Happy Gotcha Day Kloe

Three years ago today the sweetest girl I could ever imagine came into our lives forever.   At nine weeks old this pouty faced Golden Retriever stole our hearts and has held them close to her own since then.  Born in Bakersfield, rescued by True Love Rescue in Lodi, Kloe made her way into our arms and home to Livermore, CA.  Three weeks later we moved to the mountains to our home we call the Golden K. Kloe of course is one of those three Golden K’s our home is named after. Kloe weighs almost 80 pounds and I am convinced that the majority of that weight is from a very large heart of gold.

We are blessed that Kloe found her way into our lives and grateful to True Love Rescue for making that a possibility.

Happy Gotcha Day Kloe!  You are forever my Klois Marie, Klo-Klo, Kloe Bowie, Sugar Lips, Sweetness, and all the other silly names I have for you.   But at the end of the day as you lay on your mat when I kiss you goodnight and I tell you to sleep tight, you are simply my beautiful girl Kloe.

Compliance Evolution

My Golden Kali has been the most loyal, trustworthy, and loving a dog one could ask for.  Compliance with rules and requests has never been an issue.  Kali has always been eager to please.  There have been times over the years where Kali comes up in conversation and someone will ask something like, ‘will she do that?’ or ‘how will you get her to sit still for that?’.  My answer has always been the same, “Kali does what I ask her to do”.   And she does. And that’s that.  Not because I’m a great trainer.  Because Kali is a great dog.

Whether it’s sitting still to have her nails trimmed (I use a dremel), being poked and prodded at the vet, or sitting for a bath and brushing, Kali has always done what I’ve asked of her.  She hasn’t always liked it but she does it because I ask.

Kali, now a senior at 10 years, remains compliant and eager willing to comply.   But some things have changed; just a little bit…  I realized that there has been a compliance evolution that has gone something like this.

Kali at 5

Kali: “Hey dad, I’m right here waiting for you to tell me what to do.  Just give me the word or signal and I’m good to go”.

Me:  “Ok Kali, let’s go”.

Kali springs to her feet and leads the way trotting just in front of me to our destination.

Kali at 7

Me:  “Come on Kali, I need to go to the back yard and I want you to  come with me”.

Kali:  “Sure thing dad.  I go where you go whenever you want me to go”.

Kali gets up and prances along side of me not really knowing where she is going and not caring because she’s by my side.

Kali at 10

Now at ten Kali spends much of her day inside sleeping   She’s earned the privilege to be inside if that’s what she prefers and this is what she usually chooses.

Me:  Walking to the door, “Come on Kali.  You need to go outside and get busy” (get busy is the term we use to tell our girls to pee and poop).

Kali:  “Thanks for asking but I’m fine right here”.

Me: “Kali.  Come.  Let’s go!”

Kali:  “No, Im good”.

Me:  KALI COME.  Gosh darn it… COME!

Kali:  Slowly rising “Geesh.  You don’t have to yell.  I heard you the first time.”

Me: Thought bubble over my head, “Yeah I know you heard me so why didn’t you do it the first time?”  Second thought  bubble over my head, “Oh yeah because you’ve trained me very well”.

And so it goes these days with my Golden Kali.    Our relationship has evolved over the years and the bond and love has grown stronger each day.  The five year old vibrant rescue from Taiwan is now a stubborn old lady who remains compliant and eager to please in all ways and at all times.

It’s just takes a little longer these days.

img_6843

Kali hearing the request to “come” but knowing that there will be at least two more requests before she is expected to actually do anything

Spring Break

The Golden K finally got a few days of dry warmish weather last week.   The red clay dirt mud finally starting drying out from weeks of being covered with snow followed by a lot of rain.  The girls were mostly house bound for much of the past two months because of it and were in bad need of a Spring Break.

When there was fresh snow on the ground it was not so bad because they could play in the snow and come back to the house and only be wet.  When the snow starts melting or it rains much of the girls Golden K playground becomes red mud and that’s a whole different deal when it comes to in and out privileges.   Towels were regularly piled up around the doors leading outside for much of these past two months so that upon re-entry we could at a minimum clean the girls’ paws off.  Sometimes it required a major wiping down or trip to the bath.  So the dry sunny days were a welcome sight that I think even the girls appreciated.  After all laying in dirt is better than laying mud, right?  Even for a pup?…

So as Koda and Kloe lay in the dry dirt I snapped (clicked) a photo and they appeared to scowl at the camera (phone) as if to say, “We don’t know how long this spring-like weather will last. Please put the phone away and throw these balls for us”.  And so I did.

Two dogs, two balls, nowhere to go, and all day to get there.  After two months of snow and rain it doesn’t get better than that.

6581a4c8-2b3e-4155-a6be-45df51429ddb

Scowl, scowl, scowl!

