Saturday, December 31, 2011

Behind Every Great Man There's A Greater Woman

There are forms of this phrase everywhere. It's origins are unknown to me, but I have heard it in passing for years. It has never been so true to me this past week. While I am not a "great" man, I like to consider myself a pretty damn good one, but I know I have a helluva great woman by my side. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank her for the work she put in with Bella this week while I was bedridden. I know it wasn't easy, but she did a great job. Chassie... thanks. Hope you don't get sick so I don't have to pay you back immediately.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Green Eyes

Did you know sometimes Chocolate Lab puppies have green eyes?

Yup that's right green eyes. Normally the green color only last to 10 weeks or so.

When we picked Bella up from Debby, she had green eyes. It was sunny that day and in the back seat of the car there was lots of light and her green eyes were so bright.

The green has faded now...but sometimes I feel like I can almost still see the green lingering.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Bella's Big Adventure

After the latest vet visit, Bella received freedom of sorts. She can now go on walks, meet other dogs and generally can go places she hadn't been able to previously. Her first expedition into the free world came in the form of the Oakton shopping center. As Chassie went into CVS, we took a walk up and down the sidewalk. It was surprisingly sparse of people, but we were able to meet three individuals, all of whom thought Bella was adorable. She was a little too excited to heed the sit command before greeting her new best friend of the moment. The twenty minutes that Chassie was inside on provided us with a few encounters, all being women. Puppies definitely are chick magnets.

Her next foray into this big unknown was around the neighborhood. We only walked around the mailbox island in the middle of our parking lot, but her little nose was on the ground or in the air constantly. She loves leaves. Leaves and sticks are her new joy. She pranced around with a stick in her mouth for a good minute before something else caught her attention.

I see her as curious and wanting to explore. Each time we go out, something new will occur and hopefully she can take it as a learning experience. Pretty soon she won't be this small puppy without a clue, she'll be all grown up making people happy.

Debby Kay's Award Wall

Pretty Impressive, right?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Where Bella Came From

Last week I wrote about the “saga” of finding Chilbrook Kennels. But I didn’t explain much about Chilbrook and Debby Kay, the owner. I would like tell everyone where Bella came from and the prestigious Debby Kay.

Debby Kay established Chilbrook Kennels in 1969. When selecting a breeder it is important to understand why the breeder is breeding dogs. Debby Kay fell in love with labs (who wouldn’t) and decided to breeder the English style lab who could not only excel in winning show championships but could also win in the grand master championships in the field, which is mostly dominated by the American style Labs. She believed the English style labs were not only gorgeous with their shorter muzzles; boxy heads and broad chests but were also smart. So she set out to create a select bloodline of versatile performance Labradors. She is a master trainer, author of several books on labs, founding officer of the Labrador Retriever Club of the Potomac, a member of the Labrador Retriever Club Inc. and the Blue Ridge Dog Training Club, and an UKC and AKC judge. She is a professional member of the Dog Writers Association of America and the International Association of Canine Professionals. She recently went to China be a judge for a Chinese Dog show.

Chilbrook Kennels has produced lab bloodlines which have produced detector dogs, guides for the blind, service dogs for the physically challenged, seizure alert dogs, search and rescue dogs, specialty and group winning show champions, grand master champions in the field, High in Trial obedience competitors, rally, tracking and agility. The American Kennel Club has awarded Chilbrook Kennels with the “Breeder of Merit” award. A few of Bella's littermates will live service lives. One male, Charlie, will be a Diabetic Alert Dog. And one of her female will be a service dog for a Park Ranger at Grand Canyon National Park.

We made a visit to Chilbrook when Bella was six weeks old, we met Debby for the first time and we saw and played briefly with JoJo, Bella’s mom.

Debby took in Johanna Reis Mona De Leon, aka JoJo, as a favor from a close breeder friend. JoJo's breeder sold her to a nice family. Responsible breeders will periodically checking of their bred dogs. When the breeder checked on JoJo, she found out that JoJo was being kept in an outdoor run with automatic water and food feeders. The family admitted to not seeing her for days and when asked if they would like to give her back, they jumped at the chance to give her up. JoJo’s breeder lives in a state that regulates how many dogs are allowed to live on a property and JoJo would put her over the limit. Debby offered to take her and fell in love with her. 

