Friday, April 24, 2009

Neutral about Neutering ?

I was debating whether to mention something about Atticus in the earlier post. I realize that apart from just letting me express my feelings and experiences, my blog can also serve as a guide for future puppy parents. Of course since every dog is different what I am about to write may not be true for all. Two weeks after Dec 11th 2008, Srik and I decided to get Atti neutered. Do I sense shock or did you just roll your eyes as you read this. I don't know if it was the right thing to do, there is no right or wrong, but in my opinion, I felt he needed it. The primary reason was because the population of unwanted pets just keeps growing. There are about millions dogs and cats that have to be euthanized because they just cant find a home. The next reason was neutering could reduce the risk of certain health problems and could increase the life span of the pet. Finally I just didn't think I could do justice in taking the responsibility of getting Atti to breed. It is a continual process and there are so many rules to follow. I don't say that just because it is cumbersome for me but also because I care about Atti and I didn't want him to be harmed in any way. So we went through with it. It was a simple surgery, Atti was kept under observation for one night and we brought him home the next morning. The doctor advised minimal activity for about a week so that the stitches wouldn't tear. Atti did ok, however after a week or so, he started to act rebellious. It was almost like there was this anger in him, what? how ? I cant tell you till this day. Some say, maybe he was just mad that he was being neutered, or another point of reasoning could be that he was just acting like a teenager ( he was about 6 months then) and maybe it was his hormones. I will need to explain how he would have these outbursts. Atti would suddenly just hate his leash and start biting on it or pulling at it. He would growl and bark and it took us a lot to calm him down. Sometimes he would get hold of our jackets and tug at it so hard. Sometimes it would actually hurt our wrists, if he bit too hard. Atti would act violently out of the blue, like during his walk or when we are at home, resting. No particular reason- almost puzzled me. He mostly did this with Srikanth. It pained me sometimes because I didn't understand what was going on with Atti and I guess he didn't too. In about 2-3 weeks Atti was back to normal .no outrage, no anger no biting or growling. As far as I have read neutering was supposed to calm dogs, that is aggressive dogs could/would become calmer, but I didn't read anywhere about such a reverse reaction. It was a phase, a tough one but it passed and all was well.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Ruff Ruff into 2009

I apologize for the delay. I should have kicked myself into writing this earlier. I am going to start off from Dec 11th 2008. Thats the day Srik and I got back from vacation and we went straight to Dirk's house to get Atticus. Dirk told me it was as though Atti knew he was going home that day. He told me he was a little extra hyper and he was just different ! Well, I didnt quite understand it then but as I write this , I am well aware of it and I have had to see it for myself, Atticus just knows, he can hear Srik or me coming even before one of us know. He would run to the door or his ears would sit up atleast about 2-3 minutes before you can actually hear the person come up the stairs. Flash back to Dec 11th again. So there he was, he had grown so much in 3 weeks, he was stockier,(Dirk had mentioned to me he was eating well) and he couldnt stop jumping, it took him an hour to settle down. He was one excited puppy !. I can recall us taking Atticus regularly for walks and making sure he got a lot of exercise since he was growing and it was the best way to channel his energy. This was also the month when I watched Atticus swim. It was completely unplanned. During a walk by the lake, I just walked really close to the boat ramp. I asked Srik to go a little further with Atti and I threw Srik's shoe into the water hoping Atti would fetch it. He did and that's when I watched him swim, He was a natural, so graceful and delightful. Srik did get his shoe back :). We were able to go to the lake only a few times after that since the winter was getting bitter and the water was too cold ,but as if Atti cared. Atti loved the cold. I used to shiver in the mornings while walking him even with my jacket, hat and gloves on, while he walked carefree in his shiny black coat. When the New Year ws approaching, I thought Atti would enjoy the fireworks but I was so worng. On the midnight of Dec 31st , when Atti heard the fireworks he was petrified. He didnt move and refused to budge for about an hour. I was so upset, He refused to come down even though he wanted to go. That was a long night. I swore to myself, I would never enjoy fireworks and they should be banned ! The New Year brought a wee bit of snow to Columbia (which is a rarity) and I took complete advantage. I got Atti to play with it and he sure did enjoy it.( I request people from the lands of heavy snow not to sneer at these snaps. Atti began his 'Intermediate Education' classes in PetSmart with five other dogs. His lessons included heel,sit-stay with distractions,on your bed,stand. To be continued...

