Life changes

Life changes just a little bit when a puppy joins your pack.

On one hand things really shouldn’t change too much when you already have two other dogs that already dictate the flow of household.  On the other hand when those two dogs are two and a half and nine years old it’s a little bit like bringing a new born home just after all your existing kids are out of diapers.

Kali, the nine year old and Kloe the two and a half year old are pretty self sufficient and respectful of the house and our belongings.   When Koda – the puppy – came home the dog gates went up, regular trips outside for house breaking began again, sleeping in became a thing of the past, and all shoes and slippers had to be put away when they weren’t on our feet.   Is it hectic?  Duh!  Is it worth the disruption to the pack?   Absolutely!

Little Koda, now five and a half months old and 36 pounds is tenacious with attitude.

This is not a great combination when we need an immediate behavior correction.  But I think in the long run it will serve her well once she learns how to pick her battles.   She is quite vocal tells us in no uncertain terms that she is not pleased to know that she cannot jump on visitors or the furniture.  A little yelp or “Roo roo roo” as she begrudgingly adheres to our request to behave is not uncommon.

For now (and hopefully not forever) Koda is binary.  She is either on or off.  When on, her energy level is 11 on a scale of 10.  During play Kloe will wrap her entire mouth around Koda’s head to demonstrate her dominence and deliver a lesson.   Koda will momentarily acquiesce to Kloe’s reminder of who is bigger and stronger before immediately striking back with her own gnashing teeth never for a moment acknowledging the 45 pound advantage Kloe has on her.  Kloe does shoulder rolls landing on Koda like a greco wrestler pinning her down only for Koda to reemerge and perform the same move on Kloe.

Much to Koda’s chagrin Kali is not interested in any type of play with her.  At nine years old and visibly much slower than she was only a year ago Kali prefers sleeping to almost all activities other than eating.  I’ve seen Koda sneak attack a sleeping Kali landing on her back and riding her like a bronco as Kali gets up trying to toss her off while she moves off to another corner of the room to sleep.  Koda used to sass back Kali just like she does to us when being told no.  “Yelp! Roo roo roo…!  Play with me…”  To Koda’s credit she now (mostly) understands that Kali is the big sister she sleeps next to when she is in the off position. Kloe, although sometimes a reluctant participant, is the big sister used for rough play when Koda is in the on position.

It’s striking how the dynamics of a family can change so dramatically when that newborn baby puppy comes home.   I think it rocked Kali and Kloe’s world a bit to have a new little sister that seems to get more attention and more treats.   I’ve been caught off guard from time to time realizing that Koda is not Kloe and training may be more challenging and that different techniques may need to be deployed.  These pups are not plug and play.  But I like it that way.  Like people, dogs are unique and don’t fit into the same mold as the previous puppy.  Life would be boring if all of your dogs had the same personality and demeanor.   It might be easier but so much less “fun”.

So is it hectic?  You bet.  Is it worth it?  Absolutely!

So yeah, life changes just a little bit when a puppy joins your pack.

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Left to right Kloe, Koda, and Kali

 

Leader Of Our Pack

For two and a half years Kloe was the “baby”.   The youngest of two pups in the house.  As  she grew from 16 to 80 pounds she remained the baby in the overall pecking order of the pack.  Kali welcomed and embraced Kloe from the start and played a big role in Kloe’s successful assimilation into the pack.  Kloe looked up to her big sister and would run to her when scared, cuddle with her when sleepy or cold, and was always subservient to her Kali, although Kali only showed love and never any attempt to dominate or control Kloe.

Golden’s Retriever’s are a breed that retain a puppy-like personality for a long time.  Many never totally lose the playful and whimsical demeanor that puppies exhibit.     With the recent arrival of the new “baby” Koda it’s been interesting to watch Kloe quickly evolve into a more senior member of the pack.  An adult member of the pack.  In fact Kloe has become the protector of the Golden K Pack.

Besides there being a puppy in the house there is another dynamic that is contributing to this emerging maturity in Kloe.   Kali, once very vibrant and alert, is aging.   At nine and a half she sleeps most of the day and has lost some of her vibrance.  The sparkle in her eyes is fading. She walks slower often needing to be coaxed along the way when out for our short excursions.

