Welcome to The Levi and Cooper Chronicles. I'm the 'Cooper' and my baby brother is the 'Levi.' We're not siblings in the literal sense of the word. He's a miniature schnauzer and I'm a miniature poodle but our differences go far beyond our breed. You see, I'm the famous angel dog who blogs from the Rainbow Bridge. Well, not famous down on earth but up here in doggie heaven all canines get to do whatever we like and I like blogging. We dogaroons up here can also gaze down through the magic water under the bridge and keep tabs on our humans. Isn't that cool! After I discovered the magic water, I decided that little Levi---who got adopted into the family shortly after my departure from earth---could use a guardian angel. When he blogs he types in pink and when I put my two cents worth in I type in blue.

Monday, June 30, 2008

First Puppy Obedience Class 101

God, I hope I never embarrassed Mom the way Levi did tonight. She took him to his first beginner obedience class and as they sat there waiting for it to start, he made a huge fuss crying, whining and barking in an attempt to play with the other six dogs in the group. He squirmed every which way when he was on Mom's lap and when she'd put him on the floor he'd pull so hard at his leash it's a wonder he didn't break her arm. No matter what she did she couldn't get him to calm down. He even bayed like a hound dog. A hound dog! Where did the little snot learn how to do that? All the other dogs just sat there looking at Levi like he was a wacko terrorist dog ready to attack them and rip their guts out. The instructor's helper finally brought over two screens to block Levi's vision and that helped a lot, sitting in the "bad boy" isolation booth. All of the dogs save one were under a year old but Levi was the only one who'd been to puppy socialization class and he was ready to wrestle and run like the wind.

When the instructor started the class she had everyone try what she called. 'settling.' As per the directions, Mom cradled Levi in her lap with a firm two-arm hold, ignoring the whining and squirming. The object was to say 'settle' when he got calm and relaxed for 15 seconds. Only then would she release the pressure of the hold and give him a treat. As soon as he'd get squirmy or whinny again, the hold would tighten back up and they'd start all over. The class all practiced this exercise about ten minutes and the transformation in Levi was dramatic. His periods of calm, 'settling' were getting longer and longer. The instructor said this is teaching dogs how to calm themselves down and eventually to do it on the command of 'settle.'

Then the dogs got ten minutes of play time. Levi excelled at this part while a few of the other dogs freaked out and hide behind their human's legs. And while they were playing the humans were instructed to grab their dogs every so often, say 'got you' and then release them again, telling them to "go play." The humans were also supposed to give the 'sit' command to any dog that came wandering over to them and if they did it to reward them with a treat. All but one dog had been working on 'sits' at home.

After play time the instructor took the dog that hadn't been able to do a sit at home and she demonstrated the proper way to do teach that and she taught the group what she called the 'name game' where the humans reward for eye contact from their dog.

Mom got a ton of homework but none like she expected to get from the class. Naive Mom she thought they'd be learning to heel right from day one. Instead, she's got to practice the eye contact exercise 100 times a day, do the 'settling' three times a day and practice a technique for teaching sitting that stretches the sit times out without using the word 'stay' just yet---that part comes later. Both Mom and Levi came home tired and took long naps. ©

Artwork by Jo Parry

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Heaven Sent Service Dogs

I've been thinking a lot about services dogs. So instead of blogging about Levi today I want to share some of my thoughts from here at the Rainbow Bridge. What got me started thinking about service dogs is I a met a K9 military service dog today, a beautiful German shepherd. A bunch of us were exploring the four-leaf clover field at the time and he was talking about how rewarding it was to have a job down on earth. Then a Siberian husky spoke up about how he came from a long line of working sled dogs. One after another we all told about our breed histories regarding jobs we've done for humans---herding stock, circus performers, hunting, guard and patrol dogs, search and rescue, drafting like horses do. Our blood lines went way back to the Middle Ages when dogs were used to power crude machinery. We even have drug enforcement and cadaver dogs up here and one of newest types of working dogs---the therapy canines.

All this talk made my angel sister, Sarah, cry and we couldn't figure out why. Finally she told us that because she had been so dim-witted down on earth from being the product of a puppy mill that she hadn't been of much value to anyone. I didn't know what to say---I was speechless at her assumption---but my angel brother, the ever-so-wise Jason, told her about how she filled a giant hole in our Mom's heart at a time when she was just figuring out that she couldn't have any two legged babies. "You were a therapy dog," he told her, "before they even invented that category of working dogs." That Jason, he always has the right words on the tip of his tongue. That's why he's one of the official newbie greeters up here at the bridge. When dogs come here, disorientated from a sudden death, he helps them find acceptance and sticks with them until they understand that they are still with their families in spirit, can check on them at the magic water under the bridge, and will be able to jump in their arms again when it's their time to come to heaven.

