Sunday, August 26, 2007

Coming attractions

Biggie goes to puppy class, starts a new diet, and tries swimming and water polo. Mommy goes on her first business trip since the puppy, and the boyz have two nights alone. And the Frankenpuppy just keeps on growing...

Pictures and video being taken faster than we can upload them.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Kuvasz thoughts

I started this post back on Biggie's 3-month birthday (almost 2 weeks ago), as a rumination on being a first-time kuvasz owner, but work travel caught up to me. On top of that, it's a whole lot more fun to play with a flesh-and-blood kuvasz puppy than it is to write about one. But, I had intended this as a tribute not only to the kuvasz breed, but also to Biggie's biological parents, brothers and sister, and also to his human mom, Clare, and human aunt Cindy, who made this all happen.

I first heard about kuvasz nearly 20 years ago. My sister's violin teacher, Boro, is Hungarian and had a kuvasz. I'd only seen the dog once or twice and then only from a distance and through a sliding glass door, but I remember being struck by his beauty and his presence. Boro's 3-year old daughter would toddle up to him and hug him and lean on him. I never even knew his name, but one story remains with me, and anyone who knows the breed probably has stories like this one:

One evening, Boro went to a convenience store with his dog. When he went inside, he left his dog in the truck with all the windows down. When he came out, there were 2 guys leaning on his truck and drinking beer. You know the type, no matter which part of the country, they are the guys who have nothing better to do, no better place to go, than to hang out at the Circle-K drinking whatever beer happens to be on sale, and hollering at people coming in and out of the store. Boro walked up to his truck and asked them to move. Now Boro is not a small man - far from it - but these guys apparently thought they were 2 on 1 and decided to try to pick a fight with him. Clearly they were not counting the dog. At that point, without any signal from Boro, Boro's kuvasz jumped out of the open window of the truck and pinned one of the men to the ground. He didn't bite or bark or anything, just took the guy down and held him there. Needless to say, there were at least 2 more people that night who, even if they didn't know the name of the breed, gained some healthy respect for kuvasz!

Pretty much all dog owners think their breed is the "best" and that their dog is the "best" dog ever. I am certain, however, that kuvasz really are the best. Biggie projects a confidence and calmness that I've never seen in a puppy, let alone one as young as he is. Which is not to say he doesn't get playful or silly, (right now he is napping next to me with his adult-sized tongue sticking out the end of his puppy-sized mouth by about an inch - see this example) but he also intuitively knows if now is not a good time. He's attentive without being clingy, and learns so quickly that it's a challenge for me to devise new "problems" for him to solve.

His confidence and judgment are easiest to see when he is playing. He can make his fun with anyone, and knows instinctively that he needs to play differently with different-sized people and dogs. With big dogs, like Zodi the 100-lb Akita, he bounces up with his puppy smile, tail held high and tightly curled over his back. He pays his respects by a quick sniff to her mouth, rolling onto his side and back with appropriate submission (but the tail is untucked). As he coaxes the cautious Zodi over for a closer sniff, he quickly rolls up and takes a nip at her foreleg. She jumps away and returns for another sniff. He lets her step over him, and this time goes for a hind foot before darting out, play bowing, and jumping and bouncing in front of her face. Zodi wasn't sure what to do with this silly pup.

With a smaller dog, he is calmer, letting them approach him. He will sit, letting them climb all over him if they want to, and letting them take him down and gently swatting them with his bear paws as they climb all over him. Then, to have his fun, he will (gently) take them down too. (See Biggie and Useless)

With a puppy close to his size (most of whom are older and stronger), it is no-holds-barred Puppy Kombat! Zola, his #1 girlfriend, is the judo master because she grabs his collar, ear or neck with her mouth, and then wrestles him back and forth with her paws rocking him off-balance and then using his momentum to push him over. Biggie, on the other hand, is the sumo master. He outweighs her and is generally larger, but his main strategies are to head butt her or to immobilize her head and then try to body slam her to the ground.

Biggie is fascinated by children. He approaches toddlers with moderated exuberance. Yesterday, at the Stratton snow-making pond here in Vermont, he was trotting off-lead as we went to find a place to set down our stuff. He came upon a toddler sitting in the shade of a large cooler. I ran up with horrific visions in my mind's eye of Biggie taking the toddler's lunch or, worse yet, deciding the toddler looked as juicy as the chicken backs he's been eating. When I got there, the toddler was giggling and holding her chubby hand out to him, as he sniffed and licked her. I said to the parents, "I'm so sorry, we didn't see her there, and he just loves kids!" The parents (I wish there were more like them) laughed and said, "How could you see her? She was behind the cooler. She loves dogs."

Biggie seems to understand that children deserve special care, and yesterday he "adopted" a brother and sister, about 9 and 5 years old, who were playing in the shallows of the pond. Even though he's not crazy about swimming, he followed them as they waded in the water, poking and overturning rocks, sniffing at each new discovery they showed him. The adults didn't understand the game, but he did.

