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Chandra's Blog


Entries in puppy (5)


Dog Blog--Sampson, 16 weeks old


16 weeks oldSampson, 16 weeks

51 lbs.


For weeks I have been working on a post on the parallels between getting a puppy and having a baby. There are many similarities--your life is forever changed, your sleep patterns are interrupted, and you are irrevocably tied to the schedule and behavioral learning curve of a small, endearing, big-eyed creature. 


In some ways, I think it is easier to have a puppy than a baby. The biggest is that you can leave a puppy at home for short errands. (Though this reminds me of the story when J was working his way through grad school as an electrician, he called to report that he was replacing wiring in an apartment where a young mother tied a helium balloon to the ankle of her infant to give it something to look it, laid the baby in the center of her bed, and went out for several hours, leaving an anxious J alone in the apartment with the baby.) In our case, leaving our children OR Sampson home alone is now more about the risk of property damage than a call to Child Protective Services.

Add to the list of things Sampson has chewed when left unattended:

--the corner of the bathroom door

--two more pairs of flip flops

--the finger off Baby Hideous II and part of Swimming Ariel's foot

--the toilet brush (gross!) and two hairbrushes (this could be in retaliation for us fluffing his fuzz with them)

--all of the stuffing out of my grandmother's antique dressing stool

--the lower half of Snow White's arm. We did a clean amputation with my garden nippers and I read Piper the story of Bethany Hamilton, the surf champion who went on to ride curlers after losing an arm to a tiger shark. She was impressed and we agreed Snow White could go on to fulfill her princess duties with half an arm and it's actually boosted her popularity rating in Piper's doll hierarchy. 

On the other hand, you can take a baby many places you can't take a dog. Like the Jersey shore, or the grocery store, or the swim club, or in most cases, a restaurant. I remember the first phrase I learned when my Newf Dakota and I were trekking around Spain was: ¿Puedo llevar mi perro aqui? The answer was almost always an enthusiastic Si!

Not so in the States. This means that life with Sampson equals outings that are planned in short spurts, and occasionally, peppered with desperate calls to nearby friends and family for a quick stop by the house for Sampson duty. Dogs don't wear diapers. 

Also, babies (or at least my babies) are very easy to placate. For my kids, nursing (not an option with the dog obviously) or trundling them in the sling or backpack and going for a walk outdoors solved almost every problem. 



Hayden lived in his 'paisley womb'We Hoffmans are people who carry our young.

In backpacks, slings and arms. 
Piper rides to MFA class, 7 weeks old Hayden totes Piper
Even our hairy son Sampson got his fair share of time 'in arms', but this is no longer a feasible means of transport for a puppy who weighs more than a bag of horse feed.
Max rode on J's back throughout Europe



Our days of carrying him are over.

Still, a walk outside does wonders for everyone's demeanors.






Sampson on his favorite morning walk



The Importance of Peers or "Puppy Playgroup"

One of the biggest similarities between owning a puppy and having a hairless human baby is that one of the most important things you can find are peers, playgroup friends and in the case of the canine, owners who can commiserate and reassure each other that 'this too shall pass'. 

This week we found Sampson's first puppy playgroup: Meet Mouse, the bossy miniature Dachsund, Mojo the white Lab pup (2 weeks younger than Samps) and Moose, the 9 month old mutt. 

 Puppy Playgroup

All four dogs had a grand afternoon of romping. Mouse bossed everyone around with her high-pitched yipes, Moose mostly enjoyed time with a distracted Mojo's toys, and Mojo and Sampson went round after round of "pinned ya!" Despite a weight and age advantage, Sampson was on Mojo's turf and his owner is a wrestling coach, so he spent a lot of time on the bottom.

This is typical of the docile Newf, and they all ended the day as friends, politely taking turns 'digging' all the water out of Moose's bowl.


Sampson slept well that night, exhausted from an afternoon with his playmates. Our next visit will be at the pool, where Sampson plans to show off his stellar swimming skills. 