Although there has never been an true four-legged alpha in our pack if there was one Kloe would be it.   Kali is old and slowing.  Koda is young and immature. At 80 pounds Kloe is large for a Female Golden retriever.  She is bigger, stronger, faster, more alert, and has keener senses than Kali and Koda.  It seems to me that she instinctively realizes this especially now within the context of living with a smaller puppy and a weaker senior. This is not to say that Kloe does, or has any interest in, physically dominating either of her sisters. Although she does seem to take some pleasure of throwing Koda down on the ground or wrapping her entire jaw around Koda’s head when Koda doesn’t get “the message” that enough is enough…  But that’s another subject and post about “Kloe the Teacher” for another day.

So now Kloe is the protector.   Where Kali once took the lead in calling out perceived danger or intruders Kloe takes the lead.   I see Kloe alert and viggilent at times outside while her sisters sleep in the sun.  If there’s a need to sound the alarm she does so and leads the charge running while her muscles ripple through her body like a thoroughbred horse.  Kali hangs back offering high pitched barks of encouragement and Koda bounces along side of Kloe trying keep up not really knowing what’s happening or where they’re going.

Maybe it’s just me projecting but in Kloe I see a more mature and wiser dog.  Kloe will always have a fun and spirited side to her.  She will always go to Kloeville; that figurative place when she lies on her back and stares up at nothing in particular.  She will always throw her shoulder on the ground and wriggle her way between my legs with her butt up in the air and then roll on her back and push off with her legs doing her version of the doggie-back-stroke.  But there has been a change.

It seems to me that Kloe now realizes that her stature in the pack is different.  She realizes that there are two weaker members of the pack that make her stand out physically and in some ways mentally.  Kloe relates to Holly and I in different ways now that Koda is here.  If Kloe observes Koda doing something that is not allowed Kloe looks to Holly or I to correct her.  As much as Koda tries to engage Kali in play Kali has no interest in rough housing with her and if engaged tries to get out of the fray.  Recently I watched that dynamic unfold when Kali became annoyed after Koda ran to her and jumped on her head trying to play.  Kloe came running over put herself between Koda and Kali and wrapped her jaw around Koda’s leg to move her way from Kali as if to say, “leave it”.

In some ways it’s sad to see my “little” baby Kloe grow up into adult hood.  But it’s also warming and makes me proud to watch that 16 pound nine-week old pup we brought home two and a half years ago mature into a fine young lady.  And  lately I’m sure I see something different in Kloe’s eyes. I see less wonderment of the world around her and more of a familiarity with that world and her role in it as a leader of our pack.

 

Number Three

Why this yearning for dogs?… Maybe it’s the endless feed of Golden Retriever puppy pictures served up in a Facebook group I belong to.  Or perhaps it’s because of an Instagram account I follow that posts nothing but Golden Retriever puppy pictures.  Or maybe, and most likely, it’s a life force that pulses through my body physically, spiritually, and emotionally.   Something in me that guides me and defines me all at the same time.   I joke that if I have the chance to hang out with people or dogs I choose dogs.  I guess its not completely a joke.  I gravitate towards dogs over people if there is a pup anywhere I am.  I consider myself to be a very social person so it’s not that I shy away from people.  I enjoy people.  It’s just that if there is a dog around it usually commands my attention.  If there is more than one dog more of my attention (and joy).

So I guess it was inevitable that we would eventually add a third dog to our pack.   This morning I picked up “Koda” from True Love Rescue (TLR).  TLR is a wonderful rescue group in Northern California.  It’s the same group that brought us Kali and Kloe.  And yeah, it’s a “K” thing with the girl’s names and we call our mountain home The Golden K where it’s mostly about the pups.

As with many things in our  life Holly and I don’t hesitate once we’re ready to do something; buy a car, buy a house, move from the Bay Area to the mountains, and adopt another pup.  It was just four days ago that we decided the time was right, especially when we learned that there were two pups remaining from a rescued litter.  We called the organizer, told her we wanted to adopt “purple” (the color of the pup’s collar in the picture) and here we four days later with our new pup Koda.  The big girls, Kali and Kloe, were very welcoming and there was no drama when I introduced them to Koda.  Kali was mostly indifferent but polite and accepting.  Kloe, as she is with most new dogs she meets of any age or size, immediately engaged with Koda, with puppy poses, and sniffs of all the usual body parts.  Kloe followed Koda around as she explored her new surroundings and ultimately they engaged in some light play.  Kloe restrained herself appropriately and was instinctively aware of the 60 pound size difference between her and Koda.  I was proud of the the big girls and I know they’ll both be great role models and teachers for Koda in the weeks, months, and years to come.