With us, Biggie is at turns the protector, monitor and the baby. On walks, especially at night, he watches people on the sidewalk, standing alertly and watching them. Not menacingly, and rarely barking and never growling, just watching. When P-Daddy and I are in different places, he is not content until he knows where we both are, and ideally he can keep an eye on both of us. His favorite spot in the NYC apartment is where he can keep an eye on the front door, the bedroom and the dining room table (where we do work), all at once. In Vermont, if we are on different floors, he lies on the stair landing in between. If he can't see both of us from his position, he will get up periodically and come check on us before returning to his post. He's quiet when he does this, and his gaze is a calm one. "Just making sure you're where I left you," seems to be what he's saying. Until I got a kuvasz, I was never the subject of a head count by a puppy.

Yet Biggie is not always so serious - he loves to climb into my lap when he has the chance, and he loves to be near us. His favorite place to play with a chew toy is anywhere he can lie on or next to our feet, and if he falls asleep near us, he keeps a paw in contact so he will wake up if we move. He loves to be hugged, loves his belly rubs, and never ever complains. When we get up in the morning, or when he first sees us after work, he loves to cuddle, and for him that includes gently holding our hands or forearms in his mouth. When we were teaching him not to nip, we debated long and hard whether to let him mouth us at all. We interpreted some of the mouthing, at least, to be an attempt to connect with us. (Some of it was annoying puppy nipping.) After a few sessions of showing him what was and wasn't appropriate, he no longer nips at our bodies. While fluttery skirts and bathrobe sashes dangling at eye level are too tempting not to bite and tug, when he takes our hands or arms in his mouth he's being calm and affectionate. When he's "holding hands" this way, he is so gentle his razor-sharp puppy teeth don't even scratch me.

The adult kuvaszok I have met are similarly calm and gentle, yet I always get a sense that they are monitoring me. They seem to have an innate understanding of what's "appropriate" levels of behavior, and learn quickly. They are not slavishly obedient, but if they trust you and judge you worthy of attention, they will respond. Of course training and socialization are absolutely necessary, especially with such a large breed, but I have found that with a kuvasz, we are starting with a far better baseline of comprehension, understanding, and yes, intelligence.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Bilingual Biggie

For various reasons, several people close to us and to Biggie seem to need some cheering up. Here's a little visual that might help:

Biggie is getting lankier and his fur is looking curly and poking out in all directions (this due to lack of bath and some vigorous play), so he's not getting as many "beautiful puppy" comments as he used to. But we still think he's beautiful. It's late, so I'll wind up this post with 2 funny things about/related to Biggie:

1. He likes water polo but hates to swim. (more on this someday)
2. Biggie goes bilingual: Today 2 Chinese people commented on him, in Chinese, "he looks like a little polar bear!"

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Biggie in Vermont

11 weeks; Ball Mountain Dam, Jamaica, Vermont.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Biggie is Useless

Oh, wait, I meant Biggie AND Useless. Useless is a 5-1/2 month old Jack Russell terrier pup, and this was taken at Stratton's snow making pond in Vermont.

Biggie tried swimming for the first time a week ago, and water polo this past weekend, with mixed results. More on this later, but for now enjoy some puppy wrestling:

Water Polo 101

Big E.Z.'s water polo DO's and DON'T's:

DO touch the ball with only 1 paw at a time, unless you are the goalie.

DON'T push off the bottom - that's an automatic turnover. Big E.Z. could get some lessons from his namesake on this.

Most self-respecting water polo players don't like to swim. Biggie is no exception.

Instructional video from August 11:

Biggie Bites Bubbles (video)

at 10 weeks. Sorry, I'm a little behind.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Biggie's 3-month Report Card

Age: 12 weeks
Weight: 28.5 lbs

Sit: A
Down: A
Stay: In progress
Fetch: B
Come: B+
Walking on leash (summer session): B-
Go to bed (crate): A-
No: A
Let's Potty: A-
Puppy Wrestling: A-
Conduct: A
Problem Solving: A

Pet Friends: Zola, Harry, Mata, Tiger, Max (cat)

Wednesday, August 8, 2007


The scoop I've been using for Biggie's kibble, which I thought was 1/2 cup, is actually 1 cup. Oops.

So for the last 3 weeks I've been feeding Biggie 6 cups a day, thinking it was 3 cups, and worrying that he wasn't eating enough. Now I realize that he has been eating around 5 cups of kibble a day which is more than enough. No wonder he's so big. And no wonder he makes so much poop. Next vet trip tomorrow.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

How the Biggie Got His Name

A number of people have asked how Biggie got his name and what it really is.

Biggie's full name is Yanilan's Big E.Z., The Notorious D.O.G., call name "Biggie" or "Biggie-Z."

This is a combination of the names of hip-hop artist Biggie Smalls, The Notorious B.I.G., which references our neighborhood, NYC and Biggie's transition from being a teeny puppy to big dog, and Ervin Zador, a nod to Biggie's Hungarian origins and our love of water polo.