CH Chilbrook Lord of the Rings, aka Petey, was bread at Chilbrook. As a champion he is a popular stud at Chilbrook. (

This is Chilbrook’s first litter of JoJo and Petey puppies. And Debby told us she is very pleased and impressed with this litter. All of the puppies started to walk before their eyes opened and the way Bella is picking up new commands shows how advanced and smart her linage is. Dave and I are looking forward to enrolling her in Puppy Kindergarten next month.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Bella's Obedience Status

This is where we are: 

Bella is eleven weeks old and 20 pounds. 

She knows “sit” and will sit without command when she comes inside so we can take off her leash. 

She knows “down”, “off”, “leave it” and we are working on “come”. 

We will be working on “drop” next. 

It is amazing how easily she picks up new commands. She really is a smart girl. 

2nd Visit to the Vet

Today was Bella’s second vet visit and she didn’t like the car. Debby, our breeder, told us to take her the vet every week to get weighed. By doing this she would get use to the car and would not have any negative memories associated with the vet. But we didn’t do that, so she whined and squirmed during the car ride.

Once we arrived at the vet she was very happy to be out of the car. She weighs 20 pounds now and Dr. Chun was very happy with her progress. She received her second dose of shots and is now clearer to venture in the real world.

After the vet and with the new clearances from the vet we went to CVS. While I was inside Dave and Bella waited outside to meet new people. Of course it was 10:30 in the morning on the Federal Holiday after Christmas, so there were not a lot of people around. Bella was excited to meet the people who were around but was so excited she would not sit when asked.

We will return in three weeks for Bella’s final shots. One of the final things Dr. Chun said was he thought Bella was going to be a big girl. Dave and I are hoping she will be under 60 pounds, we will let you know.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Accident Free Again

On Tuesday we reached a BIG milestone, An Accident Free Day. As I stated in that post, we were not going to be able to go for 2 days in a row.

But yesterday we were accident free again. So even though we are still working towards two days in a row, Dave and I are very happy to have two full days of no accidents even if they are not in a row.

Good job Bella, keep it up!! Please keep it up!!!!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Accident Free

Yesterday, December 20, 2011, Bella did not have one accident in the house.

Yes, that’s right, she went accident free.

Unfortunately she will not be going for two days in a row, as she has had three accidents today.

Housetraining is hard…..for everyone.

Monday, December 19, 2011

How Bella Came into Our Lives

In July, Dave and I started this saga of adding a new dog to our home and we original wanted to adopt a rescue. We search NoVa for Lab Recues and found two. We applied at Lab Rescue of the LRCP (Labrador Retriever Club of the Potomac, Inc.). We were contacted by our Adoption Coordinator (AC), Jake, and we were soon approved. We started monitoring the website and we found one Dave and I liked, Lorrie. We visited her at her foster family and we brought her home. But she didn’t get along with Draco. And we returned her two days later heartbroken but relieved.

We continued to look on the website and email our AC almost daily. And we quickly learned two things:
1. Adopting a dog from a rescue is challenging and frustrating
2. Our AC is an idiot

We started looking into breeders. I wanted find an English Lab breeder who didn’t breed labs as their income. I scoured the internet and decided I should only contact breeders approved by our local Labrador Retriever Club. I contact all the breeders listed in Virginia and one in West Virginia. The one in West Virginia was in the town of Harper’s Ferry. I worked in Harper’s Ferry when I lived in Winchester and Dave’s parents live 10-15 mins from there. I thought this might be a sign.

The Harper’s Ferry breeder was Chilbrook Labradors, and the owner Debby informed us that she did not have any puppies available but she would put us of the distro list for the future.

So we continue to go to Adoption Days looking for a dog we both liked. Dave was especially picky. He hardly looked at the website and he rarely liked any dog we saw at the Adoption Days.