So yes, number three was inevitable.  I can only ignore the aforementioned life force and pulse in me for so long.  As I end the post I reflect on some of the things I know about dogs in general and especially my girls.  They can lower my blood pressure simply by being nearby.  They can calm me after a difficult day or negative experience.  They can lick my tears away when I cry, and make me laugh when I’m sad.   Sure they can try my patience at times but their patience with me is unlimited.  And the unconditional love they have for me is humbling and consistently challenges me to be a better person.

I  look down and see that all three are now all asleep at my feet.  And for this moment in time I am harmonized with the world, The Golden K, and my girls.

KODA

 

 

 

The Story of a man who had never seen a dog

It’s always great fun when Smokey visits.  Smokey is my daughter’s seven year old Morkie:  half Maltese and half Yorkshire Terrier.  He weighs 11 pounds.

Smokey met Kloe the first time after we moved to the mountains.  Kloe was just a few months old but already four or five times the size of Smokey.  Upon introduction Kloe became instantly enamored with Smokey.  With puppy-pose in full force Kloe invited Smokey to run, play, wrestle and good old fashioned tug-o-war.  Smokey played it cool, gave Kloe a sniff, and sauntered over to some bushes to leave some pee-mail.

Throughout that weekend Kloe would follow Smokey wherever he went.  Kloe would initiate play, Smokey would give her some sniffs and a lick on the face, and then move along his way.  When Smokey would jump on the couch to settle in for a nap Kloe would lay on the floor and stare at him. When Smokey went outside to do his business Kloe would follow in his tracks. Occasionally Smokey grew weary of Kloe’s attention and gave a snarl telling Kloe to back off.  Kloe respected that and gave him his space.  It was good that Smokey, this little miniature Ewok, established some ground rules for Kloe who is always eager and totally unaware of the size difference.

Fast forward a couple of years and things haven’t changed much.  Kloe remains enamored with Smokey who is still just 11 pounds and still holds his own navigating in and around Kloe’s 80 pounds of energy and constant motion.  Upon arriving for a visit the two of them greet one another with enthusiasm, some “kissy face” and both seem to enjoy the familiarity with one another

The Story of a man who had never seen a dog

A man had never seen a dog before arrived at our house a couple of weekends ago when  Smokey was up for a visit   This man thought Kloe and Smokey were two different species.  The man said, “which one is the dog? And if one is a dog what is that other creature?”   When I told him they were both dogs the man responded, “That can’t be true!  One is barely 10 pounds, not much bigger than a squirrel, and looks like a fur ball in the wind. The other is 10 times that size, looks like a pony, and runs swiftly like a  gazelle.  No this can’t be so. They cannot both be dogs.” The man was puzzled and interested in understanding how these two creatures could both be dogs.

I explained how dogs come in many different sizes, have varied physical attributes, and come from many different walks of life.   I told him that dogs have a wide variety of backgrounds, experiences, and qualities.   I explained that although some dogs have been bred for specific purposes like hunting, or herding, or mousing they are all still dogs.  I went on to say that in spite of these different qualities and experiences, and having come from all around the world, they are still all just dogs.  Dogs who recognize each other as dogs.  Not as a different breed.  Not as a lesser or more superior beast. But as equals with a set of universal codes of communication, respect, and an natural ability to get along and co-exist in peace.

The man seemed less puzzled now and began to understand what I was saying.  The man said, “So what you’ve told me is a lesson for dogs?”.

I said no, “What I told you is a lesson for men”.

*****

Smokey arriving for a visit

 

 

 

 

Road Trip

“Road Trip”!

