Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Robin's Diary: "Eat, Woof, Love"

Hi. I'm Robin. I weigh 25.1 pounds!1 I live with my brother Winnie, and our bunnies Luke and Daisy, and our Mommy and Daddy, whom we love very, very much. I love making out with Mommy on the mouth but Daddy says "I know where that tongue's been" and doesn't let me lick him on the face, so I lick his ears and toes instead.

When Winnie asked me to write my first journal entry a couple months ago, I had just come to live here, and I was shy and overwhelmed by all the changes in my life. I also really missed my twin sister, who stayed behind at the puppy farm.2 Now I've settled in and Daddy asked if I'd like to write another journal to tell everyone how I'm doing. I said "woof!" It's hard to type with paws but I use my nose and tail, too.

Mommy and Daddy say I'm the sweetest little puppy. I'm always so happy (except when I'm scared), and I love licking my Mommy and Daddy's feet. It's my way of saying "I love you so much." Unbeknownst to them when they first met me, I'm also a spitfire full of energy, especially in the morning! I'm definitely a morning doggy. In the morning Winnie wakes up Daddy and says, "Daddy we have to go potty!" Daddy usually mumbles something about an alarm not going off yet and lets us out into Yard. We come back in and Winnie likes to cuddle with Daddy and Mommy but I'm ready to bark at the day and get running!

While Mommy and Winnie cuddle, and Daddy goes to someplace called "work", I have my own duty to our household: neighborhood watchdog. I perch on the couch and keep our castle safe by barking at all the short gremlins3 and 'vaders, and especially the 'truders on two-wheel contraptions! I bark "get off my lawn" and scare them away. If I'm barking a lot Mommy will come and look out the window with me, and when I tell her what I saw she'll say "thank you, Robin, for keeping us safe." I don't know what they'd do without me, our castle would get overrun!

Guarding our castle from gremlins and 'vaders and 'truders!

Most days Daddy has to go someplace called "Work." He used to go out the gate into Beyond Yard, but then Mommy told me there was something called "Cone Virus" out there and Daddy's Work moved from Beyond Yard into Basement. Some days Daddy sits on Couch with me instead, and I help him type important woof-mails to his cow-workers on his 'Puter. But even on the days he has to go to Basement, I know Daddy's nearby and I get to see him when he comes upstairs for hot smelly water. And sometimes I even go down the stairs to visit him. (Winnie's never figured out how to go down the basement stairs but I figured it out right away! Mommy and Daddy used to keep a door closed to keep me from Basement, now they put up a fence at the bottom of the stairs. I'm still trying to figure out how to overcome that obstacle...)

Sometimes I take a break from working as neighborhood watchdog and I go into Yard to play with Winnie. We like playing Rope, and Stick, and wrestling, and saying hi to Winnie's closest friend, Emma, who lives on the other side of Fence. Emma and I didn't get along at first; she called me a "woof-woof" and I was scared of her, but now we're good friends. Sometimes Emma's Mommy and Daddy even invite us over to play in Emma's Yard. I like Emma now, but her Yard has several short gremlins that I bark at, because I want to keep Emma safe. Mommy says the gremlins are friendly and have names, but I'm dubious.

Me and my boyfriend, Finn
On the other side of our Yard, another puppy named Finn moved in. He's a big boy, and we fell in love instantly, and Winnie and I tried digging a hole under Fence so we could get to him. I don't understand why but Mommy wasn't happy when we came back to Door covered in mud from digging.

Daddy tried putting up another Fence in Yard to keep me apart from Finn, so Finn and I moved our romance six feet to the left of Daddy's new fence and started digging another hole. Then Daddy put up a small fence around all the wood chips and keeps saying "puppies on wood chips!"4 So naturally I jump over the small fence onto the wood chips so I can make out with Finn through Fence! Winnie hasn't figured out how to jump over the small fence so he barks at me because he's jealous.5, 6

A little while after I came to live here, I caught the Cone Virus myself :( It started out as a normal morning, Daddy woke me up and got me ready to go out the door, and I was so excited!! I love going for walks and rides in the car, so I was smiling and wagging my whole body. Mommy brought me someplace called "V-E-T" for a "S-P-A-Y" (Mommy and Daddy often spell things because they think I don't know how to spell) and I fell asleep. When I woke up later, I was in Mommy's arms and I had a cone around my head. I was really drowsy and drooling and it was no fun. It was a very ruff day. Daddy told me later he felt so guilty about sending me to V-E-T because I had been so happy that morning, and he said something about a "sheep to the slaughter." I don't really understand what that means but I know Daddy was sad for me, and he and Mommy took extra good care of me while I got better.

Me when I had Cone Virus :(
But even then I was still a happy puppy!
I was better by the next day. I was wagging my tail and smiling again and running around the house and up and down the stairs to Yard. Mommy told me Winnie took a long time to adjust to his cone but I figured it out right away. I love Winnie but I'm smarter than he is in a lot of ways. Mommy also said Winnie had "man pain" when he had his cone and was being whiney and mopey. I didn't like surgery, but I didn't whine or mope about it like Winnie! Also Daddy gave me bacon flavored pain pills every day.

After a few days Mommy and Daddy took away my plastic cone and gave me an inflatable cone instead. I really loved it. Mommy called it my "air bag" because I'd run too fast and accidentally slide across the kitchen floor into the cabinets, but my inflatable cone cushioned my stop. Even better, Winnie was scared of my air bag so I really really loved chasing him around when I was wearing it. I was sad a week later when Daddy took off my air bag and so I kept asking him to put it back on me, but he said I didn't need to wear it anymore.

Before Cone Virus happened, Mommy and Daddy used to take me to Puppy Torture Time7 at "Petco: Where the Pets Go," and told me I had to play with the other puppies. My first time there I did my best to hide in the corner, even though Carol the trainer kept trying to get me to interact. But I was scared! Little puppies scare me the most. I'm okay with most big dogs (like Finn, who's about 90 pounds), but if they're small and especially if they're under 5 pounds then they're absolutely terrifying!