Levi is a therapy puppy, too, I think. You see the last six months that I was on earth I was getting sicker and sicker and that made my Mom more depressed than she even realized. She knew that she'd get another dog when I was gone and she spent some time looking at rescue sites and the local human society site in my last two months. That depressed her even more because none of those dogs seemed right for Mom and Dad's situation. They had personalities or special needs already formed and with Dad in a wheelchair she didn't want an older dog. Puppies seemed rare on the rescue sites and even if there had been puppies there was no guarantee that they wouldn't be unhealthy puppy mill victims, she thought, or would be like me who had been sold way too young---5 1/2 weeks---from a ruthless breeder creating a lot of behavioral problems. Mom needed an easy dog this time around.

When Mom first saw Levi, two weeks before I died, she hadn't planned on looking at a litter of puppies. She had gone to pick me up from the groomers but I wasn't ready on time so she was driving around to kill time when she saw a 'puppies for sale' sign. She pulled in and met two male schnauzers. She told my Dad afterwards that she would have taken one of them home on the spot if not for the fact that it probably would hurry up my death. I was too ill from my heart problems to deal with a frisky puppy. Two weeks later, I crossed over to the bridge and the next day Mom called to find out if the schnauzer she liked was still there. He was.

I call Levi Mom's therapy dog because he's bringing such joy to her life. Sarah, Jason and I were all loved for different reason but with Levi it's different in a way---more intense---because Dad can't talk anymore or express things he used to be able to do. Levi gives lavish affection and kisses that Dad can't. Levi also helps her remember that life is a cycle and not all about dying, disabilities and illness. So I guess what I'm saying here is that all dogs that are in loving homes serve mankind in some pretty amazing ways, whether it's through formal training to do a job or just by being themselves. ©

NOTE: Our blog got nominated for the 'Awesome Blog of the Month' award. Voting ended Saturday June 28th and we didn't win but it was exciting getting nominated.


Sunday, June 22, 2008

Busy Little Boy

The windowsills at our house are all very low, only eighteen inches off the floor plus there are three doors with glass panels that are even lower to the floor. A fourth door is solid and it goes to the garage and to a service door that leads to the deck and dog yard. Mom always uses that solid door to take Levi outside.

These past two weeks of house breaking nirvana Levi figured out the best way to tell Mom he has to go outside is to scratch on one of the three glass paneled doors. From her computer wardrobe in the kitchen she can see two of those doors and hear him at the third so it wasn't such a bad plan for my baby brother to devise for himself. Between Mom keeping him on a schedule that fits with Mom and Dad's life style and Levi finally figuring out how to talk to Mom about his bodily urges I'm giving them both A+'s and declaring they can move to the next hurdle in growing Levi into a great furry kid.

Next on the puppy breaking list is biting or grabbing at anything that remotely moves. Bathrobes that flow behind Mom as she walks, Dad's pants as he tries to put them on---you name it, if it's an article of clothing Levi wants it in his mouth. Our dad is right side paralyzed but getting him self dressed is something he learned to accomplish a long time ago. Even so, it's a long process and thus enters Levi to make it even longer. Levi pulls on socks and pant legs as Dad tries one-handed to thread them in place. Mom hears Dad laughing from the bedroom and when he gets to the part where he says one of the few words in his vocabulary---"shit"---Mom goes in to rescue Dad and give Levi a puppy approved toy to chew.

