One Week In …

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It’s a big world out there Rhys

As promised, I’m keeping a journal of sorts on my first year with Rhys. I wish I had taken better notes of what Youke’s puppy-hood was like, and I’ve always regretted that I did not document all that happened with Brady – the bad, the very ugly and the good and the very remarkable.

In many ways, I’m grateful I started blogging as it helps me recall things and situations with the dogs. I guess I should have started blogging about a decade ago.

Rhys arrived last Saturday. He had a very long drive from Oregon home with me. Although my friend Patti was with me and had offered to drive so I could hold Rhys or to even hold him herself, I made my first “mean mommy” decision. I had him ride in the crate in the back of the The Living Room on Wheels.

Needless to say, that was not a popular decision. Rhys had never been away from his litter-mates and there he was, suddenly plucked up and plopped in a box all by himself.

He cried and howled a lot.

However, eventually, he quieted down. I could occasionally still hear some muted cries or grumbles, but for the most part he settled down roughly an hour into the ride. I had him padded in the crate with a lot of old towels, a piece a fleece and a fleece bit that his breeder gave me that smelled of his litter-mates. I also placed a toy from her that had their odor on it in the crate with him.

Rhys was upset and stressed when I got home. He did not want to eat at all. However, at 3:15 am he awoke and decided he was ravenous. Appetite for the most part has not been a problem since then.

Meeting the Tribe

I introduced Youke, Brady and Camm individually and one at a time to Rhys upon arriving home. My place isn’t that huge and we all have to live together and get along. I’m a believer in just getting the introductions over with and proceeding from there. I realize that this doesn’t work for all. It’s worked well for me in the past, so it’s what I do.

Youke was soft and gentle, but wasn’t super impressed. He took a few sniffs and then wanted to leave.

Brady was also soft and gentle, even slowly wagging his tail very softly and low. But he also wasn’t super impressed and wanted to leave quickly.

Camm, as I had fully expected her to do, lifted her lip a bit and did a low growl. Then she turned around and walked away. Camm has never been one to like puppies and I’ve learned to steer clear of young puppies with her. She was the one I was most worried about and I figured I’d have to carefully manage the puppy around her for a while.

Meanwhile, Rhys was deferential to the “big dogs” but did not grovel. That’s kind of important in my tribe. Youke intensely dislikes when dogs grovel. It seems to trigger some rage inside of him. Camm probably would have preferred a bit more groveling given that she is The Queen of All Things. I was just happy that Brady did not start off the introduction with one of his trademark grumpy growls.

Interestingly, all three dogs knew immediately that Rhys was here to stay and was the newest member of the tribe. How do I know that? I guess mainly because I know my dogs and I know how they treat visitors or dogs that are familiar but that do not live with them. I observe my dogs closely all the time and while disconcerted initially, no one was stiff and snarky.

I had Rhys sleep in bed with me that first night. I didn’t feel it was fair to him to thrust him in a crate again and expect him to deal. He immediately snuggled up against the curve of my neck and fell asleep, but only after snuggling up against an astonished Youke while I washed my face and brushed my teeth before bed. At some point during the night, Rhys moved off of me and found his own spot on the bed. That was the first sign of a bit of independence from him.

The First Full Day

Rhys settled back down after his dinner break at 3:15 am and awoke with a new outlook on life. In fact, he strutted outside with the Big Dogs like he’d been doing it all his life.

Okay, not quite. There was the element of novelty on his face about it, but he was clearly quite tickled to be included in Big Dog activities. He was very charmed to be exploring the outside yard and perimeter and immediately peed and pooped, just like a Big Dog!

Rhys had apparently not been exposed to dogs barking, because that was really the one thing that most startled him. Unfortunately, Camm and Brady do bark, while Youke is generally quiet. However, by the end of the first day, he wasn’t being startled by the barking any longer and now when we head out the door and Camm is barking because she’s excited, he wags his tail in anticipation of fun times.

The fun really started when the adult dogs realized the baby gets baby food and gets fed three times a day. So much jealously about that.

Camm started to warm up to him more on Sunday, while Youke and Brady steadfastly avoided him. The boys weren’t mean or snarky, but just didn’t want to engage. If he made too many overtures or got too close, they just moved away.

Workweek Developments

Unfortunately, my first week with Rhys was also one of the busiest work weeks I’ve had since I started my business. This meant that he’d need to spend several hours each day alone and crated or in an ex-pen.

My original intent had been to pick him up this Saturday, instead of last Saturday, based on two factors, one of them being that I knew this past week would be super busy. The other factor was that Rhys was only seven weeks old and I’d have preferred to pick him up at eight weeks. Actually, my preference would have been to take him home at nine or ten weeks old. However, there were nine litter-mates and they were being alternately bottle fed and nursing off by their mom. Rhys was also at seven weeks old the largest puppy of the litter. He weighed eight pounds – not huge, but by no means small either. He was also developmentally ready to leave. Thus, and a bit against my better judgment, I decided to take him home. The decision also saved me another five-hour drive, which was nice, but if he had not been ready, I wouldn’t have taken him.

Therefore, it was super affirming to see that despite his dismay at being yanked from his first family and thrust into a strange new world, by his second day with me he was convinced that he is one of The Big Dogs and was perfectly comfortable.

Rhys slept through the night with me in my bed. I foolishly did not set my alarm on Monday because I figured he’d get me up early. Wrong! Rhys slept until after 8 am!

