Puppy taxed to the max in teaching long-toothed biped new tricks

The training is progressing, but my instructor obviously believes I'm a little slow on the uptake.

In what is admittedly a lame defense, I have to point out that he sometimes barks out commands that leave me baffled. He also insists on running from one project to another without finishing the first one. And he doesn't give a whit that I am dog tired.

"He just keeps hounding me," I told Maureen.

But my wife was there for me. Sort of.

"He just wants to prove you can teach old dogs new tricks," she observed with a giggle. "I'm sure you'll get the hang of it. Besides, you have to admit he is having fun trying to train you."

The pup had just untied my shoes with his needle-sharp teeth, then started growling and pulling on a pant leg with all his might to get my attention. His stubby little legs kept pumping, but the fat feet got no traction on the floor.

"The only thing I will admit is that this roly-poly little log dog is a very rare breed, indeed," I said as I lifted the squirming fur ball onto my lap, where he quickly fell asleep from apparent exhaustion.

Our newly acquired prize pooch is one of the nine puppies that Butte Falls area residents Anna Diehl and her husband, Rick Martin, rescued in early June from a hollow log where the little guys were living with their mom.

After Off the Beaten Path trotted out a column on their discovery last month, the mom and six of the pups, including my lovable tormentor, were adopted by readers.

"Folks have also donated puppy food and puppy toys," Diehl said. "There has been such a great outpouring of love for these puppies and their mom."

The mom is being treated for heart worm, then will be spayed and go to live with a Butte Falls-area couple, Diehl reported. Spay and Neuter Your Pet — check out www.spayneuter.org — is paying for the spaying.

But three adorable puppies are still available. Canine lovers can contact Diehl on her cell phone at 821-1905.

"We're looking for loving homes to adopt these guys," she said. "We want them to have good homes to live out their lives. They deserve it."

The alert reader will recall that Diehl and Martin rescued an earlier litter of eight puppies from the same feral mama dog on a snowbound January night in 2008 from another hollow log. Elk hunters had found the pups that time.

The couple kept two of the pups and were able to find homes for the others. But they were unable to coax the single mom in.

This time they were able to bring her in along with the pups that are now about nine weeks old. An empty stall in the barn on their picturesque property has been turned into a kennel.

The mom appears to be part black lab; the father is unknown, although Diehl believes it could be a mastiff down the road. In other words, the pups are like all Americans: They are mutts hailing from a healthy ancestral stew.

Since Diehl and Martin twice stepped in to literally save two different litters of the puppies, we figured the least we could do was adopt one this time. Our pooch Waldo is now about three; Our older dog, Ona, is going on 14. We figured she could use a rest from energetic Waldo.

We wanted one of the pups that no one else wanted. But they are all adorable. Diehl solved our dilemma by reaching in the squirming mass of fur and pulling out what looked like a tubby little black bear cub with a white mark on his chest.

That was on July 11, the day before the Oregon Caves National Monument's 100th birthday. Because cave discoverer Elijah Davidson back in 1874 had a bear dog he called Bruno, I originally dubbed our pup Bruno.

But his personality dictated we change his name.

"He is definitely a Harpo," Maureen concluded.

Sure enough, like the silent Marx brother, he has a deadpan expression yet is a constant clown. But he is verbal, constantly giving me instruction on the finer points of life when he and his best pal Waldo aren't cooking up some mischievous scheme.

I figure Harpo will be hounding me for at least a dozen years, maybe even 15. I hope it's the latter.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or at pfattig@mailtribune.com

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