That’s all the girls (Kali and Kloe) had to hear.   They ran to the rack where there leashes are hung, strung them in their mouths, and headed off to the garage ready to spryly jump into the back of the Subaru Outback.  Ok, that may be a bit of an exaggeration…  In the spirit of full transparency I have to tell you that Kloe has acquired car-ride anxiety and has to be coaxed (usually) lifted into the car against her will.  And Kali’s old and dysplasia-ridden hips don’t allow her to make the leap, although the desire is there…

Kennedy Meadows, located in the Northern CA Sierra mountains is only an hour from the Golden K and that was our destination this past Friday.  We packed a lunch for us and snacks for the girls and were ready to head out to the high Sierra’s, away from the heat and smoke from the Ferguson fire that has been blowing our way for the past several days.  Holly tried to convince Kloe that jumping into the back of the car would yield her many high value treats but she wasn’t having any of it.   In frustration, I picked up 80 pounds of an uncooperative Golden Retriever (which is more like a 100 pounds when she is in that state of mind) and threw her gently lifted her into the car.   One down…

I then instructed Kali, as I always do, with an “up” pointing to the back of the car.   On queue Kali lifts one paw onto the bumper with shaky hips.  Her eagerness and willingness says yes, but her body says no.  She looks at me and I help her complete the task and give her a assist and lift her into the car.  The girls sit and face us as the hatchback  closes.  Time travelers on their way to Kennedy Meadows.

We’ve been meaning to address Kloe’s newfound anxiety of car-rids, so a we made a detour in town to Dusty’s Den.  Dusty’s is a local pet store and emporium owned by our friends Deborah and George.  So we make a quick stop to pick up some CBD oil in the hopes that this will be the elixir Kloe needs to help take the edge off of her car-ride anxiety.  We’re in and out within minutes with “the stuff” 🙂 and head on up the hill to Kennedy Meadows.

As Golden Kali readers may be aware California is on fire.  Sad and scary for all our rural communities is the fact that the forest is overgrown, global warming is a fact, and our resources are over taxed and understaffed.  One of the newest fires to break out is the Donnel fire, about 10 minutes south of Kennedy Meadows.  This fire started Thursday, the day before our road trip, and we passed by as it was about 350 acres. The smoke was in view from the ridge of Highway 108 as we passed by without threat to the road or various campgrounds and US forest land cabins.  [As of this post the fire has grown to 8000 acres, and destroyed many historical buildings.]

Kennedy Meadows is a special place.  Nestled high in the Sierras it’s the place so many of us Bay Area natives would go to when we were young adults to get away from the “city” and experience nature.  The Stanislaus river, the Sonora pass who’s summit tops 9000 feet and leads into the real high country of Bridgeport and beyond, and the majesty of Mother Nature is magnificent.  And there we were.

We unloaded the girls and started off on a short hike to the river where the girls could cool off and wade in the river.  We passed a few other hikers, some with dogs, and we were so proud of our girls who were interested, polite, and well behaved even when other dogs barked at them.  Kali has come such a long way from the Taiwanese rescue who was so anxious around other dogs when she first arrived in America four years ago.  And Kloe, now two and half, has learned not to pull when we encounter another person or dog, but instead postures herself  to greet them and engage.   We are very proud of our girls…

While at the river Kali got her leg caught in some rocks and came up limping.  The unfounded worries that I am prone to immediately assessed that Kali would not be able to walk the half mile back to car and that I would have to carry her 60+ pounds the entire way on by shoulders.  Holly quickly spoke up and said, “if you try to carry her the whole way who will carry you?”.  It was a good point.  As Kali limped I encouraged bribed her with high value treats to keep her walking all the way inspire of my worry that her leg was hurt and walking was making it worse.  [Update:  her leg was fine and  she was faking in order to get the HVT’s].

We made it back to the car, my pocket now empty of treats, and had lunch.  Kloe eagerly jumped out of the car and settled next to Holly’s sandwich chair.  Kali elected to remain in the car in an effort to perpetuate the injured leg drama.  We ate our lunch, drank a beer, fed the girls some of our watermelon (they love watermelon!) and sat in the quiet of the forest in awe of the beauty of the high country.

As we reloaded and headed back down the hill to the Golden K we were feeling blessed to live within the beautiful Stanislaus Forest,  worried about climate change and how fire season in California is almost year round, appreciative of the herculean fire fighters, and feeling blessed to have been rescued by our girls Kali and Kloe.

Portraits

From the time I was a toddler my mom would periodically take my sister and I to have “our pictures taken”.  Formal pictures taken at a professional studio with lighting, back drops, and those “umbrella-thingies”.  Looking back it’s interesting to me, and it shows how much my mom valued capturing a moment in time of her kid’s lives, that she would spend money on professional portrait sittings when there was not a lot of extra money.  As an example when out for dinner at a restaurant my sister and I would have to share a Shirley Temple drink (7-Up and Grenadine) because my parents couldn’t afford for both of us to have one.   When ordering a hamburger we couldn’t have cheese because it was ten cents extra.  In retrospect maybe that’s why my parents could afford these expensive portraits?….