I remember I had original plans to take photos with Sampson and an object to show his growth. I've heard stories of parents who took photos of their child in the same shirt from birth to eighteen, or even in an iconic item, like a bridesmaid dress from the mother's wedding or something, and I always admired this idea, but never got my shit together to pull it off. Another parallel between parenting babies or puppies--someone will always raise the bar and do it better. 

But below, you can see Sampson and our 'baby', from when he first came home to last week. While Piper is growing slowly, Samps has tripled in size...


Pip and Samps, 7 weeksPip and Samps, 16 weeksWhat hasn't changed? How much these two adore each other. And the nipping? Almost (almost!) gone. 


Stay tuned next week, for a guest blog post from Sampson's new canine BFF Mojo... 


Guest dog blog -- Zulu, the mutt from Laos

Perhaps this post from Lisa McKay in Laos (who is technically now in Australia, awaiting the birth of her first less-hairy, human baby) should be THE ONE THAT WAS ALMOST THE ONE... It is a hilarious discussion between husband and wife on the merits of acquiring a Samoyed in the tropics of Laos. Their debate reminds me a bit of this post gone viral by the Bloggess on what happens when lines are drawn in the marital sand. Luckily, Lisa and Mike handle this in a way that doesn't involve a giant wire rooster, and ends instead with their local mutt named Zulu. You can read about him here in It’s a boy. Lisa and Zulu

Lisa first wrote to me when we lost Jonah last January, professing her love for Newfs and the impracticality of owning one in Laos. I confessed that for eighteen months, I kept my original Newf Dakota in the Cayman Islands, shaved to the skin and sunscreened. I am enjoying her blog postings and expat musings, looking forward to hearing about her newest adventure: motherhood. Enjoy her guest spot below and be sure to check out links to more dog tales...

Friendly companions from Siberia

It’s been three months since we moved to Laos, one month since we moved into our house, and one week since our neighbor’s computer was stolen. His front door is less than ten steps away and when he left his door unlocked and went out in the middle of the day last week someone strolled up, let themselves in, picked up his laptop and took off. I was likely sitting right next door when this happened.

Mike and I were less than thrilled when we learned about this. We really like our house here in Luang Prabang. All the toilets and air conditioners and taps are working now (as are some of the hot water heaters) and it’s beautiful, really. Downstairs is just one large, tiled, space. In the middle of the room are two gothic pillars – I call it the ballroom. From one end of the ballroom a curved wooden staircase sweeps up to the second floor. It’s all very Gone With The Wind.

Even the windows – draped with gold tasseled curtains – are beautiful. But it’s a bit of a shame that we didn’t fully realize until after we’d moved in that one of the reasons they are beautiful is because they are not obscured by burglar bars. Or that the locks on these clear panes of glass are, shall we say… flimsy. Or that there’s no easy way to secure them from the inside because all the windows in the house (all nineteen of them) open from both ends.

So in light of recent events, we’ve decided that we really do need to get a dog, and this weekend we started trying to figure out how to do that.

Most people in Laos, it seems, get their nice big dogs from Thailand or China, but on Sunday we got a tip. There is one place in town that sells dogs, a friend told us. If we went right at the petrol station and down past the first roundabout we’d see a small shop selling bonsai trees. That was the place.

So on Sunday we went looking for bonsai trees, hoping they’d lead us to puppies. And sure enough, they did. In the back room of the bonsai store, in a wire cage, was a beautiful ball of white fluff that licked my fingers and batted my wrist with her paws and tried her best to climb out of the cage and into my arms.

“Awwww,” I said. “Awwwww.”

“What is that?” Mike asked.

“It looks like a husky,” I said.

The bonsai-dog seller couldn’t speak any English but he bought out a book and pointed proudly to a picture of a very large, very furry, white dog. This adorable little bundle was a Samoyed. And she cost three hundred US dollars.

What is a Samoyed doing here?” Mike asked.

“She’s so cute,” I said.

“Yes,” Mike said. “She’s a very cute puppy that’s going to grow into a big hot muddy ball of tangled fur. What is a Samoyed, anyway?”

“I think they’re sled dogs,” I said.

“Obviously,” Mike said, nudging me out of the store. “Because it makes total sense to import a sled dog to Laos.”