When I was on earth, I had a thing for socks, too. I stole Mom's whenever I could and would take them all through the house. After Dad's stroke I never, ever took dad's socks again even though he always leaves them on the floor. Levi hasn't learned to respect Dad's uniqueness and limitations yet. His dad comes with wheels---doesn't everyone's, he thinks. So along with the regular puppy training stuff, Levi has extra stuff to learn but he's up for challenge. He's a smart little bugger, even if he did cause Mom to 'redecorate' the place now that he's learned how to snatch things off the table tops. Out of the deck he even manages to get himself in trouble. He tries to help with dead heading the flowers only he hasn't got the part about 'dead' right yet and picks the pretty ones instead. But what's really going to get Mom shaking her head is when she figures out that Levi took a snail ceramic off one of the windowsills and "buried" it in the guest bathroom. He's a busy little boy. ©

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Levi's Photo Album

Recall Training and the Flyball Regionals

Shopping at Chow Hound was on Mom's schedule today and my baby brother FINALLY got a stash of treats besides those bland Mother Hubbard puppy biscuits---although he got those, too. He got some Kong Stuffy'n spray, puppy formula made with chicken liver. Hummm good! And he got Wellness Puppy treats, soft and smelly holistic bits to use for when obedience training starts at the end of the month. He's going to learn to heel with Mom first and then with dad's wheelchair so they all can stroll the neighborhood together.

Mom and Levi have been doing recall training using a seventy foot clothes line out in the back yard. She waits until he gets distracted by a butterfly, a blade of grass or a chipping bird and then she calls him. I must say the little guy comes running faster than I ever did. When they play the recall game in the front yard, however, where there are kids and other dogs to catch Levi's attention, it's harder for him get with the program but he eventually does come running at full speed back to Mom and her pocket full of Holistic Select nuggets. Mom is trying her best to remember to only give the 'Levi, come!' command one time. Sometimes she screws up and repeats it but what can I say, Mom is Mom.

Speaking of running at full speed, Last night was the finals at the flyball regionals up here at Rainbow Bridge. Oh my gosh, I can't tell you how much fun we all had. We wore out our barkers cheering. Every single dogaroon up here was watching or competing except for the canines who manned the steak grills for the after party. Let me tell you, the waiting list to get those plum jobs is longer than an alligator's tail. EVERYONE wants to watch the steaks on the grill because they 'accidentally' fall off quite often and have to be rescued from hitting the ground.

Well, I need a long nap after all the excitement so I'm signing off for now. Mom and Dad are going to a retiree picnic today so Levi will get a long nap today, too. ©


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Big Boy Haircut

Before and after Levi's first haircut.

Levi went to the poo-poo, fancy-do groomers today and came home looking like a little old man. How could Mom do that to him? He's only 21 weeks old! Gone is all his fluffy, silky-soft fur that bounced with each step when he ran. Gone is his stocky look that had my humans wondering if he really is a pure breed schnauzer like the breeder promised. He's got a waist line and long legs! Who knew? And ears, eyebrows, and a little tail. Levi was so fascinated by the newly discovered wiggly thing on his butt that he chased it for the first time in his young life. Mom thought Levi was going to turn out to be a muddy shade of medium gray and was shocked when she picked up a puppy that turned out to be mostly charcoal gray with light patches on his chest, face, legs and butt. I guess his big-boy haircut will grow on me. Poor little guy, though, he's been scratching since he came home. I think he's allergic to haircuts.

Looking more and more like a schnauzer...

Short legs before the haircut, long legs afterwards (see below---photos taken the same day).

Well, I've got to get back to my friends up here at the Rainbow Bridge. I'm taking flyball lessons, can you believe that!? A bunch of us small-fry dogaroons are running the course today while the big dogs coach and cheer. ©

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Couch Sitting

Mom has been on her best behavior this week with housebreaking and Levi has followed suit. Yea, home team!

But Mom and Dad have developed a difference of opinion on an important matter in a dog's life: getting on the couch. When she first adopted Levi, Mom decided that he---unlike his brothers and sister before him---would not be allowed up on the furniture. The idea was that Levi could very well out-live Mom and Dad and she wanted to raise a perfectly mannered dog that anyone would welcome into their home (along with the small care allotment already spelled out in their wills).

This week Levi learned how to take a flying leap, landing on the couch. After doing his flyboy trick he plants his little butt down and looks right at Dad sitting close by in his La-Z-Boy as if it's the most natural thing in the world for a puppy to do. Who could resist those almond shaped brown eyes of his? Dad can't. His laughter is
what gives Levi away to Mom. She is yet to see the flying leap since she's usually in the kitchen at her keyboard when it happens.

She's not going to win the couch war and I frankly don't think her heart is into doing so. Today, Levi was even trying to figure out how to crawl over from the couch to Dad's lap. Mom saw him trying this "low-wire act" when she was coming into the living room to see what had Dad all excited. Levi was so pleased with himself that Mom didn't have the heart to protest. So she lifted Levi over to Dad's lap and they both petted him and Levi rolled over on his back so he could get the full Monty treatment. When he got his fill of hands-on love, he couldn't figure out how to jump down to the floor so he got lifted again. As soon as he works out the logistics of getting on and off the La-Z-Boy, which shouldn't take too long, Dad will get a napping partner. Dad will be thrilled and is happy that Mom's resolve in dog training is as solid as marshmallows melting in the sun. ©

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Poor Pooping Levi!