Puppy torture time, but I found a nice corner.
Fortunately Mommy and Daddy could only bring me a couple times to Puppy Torture Time before I got too old. This made me happy. But then, they kept talking about something called "socializing" and how it was important for me to get to know other dogs. I kept trying to remind Daddy how introverted he is and how shy he used to be when he was little8, and I'm pretty sure I got him to feel guilty for pushing me to meet other puppies.9

Some time ago on a Friday night, Daddy told me we were going to the library so I could digest some literature.10 This sounded delightful! I could think of no better way to spend a Friday night than with a pile of books in my mouth. Winnie and I put on our lederhosen11 and got into the car. Daddy must have gotten lost while driving, though, because instead of the library we ended up at a place called "Unleashed: Hounds and Hops." It was like Puppy Torture Time except even worse! There were dogs everywhere, running around with no leashes, and Daddy ate a gourmet bacon-bits-covered hot dog right in front of me and didn't share! Mommy and Daddy kept trying to get me to play with the other puppies, but I preferred hiding underneath the bench where they were sitting. Winnie is what we call an "extreme extrovert" so he was having the time of his life running around and meeting all the doggies and their hoo-mans12, but I stuck with my bench, where I knew I was safe.

This inspired Mommy to make up a Robin theme song for me. It goes something like this:

"If you're in a big room, hide in a corner and you do the Robin dance!
If you see a doggie coming, hide under a bench and you do the Robin dance!
If you see a person coming, hide behind Mommy and you do the Robin dance!
If you're ever in doubt, hide under a table and you do the Robin dance! The Robin dance!"

I love that song. It really captures the essence of being me.

I love tables.

After a few weeks going to the not-library and Daddy never sharing his hot dogs with us, I started to get a little braver and ventured out from my bench for a minute or two at a time. If there were big doggies, I'd go play with them. But as soon as a little 2-pound doggie came up to me I ran away and hid. 2-pound doggies are the scariest!! Maybe someday they won't be as scary. After all, when I first moved in, I was scared of Luke and Daisy Bunny, too, but now I know if I'm nice to them they might sneak me some of their chew toys through their playpen fence, so I'm not scared of bunnies anymore.

I also don't get so overwhelmed when I meet someone new anymore. My first couple weeks living at Home, whenever Mommy or Daddy's friends would come over it was so much for me to process that I just fell asleep. Now I'm a much braver puppy and willing to come up and sniff new people. Of course, no one comes over anymore, because of Cone Virus. That's just fine by me, but it makes my brother really sad. And I'll admit, even I miss my Daddy's friend named Dog - or maybe his name is spelled Doug? - who used to come over a lot. Winnie really loved him, and I started to like Doug, too, because his face is furry like a puppy and he was always very nice to Winnie and me.

This pillow looks like my puppy daddy.
Even though I'm not scared of bunnies or some hoo-mans anymore, there are still lots of things that scare me in the big, wide world! Like running water, and baths. And the short gremlins. And, the worst: one morning every week, a loud scary monster truck that steals our trash! I bark and bark and bark and wake Daddy up so he knows there's a monster, and my barking scares the trash-stealer monster away. Daddy gives me a big hug and thanks me for keeping us safe. He says I'm so fierce.

I agree. I know I'm a strong, fierce, and independent puppy. Winnie always wants to be around Mommy or Daddy, but I don't mind going off and doing my own thing. Daddy says I remind him a lot of himself, because I like having my "introvert" time. I sit on my spot on the cowch,13 or on my towel over by Door, or under my bed,14 or under a table, and I have a great time just being by myself with my thoughts. I also like taking naps on my pillow, which looks like my puppy daddy.

I love having my picture taken.
Other things I enjoy include being brushed (I don't understand why Winnie hates it so much, I LOVE when Mommy brushes me!), eating Kleenex out of the organics, helping Mommy with laundry (I love socks), having my picture taken (as soon as I notice Daddy trying to take a picture I try to lick his phone), playing Baby Hedgehog16, and cuddling with one of my Lambies.

I also LOVE going on walks! When Daddy gets out my lederhosen I do the excited Robin dance where I wag my whole body (not just my tail) back and forth, and eat my leash while Daddy tries to get me ready. Daddy says I'm "spastic" but I don't know what that word means. I'm assuming it just means "so excited I can't contain myself!" Sometimes I grab my own leash in my mouth and tell Mommy and Daddy that I'm capable of walking myself. Other times I grab Winnie's leash because someone's gotta keep an eye on him!

Don't worry Mommy, I've got Winnie's leash.

When we go for walks usually it's nearby Home, but sometimes we get in the car and drive to "Puppy Park."17 I used to not like Puppy Park because there were so many other dogs there (of course, my brother loved it because he loves other dogs). Now that there's Cone Virus around, we don't see as many dogs and people there as we used to, and when we do see people the hoo-mans always stay at least leash-length away from us, which suits me just fine. Sometimes I enjoy when Mommy takes my leash off but usually I feel safer when I'm on my leash. Winnie likes being off leash, though, and runs to play with any doggies we see. He especially loves the ones who are fluffy like us.

Winnie's helped teach me a lot about living here at Home but there're at least a couple things I've taught him. For instance, Daddy says Winnie's a lot better about coming inside now, and it's because I convinced Daddy to give me and Winnie freeze-dried liver treats every time we come in Door. Sometimes I'll go outside for 5 seconds just so I can come back inside and beg for a treat, and sometimes I ask for a treat even when it was actually Winnie who came in the door, but I hoped Daddy wasn't paying attention to which doggie actually came inside. I think Daddy might have caught onto me, though. Anyway, because I'm so good at coming in when Daddy rings the "come inside" bells,18 I've trained Winnie to follow me and also come inside, and Daddy says it's all thanks to me that Winnie's being better behaved. And if Daddy ever forgets to give me my coming-inside treat, I sit politely and stare at the top of the fridge where the treats are, until he notices.