Then in mid-September we received an email from Debby, JoJo her chocolate Lab was pregnant. And there were puppies deposits still available. When I told Dave, his eyes brighten a bit. And I knew then that Dave wanted a puppy and no other dog was going to win his heart.

But adopting a rescue was important to me. I wanted to give back to the community by rescuing a dog someone had given up. And in my own mind, it was a way to honor Hunter. By adopting a dog I was not trying to replace him but taking in a lost and forgotten dog to honor him.

I told Dave we will go to one more Adoption Day and if we didn’t find the perfect match we would put a deposit on one of JoJo’s puppies. We went to the adoption and it was raining and cold and our AC ignored us the whole time. There wasn't a single dog there which caught either of our eyes. We went home and I emailed Debby.

Then on Saturday, October 8, 2011, eight puppies were born to JoJo and CH. Chilbrook Lord of the Rings. On Monday, Debby told us one of the three girls would be ours.

That is how we got here. I set out to adopt a dog in need and we ended up getting one from a breeder. But I still want to give back, so Bella, if she is willing, is going to be a Reading Therapy dog. She and I will give back to the human community and maybe we will find a way or two to give back to the cainine community too. In honor of Hunter.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Week that Was

The end of the second week with Bella has come to a close. It's been an interesting week to say the least. Chassie was kind enough to take care of her all day Sunday while I attended the Redskins' game. She was even kinder when she took the night shift as I slept off the loss. I think I returned the favor when she felt under the weather at the beginning of the week. She may have a different opinion though, you can ask her...

Enough about our week though, the real star of this blog is Bella. She really is an adorable pup. Definitely frustrating at times, but the good moments are pure joy. Her teeth are little razors and I can't wait until they fall out and she swallows those little buggers.

She seems to be entertained by the television, which means she must be Chassie's girl. I thought it was just sports that she was interested in, but after talking it over with Chassie, it appears it makes no difference what is on the tube. It only holds her attention for 15-30 seconds at a time, but she's stopped mid-activity and sits on her haunches, watching attentively.

She's starting on a new dog food, but that's Chassie's department. Just listening to her talk about the differences in dog food makes my head spin. It's important since once Draco changed foods he stopped having skin problems. She seems to enjoy the food, though most labs enjoy food regardless. She started out as a grazer and for the first few meals did not even finish her meals. This past week though, she has finished almost all of them and seems to be packing on the pounds.

Her puppy fur is becoming overcome by her overcoat which is coming in nicely. Another nice trait is the lack of puppy breathe. I know some people can't get enough of that, but I for one did not enjoy that. In fact, it was right behind peeing in the house and right in front of those razor teeth. Good riddance to bad breathe.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Dealing with Change

Our lives are now different. If you know anything about me, you know I am not too keen on change. The decision to add a puppy to our lives was made by both Dave and myself. But sometimes I like to imagine it was all Dave’s choice.

Once we were notified one of JoJo’s female puppies was ours, I was ecstatic. I read books, researched the internet, bought toys and other puppy things. I spend hours thinking of names and trying to develop the perfect AKC name. (More on the saga of the AKC name later).

Then when we brought her home, I started to have cold feet. It was too late to decide that I didn’t want puppy breath in the house. And even though she didn’t understand to pee outside and not inside, I could see the love in Dave’s eyes growing for her.

There is the rub, my irrational fear of change, aka Bella, and the growing love between Dave and Bella. What is a girl to do?

This is not my first puppy. I was in high school when we got Hunter, a gorgeous blonde Lab, and I was 21 when my neighbor gave me a 5 week old Draco. Hunter has since gone to Rainbow Bridge and Draco is still here with us. So I understand that puppyhood is short lived. I also know the hardships of puppyhood are turned into great rewards of a well-balanced and happy dog.

So though this is a hard time for me, I get through it by watching the love grow between Dave and Bella. And most importantly knowing she is going to return the love and dedication I show her now by giving undying love and loyalty to me as a true companion and life long friend.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Draco's New Friend

It's becoming a little more simple. It's not easy, I won't mislead you. The schedule has helped, more so than I would have imagined. It should have been a no-brainer and we should have implemented it immediately. Especially since we both read "The Art of Raising A Puppy" by The Monks of New Skete. I think we were both a little more overwhelmed than we thought we would initially be.