Red Girls, Snow, and The Golden K

Snow has been falling off and on at The Golden K for a week now.   I’m amazed at how alive dogs become in the snow.   Impervious to the cold – seemingly energized by it – with the speed of a gazelle and endurance of a marathoner they run, roll, jump and chase only stopping occasionally to catch their breath.  And I believe, as they stop and look around, that they realize their world is different for the moment and they appreciates the beautiful playground that Mother Nature has created for them.   Then all at once they are off again…

Kloe and Koda – The red girls as I call them – have had a lot fun with snow play this past week.  Although The Golden K is located in the Sierra Nevada Foothills we’re just about at the snow line at 3100 feet elevation and don’t receive a lot of snow each year.   As inconvenient as it has been this past week in some ways it has also been special.  The red girls have taken advantage of the velvety layer of cold white powder sitting on top of what is usually a hard and muddy landscape this time of year.

For the past week the red girls have alternated between this:

 

fullsizeoutput_fb5

Kloe and Koda stopping to catch their breath and appreciate their velvety playground

 And this…

img_0941

Koda” “Dad you’re embarrassing me.   I’m not cold and I already shook off the snow.”                 Kloe: “It makes him feel better.  If it was mud we’d both be up in the bath right now.”

 

Our Traditional First Snow Walk

Earlier in the week we took our traditional first snow walk with the girls to the top of The Golden K.  It was a little melancholy for me because as we headed out of the immediate area of the house and headed up the hill Kali was struggling.   Kali, now almost ten with bad hips struggled in the deep snow making it too difficult for her to follow along.  She tried but as she labored to make gains up the hill to follow me I could see in her eyes that it was too much for her.   As much as I wanted her with us and as much as I know she wanted to be by my side I took her back to the house while Holly and the red girls waited at the trail head.

 

fullsizeoutput_fb6

Holly”  “If only the red girls were attached to a sled they could power me up the hill… Mush!”

Kali last year on our traditional snow walk to the top of The Golden K

IMG_8453

Kali:  “My hips are frozen – this feels great!”

And so it goes during winter at The Golden K.   Rain follows this snow storm and then more snow, and then more rain.  Hopefully we’ll have a few days to dry out in between all of that.  I’m convinced the earth is spinning faster with the way time flies by.  Before the girls know it they’ll be running on the hard clay ground in sunshine, sitting patiently by the BBQ for a little “sumpin’-sumpin'” and looking for shade to cool down in.  But for now we take what Mother Nature has to give and enjoy the beauty of the Golden K all dressed in white.

The red girls running, rolling, jumping and chasing. How great is it to be them!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Dog Is Driving Me Nuts

This dog is driving me nuts!

As a parent of three now grown children I can tell you first that these statements are true:

Child one: “I’ follow the rules”.  

Child two: “I’m the reason for the rules”.

Child three: “The rules don’t apply to me”.

And so it seems with dogs too….

Kali is the oldest and fur-baby number one.  From day one she did was asked of her, never complained and was happy to comply.   Kloe is fur-baby number two.  Kloe was the reason for certain changes and routine in the pack as she was growing up.  Now at almost three years of age she is very much a rule follower herself but wasn’t always that way and she was definitely the reason certain controls and limits had to be put in place.

And then there is fur-baby number three: Koda.

Sigh…

At eight months old Koda is a natural at living up to the child number three statement.  The statement oozes from every single one of her 48 pounds.  Her breath in the cold frosty air whispers the statement.   Somewhere there are tee-shirts with the child number three statement on the back with a picture of Koda on the front.  Double sigh…

Koda’s tenacity, confidence, and strong will is something to behold.  I really do admire it and am so glad Koda is who she is.   Is her tenacity challenging?  Yes.  Does her strong will try my patience?   Hourly.   Can I channel her strong will into positives that will make her a tremendous adult dog.  I hope so.   Can I leverage the combination of all three to reverse the effects if global warming?   Maybe.  Ok probably not  but that is the power of Koda.

Potential song lyrics for Koda’s enshrinement into the Child Number Three Hall of Fame:

“And I love her” – Lennon and McCartney

“That’s the power of love” – Huey Lewis

“This dog is driving me nuts” – Michael Morales

Crazy, nuts, bananas – whatever.  But also, crazy with love.  Crazy with the optimism a puppy brings to one’s every day life.   Crazy fun to see her play with abandonment.

But yeah, this dog is driving me nuts!

 

 

 

Meal time used to be real simple

Meal time used to be real simple.  Kali and Kloe each ate dry food for both breakfast and dinner.  Initially Kloe got high protein puppy food and was on a slightly different dry mix than Kali.   But eventually when Kloe got old enough they were on the same food.  Back in the day meal time inventory check:  two dogs, two bowls, one dry food bucket, one food.  Simple! Scoop scoop wham bam thank you dad.

Meal time used to be real simple.