Winnie and I like to wrestle, but we really do love each other and like to snuggle when we're tired. He also helps me keep watch on the neighborhood and will help me bark when there's another puppy on our sidewalk (though he's not really very helpful, because while I'm barking "go away" he's barking "come play with me!" Very conflicting messages, I can see how other puppies would get confused by us). And of course we love playing with our toys. When I first came Home, Mommy and Daddy gave me some of my very own toys! Winnie used to steal them from me when I was younger, but now that I'm bigger, I can steal back some of his toys so we're about even.

I love my brother.

Winnie told me before I came to live here that he had something called "Christmas," when he got to go over to Grandma and Grandpa Puppy's every day for two weeks for treats! This made me sad, because at the puppy farm we didn't have "Christmas," we just had two kibbles for 400 puppies.19 And I was extra sad when Winnie had his birthday, because I haven't ever had a birthday! But Winnie "is empathy" and when he saw how sad I was he shared some of his banana flavored birthday cupcakes with me, and that made me so happy.

Daddy asked me if I could explain that last sentence a little more. Mommy and Daddy say Winnie has a very sensitive soul, and he can sense other people's emotions around him. For instance if Mommy is sick in the middle of the night, Winnie will wake Daddy up and say "Mommy's not feeling well, I need to go comfort her." So, we say that he "is empathy."

Mommy and Daddy say that for as much as Winnie is empathy, I'm the sweetest and most generous in my love. I love my family so much and I'll lick Mommy or Daddy's feet any time they want, as my way of showing how much I love them. I can't tell you how much I love my Mommy and Daddy, and I know they love me just as much. I'm so happy to be living here, my Home.

Thanks for reading.

- Robin

(with a little help from Daddy for typing and spelling)

Me and Daddy.


1 From Jeremy: Robin barely weighs in over 12 pounds, not 25.1. But she's convinced otherwise because when she first visited the vet she weighed in at 12.5 pounds, and the vet was (for reasons we still don't understand) convinced Robin would weigh over 25 by the time she was fully grown. Given that cavachons max out at about 20 (Winnie is 19.9), and that Robin's on the smaller side, we doubt she'll reach 25.1. But, Robin's convinced of it, and she's so earnest that we don't have the heart to correct her.

2 Mommy told me sister isn't on the puppy website anymore, but Daddy said if we ever do find her that she could come to live with us. Mommy's looked all over and can't find her, so we just hope she went to live with a loving family like I did.

3 From Jeremy: Robin refers to all children as "Gremlins."

4 From Jeremy: I actually say "no puppies on wood chips" but Robin has selective hearing when it comes to "no."

5 From Jeremy: It's probably not jealousy; we're pretty sure Winnie actually remembers the "no puppies on wood chips" rule from last summer/autumn, and is barking at Robin because he knows she's being naughty. Half the time when we hear barking outside, it's because Robin's on the wrong side of the fence (on wood chips) and Winnie's telling her she's not supposed to be there. He's a really good puppy.

6 From Jeremy: Update: While Robin was writing this blog post, Winnie has now figured out how to jump over the fence. He doesn't do it much, only to visit Finn and try digging under the fence to get into Finn's yard.

7 From Jeremy: It's actually called "Puppy Playtime," and is available (for free!) for puppies up to six months old.

8 Daddy's taught me that "shy" and "introvert" are two different things. I happen to be both shy and introverted, but I know you can also be outgoing and introverted (like Daddy), or shy and extroverted, or outgoing and extroverted.

9 From Jeremy: In particular, I kept pondering the book I recently read called "Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking." Eventually, I came to the conclusion that raising a puppy who is both shy and introverted is at least marginally different than raising a human child with the same attributes, and that forced socialization is more important and appropriate in the former case than the latter. With that said, I will also take this moment to shamelessly plug the "Quiet" book to everyone, either introverted or extroverted, as I found it to be deeply insightful in further understanding (and perhaps validating) myself.

I love eating paper and cardboard.
10 From Jeremy: Robin has literally eaten the cover off one of my books at home, so "digesting literature" isn't entirely metaphorical!

11 From Jeremy: A.k.a. their harnesses.

12 From Jeremy: Unleashed is really, really cool. It's an indoor off-leash dog park, with an adjoining mini restaurant that makes delicious (if slightly overpriced) gourmet hot dogs, with fun names like The Good Boy, The Mutt, The Clifford, The Bark-B-Q, and The Raise The Woof, to name just a few. They also serve wine and beer (hence the "hops" in "hounds and hops"). In the off-leash area they have about four "Ruffarees" who supervise the dogs' behavior and even clean up if there's an accidental "code yellow" or "code brown." Every time we've been there it's been busy, which is great for Winnie who loves all people and all dogs. What's even better, is that all the people there are dog-owners/lovers, and of course Winnie's so cute and fluffy that when he goes up to a stranger and says "pet me," they almost always oblige. So, Winnie has the time of his life. Poor Robin... well, she'd rather go to the library. And honestly, I probably would, too - fun as Unleashed is, being around that many people and dogs is what I call a "high-drain appliance" on the introvert battery.

13 Hoo-mans spell it "couch" but I spell it "cowch" because it tastes like "cow-ch". (From Jeremy: in case it's not clear: it's a leather couch. And leather is made from cow. The more I explain the joke, the funnier it becomes.)

14 From Jeremy: she means Alissa's and my bed.15

15 From Robin: No Daddy I mean Winnie's and my bed. You sleep in kennel.

16 From Jeremy: Baby Hedgehog is a game where Alissa or I will run around the house squeaking the puppies' baby hedgehog stuffed animal squeaker toys, and the puppies chase us, and then we throw the baby hedgehogs and the puppies chase them. Then, repeat. Can also be played with other squeaky toys such as Mr Fox, Mr Raccoon, etc.

