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Miss Destructive: Puppy On A Rampage

I don’t know about your puppy, but my 16-month-old terror, Lucy, has been on a binge of destruction, galloping like a wild Indian through my apartment, set upon chewing up anything she can get.

Yes, she has plenty of dog toys–an elk bone, a Nylabone, stuffed animals, kongs, rubber balls, torn socks–but why bother with those when she can eat Chinese grasscloth off the wall? Or my new sneakers? Or most recently, C A S H. Yes, I was in the bathtub reading a magazine and I heard Lucy contentedly chewing on something–which turned out to be my WALLET. Not only did she eat through the leather with gusto, but she also took $200 and efficiently tore the money in half with her nice white teeth.  By the time I got out of the tub, and almost broke my back slipping on the marble floor, she had my American Express card in her mouth, knawing on that as well.

She could be a custodian–as she also relishes going through the bathroom and kitchen waste baskets, excavating for watermelon rinds or used paper toweling. And when she can can work it into her schedule, a long doggie list of don’ts, she also has enjoyed eating through the silk backing of pillows. And in the evening, nothing makes her happier than finding Bazooka chewing gum. I recently found four pieces in her mouth, and she managed to blow a few bubbles.

Do you think she needs puppy Ritalin or Valium?

Mind you, while “her” room is untouched by chewing and totally intact with no damage done–her very own silk pillows still in pristine condition without a saliva stain on them–she doesn’t feel a bit of guilt about tearing into my space.

Today, she’s in “time out” in her room, stretched out on the beige couch, enjoying the air-conditioining, and watching the Food Channel, too hot to destroy anything else for the moment, but she will. The terrible twos really are pretty bad, but I’m hopeful that with proper

training, and lots of NO’s–she’ll understand that hers is a dog’s life, rather than my own.

All worn out and taking a nap after a rampage


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1

Everything A Boy (And Dog) Could Ask For–And More

"The Kid"

Although my astutely-intelligent cocker spaniel is the star of KATIE UP AND DOWN THE HALL– equally cute (as any dog!) is one of the book’s other main characters—an adorable boy named Ryan. We nicknamed him “The Kid,” and, together with his Dad, John, they were our neighbors down the hall, along with octogenarians Pearl and Arthur.

When I first met Ryan, he was a rambunctious three-year-old, incredibly cute as he whirled around and around with Katie, outfitted in a Mickey Mouse T-shirt, blue corduroy pants, and black-and-white sneakers (with blinking red lights that illuminated when he ran.) He reminded me of Dennis the Menace—a boy filled with high spirits and mischievous plans.

Over the years, Katie and Ryan grew up together—from their puppyish years to adolescence—becoming lifelong friends.

A Boy And A Dog, bonded for life

Ryan furiously raced my dog up and down our 120-foot red-carpeted hallway until they were both breathlessly exhausted. I set them up at an imaginary starting line for hallway races, and Ryan would always attempt to outrun Katie, but she slyly cheated by jumping the line. “Not fair!” Ryan would holler,  both of them lining up again. In quieter moments, Ryan would giggle for hours chasing my dog, cuddling in bed with her, taking bubble baths with her, feeding her bagels and crackers, introducing her to his friends, and, at night, falling peacefully asleep against her, Katie’s paws placed protectively on his chest.

Ryan's Dad John and Katie the first year we met

Ryan’s father, John, a single Dad who worked for a major metropolian newspaper, often needed help babysitting Ryan—and we were only too happy to pitch in. In fact, this little boy became the light of our lives—a surrogate grandson to the matriarch of the family, Pearl, and a little brother to me. He raced in and out of our apartments constantly, dragging along his stuffed animals, games, puzzles, finger paints, Game Boy, and soccer balls.

The Famous Hallway shot that appeared in Family Circle magazine

Most poignant to me was watching the evolution of his relationship  to Pearl, who had never been able to have children of her own. So at last, in her 80’s, she had finally found a child who needed her. She whipped up the greatest dinners, spoiling Ryan with her famous chocolate pie. She was Ryan’s grandmother. She truly was. And Ryan, who had no grandmother of his own, reveled in his closeness to Pearl, and would wrap his arms around her, hugging her close. It made me happy to see how much Pearl was reinvigorated by the closeness to Ryan and by her new responsibility.

If you want to read all about Pearl’s relationship to Ryan, and Ryan’s to Katie, don’t miss a chapter in the book titled: “Ready, Set, Go!”  Here’s a little excerpt of it:

“This twosome, seventy-eight years apart, could be heard giggling for hours at Pearl’s dining table as they talked about school and played cards together. “Granny really knows how to play,” Ryan told John, “and she usually beats me.”