By Monday, Rhys was predictably taking care of bathroom business outside and comfortably exploring his new world. He was also very actively trying to engage the other dogs, but being very mellow and charming about it.

Despite my misgivings about leaving him alone, after eating, peeing, pooping and playing, I left him enclosed in his ex-pen while I went to work. I came home several hours later, expecting to have to clean up a mess, but to my complete surprise, there was none. Hustled him out and he immediately took care of business.

On his second day with me he also discovered Ball.

This was not intentional. Much as I love playing Ball and enjoy having Ball fiends, I don’t believe tiny puppies should be playing fetch. However, Youke dropped his Ball and Rhys picked it up and immediately started playing with it.

I’m in trouble.

Rhys also enjoyed his first adventure that day with The Big Dogs, going along to one of our favorite spots. He held his own as the other dogs raced around him playing and even went down a trail a little ways with us.

He’s very young, so he’s not going on hikes with us yet, but since it’s a life skill he’ll need as it is an activity we do a lot, he’s going in small doses. He is quite amazing, confidentially walking and running along, sniffing spots, going off a little way to explore, but always staying within close proximity and coming quickly when called. He ended up going four times this week with us on similar little adventures and is just gaining more and more confidence.

I should note that I’m not using a leash on this ventures. He will have to be reliable off leash and this is a great way to start and I’m very pleased with how he either stays right behind me, very close to my side, sometimes a little bit ahead, and quite often, underfoot. Okay, we need to work on that last part.

On Tuesday I came back home from work and was greeted by The Big Dogs .. and by Rhys. Um, what??

Yes, Rhys was outside of his ex-pen and it looked like he’d had help. I immediately suspected Youke who is obsessed with how much food Rhys is getting and the fact that it is different from his food. I’ve since realized that Rhys could’ve been helped by any of the other three dogs as I’ve caught all of them pushing the ex-pen around in an effort to get to Rhys’s food. I’ve since learned to not leave any uneaten food down. It also helps that Rhys is getting better at eating all of his food when it is given in just the past few days, instead of being a bit of forager.

By Thursday, I was leaving Rhys in his wire crate while I left for work and he was fine.

The sleeping arrangements also changed.

Youke was extremely put out that the puppy was sleeping on the bed and so close to me. Youke has only not slept with me a handful of times, and most of those have been because we were miles apart. However, he refused to come into the bed after that first night when Rhys was sleeping in it with me. Since he looked so miserable, and I can’t stand when he is so upset, I decided Rhys had to take another “big boy” step in life and be crated at night.

Despite my misgivings, that actually went super well and he’s been fine sleeping in a good-sized travel crate at night. I figure this is a good way to get him used to being in a crate – a skill he’ll need when traveling, which he’s gotten very good at (no carsickness!) and if he is to ever do agility or other dog sports type things. And if he ever wants to sleep in the bed, that’s fine, but I think I’ll wait until he is a bit older and after he and Youke have established a friendship.

I’m a light sleeper and Rhys is pretty clear about when he needs to go outside. Thus far our routine seems to be to bed between 10:30 pm 11:30 pm, up for a quick pee at between 3-4 am – but not always, and then up at 6:45 am.

Bitey-Face

Perhaps the most major development of the week has involved Camm. As in she is now head over heels smitten with this puppy.

It started Thursday night after we’d all gone to agility class. Rhys did well meeting new people and met two lovely female dogs that were appropriate and playful.

Camm had gradually been warming up to Rhys, but he’s been most persistent about trying to initiate a friendship with Youke. Youke has just been more and more standoffish though. Brady continues to avoid him and Rhys has quickly picked up on Brady’s signature grumbles and growls. He seems to understand he might want to tread a bit carefully with Brady, although that has not prevented him from once jumping on him (met with a quick but appropriate correction) and several drive-by attempts to start some fun. However, while Youke and Brady will only tolerate the occasional nose touch, Camm has been initiating contact.

On Thursday night, she initiated play. Yes, actual play. Play that is appropriate and self-handicapped. The Bitey-Face game has now become a nightly ritual. It’s incredibly entertaining to watch. Pretty much better than anything that’s on television right now. I especially enjoy watching Rhys become better coordinated with each evening and try to employ some cool ninja moves. However, cool ninja moves aren’t really that cool when your body is not yet well-coordinated.

I do look forward to the progression of the cool ninja moves though.

The Bitey-Face game even started on Saturday morning, although I admit I asked Camm if she wanted to play with him as I’m fighting a cold and the game with Camm tires him out.

Rhys also got to meet the garage door repairman this week. While I figured it’d be a good socialization opportunity, it was still awesome to see Rhys initiate contact after being curious about the noise going on in the garage. The repair guy was great too in that he didn’t fawn over Rhys, but pretty much just went about his work. Rhys reciprocated by checking out the guy’s tools and the ladder he was standing on. The noise that went along with the repair did not concern Rhys in the least.

I’m loving that Rhys takes things pretty much in stride and is not fazed, thus far, by very much.

This coming week will be a lighter week in terms of work, which will allow for more time with Rhys and some managed socialization opportunities. I’ll also work on more training with him. While he’s playing tug and learning to give and take with tug, I want to introduce him to some more toys and to the clicker.

A final note about Rhys’s first week here. It is very fascinating to watch him watch The Big Dogs and follow their cues. I said that with Youke I was eternally grateful how much Jasmine took him under her wing and brought him up just as much as I did. It seems that history is repeating itself between he and Camm and it makes my heart sing.

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