Monday, January 26, 2009

Atti graduates and gets ready for his vacation

Atticus's classes at Petsmart were thrilling for the three of us. There was always something new to look forward to in every class. While Atti won every one's hearts including Marvin(our trainer) for being the most affectionate and 'I want to be petted, I will sit patiently until you do' puppy, he was not doing very well with 'loose leash walking'. I will elucidate that phrase - loose leash walking entails the dog to walk by your side without pulling you- hence you keep a 'loose leash'. Atti could never do this. He was just too excited with the big bad world and every tiny thing on this earth. Be it a leaf or even the wind, he would pull trying to eat the wind , or get a flying leaf, or try to get the attention of somebody who was about hundred feet away by jumping and pulling like he was on fire. Atti was about forty five pounds then and was quite strong, he would take off all of a sudden and you would go flying with him. This had to stop because it could hurt us and also Atti was walking us instead of us walking him. Marvin told us since labs were strong pullers ,it would take a while for him to get over it. So we would stop every time Atti pulled, reward him if he came to us and sat and we would begin walking again. Well, you guessed right, it took us about twenty minutes to walk a hundred yards. We had to be patient and Atti was getting better, still no way close to how the other puppies did their loose leash walking. Atti was the king of puppies in "Come at call". I would stand one end of the aisle and say "Atti come", he would come racing down, with such happy loving eyes and like he was going to give me a gigantic hug. He would sit and get a treat and then run back to Srik when he did his "come at call". What Atti also realized very quickly, (this is hilarious), whenever we did "Come at call" in the class, Atti knew the drill, so he just didn't wait, he would go racing up and down to me and Srik until we said "Atti.. Stop !" There is something else that I remember very vividly. Marvin taught all the puppies to do the "paw shake". For about two classes Atti would do the paw shake only when he hinted it by touching his paw. I was a little disappointed he wasnt doing it on his own while the other puppies were. Then, couple of days later, out of the blue ,Atti just did the paw shake on his own, I wish I had a picture of my facial expression, you wouldn't believe, I least expected it and there he was and since then he is so good at it, he was the most adorable face while doing that. Sometimes when he wants a nice meaty treat, he would come up to you, do a complete drill of his sit, stay down, and paw shake just to show you that he is being a good boy and he deserves a treat. I think it just taught me never to expect, you are always in for pleasant surprise when you don't !. On the day of his test, Atti passed, he even did his loose leash walking quite alright, I would have given him a B-. He graduated from his Beginner Class on Nov 8th 2008. All the puppies had their hats on and we had a group photo taken!. There was something else that had me preoccupied- I would be away from Atti for about three weeks and I could not digest it. Srik and I were visiting India for our wedding. My friend at work, Dirk had agreed to keep him while we were away which relieved me because he knew all about dogs and I knew Atti was in safe hands. However I knew I would miss him terribly and I was just not ready to experience that feeling. I can recall how much I bothered Dirk, Srik and I took Atti over one weekend to his place to get Atti accustomed to his house. I wrote a mega long document about every little detail that Atti needed and I did for Atti. I also wrote down when he needed a belly rub and the different baby names I called him. One of my favorites is "Atticus babycus,sweeticus,naughticus") I am surprised how Dirk didnt murder me for doing so.
Nov 22nd 08 was the toughest day. We took Atti and all his stuff over to Dirk's. We left without making a fuss and I called Dirk several times to make sure he was doing ok. Dirk promised me Atti would have a wonderful time. He said it would be Atti's vacation and he would be cheerful and not miss us at all. I left for India thinking about Atti every single minute. I was just waiting to get back and smother him with a million kisses.
Dirk has told me he would write the next post since he would be the best person to recount Atti's antics while I was away! So we will start playing the waiting game !