Over the past year Holly and I introduced raw meat into Kali and Kloe’s diet.  We’re fortunate to have good friends who own a pet shop and are quite informed and knowledgable about canine nutrition.  Owners Dee and George made suggestions for the raw meat and over the first couple of months we experimented with different types, varying portions, etc.   Wanting to still provide good grains to the girl’s diet, and after a few calculations to consider caloric content of the dry, the raw, and each dog’s weight, we landed on a regimen of dry in the morning and raw in the evening.  The raw meat is sold frozen and we buy it in quantities of 25 one pound flat pieces.   Every two days we would put two one pound portions in the refrigerator to thaw for two day’s of meals.   So, still not too bad, right?   Not as simple as two dogs, two bowls, one dry food bucket, one food but definitely worth the extra meal planning and preparation to yield a healthier diet for the girls.  Plus, they absolutely love the raw meat it keeps their weight down.  And did I mention they love it?

When Koda arrived three months ago we put her on the same dry food that Kloe and Kali eat but the large breed puppy version that is high on protein.  Then about a month ago we began giving Koda a portion of raw meat with her dinner.  She too is crazy for “the raw”.  So let’s do a another meal time inventory check at this juncture: three dogs, three bowls, two dry food buckets, two dry foods, and varying portions of raw at dinner.   And as the old television commercials for kitchen gadgets used to say, “But wait – there’s more…”

Kali is slightly overweight and we wanted to reduce her caloric intake so we introduced some variations for her.  For breakfast she gets half a cup of dry food and half a cup of scrambled egg whites.  For dinner she gets a portion of raw meat and a half cup of salt free canned green beans.   It’s getting complicated isn’t it.

Real time meal time inventory check:  three dogs, two dry food buckets, two dry foods, three bowls, varying portions of raw at dinner, scrambled eggs in the morning, canned green beens in the evenings.   Based on our highly scientific caloric calculations dog size,  age, and overall weight management goals the dry food and raw portions are different for all three pups but at least the eggs whites and green beans are the same portions for Kali.  Hurray for small victories!

Meal time used to be real simple.   But are my girls healthier and happier? Yes.  Is it worth the planning and coordination and calamity amusement of three dogs squirming at your feet during preparation?  Absolutely!

The pace of the meal

Kali and Kloe used to finish their meals at almost exactly the same time even though Kloe’s portions were bigger. Now with Koda who has relatively large portions and eats a little slower (thank you puzzle bowls),  and the variation of portions and content,  they all finish their meals at different times.  Kloe is always finished first.  Koda is second, and Kali – who has the smallest portions – finishes last.  Sometimes by a good 5 minutes after the other two.   What Golden Retriever doesn’t love food, right?  But Kali takes it to the extreme.  Kali worships her food.   To watch her eat with the deliberation and devotion one might think that meal time is a spiritual experience for her.

Before Koda, when Kali and Kloe finished at the same time, it was amusing to watch them in unison like synchronized eaters move to the other’s empty bowl and lick around the edges and grooves of the puzzle bowls.  Now that finishing times are staggered Kloe typically walks off and asks to go outside having her sisters behind to finish up.  Kloe finishes next and it’s endearing to watch her watch Kali finish.  As Kali methodically addresses the meat and green beans that remain in the bowl Koda stands or lays nearby showing respect and does not try to steal any of the food.  But she’s not shy about getting her face right next to the Kali’s bowl.

And Kali just keeps eating seemingly in food bliss methodically conducting her business while her baby sister watches.

 

Christmas Trees At The Golden K

This will be our third Christmas at The Golden K., our mountain home in the Sierra Nevada Foothills.   When living in suburbia with our now grown children Holly and I  bought high priced Christmas Trees, usually Noble Pines, from various lots or drove miles to cut them down ourselves.  Later we invested in artificial trees that looked great until the lights started to go out after being wrapped back up and stored for a couple of years.

While packing up Suburbia three years ago we threw out the last artificial tree.   When Christmas rolled around several months later, and now living in the mountains we went to a local nursery to see about buying a live tree.   While looking at what was available we had a “duh” moment realizing that we have five acres full of trees.  Why would we spend money on a Christmas tree when we have hundreds of trees of our own to choose from.   Our pine trees are a hundred feet tall and we don’t live in altitude high enough for firs.  But we do have a lot of cedars so choosing a small cedar for our Christmas tree each year from our own property has become our new tradition.

While cedars are not ideal for hanging ornaments it hasn’t mattered to us.   This new tradition has become important to us as a symbol of our transition out of Suburbia and our new way of life in the mountains.

So today we headed out with the girls and a chain saw in tow to hunt for a tree.

After about 20 minutes of surveying our options we chose a tree on the edge of our property.   After giving the tree a sniff and once over the girls approved of our selection.  Good thing because it was already cut!

After some trimming of branches and securing the tree stand we were ready to trim the tree.

The girls were not to interested in helping with the trimming and almost immediately went into power nap mode.  Kloe woke up briefly to “snoopervise” (thanks for the term Monika!) but it didn’t last too long.

After a couple of hours of trimming the tree was done.  The girls seemed to approve as they leaned into to get on their Christmas cheer.

IMG_6498

*Editors Note:  The girls would have had on their Christmas scarves for this photo but that is just not possible with a six month old puppy who would rip her sister’s scarves to pieces as well as her own….. 

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.

IMG_6301

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