I think Mike thought that was the end of that conversation. Silly Mike.

When we got home later that day I looked up Samoyeds.

“The Samoyed comes initially from Siberia,” I said, looking across the kitchen table and Mike at smiling guilelessly. “She’s a long way away from home… just like us.

“Siberia,” Mike said. “What else does it say?”

I foolishly continued reading the Wikipedia entry out loud without editing anything out. “Samoyed’s have a dense double layer coat. The undercoat consists of soft and short fur that keeps the dog warm. The undercoat is typically shed heavily once or twice a year. This does not mean the Samoyed will only shed during that time however; fine hairs (versus the clumps of top coat shed during seasonal shedding) will be shed all year round, and have a tendency to stick to cloth and float in the air.”

Mike gestured to the ballroom behind us. “Are you seeing it?” he asked. “I want you to picture the whole room full of white hair floating in the air.

“That is what we have a maid for,” I said. “We were just saying we didn’t have enough for her to do.”

Mike looked at me with narrowed eyes.

“This is not a good idea,” he said.

“Nomadic reindeer herders bred the fluffy white dogs to help with herding and to pull sleds. She’s a working dog,” I said, starting to build my case. “She can work for us.”

“What we need is a guard dog,” Mike said.

“Well…” I said, scanning down the wikipedia entry, “it doesn’t actually seem that she’d excel in that domain.”

“What does it say?” Mike said.

“Samoyeds’ friendly disposition makes them poor guard dogs; an aggressive Samoyed is rare. But,” I rushed to keep reading as Mike started laughing. “Samoyeds are excellent companions, especially for small children, and they remain playful into old age. When Samoyeds become bored they…”

I stopped reading.

“Go on,” Mike said, still laughing.

“They may begin to dig. And herd things.” I finished lamely.

“But they are excellent, friendly, companions,” I reminded him, trying to regain some ground.

“And you live in such an affection vacuum that you’re in desperate need of friendly companions,” Mike said.

“She and I would understand each other,” I said. “We both thrive in cool climates. She could sit beside me under the air conditioner at the kitchen table. She could lie on my feet and keep me company.”

“Right,” Mike said. “Because that’s exactly what you’d want – a giant furball lying on your already overheated feet in the tropics.”

“Well,” I amended, “she could lie beside my feet. And occasionally she could reach out and lick my good foot. Gently.”

“Of course she would,” Mike said. “Of course. Only your good foot. And only gently. And I can see it now – this shedding ball of fluff who wants to dig and herd and who hates the heat and that we’ve said we’ll train to stay downstairs. You’ll go upstairs to work in the study and feel sorry for the hot little Samoyed downstairs and you’ll leave the air conditioner on for her.

“No I wouldn’t!” I said, shocked. Then I thought about how hot it can get downstairs and I amended. “Well, maybe, on very hot days. For she would be a friendly companion.”

No,” Mike said.

Late last night, right before we went to sleep, I rolled over to Mike and cuddled up to him lovingly.

“Friendly companion,” I whispered in his ear.

Guard dog,” Mike said. “She’d herd an intruder right to our computers and lick him along the way for good measure. Besides, who buys a three hundred dollar dog in this town?”

Then he laughed. “I know exactly who buys them. Men who are incapable of standing up to their wives, that’s who.”

“Friendly. Companion.” I said in my most alluring voice.

“Go to sleep,” Mike said.



In the end, we did not end up getting that darling little Samoyed, but we did end up acquiring an adorable mutt we named Zulu. If you would like to know more about our adventures with Zulu here in Laos you can follow these links for more of this story:


A tale of two puppies

Puppy lessons in parenthood

Puppy lessons in parenting: Resource guarding

Zulu from Laos




Weekly Dog Blog -- Sampson, 12 weeks

Age: 12 weeks

Weight: 33 lbs

Folks, Sampson is in the figurative dog house. Don't worry; he's still right downstairs on the cool bathroom tile, sprawled out over the air conditioning vent, sleeping in his baby Superman pose, front paws out.