Sometimes I’d find them finger-painting at the table or putting together a model airplane. Ryan was also interested in Pearl’s collection of old vinyl LP’s. “Choose one,” she’d smile, and a few minutes later I’d find them singing and dancing together to Frank Sinatra or Dean Martin, or to the soundtrack of  ”My Fair Lady.”

At Halloween, Granny surprised Ryan by wearing a monster mask when he trick-or-treated at her door.

At Thanksgiving, she stuffed him with turkey.

Ryan and "Daddy John"

At Chrismas, she reached up to the top of the tree to position the star.

And on his birthday, she helped blow out that last stubborn candle, wiping choclate off his face.

The eternal love of grandmother and grandson

But nothing lasts forever, nothing except the enduring bond of family, that can never be truly broken apart, even by inevitable separations, for the lovely relationship between Katie, Ryan, John, Pearl, and me, is something we’ll never forget. I’ll bring you up to date on Ryan next time!

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THE CUTEST LEGEND IN TOWN: Winning Friends And The Influence Of Puppies

Posted June 30th, 2010 in Cocker Spaniels, Dogs, Friendship, Getting A New Dog, Puppies, Socializing Dogs by Glenn Plaskin

 

Lucy Snuggles Up To A New Baby In Town

 

When I got my new puppy Lucy this past May,  I never imagined that she would, among other things, be a passport to a brand-new social life. But that’s exactly what happened. I have more new human and canine friends than I ever imagined I would, my social life expanding exponentially due the the incredible cuteness of my puppy and her outgoing, friendly disposition.

Living in Battery Park City and going in and out of dog runs and walking Lucy along the Hudson River 8 times daily!–we bump into big dogs and small ones, seniors and babies, plus a cavalcade of kids all day long–each of them walking (or trotting) over to check Lucy out. She is a love magnet.

Lucy and her boyfriend, Stanley

 

They want to hold her; chase her; feed her; play with her; be photographed with her. And everybody leaves us with at least one little gift–a kiss from Lucy, who has mastered licking not only her food bowl but every human (and canine ) she sees.

I read that the window of the socialization of a puppy closes at about 16 weeks, and now that Lucy is four months old and it’s officially closed, I can report that my dog is fully and happily socialized. Whether it’s the sound of traffic or heliocopters, the motion of elevators or circular doors, crying babies, overly-aggressive adolescents, horses, dogs, or skateboards–NOTHING bothers Lucy. She’s game for anything and everything and always read to play.

She especially loves HUGE dogs, jumping up on them to kiss or bite their ears, or getting a grip on their long bushy tails, never letting go as she gets whirled around. Like a gymnast, she somersaults effortlessly, laughing all the way, her tongue merrily falling out of her mouth, breathless with excitement for more…and more and more! I’m thinking of sending her to doggie day care a few days a week just to tire her out!

Lucy's new boyfriend, Donny

 


Cesare and Lucy, fast new friends

 

In any case, I’m so pleased to have a happy dog–one who has no fears. Two of her favorite playmates are pit bulls Angie and Donny–both big and muscular compared to Lucy’s 10-pound frame. And yet, they’re incredibly gentle and patient with her as she assaults them with her puppyness, knawing at their ears, jumping up against them, rolling under them, and otherwise doing her level best to seduce them into play. It’s a happy thing to see.

I hope you all enjoy seeing these pictures of Lucy with her many new friends, who never forget her name.

“Hi LUCY!” is the refrain I hear, over and over again, on every one of our walks. Just like my perspicacious dog KATIE, Lucy is quickly becoming a neighborhood fixture, the cutest legend in town.

Lucy likes horses too--especially police horse Lee

 

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Incredible Cuteness: The Secrets To Socializing One New Puppy (And Me!)

Posted June 15th, 2010 in Cocker Spaniels, Dogs, Friendship, New Puppy, New York, Puppies, Socializing Dogs by Glenn Plaskin

In early May, when I brought home my new cocker spaniel puppy, Lucy, there was one thing I was determined to do–socialize her the right way!

Why? Because the first 16 weeks of a dog’s life are crucial–the window of time in our puppy’s lives that determines who they will become as adults, how they react to strangers young and old, kids, all kinds of dogs, and the environment in which they live.

For me, the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and touch of our little waterside community in Battery Park City–with its more than 700 dogs–is the perfect training ground for any puppy, a circus and dog show rolled into one.