17 From Jeremy: A.k.a. the Minnehaha Falls off-leash dog area.

18 From Jeremy: Not that Doctor Pavlov needed me to validate his research, but it really works well ringing the bells and associating that with a freeze-dried liver treat (or bacon treat, or meatball, hot dog, milk bone, etc) as a reward for coming inside when called. Robin caught onto this right away, and helped train Winnie out of an annoying habit he had of ignoring us when we called to him to come inside. It's extremely rare now that either of them doesn't come when we ring the bells.

19 From Jeremy: we're sure that was not literally true, this is just Robin's perception.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Winnie's Diary: Introducing Robin

Hi. I'm Winnie. I live with my Mommy and my Daddy and my two bunnies, Luke and Daisy. I used to think Luke and Daisy were strange puppies, but now I've figured out they are really bunnies and not puppies.1

It's a lot of work taking care of everyone - I do all the chores around the house, after all. In the mornings I wake up the bunnies and feed them kibbles, then I go outside and potty and bark at the neighbor dogs. Next door to me lives Emma, my closest friend, and we talk to each other through the fence. We also have "bark offs" with Cody, Brody, and Frody2, who live on the other side of Emma's fence.

When I come back inside the house, I run to Mommy and jump on her and walk all over her back - I call this my "shih tzu massage" (even though I'm actually a Cavachon). Mommy and I cuddle while Daddy gets dressed to go someplace called "work." I don't know where that is, but he says he has to go there to bring home the bacon, and, sure enough, each night at bedtime, he gives me a tasty bacon chew treat. I'm sad that Daddy has to spend so much time away from me, but I'm glad that he finds bacon at work to bring home to me.

After Mommy and I wake up from cuddles, it's time for puppy chores! I put away the bunny food dishes, refill their hay and litter and water, put away all the hoo-man dishes, make the bed, and check if the trash needs to go outside (if it does then I leave the bag by the back door, then when Daddy comes home later I escort him out to the trash can, to make sure he doesn't misbehave). Later in the day I check for mail and packages, before the package thieves can abscond with them. Then I'm ready for a nap! It's hard work being a puppy, and being responsible for an entire house! Oh, and of course, I also vacuum the kitchen floor if Mommy or Daddy drop pieces of cheese, or popcorn ("puppycorn"), or kale (Daddy calls me a "pupster"), or even eggshells! And anytime the bunnies poo outside their fence, I vacuum that up with my tongue, too.

When I was younger, Mommy and Daddy would bring me to a place called "Petco, where the Pets Go," on the weekends for puppy play time, where I got to see all sorts of puppy friends and run and jump and hump and get told "no humping" (actually, usually I was the one getting humped; Carol, the puppy trainer, said I had "sugar butt"). It was so much fun. But then I got too old for puppy play time and so Mommy and Daddy and I would go to the puppy parks instead, where I didn't have to wear a leash! Daddy always says how proud he is of me when we go to the Minnehaha off-leash park, because I stay right next to him for almost our whole walk. I'm a really good puppy.

A little while ago, it started getting cold at the puppy parks and also the sky started falling. First the sky fell in paw-sized pieces of colored tree bits, and then when it got really cold, the sky fell in white powder that got all over my fur. Mommy and Daddy started saying it was too cold to go to the park anymore, so I stopped getting to see my friends and work out all my puppy energy.

Around that time, I took up a new career as a neighborhood watchdog. I perched on top of Mommy's nice couch and looked out the window, pushing aside the vertical blankets so I could see. Every time a puppy went by walking their hoo-man, I barked and asked them to come inside to play with me. But none of them ever did. It made me very sad. After they walked by, I cried for several minutes (even after the puppy was out of sight) because I was so lonely and just wanted a friend to play with. Mommy or Daddy would hold me while I cried, which made me feel loved but not any less lonely. After I stopped crying, I'd go back to watching out the window. Sometimes Mommy or Daddy would ask me what I saw, and I'd tell them, "loneliness."

Me and Santy Paws! If you click and
zoom in you can read my letter to him.
When I went to visit Santa Paws, I wrote him a list of what I wanted for Christmas: toys, bacon and turkey treats, a puppy brother or sister, and world peace. We don't have a chimney in my house, and I was really worried Santy Paws wouldn't be able to bring me my presents, so Daddy 3D-printed a fireplace for Santa to use. Also Mommy says Santa used something called "Elf Prime" to deliver a lot of presents in advance. When Christmas came, Luke and Daisy and I all got lots of treats and toys! And I got to go over to Grandma and Grandpa Puppy's every day for the 12 Days of Christmas, and got a yummy rawhide stick treat each time I went!
"Are you bacon?"
I'm grateful to Santy Paws for all my presents, but I was sad I didn't get the present I wanted more than anything: a brudder or sister. I told Mommy and Daddy I'd trade all the presents I got if I could have a sibling. I said this while giving Daddy my big puppy dog eyes and he says it broke his heart. I didn't mean to break anything, I was just trying to communicate. I've learned that when I give Daddy my puppy dog eyes, I can get almost anything I want (except chocolate). Daddy says that's why I came to live with him and Mommy in the first place, is because of my puppy dog eyes.

My first sign of hope came one day after Daddy held me while I cried - I overheard him talking with Mommy about "maybe we could get a second puppy, in spring." I don't know what springs have to do with anything, and waiting is very hard for a little puppy, but Daddy was adamant about something called "pot-training" and not doing it in winter; maybe he was hoping to teach the new puppy how to use kitchen utensils? It didn't make a lot of sense to me. Then I saw another puppy walking their hoo-man and I cried again, and my Daddy held me close and spoke softly to me until I calmed down. I told him how lonely I was, and how all I had were these dumb bunnies. Daddy said I should apologize to the bunnies, so I did: "I'm sorry for calling you dumb bunnies, dumb bunnies." Daddy wasn't enamored with my apology, but let it drop.