Oh, he is still charming and sweet with me, still follows me like Mary's Little Lamb and eagerly anticipates my commands. But this BITING OF MY PIPER HAS GOT. TO. STOP. 

He never does it to me or J and only makes halfhearted nippy attempts at the boys, but his thing with Piper is obsessive.

It's not just being 'mouthy' or 'chuffy', as Piper calls it. He actively seeks her out and then lunges and bites at her stomach or delicious honey-brown limbs. Not aggressively, but like a littermate egging her on. Like the way her brothers poke-poke-poke each other in the forehead until they get a response. On walks, he will be as docile and obedient as you can imagine, and then suddenly he'll get a glimpse of her little buns and CHOMP. Last night, at the end of our walk he was tuckered out and being so well-behaved, I let him off the leash, and he went right for her, putting a hole in her bathing suit and a mark on her sweet olive skin. 


I have read endless online articles and asked anyone with recent puppies how they have handled this. We have tried distraction, having Piper constantly have toys in hand. We continue to have her be the treat girl and do training sessions for sit, down and stay with him every day, during which he is great. But as soon as her supply of treats runs out, she becomes the biscuit and can yelp SIT SIT (which with her little four-year-old inflection sounds quite a bit like a curse) all she wants and end up rewarded with a solid chomp to the wrist. 

I have had her YIPE like a littermate who has had enough. J taught her to hold Sampson off by the scruff of skin around his neck and tell him NO, but this only works so long as a grown-up can come and take over the holding while she scampers to the safety of the kitchen counter, the back of the couch or her room with the door closed.


The miracle here is that Piper still loves him, despite the scars, that she still starts out each day as though it will be better. But what kind of message is that for her? For him? The only other thing that works (temporarily) is to have J or me supervising them and then intervene, grabbing his scruff and holding Sampson back, telling him NO BITE loudly and firmly when we catch him in pursuit. Even then, sometimes he will bark defiantly at me, angry at being thwarted.

I do praise and reward the positive--the times when he lets her walk by without even attempting a nip. I do walk together with them, Sampson on a leash so that he can experience being out and about with her without biting, while keeping her safe. I am trying for vigilance and consistency, those hallmarks of decent parenting, because I want my two littlest to be able to live in harmony. I am ready for professional help, to sign them up together for obedience training where I hope someone who has seen this before will give us the right tool for our arsenal.

But while I am waiting for that, I'm hoping I have a reader here who has been there, done that, and has a solution? Please?


I am sure this is temporary. I asked a mother whose Newf is two years old now how they handled it and she couldn't remember it at all, so she said it must have passed quickly. As with all the unpleasant phases that our children have undergone-- toddler Max's horrific, purple-faced Ben 10 alien transformations that always preceded a solid, mortifying playground punch--we will simply love Samps through it. How could we not?

guzzling from the fountain at the 4th of July races


Monday Musing -- The latest puppy photo and more....

Trying to keep these coming in small doses, so you don't get a stomachache from the sweetness...


Picture this bit of heaven snoozing in your arms.


And huge thanks to everyone who has been voting and making suggestions on the name game. We are circling ever closer. If you knew the antics that went into choosing the names of our children, including a game of air hockey, chip and putt, Maurice Sendak, a dear old friend and the honoring of many, you would understand that we take this business very seriously. 


For those interested in something more writerly, Therese Fowler, of the fabulous upcoming novel EXPOSURE is coming on Wednesday to talk about her hot, current book that is garnering all kinds of praise and buzz and next week, Q&A with a HarperCollins editor. 


Stay tuned! 




Monday Musing--Jonah Jones Hoffman, 2001-2011

On Saturday night we received the heartbreaking news that Jonah, our beloved dog of nearly a decade had died. Despite the efforts of our petsitter and dear friend Beth, Jonah suffered canine bloat. This is typical of larger breeds, and the risk factors increase in older dogs. Jonah was a Newfoundland, weighing in at 175 and just a month shy of his tenth birthday, so while we knew that big dogs=big hearts and shorter life spans, this day was not so so far off, we didn't expect it now. The heartbreak is compounded by our not being there to see him out, to love him as he went and thank him for being the perfect family dog. I don't look forward to going home at the end of the week and seeing his footprints in the snow he loved to frolic in, but no slobbery, exuberant Joey greeting. 