Oh, my God, my mom is ruining Levi! Three nights in a row she got her head lost in her keyboard and completely missed his very weak-but-still-there attempts to use mental telepathy on her. So he did the next best thing a puppy in poop distress could do. He did his job in front of the door. Mom bawled herself out up one side and down the other but if she doesn't learn to pay attention soon poor Levi is going to need a doggie shrink to undo our mother's failings.

To make matters worse, two times in the past few days he's pooped on the deck instead of in the dog yard. That's Mom's fault too. She gave my baby brother too much access to the deck. That deck is huge, wrapping two sides of the house so Dad can take his wheelchair out there from three different rooms of the house. Until last week Mom was limiting Levi to one end of the deck using a lattice work barrier to contain him. But she used that lattice to line the picket fence to keep Levi from doing another Houdini escape.

Too much deck freedom or not, it's not as if my brother wasn't being supervised outside. Sort of. Mom's been faithfully sitting out there with him but when Levi pooped on the deck she was lost in the Marley and Me book. Yup, while reading about the antics and misdeeds of Marley the Labrador retriever our own puppy was having a major melt down because he couldn't find the steps down off the deck to the dog yard. Levi needs to learn to turn his mental telepathy up a notch when he's asking for help and Mom needs to quit being an airhead.

Jason, my angel brother up here with me, says Mom raised three other puppies who turned out just fine and I have to have more faith that she'll shape up before she ends up creating a permanent problem. But I'm wondering if Jason remembers how one-tracked and lost in another world Mom gets when she reading and writing. It's been a long time since he lived on earth with her plus she's seventeen older now.

I also confided in Jason that I'm a little worried Levi might be a tad slow at catching on to how life and bodily functions work. He laughed at that one and reminded me that I was nearly three years old before I figured out farting. Whenever I'd do it I'd take off running as if the devil himself was giving me a rectal exam with his pitch fork. All our canine pals up here the bridge who heard Jason tell that story had a good laugh over that one. ©

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Bad Boy Puppy

Levi is turning into a bad boy puppy making me as proud as an alley cat that just found a plate of fried chicken sitting on a picnic table. That goodie two shoes act he had going there for so long must have been him making sure Mom and Dad fell in love with him until he was positive the ink had dried on his adoption papers.

He's had quite a week. He discovered the joy of pulling threads in a throw rug. The floor is minus the rug now. He figured out that decorative couch cushions are just stuffies without eyes and lips to kiss. The cushions are lined up like soldiers on the back of the couch now where he can't reach them. Yet. He also made his Houdini escape from the dog yard that I wrote about the last time I blogged, and Levi learned to chew paper and pull house plants apart. But the biggest bad boy stunt of all happened the day before yesterday when he peed in the house for the first time in two weeks.

Well, what did Mom expect with the peeing on the carpet. She'd completely forgotten to let him out at 10 PM and by midnight my baby brother was tired and he had forgotten to try working on his canine-to-human mental telepathy. Mom caught him in the act and made the same mistake she did the last time she caught him. She called him a 'bad boy' in a loud, angry voice and he paid her back in the same way he did the other two times she did that. He didn't peeing again for over twelve hours, making her feel really bad for his tiny little bladder. But three times is the charm and I'm hoping Mom knows by now that Levi's a lot different than me and Jason were at his age. We could let the scolding go in one ear and it was forgotten ten minutes later when it came out the other ear. Baby Levi keeps it in his brain and truly gets his feelings hurt. He wants Mom to always be syrupy sweet, full of praise and wiggly all over the way humans get when they are using that positive reinforcement stuff. So he's trying really hard to learn the house rules...unlike me who always thought that rules were best when you broke them and could then watch Mom and Dad get all puffed up about it.

The next day after the soiling the carpet caper, like clock work Mom took Levi outside every two hours and stayed long enough to read a whole chapter in Whistling in the Dark and when she'd come in Dad would use one of the few words at his post-stroke disposal and would ask, "Pee?" and Mom would have to report "No" and feel bad all over again for yelling. ©