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Socializing and Schooling

I wanted to write this post earlier, but certain events transpired( which I will reveal in the later posts !) that got me preoccupied. September was one of the most fun months from what I can recall. It was the period Atti, Srik and I really bonded and he was beginning to understand us quite clearly. We had friends over during the Labor day weekend. It was party time for Atti, He had all of them fussing over him, petting him. They were enthralled by his whimsical ways and his mega cute expressions. I would like to narrate a really funny incident when Ravi and Deepika were over. Srik had a sing song tune that he used while playing with Atti. It had a certain rhythm to it that only Ravi could duplicate. It went something like this - Srik would look at Atti and say ' Guboy Guboy, i know i know you want a belly rub, ya I know i know ya ya'. So Ravi kept hearing this and I am sure he had no clue what it meant but he figured to get Atti to stay quiet, you needed to learn this song like phrase. So Ravi took over and over did it, and he kept saying it over and over again, only that he kept saying 'belly wrap' instead of belly rub while rubbing Atti's belly. Well, Ravi- when you rub Atti's belly, how can it be called a wrap ? As if Atti cared, if it was a wrap or a rub. He lay folding his paws showing his belly and when you got his tickle spots, he used to move his legs in this up-down motion. It was the funniest thing ! It was also the month of many new toys, moo moo being Atti's first and favorite ( he has it till date without destroying it) while some met quick deaths. It took my baby boy few minutes to chew and tear apart most toys. They were like his kill. He used to hunt them down like a wild animal and destroy them. Atti was almost 25 lbs , he was gaining weight and growing real fast. It was getting a little tough to lift him up and down the stairs for his grass time. We wanted to wait 12 weeks before we could let him climb( thats what the books say). I should give credit to Srik for teaching Atti to climb and come down the stairs. Atti had no trouble climbing but he had reservations coming down, Srik taught him really well , letting him come down from the smalled height.Atti learnt fast. We also realised how smart and how perceptive he was. It was amazing.Just 4 weeks back, we were lost with this little puppy running helter skelter getting us with his teeth and then suddenly, it was like magic. He was learning so well, he was biting less, playing only with his toys. My professor's wife rightly says ' they are almost human now and probably in their next birth, they will be human'.
Atti had to get all his shots to be able to go out for walks, So we had him indoors all the time except when he needed to 'go grass'. However, the vet permitted us to let him enroll 'puppy education classes at pet smart' This was really exciting news. I had heard nothing but the best about these classes which are so enjoyable for puppies as well as the owners. So Sep 20th Atti began his first of eight classes on puppy education. Atti is a charmer, I say this because , as soon as we entered the class, he didnt bother to socialise with the puppies, he ran straight to the instructor first, sat patiently until the trainer gave him treats and petted him. He had already won his heart. Next he ran to all the owners, sitting by their knee, giving them puppy kisses, while he got loads of praise, kisses and belly rubs. Everyone loved him instantly, Once he had everyone under his spell he went to the other puppies, he shied away from them initially and then they became best buddies, especially Neela, she was Atti's girl friend :)
Atti learnt sit and the down commands, we practiced them at home religiously to make sure he did a good job in the next class. I was so proud of Atti, he really did very well and boy, when he does a good job, he does want many many treats. Now, one of the training treats that's preferred is lamb pieces. I felt queasy handling meat since I was vegetarian but I slowly got over it as I realised although I was uncomfortable, Atti enjoyed it thoroughly. These days I handle all kinds - you name it- I touch it !
I wonder if you guys ever thought where Atti stayed while we were at work. We left Atti in his crate with his food and water bowls and lots of toys and with the radio on :). Srik and I took turns to come in the afternoon so that Atti could relieve himself. Atti enjoyed in his crate while we were away. He had his daily naps, he had toys and food . He also messed with the blankets and his bed in the crate almost chewing them up while I left them so neat in the mornings. In the evenings, he was out of his crate and the whole apartment was his play ground. Those days were the times we had the highest physical activity. You really didnt need to go to the gym at all.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


The title is self explanatory, Let me move on. As I brought the little puppy home and set him on the floor, he began sniffing. Puppy books say that's 'pee time' so I picked him up and ran. It was important to begin teaching him, pee and poop begins outside not at home. We had to come up with a name for him doing his business. Its vital, all dog books say that , you have to give everything.every act a name or phrase and adhere to it always. So on the way down the stairs, we decided 'Atti lets go grass' would be his line. We struck gold, he went grass the first time we took him down. Reward the puppy for everything he does right. We gave Atti a million kisses and and a treat on our way back. Atti started to explore his crate, his lovely cozy bed and cushion that he began to chew and his innumerable toys. puppies love to play,sleep, eat and go grass! well, they also love doing something else, what they do best- BITE ! Atti was a champ at it, he would get every little thing in his mouth and you had to pry it open to get it out. He believed us to be his siblings and enjoyed chewing/biting our hands, legs ,any skin he could get. play biting it is called in dog jargon- well, play for Atti only ! He was in his own world, biting me almost all the time(Srik was too terrified to do /touch anything that involved his mouth),playing, napping, getting his belly rubbed and mesmerising his with his unbelievably cute puppy faces. I was at my wits end, 3 weeks had passed, I had no clue of the time or the date or anything else except Atticus. I had several sleepless nights where I would run down half asleep with Atti in my hands while he got me with his teeth and wait for him to "go grass" and I derived immense pleasure becasue I thought how Atti was being so good in learning house training and waiting to do his business while I woke up and took him. He was a smart and loving puppy who was doing what all puppies did at his age. I would say proudly that I had very few accidents and Atti was potty trained in less than 2 weeks. I also realized, those accidents were not Atti's but my fault.
Atti had a list of shots he needed to get every three weeks. I should tell you all, he hardly felt a thing, he didnt even care while Srik closed his eyes and moved away when Atti got his shot :) . The vet told me I needed to constantly play with Atti's mouth and teeth so that he wouldnt make a fuss when she messed with him. And boy did Atti like that.. he got his favourite toy to chew on- my hands. At one point ,I had so many bite marks all over my hands and legs that I couldnt believe this 15 lb puppy could be capable of voilence. Size doesnt matter ! I dont want to shock you all this moment so here's a life saver. Most people I met told me you had to go through this stage and he would get over it. And I also learnt something valuable,- to yelp when he bit. It was supposed to put him off and make him understand that biting wasnt fun after all for the humans. So Srik and I yelped. We felt foolish and almost laughed (in pain) but it worked like a charm. Atti was getting over it and was realizing his toys were his bait and not our skin. If, while reading this you change your mind about dogs, i strongly object. The reason I have written this post is to tell you exactly how it is during the 6- 10 weeks period. It is exhausting, nerve racking and sometimes hurting but is hugely rewarding because you can see in his eyes that you are his world, you can see how rapidly he wags his tail and runs to you as he sees you. Soon, Atti grew out of play biting (almost) with repeated "Guboy Guboy Atti! (constant yelping) no bite, play with your toy" by the end of August. The icing on the cake was he was completely potty trained. Atti wins over Speilberg's fish paws down !