Today's musings are photos and words in honor of Jonah. 



Jonah came to us from a farm in South Dakota at eight weeks old, already tipping the scale at a whopping twenty-eight pounds. I remember flying back with him at my feet in an undersized cat carrier, the worst turbulence I've ever experienced in a tiny prop plane. I was five queasy months pregnant with our first son, bent over trying to soothe him as the poor puppy threw up all over himself and my shoes. On a layover in Ohio, I bathed him in the airport restroom sink and fluffed him up with the automatic hand dryer in anticipation of meeting his father and his furry canine brother, Dakota, my Newf of nine years.

Although I have many memories of Joey's puppy months, like our month at the shore where he used his lower jaw as a shovel to ingest as much sand and shells as possible, this blurry photo (LEFT) is the one of the only I have of our early months. This is in part because he was quickly eclipsed by the arrival of our son Hayden and all his medical challenges and long stays at the hospital. Fortunately, Jonah had the distraction of harassing Dakota. The puppy that we thought would bring so much life back to our beloved elderstatesman ended up being a torment and Dakota often rolled his long-suffering eyes at me like, "What have you done with my golden years?" Still, in typical Newfy tolerance and patience, Dakota took Joey under his wing and trained him in the ways of being our family's dog. 


We ended up with three male Newfs during Hayden's first year; my father's Big Dog (aka "Piggy) came to live with us as well. The white satin edges of Hayden's baby bassinet were quickly a dingy brown from where these fellows rested their jowls and gazed in adoringly on their baby. The lone time I tried sleep training, tried to let Hayden 'cry it out', I had three dogs anxiously herding me to the bassinet like, "LADY! You can't hear the baby crying?!"

Hayden adored his dogs. "Guh", accompanied by an emphatic slapping of thigh, the ASL sign for dog, was his first word.

Meanwhile, Jonah was taking his Newfy training seriously, learning about from Dakota about the important sense of entitlement. Dakota had already staked his claim on the leather couches, so for Jonah, this meant leaping up to sleep between us at night. I love the photo, taken after Hayden returned from a surgery (BELOW), because it reminds me of a time when "family bed" had a whole new meaning.

 As he grew, I worried that Jonah's bed-leaping was dangerous. A 175 lb dog landing on a child could be tragic, but Jonah always knew exactly where his baby was and as the years went by, he understood that his human siblings slept up between us now; he took his place stretched out at the foot, warming our feet. 







In 2003, Big Dog moved to Costa Rica with my father and we lost Dakota--big dog, big heart. We also moved out of the house on Alnwick that both boys first called home and prepared to build our future home on a lot with some land and a stream and pond for mucking. Our Christmas card that year (bottom right) was Jonah and Hayden, pictured down by that stream.


We were also expecting a baby, another little brother for them both. Not long after Max was born, we moved into our new house and Jonah stopped climbing stairs, where the master bed is. He quickly found someone to keep him company at night on the main floor:

These were the years when we watched a lot of "Teletubbies", the PBS show with the vacuum- character called the Noo-Noo, who had a long nose hose attachment for cleaning up messes. 

We called Jonah our Noo-Noo for his ability to lie just under the baby chair or kids' table and get a full meal out of whatever fell. I love this photo of Max gleefully spoon-feeding Joey:

Jonah was also clever enough to take advantage of his height--just right to nose up to an outdoor table. In the photo below, you see we are all distracted with the blissful image of GG holding our brand new baby Piper at a Mother's Day brunch. What you might not notice is that behind her, Jonah is making his way toward the spread: plates of bacon and waffles. 


At every party and outdoor BBQ, friends and family learned one of the cardinal rules of the Hoffman house:



Lord Byron said this about his Newfoundland Boatswain:

Beauty without Vanity,
Strength without Insolence,
Courage without Ferocity,
And all the Virtues of Man without his Vices. 




