cuddled up next to the one toy I’ve so far managed to find for him, and given the way he was mauling the toy this morning he’s either totally recovered from his panic attack, or he really does have rabies. I’ll keep you posted.

It’s a boy!

Two weeks ago, when Mike and I went to pick out our puppy, there was only a little boy and a little girl left in the litter that we wanted, and we picked the little girl. But yesterday when we went back to pick her up, Soumontha told us that the little girl had met with an unfortunate accident underneath the wheels of a landrover. The only one left was her little brother.

Her little brother who whimpered and moaned whenever we picked him up, and who let the other 14 puppies walk all over him. Literally. Most of the litter was smaller than our little fellow but I saw more than one of them standing on him and biting his head while he just lay there and cried.

“I think maybe he just need some love,” Soumontha said, a trifle uncertainly, as she looked at the groaning little bundle in our arms.

“What type of puppy is he?” I asked her as an afterthought.

“Oh,” she said. “Mother medium. Father large.”

Right.

As we were driving home Mike and I talked names.

We were briefly tempted to name him khao niao (sticky rice), but then I vetoed.

I liked Jabulani (which means happiness in the Zulu language), but Mike vetoed. 

“We sure didn’t end up with the alpha of the litter,” Mike said, looking sideways at the tiny, motionless, bundle of fur in my lap. The puppy had stopped groaning, presumably in the hope that if he lay still enough we might forget that he existed.

“Maybe we should name him Beta,” I said.

“Maybe we should name him Zulu,” Mike said.

“He does sort of look like a lion,” I said, laughing, “a very timid little lion. But maybe he’ll turn out to be an African prince after all.”

“Oh, I was more thinking that Z is the last letter of the alphabet and I don’t think he’s the sharpest knife in the drawer,” Mike said.

“He may have been standing last in line when they handed out brains in this litter?” I asked.

“Maybe,” Mike said.

“Are you going to defend yourself against this assertion?” I asked the puppy.

He rolled his eyes back and looked up at me without moving. No, he clearly wasn’t, and Zulu it was.

The first thing he did when we put him down inside the house was to go look for a hiding place. He started out behind the stairs, in among piles of my books (we’re still waiting for bookshelves to be made) and every time I went to check on him during the next three hours he’d somehow managed to worm his way further back into the stacks.

All he did all afternoon was sleep, squeak (he makes the most peculiar un-puppy like sounds), and scratch. I started to wonder whether he might be attachment disordered in addition to everything else. But perhaps he’s not as dumb as we thought he might be, because in light of the three scrubbings and the thorough de-ticking we subjected him to later in the evening his instincts to hide may have been serving him well.

He was so traumatized by the whole day that he stayed in his crate for the first night, downstairs alone, without a peep.

Yesterday, however, after we rolled around on the floor with him, napped with him, sat outside with him, and petted him all afternoon, he started warming up to us.

“We love you,” Mike proclaimed, nose to nose with him on the floor. “You will love us.”

“You might as well give in then,” I advised Zulu. “Once Mike decides to inflict love upon you there’s nothing that can be done.”

“That’s right,” Mike said.

By last night Zulu was wagging his tale and begging loudly not to be abandoned, despite the bottle of water we’d heated up and then wrapped up in a towel to serve as a fake sibling for him. We had to bring the crate upstairs to our bedroom, where at least he slept peacefully until 5am.

“Go back to sleep, Squeaky Z,” I said, when he woke us up this morning by sounding remarkably like a large guinea pig.

Apparently my voice does not carry as much authority as Mike’s, which is why I’m yawing as I write this.

We haven’t yet figured out whether he’ll earn his name for being a princely African warrior of a dog, or a lovable and squeaky dumbo. On the one hand we’ve seen him tumble himself backwards off a ledge and into a pile of stones, and squirm under the door of his crate rather than figure out how to go around it. On the other hand, he’s already toileting outside like a champion (though I guess it’s possible he just lacks the willpower to resist Mike’s enthusiastic exhortations to, “go poo in the grass, that’s the boy!”). Either way, it’s sure fun to have him around.