With the schedule in place, it's been easier to find time for ourselves which has truly helped the cause. Before the schedule, it seemed there was a constant vigil over Bella. Now, we have given her some independence and ourselves some freedom.

The best part about this whole thing is, without a doubt, playtime. Even when she is completely wound up and racing around the room, watching those little legs propel her forward makes me laugh. She still doesn't have complete control of herself, so she'll trip over her puppy paws and skid across the carpet. As she carries "Bucky the Beaver" around the room, she has a little prance to her step and will plop down wherever she feels.

We introduced the stairs to her, as Chassie mentioned previously. The first attempt she needed a little encouragement with treats the first few steps. At one point, she turned around on the third step and I thought we would have to make another attempt at another time. Chassie got her turned around and onto the next step and then before I could even praise her, she was racing up the last two-thirds of the steps. At the top awaited the fresh Christmas tree. She stopped, sniffed and proceeded to circle the tree. I thought an accident was imminent, but she walked away. The second experience with the stairs was much easier. She hesitated on the first two steps and then was off and running. A quick learner, this one?

This evening, Chassie, Bella, Draco and myself gathered in the basement for a quick play session after dinner. The past few days, Draco has sat on the couch and observed Bella from a distance as she tired herself out. At first it started with her coming up to him and attempting to draw him in. I figured that he would back up and walk away like normal. This time he engaged. They chased each other back and forth, she escaping into the smaller crevices between the couch and the coffee table or behind the exercise bike. She would then bolt out of her hiding spot, only to be overcome by the much larger Draco. Once she was stepped on or slowed down by his mouth, she would turn around and go the other way. After she ran into the sliding glass door face first it was time to end their playtime. Both were able to walk away. We attempted a second play session that was just as successful. She's a tough little squirt, or maybe just a little confused, as she ran into the glass door two more times in this session. Both are now sleeping peacefully and have been for well over an hour. Thanks Draco, hope you have found a friend.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Bella Has a Schedule

After a few trying nights and days, Dave and I have developed a schedule for Bella. We are crate training her, but Dave wants to call her crate her “house” so I guess we are house training her using her house.

Anyway, Dave and I took off work this week and this morning we did a trial run for next week. I woke up a 6 and Dave at 8 and the schedule went perfectly. We are crossing our fingers that it will go as smooth next week. Especially since Ken, my co-worker, will be on a fabulous cruise and it will be the Chassie Solo Week. Can you say “STRESS”.

Accomplishment of the Day: Bella went up the stairs all by herself for the first time.

Almost Accomplishment of the Day: Only one accident.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The First Few Days

Bellatrix is officially part of the family. Chassie and I picked her up in West Virginia from Chilbrook on Sunday morning. After some paperwork and pleasantries from the breeder, we loaded up and were on our way back to Virginia. The ride home was just over an hour. I noticed a few whimpers but, nothing like I expected. Chassie had a more difficult time, as she was in the back seat attempting to comfort Bella.

The introduction to Draco went relatively well. He was initially excited to meet her in the parking lot and was curious about her as we took them into the backyard. Once we moved inside, she became more curious about her surroundings and he just observed her. That afternoon was filled with a little bit of play, a lot of sleep and a few accidents. That night, she didn't sleep. A constant whine came from her all night. We were able to get a couple hours each but, the lack of sleep definitely hurt us the next day. I know I was frustrated and was not able to catch her signs when she wanted to go out, so a few more accidents happened. Luckily, Roberta (Chassie's mom) came over in the evening and allowed us a few minutes to drive around and compose ourselves.

Tuesday went much better than Monday. We were able to play with her and pick up on her cues to go outside. She is a bundle of energy, loves her toys and wants to teeth on almost everything. She seems to be more interested in Draco than he is in her. He will sit on the couch and watch her but, doesn't want anything to do with her play time.

So far, it's been much like I've been told or read. A lot of good times, some frustration, and some accidents. We'll just take it one day at a time.