In the Introduction of  KATIE UP AND DOWN THE HALL, I describe it this way:  “The Esplanade is jam-packed with bikers, joggers, rollerbladers, skateboarders, picnickers, volleyball and soccer players, and a cavalcade of baby carriages. This is Kid Central–with toddlers and school kids everywhere–their bikes, skateboards, frisbees, and kites filling the neighborhood with action.”

In short, it’s the ideal place to socialize a puppy, desensitizing a dog to all the stimulation of city life–traffic, garbage trucks, sirens, elevators, fountains, blaring music, fireworks, the sound of the waves, the hoofs of a police horse, golf carts, any and everything.

A neighborhood boy who can't get enough of Lucy

So, after four weeks on the job, Lucy isn’t bothered by any of it.  She loves watching the birds and squirrels and she doesn’t flinch at screaming babies or noisy kids. She’s intrigued by the grass and blowing leaves. And vitally important, she adores dogs of every shape and size. She rubs noses with majestic Great Danes and pint-sized pugs. She chases Golden retrievers and Labs. One German shephered in the neighborhood named Jake, renowned for his “singing,” croons to Lucy. She chases boxers, Yorkies, poodles, and Boston terriers.

Thinking back, there was a time when the heroine of my book, KATIE, was withdrawn from most other dogs, most interested in humans and I never understood why, until I read some articles about socializing dogs. Now I see that it was because I never actively exposed her to dogs during the first 16 weeks. So throughout her lifetime, she was somewhat aloof to all dogs except the few she knew.

So this time around, I am focused on making Lucy a bon vivant. Indeed, her social calendar is packed with people and dogs from morning to night during our 8 walks daily (until she gets a little older, this is my fate!)

I can tell you that she has been passed into the arms of countless strangers since she arrived here in the Battery. Anyone who stops to admire her incredible cuteness gets a hug and a kiss. She’s permiscuous to a fault and kisses anybody she meets. She’s had her picture taken with tourists lonesome for their own dogs; she crawls into baby strollers and snuggles with new-borns; she chases elementary school kids, attempting to undo their shoelaces; she tackles 90-pound dogs and playfully whacks them in the face with her paws, biting their ears. On one recent night, she found a huge dog and got a good grip with her mouth on his long bushy tail and wouldn’t let go! He gave her a wild ride, whirling around and around, and I’ve never seen her happier, her tongue hanging out with pleasure. The encounter ended with her putting her entire head in his mouth. Not a bruise.

Lucy and her boyfriend Stanley

And of course, she socializes daily with her “regulars,” our neighbor Mike and his pug Duchess, Brandon and his Bijon Frise Fred, Ben and his two Shih Tzus Mico and Sammy, Maria and her Wheaten terrier, Norma, and most important, Elisha and Raffi’s adorable dachshund STANLEY.

This has become a special connection. Lucy and Stanley, who both live on the same floor in our 35-story building, are in LOVE! Boyfriend and girlfriend, they adore adore each other and race up and down the hall just as Katie used to with blinding speed. Lucy is voracious for these whirwind runs. And when they play inside the apartment together, the action goes on for hours, until they both collapse for naps.

It gives ME such pleasure to see my puppy so happy, so healthy, so well-exercised and socialized.So while many dogs in our neighborhood are skittish and afraid of their canine compatriots, literally clueless about how to appropriately “play” with another dog, thankfully, my bouncy spaniel is filled with curiosity, eager to strut along the Esplanade–finding new canine pals wherever she goes–sniffing, licking, circling, jumping, racing around, eager to have some fun.

As for me, I’ve lost 12 pounds exercising. It just goes to show you what incredible cuteness can do for you.

And not least important, Lucy has helped socialize ME, as all dogs do. I’ve never had so many new human and canine friends. I’m virtually never alone when I’m outside, not for a minute. All kinds of people come up to me to talk and to pet my dog. Fellow dog owners have given me dog toys and books about training a puppy, late night visits for housebreaking tips, shared dinners out by the Hudson, you name it. One night, when I was in a panic about having bitten off more than I could chew training a puppy, two kind friends, Helen Lee, Mike and their pug, Duchess, stopped by to cheer me up and cheer me on. Who could ask for anything more? And it’s all because of one incredible cocker spaniel named LUCY.

For anyone who would like to meet Lucy in person, please join us on September 16 at Barnes & Noble Tribeca, a book signing for KATIE UP AND DOWN THE HALL, hosted by Liz Smith.

Incredible Cuteness

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