Typical of Newfies, Jonah exhibited endless patience. He put up with kids coming over who thought he was a pony and they could ride him. He didn't mind the goats and their antics, or the kittens and their tail swatting, and he let our babies crawl all over him, mauling him and poke-poking his paws.


But even a Newf's tolerance was put to the test when we brought home Sophie, a kitten who immediately claimed her as "his". The first time I came home and saw them out in the yard, Jonah stretched out with Sophie sprawled across his front paws, I thought he had killed her, worried how I was going to hustle the kids past this brutal scene. But then they both picked up their heads, and went right back to canoodling, Sophie rubbing under his chin gratefully. 

(I worry about Sophie wonder how she is taking the loss of her constant couch companion.)

When Sophie's kittens were born, Jonah became nanny, flicking his tail over the couch for them to attack, all while feigning disinterest. 



With his massive size and manly bark, Jonah could certainly intimidate and there was many a deliveryman who laid on his horn rather than get out and face a dog like Joe. But many friends have stories of coming by to drop off items and being met with nothing more than a snore from the couch or at best a raised eyebrow and tail thumping welcome. What I mean by watchdog is that Jonah took care to watch out for his children, endlessly. Wherever they went, he went also. Out by the trampoline? He'd lie down at the ladder, barking if things got too rough. On walks he was careful to gently herd them away from pond and road.

  It is little wonder that the original Nana in Peter Pan was a Newfoundland, not a St. Bernard as portrayed by Walt Disney.





To Hayden, Max and Piper, Jonah was simply ubiquitous, a constant on walks and swims, fishing trips and sledding, ever-present and watchful of his children. 









(LEFT) Jon and Piper show off the outdoor-on-a-cold-day-in-early-spring version of the Jonah Pillow and (RIGHT) our friend Ben demonstrates the indoor, full-body model.






 With his lion-like head, glossy coat, size and excellent conformation, Jonah exemplified the physical traits of the Newfoundland.

He loved water, especially wading and drinking from the pond or stream. This gave his breath an uncanny, fishy smell. Jon often called it "Seafood Surprise".

It could be so bad that once, one of Piper's sensitive-sniffered playmates caught a whiff and promptly threw up.

 Jonah was also slobbery and sheddy, and tracked in water and mud. In the winter, he loved the snow, would spend hours out rolling in it or just cooling himself on a snowdrift. The photo below is the one I send to people whenever they tell me they want a dog just like ours. 

I remind them that this comes to your door all winter long and asks with soulful brown eyes to be let in. So you get towels and mats, and go to work on him, making sure to get the ice balls out from between his webbed toes, only to have him barking to go out in it again five minutes later. 








 Newfs are truly a labor of love, but nobody can deny their inherent beauty, and Jonah, more than any Newf, exemplified the classic, regal nature of the breed.  




It is true that Jonah was handsome, gentle and warm to cuddle with, that he loved and was ever vigilant of his children and his beloved feline Sophie, that he was tolerant of the goats and the other cats and children, but there has never been any question about whose Jonah was:


Just as Dakota was my dog, the dog who went to college and Spain and the Caribbean with me, whose spoiled baby status and naughtiness was unparalleled, Jonah has been Jonathan's from the beginning. Jonah loved us all, but Jonathan was his person.

He waited every day for Jon to come home and then was never farther than a few feet from him, often lolling his head lovingly in his favorite human's lap. He loved hanging out around the table or grill for spoiling and treats, and following Jon around the property and flopping at his feet, exposing his belly for a good rubbing.

I think sometimes about how Jonah cared for us during the workdays, the way he was so vigilant with the children, keeping them in line and safe, how he always kept me company on walks and gardening. I wonder if this was him trying to be a stand-in for Jon, taking care of his family, to make his master proud. 





This final photo is one of my favorites, taken last month by our friend Beth. It was dawn, one of Jonah's many walkabouts up through the fields to visit her dog, his best canine friend, Heike. Beth was the one who tried to revive Jonah, to keep him with us a little longer, and when she couldn't do that, she wrapped him in a blanket, and stroked his head and said goodbye with five kisses, one for each of us. 

Jonah, you are missed by many. 



"The average dog has one request to all humankind. Love me." --Helen Exley