Ervin Zador was one of the greatest water polo players of all time, and played on the 1956 Hungarian Olympic team in Melbourne. Just weeks before, the Soviet Union had invaded Hungary to stop the Hungarian Revolution. Hungary and the Soviet Union met in the semifinal round, and E.Z. scored 2 goals while Hungary took a 4-0 lead. It was one of the bloodiest and most violent water polo matches ever, and that's saying a lot in a highly physical sport where injuries are common. By the start of the Olympics the Hungarian Revolution was over and the Hungary/Soviet Union match had become a proxy for the real conflict that was going on in Hungary itself.

The match was called with about 1 minute left in the game after a Soviet player punched Zador, opening a bloody gash in his face. This caused much unrest (aka near riot) in the pool among the players and spectators, and the referees stopped the game and awarded the win to Hungary, which went on to win its 4th gold medal. Zador, among others, defected and now lives in the United States.

Zador later said that when got out of the water with blood streaming from a cut below his eye, "All I could think about is, 'Could I play the next match?'." My water polo friends will know why that resonates with me and my shoulder.

Biggie is a playa...

It is amazing how much attention a Kuvasz puppy - especially a happy, well-socialized and well-behaved one - can get even in New York City. Biggie has 2 doggie girlfriends so far and a fan club of domicile-challenged folks who seem to hang around outside our building at all hours and call his name. Thankfully, the awful humid heat here in the city has broken, and we finally have our windows open for the first time in a month. Walks are much easier now and we are all happier and mellower as a result. As I write this, Biggie is lying on the tile floor of our kitchen against the freezer drawer of our refrigerator, which makes me think that the freezer seal is probably old and leaky. Or it might be because this is where the magical ice toys come from.

So Biggie's 2 girlfriends are both older ladies. He doesn't let the age difference get in the way of his relationship with either of them:

Zola - his first love, a 5-month old, 30-lb mix. She looks a little bit like a mini-Viszla (another Hungarian breed); her vet thinks she has some pit bull, some German Shepherd and some other things in her. They think she'll get to 50 lbs. Every time they see each other they kiss, mouth, embrace, and find a way to play even while on leash. Biggie is always ecstatic to see her, and watches dejectedly as she is led away for her walk. Whether it's been a few hours or a few days since they've last seen each other, the reunion is always a joyous occasion. When they first met, Biggie could run under her; tonight, they are almost the same height.

Mata - (full name Mata Hari) Like her namesake, Mata is mysteriously attractive to Biggie. He is not sure whether she is a mother figure or a girlfriend yet. She is 92 lbs, 2-1/2 years old, and a bull mastiff/boxer mix. Mata is, as some would say, a dom top. According to Danny, Mata "rules the dog run with an iron paw." He is Ashton to Mata's Demi. Biggie wisely gets out of her way when she comes running along with one of his toys in her mouth. And like a little gentleman, lets her play with every toy he has. Not that he has much say in the matter. At the tender age of 11 weeks Biggie tried out that h---ing thing. Showing wisdom beyond his years, he waited until Mata's other end was occupied with a squeak toy, and as soon as Mata turned around to see just what he was trying to do back there, he adopted a "who me? I'm just trying to walk over your big butt!" look on his face. When she turned back to the toy, he resumed his activity. Mata played hard to get, letting him occasionally chew on the same toy at the same time, and showed her affection by sitting on him. Gently. Biggie responded by sneaking up on her later and biting her butt, or tail, or foot, trying to get her to chase him. I'm not sure what he would do if she actually deigned to chase him; all she needed to do was pretend to chase him and he would get so excited he'd do donuts around the apartment with a big grin on his face.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Biggie Video! (8 weeks)

Biggie thinks his tail is one of his favorite toys. One reason is because it's always around. He's a little better at grabbing his tail now, and a whole lot bigger.

At the end of the video the "hot stalker breath" (as my friend Danny calls it) is P-Daddy and Mama-O giggling and then saying, "We can't let him think we're laughing at him!" and "I know, I know," as we continue to laugh at him.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Swimming Pool Construction

Biggie is fascinated by water - to drink but mainly to play in. So in the past he gets his drinking water from a little slurp bottle attached to his exercise pen, or he gets frequent, small amounts in a bowl so if he spills, it's not so messy.

This morning he seemed SO thirsty I gave him more water in his water bowl than usual. And he decided to build a swimming pool: first he spilled the bowl, and then he splashed around in the BIG puddle. Apparently he wanted more than 1/4" to swim in, because he then started "digging" at the hardwood floor.

Finally, I had to clean it up, which involved calling Biggie out of the "pool" in his ex-pen, shutting the door, and leaning over the edge with a mop to wipe up all the water. Biggie thought this was hilarious fun too, and ran around the outside of the pen chasing the mop.

I think it's time this weekend to introduce him to a real pond or lake. We'll see how it goes.