My mom passed away recently and I’ve spent many days in her home cleaning and clearing.  Although many of those portraits of my sister and I hung on the walls of her home over the years they took on more meaning and presented a stark contrast to contemporary times when the camera on our smart phones are a hundred times better than the box cameras of the day.   Our phones are probably as good or better than the large and cumbersome equipment that was in those studios that used something called film.

I have hundreds of pictures of Kali and Kloe with me at all times because they’re on my phone.  A digital version of that accordion-like deck of pictures dad’s in previous generations would pull out of their wallets to proudly show off their kids and wives in blurry and faded pictures taken with his box camera.

With this in mind I thought I should take a lesson from my mom and lose the selfies and candids and have some portraits of the girls taken.   Formal sittings (“sit, stay”) with lighting and back drops and “umbrella-thingies”.  And so I did and I proudly display them here in this post.

OK… full disclosure.  These were taken with my iPhone using portrait mode.  But the sentiment remains the same.  I think mom would be proud.  Don’t you?

KALI

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KLOE

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Flags, Dogs, and Wine

For all our warts I would not want to live anywhere other than this great country of ours, the US of America.

Ray Charles singing “America” in the background, Oaks and Pines swaying to the warm gentle wind, and Baseball coming on shortly.   We are truly blessed at the Golden K.

Whether you stand, sit, or lie down for the flag Kloe, Kali, and cousin Ben wish you the best of bests on this Fourth Of July, Two Thousand and Eighteen.

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Note to self…

Note to self:  Don’t work on sprinklers and drip irrigation when your two year old pup has a 6 month old friend over to play.  Although there was plenty of dry ground available for playing chase and wrestling the water was like a magnet and these two had quite the time.

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Thought bubble over Kloe’s head:  “That was awesome!”

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Thought bubble over six month old Chewie’s head:  “Are we in trouble?”

Needless to say, baths followed and the irrigation project was put on hold for a couple of days.

I stand corrected.

I urged the original poster who was looking for advice to ignore the wrestle-mania advice of this so called and self-professed professional wrestler trainer.   Within moments another comment  from wrestle-mania central was directed at me telling me that I knew nothing about dog training and that the method they described was decades old and highly effective.

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Kloe Gotcha Day #2

How embarrassing!   I thought Kloe’s Gotcha Day was on May 9th but it is actually on May 7th – today.   Thank goodness for Facebook who reminded me this morning by showing me my post from last year. As if Kloe would know or even knows what the heck a Gotcha Day is.  But I know what it is and I’l always remember the day we brought her home from Lodi, CA where we picked her up.

She rode home to Livermore on Holly’s lap squirming a little bit but only because she wanted to play and  cuddle.   We arrived home to introduce her to Kali, her new big sissy and soon to be surrogate mother.   Kali, true to herself, barked when Kloe entered the house as if to say, “No!  I’ve been very happy here having mom and dad to myself for the past two years and I don’t need the competition of a incredibly cute puppy.   So you, missy can just go back where you came from.”

Within an hour Kloe won over Kali’s heart and they were playing and cuddling.  Kloe wanted to be wherever Kali was.   At times coaxing Kali to play tug-o-war and Kali was so respectful and cognizant that Kloe was a wee 15 pounds so taking it easy on her.  At other times when Kali was sleeping Kloe would lay on top of Kali or find a way to spoon.  Kali was so tolerant and such good big sissy.

Two weeks later we packed up 23 years of Livermore, put Kali and Kloe in the back seat of my truck and drove to our new home in the Sierra Nevada Foothills.  Kloe wasn’t in Suburbia long enough to get used to that so our five acres in the middle of the foothills was just another step in her brief two month life.

Fast forward two years and Kloe is a true mountain girl chasing squirrels and jack rabbits, co-existing with the black tailed deer and – being the chewer she is – loving the lifetime supply of twigs and sticks that are at her disposal.

That little 15 pound pup we brought home two years ago has grown up into a beautiful 80 pound young lady who brings endless and ongoing love and joy into our lives.

Happy Gotcha Day Kloe.  You are my sweetie girl.  You are a great companion,  You are a fantastic listener.  You are unconditional love in it’s truest form.  For that and for you I am so grateful.

Kloe:  then and now

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