At the Gate
Dealing with a whole new generation of dog-related issues.
Last month in this space, I mentioned that my son’s puppy (Cole, now 7 or 8 months old) had presumably received all the “puppy shots” a puppy his age would ordinarily receive, when a vaccine titer test revealed that he lacked circulating antibodies to distemper. Thank goodness we had asked for the test – apparently, the first one that anyone at that veterinary practice had ever ordered – because without it, we wouldn’t have known that Cole was still absolutely vulnerable to becoming seriously ill should he ever encounter the distemper virus out in the world. He was vaccinated again, and three weeks later, we ran another vaccine titer test, and this time, the results came back as quite positive; he now has circulating antibodies to the distemper virus in his blood.
I said that I would discuss vaccinations, vaccine titer tests, and Cole’s situation in the April issue, but this article will actually appear in the May issue. For reasons that I will explain further next month, it took weeks longer than expected to receive the test results (I actually received them just a day before I am writing this) and I wanted to discuss them, whichever way they turned out, in the article that you will see next month.
Speaking of grandpuppies: I mentioned a few months ago that my grandson, Liam, was coming to live nearby. I’m still adjusting to how ridiculous it is that I could possibly be a grandparent – someone who is now referred to daily as Nana! . . . I mean, that was my grandmother’s name! – but I’m not the only one adjusting to daily visits from an almost-two-year-old person. Tito the Chihuahua could not be more excited to see Liam every day; he screams with joy, wags himself in two, and races to find a ball. He doesn’t bring the ball to anyone, but he loves being chased when he has a ball, and Liam loves chasing him, in the lurching, uncoordinated way that human toddlers chase anything.
My big mixed-breed dog Otto does not like being chased, and what’s more, he does not particularly like kids. When we adopted Otto in 2008, when he was about 7 or 8 months old, Otto was afraid of a lot of different types of people – tall ones, loud ones, deep-voiced ones, men who wear big boots, people with gardening equipment, and pretty much all children – and I’ve worked hard over the years to help him form more positive associations with all humans, particularly the ones on his “no fly” list. He’s solid with about 99 percent of all the adult humans he meets now, but truly comfortable with only about 50 percent of the older kids he meets, and not yet predictably okay with any toddlers.
I’ve already admitted I’m a grandparent now; it follows that at my age, I’ve had only sporadic access to toddlers with whom I could conduct counter-conditioning sessions with my dog. They are all around, and yet you can’t just borrow one that is a third of the size of your dog for the express purpose of training the dog! Unless they are related to you. Then, it seems, the parents are all, “Sure! Yeah! Take him! We’ll see you in a couple of hours!”
So, it’s taken almost six years, but we’re finally working on this gap in Otto’s education and experience. Glory be, he’s coming around beautifully. It helps that Otto loves food, and is well-accustomed to working for food and being very patient and self-controlled around it – and that Liam is often surrounded and splattered with various kinds of food (as is his stroller and car seat), and that he loves dogs. I’m stacking the deck in everyone’s favor by literally showering Otto with treats when Liam is nearby, and today, Otto’s face lights up with happy anticipation when he spots Liam and Liam’s mom at the gate. You’ll see; Nana’s excessive photographic proof will appear here soon.