My Security Detail

We’ve seen it in movies and television or maybe even in real life. I did see it in real life one time when I was in Pentagon City located just outside Washington DC. I was at a leadership conference at the Ritz Carlton when out of nowhere a number of secret service agents appeared and lined the staircase leading down to the lobby. It must have been a high-ranking politician or foreign dignitary who then cruised through the lobby with aids in tow. The VIP exited the building, entered a limo, and sped off escorted by several black unmarked SUV’s and a battalion of motorcycle police. His security detail kept him safe although no threats appeared to be evident to this observer.

And so it is with my canine security detail. Kali and Smokey seem to always have my back. When I sit they sit, but with watchful eyes. When I get up they get up; Smokey looking towards where I may be going, Kali keeping a watchful eye on me as I move forward.

It’s most striking when I go out to the backyard (dangerous and unknown) from inside the house (safe and controlled). Smokey is the advance agent. As soon as the door opens he shoots out and does a lightening speed circle around the yard seemingly to secure the perimeter and contain any potential “perps” like squirrels, blue jays, or neighbor pets who may have strayed too close to the fence line. Agent Kali remains stoically by my side, her eyes always fixed on me. She only moves when I move. At 56 lbs. – Smokey 10 lbs. – Kali is best equipped to protect me should any of the critters somehow slip through the perimeter that Smokey set up.

Once outside in the yard Smokey maintains his presence along the permitter and Kali stays by me. They make eye contact regularly and, only when they are both confident that no threats exist for me – the VIP, do they relax and sit or lie.

Agent Smokey and Agent Kali watching over their VIP Dad

Agent Smokey and Agent Kali watching over their VIP Dad

Sometimes I feel bad if I stand up because then so do they – my canine security detail comes to attention and goes into action. Doggie eyes fixed on my next move, Smokey seems to woof quietly into his paw to in order to alert the larger team outside the compound that “Dad” is again on the move. The best part: Kali never leaves my side. Alert and watchful she’s always next to me rarely complaining and always ready to jump on me and take a bullet if necessary.

When I sleep they sleep. When I work they sleep. When I relax they sleep. Or so it seems… because as soon as Dad gets on the move so do they springing into action to make sure that Dad is escorted, safe, and protected.

I never thought I would have a Security Detail. But I do. And whether any real or imagined threats exist doesn’t matter. I love these guys and I trust them to take care of me.

Alice Morales

The gift of making someone happy is a beautiful thing. The ability to make a sad person smile is an even greater gift. This is true especially if that person is reaching end of life and find themselves sad and tired of living. My Aunt Alice is 89 years old in a skilled nursing facility with a rapidly diminishing mental capacity. Her situation is not uncommon for someone her age. She’s not in any pain or discomfort but not too much makes her smile or laugh.

Except Kali.

Alice doesn’t remember too much about what happens during the day and she sometimes loses context of the world around her. But she always remembers Kali, who she calls Kelly, and refers to her as him. I’ve stopped correcting her on the name and sex because it doesn’t matter. What matters is that Kali makes Alice smile. When Alice sees Kali or thinks about Kali she smiles and seems genuinely happy for those few minutes.

Alice never married but was surrounded with nieces, nephews, and other family members and had a very happy life. But now Alice is ready to die. She’s told me that she wants to go to sleep and not wake up. This makes me sad but I understand.

Until a couple of years ago Alice was very independent, even well into her eighties, using public transportation (she never learned to drive) to run errands and go about her daily life. She maintained her home of 40 years with little help and I always considered her a very strong and determined person – physically and emotionally – even though she is only four feet eight inches tall. It was always a milestone for my kids when as eight or nine year olds they passed Alice in height. She and I would laugh about that as each kid grew taller than her. A low ( so to speak) bar but none-the-less a milestone. At Christmas Alice would decorate her house with hundreds, if not thousands, of decorations. Her home looked like Macy’s department store during the holidays. She had talking decorations, decorations that lit up, four-foot tall animation carolers that sang, and so many glittery shiny objects my kids eyes would spin the first time of the season that we visited Alice’s “Winter Wonderland”.

A couple of years ago Alice became sick and went into the hospital. She recovered but she was unable to move back to her home because she required more personal care. I helped her to move into an assisted living center. As my family and I cleaned out her house and prepared it for sale I found many half finished projects, partially assembled furniture items and tools, gadgets, and appliances. Even at less than 5 feet tall, in her eighties, and using public transportation Alice was determined to not succumb to relying on others to take care of her, her house, or her affairs.

So I understand that now that Alice must rely on caretaker for every-day activities like getting out of bed and walking, she has lost the will to live.

When I visit Alice she smiles as I walk into the room. She loves me and I her. She’s my godmother and she’s been in my life my entire life. We know each other very well. But as I greet her, as much as she loves me, the smile quickly fades and she seems to retreat to the emptiness she feels. But it’s different with Kali. When Kali visits Alice smiles broadly and the smile remains as her eyes are fixed on Kali. “Hi Kelly”, she says as she extends her hand to Kali. Alice remains in the moment and, for these few moments in time of an 89 year life, Alice is happy.

Washing up to smell pretty for Aunt Alice

Washing up to smell pretty for Aunt Alice

Kali is not unique in this ability to deliver happiness but none the less it makes me happy during those moments, and thinking upon it now, that Kali can make someone I love so much who has lost the will to live want to live in those moments.