A week after Christmas, Daddy went back to work so he could bring me more bacon. Then the next weekend, Mommy and Daddy and Aunty Abby and I spent a couple hours in the basement washing 300 pounds of what I'm sure was gigantic puppy kibble.3 As usual I did all the work, they just watched. I've heard of a puppy named Clifford the Big Grey dog4, so I assumed he was coming to visit. I was exhausted after all that kibble washing! And Mommy wouldn't even let me eat any of it when we were done!

Clifford's dog food

Daddy says this is "hydro-"... "hydro something". But I'm sure it's giant puppy kibble and I tried to eat it!

Another week went by, as did so many puppies outside the window. I heard Daddy telling Mommy that, maybe it would be okay to do "pot-training" in winter after all. I didn't really understand what he meant by that, so I just kept crying while he held me and gave me comforting pets.

A few days later I was napping and heard Daddy talking into his favorite light-up toy; I could barely hear a voice coming from inside the toy, but it sounded just like the Puppy Man's voice from when I was a little puppy and first met Daddy. I could tell because the Puppy Man has a very distinctive way of saying "hello?" that sounds simultaneously helpful and also surprised to be speaking to another hoo-man. Daddy talked to the Puppy Man for a few minutes and asked him some questions about Cavachons, but I was too asleep to really pay attention to what they were saying.

Me and my bunnies, Luke and Daisy
Late in the week, Mommy and Daddy were worried about Daisy Bunny - they saw she had some sores on her feet, and were trying to pick her up to look closer. I know the bunnies don't like to be picked up, so I tried to help by barking and whining at Mommy and Daddy. Daisy might be a dumb bunny but she's my dumb bunny and I really love her. Luke also tried to help by thumping and scratching at Mommy and Daddy. Daddy had to put me in another room because he said I wasn't helping; I guess he just doesn't understand helpfulness. I heard Mommy and Daddy agreeing about how they needed to take care of the pets they already had, before adding another one. I'm guessing they were talking about Clifford again, because he still hadn't shown up to eat all that kibble I'd washed for him.

Sunday morning, Daddy told me it was going to be a big day! Mommy and Daddy put the bunnies into their travel kennel and I helped by whining and barking. Then we all went to get bunny-mani-pedi's and doggie-mani-pedi's at the pet store. In the store I saw my new best friend5 and kept whining for Mommy to let me go say "hi." She carried me to go look at fishies instead. I've learned "fish are friends, not food," and I find it very soothing to watch them swim. I was a good boy for the mani-pedi man as he clipped my nails, and then we all went back home. Earlier that morning, Mommy had gotten out several towels and my poop bags and my travel water dish and other things, so I thought maybe we were going to the puppy park! But then they put me in my bedroom and closed the door and left the house, so I thought they'd gone to the puppy park without me. I was a little sad, because I like spending time with my hoo-mans, but I also like my big bed so I decided just to take a nap all afternoon. I guess the "big day" Daddy talked about was just getting our nails trimmed. Oh well. At least I got a bacon treat.

That evening, I heard Daddy get home and so I stood up on the bed and wagged my tail when he came in the bedroom to pet me. I love my Mommy so much but it's not a well-kept secret that my Daddy's my favorite. After all I chose him when he and Mommy came to the puppy store to visit me. Daddy told me he and Mommy had a surprise for me in the back yard, so we ran to the door together (which we normally do anyway, because whenever Mommy and Daddy get home that always means it's potty time). When I ran into the back yard, I saw Mommy over by the garage, and... another puppy!!!

Robin: "I'm not sure what to think yet..."
I couldn't believe it, I was so happy and so excited and so overwhelmed! I asked Mommy and Daddy and they said, yes, this was my new sister, Robin!6 In all my excitement, I kept jumping and wanting to play with Robin, though she wasn't very interested in playing with me right then. As a white-furred male puppy, I don’t want to dog-splane my sister's experience, so I asked her if she'd like to write something for you:

Robin's diary

Hi. I'm Robin. I'm a Cavachon and I'm 5 months old. I have a twin sister, whom I still miss, but I'm getting used to my new home and my big brother, Winnie (who's also a Cavachon, though we have different doggy parents).

When my new Mommy and Daddy first met me in the puppy store, I let them pet me while I sat in their laps. One of them would hold me, and one would hold my twin sister, then we'd swap. Then they'd set us down and watch us play with the other puppies. I liked playing a little more than my sister. Then they held me again, talked a bit with the Puppy Man, and handed me to him. The Puppy Man took me in back and gave me a bath, which I did not enjoy, then deposited me back into my Mommy's arms. By this time I could tell something special, and different, was happening, and I was scared. I trembled, and I could tell Mommy felt so sad for me, but I couldn't help myself. I've only ever known the puppy store, and I didn't like the thought of leaving my sister behind.

Mommy swaddled me in a towel and carried me outside where it was very cold. We got into a big moving box on wheels and I sat on her lap. A couple times I tried to climb off her lap, to which Mommy said something about me not understanding gravity. I don't know what that word means, so I guess she's right. But I was pretty emotionally overwhelmed and so mostly I just sat still and tried to sleep.

Mommy swaddling me at the puppy store
After a while the box on wheels stopped and Mommy and Daddy switched spots, so Daddy was holding me. Daddy's okay but I'd already decided I like Mommy better. Daddy and I took a nap and when we woke up Mommy said we were someplace called "home." I like the sound of that word. Mostly I just liked not being in the moving box anymore. Mommy picked me up and brought me into what she called a "yard." It was very cold and there was white powder covering the ground. I found a spot right up against a wall and curled into a little ball. A minute later, another puppy came out and introduced himself. He said his name was Winnie and said how happy he was to meet me, and that I was his new best friend. I didn't know what to say. He seemed nice enough, but I was so emotionally drained from the day and just wanted some space to myself to sort through my emotions.

