The Spirit Awakes

His Master’s Voice by Francis Barraud (1899)

I might have called this post “Whine-O-Rama”, but I’m trying to understand the process from a more enlightened position.  After the first night with our new 10 week-old puppy, I know a lot more about Lila as an individual than I did before.  Last night was, uh…noisy.

I think I understand.  She was taken from the company of her litter, and took a plane ride in a crate, then a long car ride.  She was probably quite tired, which I mis-perceived as an unusual level of relaxation for such a young dog.  Once she had a couple of hours of sleep, she began to show a lot more energy.  She’s very sensitive, and highly intelligent.  What I thought was calmness was actually her ability to focus. Lila pays attention.

When young babies observe the primary care giver passing out of view, they incorrectly assume that person has exited from the universe.  It’s stressful, and they cry.  When we are out of view, Lila whines.  She will do most anything if we are there, even accept being rolled onto her back and examined, and remain relaxed.  Though she doesn’t like it, she will even go into her kennel to sleep alone.  But once she’s in there, if she can’t see us, she whines.

Therefore, last night she woke us up every hour or so.  To an extent, we have to let her cry and not go to her, because that reinforces her to whine more.  Then once she stops, we go to her and praise her for being quiet.  However, young puppies also need to go out and pee every couple of hours.  We have to learn to discern the “I need to WEE” whine from the “Where did you GO?” whine.  That got harder to do as the night wore on.  I needed lots of coffee today.  Loads.

She’s only had one accident, on a throw rug while Mary was on the phone, and it was just a dribble.  By comparison, she has relieved properly on the cement over a dozen times since her arrival.  That’s a good average.  Young puppy pee is a lot less smelly than adult cat urine.  (Whew!)

I think Lila is able to distinguish male and female pheromones by smell.  Either that or some sort of pack dynamic is going on I don’t understand yet. She appears to have some innate understanding of the distinction between Mommy and Daddy.  She responds differently when being handled by Mary or by me.  She’s quieter and easier on the leash with me, but she also stops and sits more.  She whines and queries Mary more often, but she will also try more obstacles, like stairs.

The cats haven’t had any confrontations with her.  Dixie, the gregarious alpha, looks down at the dog from higher ground.  She appears to understand that Lila is a baby, and is not disturbed, merely observant and curious.  Heidi, our fraidy cat, is acting exactly as she does when an unknown person is in the house.  She only has one reaction to novelty.  She stays under the bed.  Lila is so focused on us humans I haven’t seen her notice the cats, let alone react to them.

I was watching the reconstructed version of Sam Peckinpah’s Major Dundee, one of the last film projects I worked on before switching to health care work. (

There’s a scene where soldiers sing Shall We Gather At The River? at a field burial.  This was Peckinpah offering homage to John Ford, the great director of classic Westerns who often placed the hymn in his films.

I was writing the beginning of this piece while waiting for the coffee to kick in.  When I heard the song in the background, I began humming along.  Lila, who had been fussing, stopped and stared at me in rapt fascination.  She seems to have a thing for vocal music.  That’s good, because she’s going to hear a lot of it at our house.  Maybe it will work as a lullaby.


Filed under animal communication, Music

14 responses to “The Spirit Awakes

  1. Delightful. I like the way you colorfully describe everything to make me feel as if I am there….except that I do get to sleep and do not have to listen to her whine, thank goodness!

    I bet she will stop crying and get the hang of being by herself through the night much quicker than either of my sons did! Until then, stock up on the coffee and hum a lot!

  2. Well, Mikey, I’ve got good news and not so good news.

    The good news is that Lilah (hey, that’s how Mary spelled the name in her email) sounds exactly like our lab, whom you know so well. And we adore our dog and feel adored by her in return.

    The not so good news is that, erm, the night time whining over being separated from one or both of us has never stopped.

    Your situation is different from ours. You two have to be tougher, for Lilah’s sake. But I have every confidence that you’ll succeed.

    You’ve got to. We’re counting on you to get us to the river. For all our redemption.

    • 1. The “h” being silent, is irrelevant, especially to her.
      2. The dog in here is based on a dog in the real world, but I’m complimented you accepted them as the same.
      3. Less is more.

      I think you’ll be amazed at the next chapter. Mucho progress.

  3. good luck with Ms Lila. It sounds like your sense of humor is intact and that – and coffee – will carry you through the tough, whiny times. You will all learn so much from each other! Take care, Mandy and puppy in training Saxon in LA

    • How cool! Another blogger doing exactly the same thing I am, and writing about it. ( Nice to meet you both, and thanks for stopping by. BTW, I’m so surprised she’s better at relieving properly than at any other behavior. I would have thought that would have been harder. She’s already less whiny. Now I have to focus on all the “mouthing”, because she’s teething. Saxon looks very handsome. Once Lila begins slowing down a bit I’ll be able to take more pictures.

  4. When you described Lila as being so calm, I was pretty surprised. Lab puppies usually are quite energetic. Labs are such beautiful dogs, and the puppies are so lovable. Almost as good as German Shepherds. Our dog has a seperate set of behaviors for my husband than she does for me, but then our expectations are different, I guess. I insist on obedience, he lets it be optional.

    Hope the coffee has kicked in. A nap might be in order.

  5. MIke,

    I was really amazed by this statement, “When young babies observe the primary care giver passing out of view, they incorrectly assume that person has exited from the universe.” How do we / they ever get over it?

    Wishing you a more restful night!

  6. What a lovely post! You should post some pictures of her 🙂

  7. I’m probably a bit late, but we always used to pop a ticking clock in the box with a new puppy. The theory is (as strange as it sounds) that it seems similar to the mother’s heartbeat.

    If she is still crying at night, it might be worth a try.

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