Our Marley Moment

It happened in a  flash of speed and might.  It caught me by total surprise.  I gasped, I scolded, and then we laughed.  Well, I didn’t laugh right away but my buddy Marty did.  I apologized and Marty laughed some more.  “Mike, it’s only wood” he said.

Holly, Kali and I had driven up that morning for an overnight visit with our friends Marty and Jen at their vacation home in Pine Mountain Lake, CA.  Although it was only a two hour drive it was the longest car trip with Kali we had taken, we would be staying overnight, and there would be another dog.  In this vacation and retirement community there are no fences separating properties so Kali would need to be tethered most of the time we were at the house.  I was a little anxious.  I wanted Kali to be a respectful guest and I wanted her to begin experiencing new and fun things away from home.  Selfishly, I was hoping she would be the perfect dog I envisioned when I began thinking about adopting many months ago.  So yes, I was anxious but optimistic.  And so was Kali.

Kali did great in the car – I wasn’t surprised. She’s a great passenger.  We had put her crate in the back of the SUV but she quickly exited and came up behind us to be close even though it was less comfortable.  Kali likes to be near us and that’s just fine with me.  We arrived at the house and were greeted by Marty, Jen, and Sadie.  Sadie, like Kali, is a sweet girl; slightly smaller and just as pretty.  They had met once before and it hadn’t gone so well because of Kali’s anxiety with other dogs (we’re working on that and she’s getting better).  Much to my pleasant surprise they quickly adjusted and Kali settled in.

We spent much of the afternoon exploring the beautiful lake property – the four humans in the front of our SUV and the two dogs in the back.  When we arrived back at the house the dogs got water and the humans got beer and wine.  Right?…  Dogs seem to love the latter part of the day when the sun begins to go down, they’ve been fed, and – like a lot of humans after a great day and meal – they can just chill and reflect on their blessings.

Kali and me cooling off at Pine Mountain Lake

Kali and me cooling off at Pine Mountain Lake

And so we did. The six of us hanging out watching the sun go down and relaxing in the warm evening weather.

Marty keeps Sadie tethered with a cable that’s attached to a hook that’s screwed into the molding on the side of the house.   The cable is light enough to be comfortable for Sadie and strong enough to keep her safe.  It’s long enough to give her full access to the garage, driveway and surrounding yard without putting her in harms way.  Sadie has adapted to this very well.  And so did Kali.

Then it happened.  The feat of strength.  The moment when the dog aura says “don’t underestimate my resolve”.  The Marley Moment.  

A neighbor walked by with their Golden, Jack.  Marty walked to the edge of the driveway to say hi.  Kali followed – with, let’s say “passion”.  Except the tether was too short (as designed) to get to the street.   Off in a flash she pulled the cable, the hook and a piece of the  house  with her.  A piece of the house.  My friend’s house.  Barking with tail wagging the entire way.

Marty laughed.   The neighbors smiled stating the obvious, “well, at least you know she is very strong”.

At first I thought she had pulled the hook out but upon closer examination of the situation I saw a four foot piece of siding dragging behind her into the street.

Me (sightly embarrassed): Wow Marty – I’m really sorry.

Marty:  “Mike, it’s only wood”.

Me – “Yeah but, well…..”

Kali:  “WOOF”  (Thought bubble over her head that says, “WOOF”).

Sadie: “That was pretty cool”. (Thought bubble over her head that says “that was pretty cool).

Me: “More wine!”


The Pack

Do not make the mistake of treating your dogs like humans or they will treat you like dogs.
– Martha Scott

Yeah, I don’t know who Martha Scott was either. According to Wikipedia Martha Scott was an American film, television, and stage actress during the second half of the the 20th century. Yawn…

Occasionally I’ll look for quotes to inspire a topic for a post. This was the case today. This quote resonated with me because I am learning to act like a human, think like a dog, and treat Kali like the dog she wants and deserves to be.  And guess what? I’m the alpha and that’s the way Kali wants it.

For the past couple of years I would joke with my adult children and Holly saying that I wanted either a grandchild or a dog within a year and that they needed to figure it out. So when no grandchildren were announced I took matters into my own hands. I briefly considered adopting a grandchild. Is that even possible? No matter, I quickly came to my senses and turned my attention to rescues and found Kali, our golden God-send.  Not a grandchild but every bit as special.

Here’s the point. Whether it was my kids, a someday-to-be grandchild, or our sweet Golden Kali my nature is to spoil them rotten. Fortunately as the kids were growing up my wife was the voice of reason.   Otherwise we would have had a yard full of ponies, pizza for dinner every night, every video game system known to man, and as many nights free from brushing teeth as they kids wanted.

Before Kali even arrived we lined up a professional trainer.  Really what he is doing is training us to be effective pack leaders for Kali so that she knows she is safe, that we will keep her from harm, and allow her to thrive as a member of our pack.

When we were younger and our kids were babies we aspired to be “yuppies” but couldn’t afford it.  Thank goodness .  No nannies, no horseback riding lessons, and no private soccer coaches.  Just good old fashioned family time, arguments at the dinner table, and camping.  But now years later I do feel a bit like a yuppie with the private dog trainer, regular trips to the pet store to get the greatest and latest for my sweet girl – no matter the cost,  and all the time in the world (much of the time ) for playtime and grooming.  Thank goodness.

Kali deserves the best. And the best is for Kali is to be treated like a dog.  So thank you Martha Scott for pointing out what should be obvious.  A dog is a dog and they deserve to be treated as such.  We as humans owe the dog we bring home – under any circumstance – respect, love, and dedication.


Kali and Holly doing a title training

Holly treating (loving) Kali like a dog