I'm shy in a new place.

I hide.
Soon we went someplace Mommy called "inside" and it was much warmer there. I like "inside" better than "yard." Mommy showed me two other weird-looking puppies, one was all white and one was gray and white and they had pointy ears and bushy tails, and they hopped. They were very strange puppies. It was all too much for me, I found a small corner between some cabinets and curled up into a ball again.

Mommy carried me to a "kennel" and told me this was my safe space. I loved it. I sat in there and curled up with the blanket, and went to sleep. I didn't cry at all, because I knew Winnie was there if I needed a friendly puppy face. Even though I was overwhelmed, just knowing there was another puppy around really did help comfort me.

When I woke up the next morning, Daddy said I was a good girl because I hadn't peed in my kennel. Well, duh, Daddy, I'm not going to pee in my safe space. (I'm going to do that in one of the other rooms. I didn't know that yet on my first day, but now I have lots of favorite peeing spots on the carpet, and I love to poop on the kitchen floor. Daddy doesn't like when I do that but I know it's the best place.)

My bed, and my Lambie.
Anyway, that first day, Winnie showed me around the yard, which looked very different in daytime, and told me I could have all his second-best toys. Daddy was gone most of the day - Winnie said Daddy leaves during the days to go find bacon for us; I don't know what bacon is yet but Winnie gets pretty excited about it - so I spent a lot of time with Mommy. I love Daddy, but Mommy's my favorite.

When Daddy got home later, he and Mommy left for a short time and when they came home they gave me some of my very own toys! They gave me a stuffed animal Lambie whom I love so very much, and some chewy bones because Mommy says I'm "teething." Winnie doesn't like to share his toys so it was nice to have some of my own. (we're getting better at sharing over time).

Me and Daddy
After a day or two getting used to "home," I started to feel more comfortable and my real personality started to come out. I think I surprised Mommy and Daddy with how much energy I have. I love playing chase with Winnie, and barking at the weird puppies, and barking the neighbor dog. And I love waking up early - I have so much energy in the mornings that I can't sit still, so I like running back and forth in the house while Winnie cuddles with Daddy or Mommy. I don't feel I have time for cuddling, when there are so many toys that need to be played with! But anytime I meet someone new, like when Grandma and Grandpa Puppy came to meet me, I get overwhelmed and take a nap. Daddy says he thinks I'm an "extreme introvert" like him.

Sometimes Mommy tells me and Winnie we have to play nicer, and Daddy will say "no growlies," or "no barking," but he knows we only pretend to listen to him. It's been about two weeks since I came here, and even though I miss my sister and all my other friends from the puppy store, I do like this place called home, and I really love my Mommy and Daddy and my brother Winnie.

Me and my brother, Winnie

Winnie's diary, continued

It's hard work taking care of a little puppy! I love Robin so much but no one warned me she'd have so much energy! In the mornings I just want to cuddle with my Daddy and my Mommy, but I also know it's my job to take care of Robin, so if she's off playing by herself, well I have to go supervise (remember I do all the work around the house). The first couple days I was so exhausted, I turned to Mommy and told her, "it's so much work taking care of a little puppy, you just can't understand! I know I was never this rambunctious when I was Robin's age!"

Even though it's a lot of work, I still love my little sister. She is very sweet and loves giving Mommy and Daddy kisses, and like me she loves licking feet. Sometimes when she calms down we get to cuddle together. Those are my favorite moments. Mostly, I'm just so happy to have a friend with me all the time. Life is good.

- Winnie


1Once, Mommy convinced me *I* was a bunny! She said, "bunnies have four paws, you have four paws; bunnies have two ears, you have two ears; bunnies have a fluffy tail, you have a fluffy tail; bunnies eat hay, you eat hay; you must be a bunny!" It's true, I do love eating hay, so I believed her! Then Mommy told me she was just joking and I wasn't actually a bunny.

2From Jeremy: the two dogs are named Cody and Brody, and they were dog-sitting a third dog for a while, whose name we never actually heard, so we just assumed it must be "Frody."

3From Jeremy: it was actually Hydroton clay pellets for our new aquaponics grow beds. See a future, not-yet-written blog post for more than you'll ever want to know about aquaponics.

4From Jeremy: "Big Grey" because dogs (and my friend Doug) are red-green color-blind.

5From Jeremy: Winnie thinks ANY and EVERY new dog he sees is his new best friend.

6From Jeremy: Winnie, as you probably know, was named after Winnie the Pooh; Robin is named after Christopher Robin, even though our Robin is a girl.

Monday, October 21, 2019

3D Printed Stargate: The Journey

On August 17, 2017, my Dad texted me this link of a 3D printed Stargate with lights and movement:


...thus inspiring my foray into the world of 3D printing. My Dad started 3D printing several years ago, and my friend Peter even longer ago than that, so while I'd seen printers in action before, for whatever reason it never held much pull on me. I'm sure partly that was because I already had enough other hobbies that I really didn't need "one more thing" on which to spend my time (and money). At least, until I saw that moving / light-up Stargate model.

I knew very little about 3D printing, except that prints could take an incredibly long time. Years ago I remember when a friend and I asked Peter to print a Star Trek: Deep Space 9 station, and after the first couple layers were down, he told us it would take another 24 hours to finish! That was basically the extent of my knowledge. (I chuckle as I write that now, because many of my prints nowadays take 24+ hours).

Over the past couple years as Dad has gotten into printing, he's created some gorgeous gifts for my Mom and also for my wife (for instance: a vase and roses for Valentine's Day, and a Beauty and the Beast jewelry container), and has offered to print things for me, too. Knowing practically nothing of the time and effort that it takes to get quality prints, I sent him a bunch of links for stuff I'd like, like tokens for one of my favorite board games, and paint racks for my miniature painting paints (unbeknownst to me until later, getting the paint racks to print successfully was no small endeavor in experimentation, and even once Dad had the right settings, it still took a day to print each rack). It's been so much fun watching Dad get into this hobby, and to see Mom cheering him on and sharing in the successes and not-so-successes.