Monday, January 12, 2009

When Atticus SJ Finch came home

I have always wanted to write, I love writing as much as I love talking. Its been years since I did some constructive writing, writers block they say. 'Marley and me' just removed that block and gave me the inspiration to create this blog .
I have a plan to make regular posts to this blog for all of you who like to read and also simply because it delights me to write about Atti.

On June 30th 2008, Razzie and JD became proud parents. I knew nothing about that until a sudden urge bottled within me all these years reached enormous proportions. I had to get a dog. I had always had a recurring vision of me with a black Labrador on the couch. And that would just be the beginning. Srikanth and I began a rapid search of Labrador puppies in and around South Carolina. He would be my birthday gift, Srik promised. A pet is a huge responsibility, agreed. That didnt overwhelm me though. I was looking forward to it. I wanted to get ready, prepare myself to take the best care of him at all times. That gave me the jitters some times. After talking to a number of breeders, we decided to visit CedarCreek Retrievers at Holly Hill, SC on July 6th 08. I saw this tiny black puppy 11 days old, almost just the size of my palm, eyes closed and skin as soft as velvet. I had to get him. It was the greatest feeling of excitement and happiness. I couldnt stop talking about him and I needed to give him a name. Srik and I had so many names to think of but nothing fit. And then I just said 'Atticus' after Atticus Finch, one of the greatest characters I have ever read about. And it felt so right. So thats how Atticus got his name. We visited Atti every 2 weeks, because we wanted to and also because we had read it would be easier for the puppy to know us if he saw us frequently. I had everything ready, his supplies, books. House breaking was what I was a little nervous about but I had learnt everything about it so I was really eager to get started with raising a puppy. I know some people reading this blog would recall how I bored them with a zillion puppy questions. I think now I would quite confidently say I know at least half of the answers. Atticus was going to come home on Aug 11th 08. My parents were visiting me for a month and we had returned from NY that afternoon. Srik and I drove to Holly Hill and there he was , sprightly little puppy, weighing about 10 lbs, as cute as button with needle sharp teeth. Donna told us he was going to be ok, the first night would be a little hard and he might whine a little. She told us that he is going to be teething for at least 4-5 weeks and he is going to bite, not aggressively . He just needed something to chew on, what better than soft human skin. Srik was terrified. Before I proceed I should tell you all Srikanth has had a morbid fear of dogs since childhood. He has never been comfortable with dogs until about a year back where we lived in this building where there were several dogs and you would meet at least one in the elevator. I would go "awww' and start petting the dog forgetting what I was doing or where I was going and would tell Srik a million times that he was missing something phenomenal and that he was going to love it. I guess my words did help when he slowly began petting the small dogs and then the big ones, so he was about 80% ready when we went to get Atticus. When Donna said the "B" word, he froze. I told him it wasnt going to hurt, and he was going to get used to it. Well, I had to say something, we were bringing Atticus home and Srik couldnt back off now !! So Atti came home laying on my lap, whining initially, being a little restless and then sleeping for a little bit. My parents were home waiting, my mom was excited for me because she knew mt love for dogs and how I always wanted one. My dad on the other hand couldnt express his happiness because he was worried about how I was going to take care of Atticus. It was around 6ish in the evening on Aug 11 08; Atticus SJ Finch was six weeks when he came home.