After realizing that thingiverse.com held a treasure trove of Things I'd like to print, and feeling like I'd be taking advantage of my Dad if I kept asking him to print dozens and dozens of links, I decided I'd get my own printer. Besides all the other random things I wanted to print, my ultimate goal was to print that working Stargate. I asked Dad and other friends who had printers for their recommendations, and bought a Creality CR-10 in August 2018.

I came into the hobby rather naively (optimistically?), and grossly underestimated how much time 3D printing takes. I don't mean the printing itself, I mean all the behind-the-scenes overhead, like getting a level print bed (I'm convinced this is impossible), cleaning up from failed prints, replacing clogged nozzles, upgrading bits of hardware, configuring a print server (OctoPrint), or installing new firmware (which took the better part of a full day for me to figure out). When the printer is working, it's great! But there are just so many random things that come up that will suck away hours at a time. I wasn't prepared for that going into it, and definitely more than once thought "I'm never going to get this working." But Dad was always there to answer my questions and send me video tutorials and other links to help. And even over a year later I'm still asking him questions (see earlier comments about the firmware - Dad helped me a TON in navigating that experience!).

Each of these pieces took ~24 hours to print

Back to the Stargate project itself. According to the webpage, it has 117 parts, and some I could see were very finely detailed, so I spent a few months getting the hang of printing in general (and tweaking my settings to get better quality prints) before starting in on a project that complex. I started experimenting with my first Stargate pieces in December 2018, opting to start with the most intricate first: the backside of the gate. Each piece took roughly 24 hours to print, then I'd write a number on it, change another setting or two and try again, keeping notes along the way so I could track what gave the best results. It took me roughly three weeks to fine-tune my settings for the high level of detail, with lots of "that's not quite good enough" results along the way.

After going through an entire spool of filament just on my experiments, I started printing parts "for real" sometime right before Christmas. Since I'd honed my high-precision settings already, printing the real pieces was fairly straight-forward, albeit time-consuming. The creator had written "total estimated print time: 112 hours," but I don't know what settings he used that could possibly print that quickly, since (for instance) each of my nine back-side-of-gate pieces took 12+ hours a piece. All told it took me three or four weeks to print everything.

Before trimming/cleaning
After trimming/cleaning

In reading and re-reading the original Stargate model page, I started looking at the builds other people had posted of their Stargate construction projects. One person's in particular stood out to me because he'd expanded upon the original design to add a web page interface for dialing the gate, a speaker to play sound effects, as well as designed a custom circuit board for the electronics. He also had a more thorough set of instructions. Based on his revised design, I started ordering electronics, which was it's own very stressful journey owing to the fact I haven't done anything electronics-y since 9th grade electronics class. I remember reading the lists of required parts and thinking, "I have no clue…" - what on earth is a PCB, LDR, or a Buck Converter? (The answers, I learned, are: "printed circuit board", "light dependent resistor", and something that changes voltage so you don't fry your electronics).

The PCB/printed circuit board came from a manufacturing facility in China, as did all the surface mount resistors, transistors, LEDs, and the like. Dad warned me in advance "are you sure you want to do that…" because as it turns out (I should say, as he already knew, and I was about to find out), the surface mount electronics are TINY!

Electronics in hand, in early January I started visiting Dad for electronics workshops. He got out his soldering equipment, including fine-point tips and tools for holding those miniature transistors in place. Dad asked me again if I was sure I wanted to use the PCB and tiny tiny tiny electronics vs a breadboard with larger, easier-to-handle pieces; I persisted because 1) the PCBs came in a minimum order of 10, so even if I messed a few up in learning, it didn't matter, and 2) I really wanted all the electronics to fit internal to the Stargate vs having to house them externally somehow. We went to work. My first solders were ugly, but functional; by the end though I could definitely see a difference in my soldering quality.

By March 2nd, we'd connected together the Raspberry Pi, motor control circuit board, and Stargate PCB + buck converter, and connected the thing to the motors that would spin the gate and lock/unlock the top chevron; My Mom captured a video of me running a test program on the Pi that would just spin the motor, and me looking very excited and saying, "I drew a star!"

What on earth does THAT mean? It's an old family story - when my Dad was first getting into computer programming (in the early days of personal computers), he excitedly called my Mom into the room so he could show her that he'd drawn a star on the computer screen. My Mom lovingly said (or maybe just thought to herself), "so? If you give me a paper and pencil I can draw a star for you," until Dad explained more about how complicated the programming was, etc. Since then, it's been a comical story my parents tell whenever something looks easy but in fact took an incredible amount of time/effort. As was the case with drawing my "star"[gate].

The next day, I hit what I'll affectionally call one of my most frustrating "roadblocks" :

You might notice in the photo that the hole from the backside of one piece doesn't line up with the hole on the left side of the front piece. It's hard to explain in words, but if you look at this next picture, you can see the Stargate pieces glue together in an overlap pattern:

...and I'd superglued the overlap going the wrong direction. Had I used the original designs for these pieces, it wouldn't have happened, but because I wanted fewer visible seams on the gate I opted to use double-sized pieces that someone had posted; I never pieced together (pun intended) that these might need to be glued in a particular way. So, this was a major bummer, because it meant needing to re-print everything you see in that photo, and I was almost out of filament, and the company was out of stock of that color for the next month. Re-printing took over a week (and luckily I had just enough filament left!), and it gave me an opportunity to tweak my settings yet again to get a slightly better quality. Long after the fact, I thought of a way I easily could have worked around my gluing goof (aka, just using one or two normal-sized pieces to fix the off-set), but, I'm still happier with the end result of re-printing.

Between March and September I procrastinated, and I can cite a very specific reason why: I procrastinated because of my fear of failure. In this time period, I was having difficulty getting the gate symbols to spin smoothly - I could spin the ring by hand, but it would "stick" whenever I tried putting it on top of the motors (not enough torque, I guess). I was terrified of gluing everything together and then not being able to spin the symbols, and having to start over. My own perfectionism was my enemy.

Finally I spent an afternoon "just doing it": I bought and sprayed a plastics lubricant in the track, shaved off some plastic from the symbol ring clips that were catching on the edge of the track (the symbol ring is five pieces glued together in a ring, with small "clips" between pieces that help hold them together), filed down the backs of those joins, and got the whole thing to spin smoothly with the motors. Whew!!

Next challenge: the LEDs. There are nine chevrons around the gate, and each has three surface mount LEDs. I had an evening of despair after struggling for over an hour to solder together three LEDs and their wires onto the tiny LED holder I'd printed. I had no idea at the time how to test if my soldering was even good, and I learned the *wrong* way to test is to plug directly into 12V power. "Pop!" went the first LED. I nearly cried. I couldn't imagine taking over an hour to solder each of the chevrons. I texted my Dad and he said he had tools that would help (like self-closing tweezers and the fine point soldering iron he'd had me use before). Got together with him a couple days later and boy did having the right tools make all the difference. In only a couple hours at most, I'd soldered nine sets of LEDs, and also the two strings of LEDs for the ramp.

I'd printed LED holders someone designed for the Stargate that would position them exactly under each chevron, and twisted the wires so the LEDs lined up, then glued in place. Prior to gluing, I soldered each of the LED sets to longer wires that would run out the bottom of the gate and connect to power+ground (thanks to my Dad who supplied the super thin wire!), and test connected everything into the wires coming from the PCB. I also modified the webpage and server code so I could easily turn on/off each of the LEDs using a touchscreen I'd bought for the Raspberry Pi. This made it SUPER easy to figure out which light was plugged in where later on.

With all LEDs working, I began the exciting task of putting the wires and LEDs into their final position and gluing down the top pieces of the gate. I tested each as I went and surprisingly / thankfully ran into no issues.

That is, until I glued the last piece down and was faced with a bundle of wires sticking out the bottom of the gate. Around this time, I realized I'd never marked which two of the eleven wires were supposed to plug into 12V power. Oops. Paranoid about frying my LEDs now that everything was superglued, I managed to use a multimeter to figure out which wires I wanted (fortunately I hadn't glued the chevron covers on, so I could still stick a probe in to touch the LED wires inside each chevron). I then marked said wires with electrical tape so I wouldn't lose them again :)

After testing all the LEDs "one last time," I started final assembly of the ramp base, taking time to run all the wires nicely through the little wire holders, and of course finagling/weaving all the gate wires through the base.

Fully assembled, I booted the Pi and told it to "home" the gate - if you'll recall my construction goof earlier concerning the small hole, this allows an LED to shine through the gate to the light sensor / LDR on the other side, but only when a particular symbol is lined up; that way the software knows the gate is at "home."

As the gate spun and spun, I discovered two issues. The first is that, despite all my efforts for a smoothly spinning track, the gate was catching in two specific spots. My worst fear. My best guess is I didn't file/smooth out the bottom side of the track enough, and/or that I hadn't trimmed off the printing brim from the gear teeth. I took the gate off, sprayed a ton of plastic lubricant in through the bottom opening and manually spun the ring to get it all around; I also propped the gate up slightly off its base, just a few millimeters, so it didn't sit as tightly on the gear. Between those two remedies, the gate began to spin fully around without catching.

But it kept spinning. And spinning. And never found "home". This was my second issue: I'd assembled the LED and LDR pieces on the wrong side of the gate, and because the see-through-hole was offset from center, the light was in the wrong place and couldn't shine through. It wasn't a huge deal, but still tedious to remove the gate again, unscrew/move/re-attach/re-wire the LED and LDR pieces. Even after lining everything up correctly, though, the LED I had wasn't powerful enough to trigger the sensor, so I went back to my local Radio Shack (whom I lovingly call "Dad") and he had a brighter LED he gave me, which worked more gooder.

Had a couple more issues come up, like the motors spinning in reverse direction (easily fixed by swapping two wires around), and the top chevron not moving up and down smoothly (eventually "fixed" by spraying in a TON of that plastic lubricant), but otherwise, at long last, the gate was finished! I took a video and sent it to my parents, and also of course grabbed Alissa and said "come see! Come see!!"

I'm really proud of how this turned out. I enjoy projects (like this one) that are at the edge of my current abilities; I had a lot of confidence on the software side, but not a lot / any experience on the electronics side of things, but with my Dad there to guide me, it became much more manageable. I've learned a LOT from where I started, and am feeling more confident to tackle other 3D printing + electronics type projects (next up: a Star Trek Next Generation warp core). Things I worried about early on (like the seams showing between pieces of the ring) aren't nearly as visible as I thought they'd be. And I was able to make modifications to the code that I'll publish back to Thingiverse, that might help a future builder when they build their Stargate. If I do say so myself, this thing's pretty darn cool.

Lastly, if you're wondering how much it cost... I'll admit the number surprised me. Here's a rough breakdown:

  • Filament: three rolls at $18 each, plus a couple other colors that I only used a bit of, so let's say $60
  • Raspberry Pi 3 B+: $56
  • Motors, motor circuit board, other electronics from Adafruit.com: $80
  • Touchscreen for Raspberry Pi: $80
  • HDMI cable: $8
  • Power adapter: 2 for $14, so $7
  • Printed circuit board from China: $20 ($2 for 10 boards, and $18 shipping…)
  • LEDs, transistors, resistors, and other various electronics from LCSC: $21
  • Superglue: $5
  • Wires, tools, solder, buck converter, other electronics and tools: free from the RadioShack of Dad

Grand total: $337. (Shhh don't tell Alissa! :)