1% Chance

It was a warm evening as my buddy Marty and I assembled my new BBQ in my garage.  It was about 7:00, we had a moderate amount of tools out, a couple of beers, and Holly and Jen, Marty’s wife  were in the back yard munching on snacks and drinking wine. This was a ritual that used to happen more often when we were younger and living across the street from each other:   I buy something, I try to build it, i can’t build it, I call Marty, Marty comes to the rescue and builds it for me.  As we’ve grown older we’ve both become more proactive.  So a couple of weeks ago I told Marty I had ordered a new BBQ he said, “great – you’ll need me to come over and help you build it”.  And I said, “yep, I think it’s a two beer job”.

So as we were getting started I opened the door to let Kali out to the garage so she could hang out with us.  She quickly lied down in the middle of the action.  Although we live on a very quiet street whenever I’ll be in the garage with the door open for anything longer than a minute or so if Kali is there I put on her long 30 foot leash and tie it to the workbench. Kali is not a “runner” nor is she very interested in exploring past our front yard and 99% of the time she would be just fine staying close to me.  But for the 1% chance that another dog or a cat would walk past the house all bets would be off.  I am pretty sure that Kali would take off in hot pursuit with no regard for any command I would give her to sit, stay, or come.  So I always eliminate that 1% chance and I tie her up.

Well, almost always.

Last night I let my guard down and didn’t put Kali on the long leash.  Maybe it was the oh so calm night that convinced me it would be fine.  Maybe it was the melancholy I was experiencing of hanging out in  the garage doing  a project with Marty just like the old days when we do this often with our little ones riding bikes and playing in the yard.  Or maybe it was just laziness.

As we were about half way done assembling the BBQ I see a neighbor come by with their 90 pound Shepherd mix.  I immediately look to see where Kali is so that I can grab her and make sure she doesn’t run out.  But she’s sauntered off to greet my next door neighbor who had just pulled into his driveway.  I see Kali in the next yard and I see that she doesn’t notice the Shepard mix approaching because my car was blocking her view as the dog and owners came walking down the street.  For a brief moment I think I can navigate this situation and think that maybe even if Kali sees the dog she’ll just come back to the garage as soon as I call her.  None chance – not even 1%.

Kali sees the dog and bolts towards him barking with teeth gnashing.  As she got close she lunged and growled and the dog’s owners look concerned that this monster of a Golden Retriever was going to make mince meat of their dog.  I ran to Kali calling her and apologizing to the owners all at the same time.  They were cool but after about 30 or 45 seconds of this “dance” they were visibly upset.  I didn’t blame them.  Meanwhile Marty has run out into the street and is trying to corral Kali, and almost gets his hand on her collar.  But she dodges him like Jim Brown of the Cleveland Browns on a December Sunday.  By now our wives have left their snacks and wine to see what the commotion is and stand in the garage watching Marty and I running around in the street like two blind three-legged border collies.

Kali finally retreats to the garage and Holly ushers her out the side-door into the back yard.  I apologize again to the dog’s owners as they high-tail it down the street.   Holly and Jen return to the back yard to enjoy the warm evening.  Marty and resume assembly of the BBQ.  Kali lies down in the back yard and tries to get her heartbeat back down to something less than 250 bpm.

So no real harm done but a good lesson, reminder actually, that 1% is 1% and if it happens then it’s 100%.   As a worrier I think that Kali and I dodged a bullet.  It could have been a cat across the street that caught her eye that she ran off after and a car, as unlikely as it is (1% chance?),  would come speeding around the corner just at the wrong time.

So after all is said and done it was a great night:

Kali safe, great reminder for dad about being smart and always keeping Kali safe, a new awesome BBQ, delicious steaks, good wine, and best of all a great summer evening with our dear friends Marty and Jen.


Kali: “Is there a 1% chance I’ll get a little taste of meat from the new BBQ? After all I kept that big old Shepard mix away from the steaks, right?”

Keeping Your Pets Cool This Summer

Good advice for newbies and great reminders for experienced dog lovers.

Or So It Seems

Kali makes Don feel good.  And that makes me feel good.  Good for Don and good for Kali who is able to make a small difference for someone.  Or so it seems.

Over the years there have been times I’ve felt guilty for having a so much when so many have so little.  I feel as though I should be doing something grandiose to make a difference in the world or at least my community.    It’s been many years since we’ve attended church regularly and even longer since I “went to confession”.   But years ago, when the kids were young and we were quite involved in our Catholic church, I mentioned during a face to face confession with Father Steve that I struggled with the idea that my life was so good and so many people were suffering.  I told him that it pained me to know there were people suffering all around the world and I was doing nothing to help them.  On one had this “confession” was a little random but it represented both my guilt for doing so little and also my hope to be able to somehow do more. Steve was a great guy.  A regular guy and a guy I admired and trusted.  Priests are people and not all priests are great people.  But Steve was and to this day I miss his homilies, the prayerful feeling he could invoke in me, and his practicality.

Father Steve told me to relax.  He knew I was sincere and reminded me that I couldn’t fix the whole world in one fell swoop.  Take small bites he said…  He was right of course.  He made me fell better and more importantly he helped me to understand that it’s the small things that can make a big difference.

There is a “farm house” along the trail Kali and I walk.  It’s not really a farm house but it looks like one and when my kids were little they named it the farm house.  Don lives in the farm house.


Don’s “Farmhouse” along our trail

Don is an older gentlemen who hangs out on the side of the house, sometimes smoking a cigarette but mostly just looking around and killing time.  Killing time that some older folks do when there is nothing much else going on for them.  Months ago on one of our walks Kali and I stopped to introduce ourselves and since then when we pass by, if Don is out, I say “hello” or “good morning Don” and he usually replies, “how ya’ doin’?”  To which I say, ‘Good Don.  How are you”.  “I’m ok” is his usual reply.  It’s become apparent over the months that Don lives in the farmhouse with one of his children and grand children.  It’s also become apparent that Don has early stages of alzheimer’s disease.  I recognize it because both my mom and my aunt are in the early stages as well.

On a recent walk as Kali and I passed by the farm house on our way home we saw Don and I called out hello.  He answered, “how ya’ doing?”   I said “good” and continued walking along.  As we passed by Don’s eyes followed us and I heard him say, “that’s it?”.  I realized that Don was looking for something more than a hello.  He was looking for a connection, a conversation.  Don wanted to make sure he wasn’t invisible; that he was alive.

Later when I reflected on that brief interaction – or lack of it – Don’s words stuck with me.  “That’s it?”

That’s it?  That’s all there is?  That’s all I get?

Since that day I’ve had several conversations with Don.   If he’s out Kali and I make a point to stop and chat.  I don’t know anything about Don’s life and I don’t ask him about it. Instead I make small talk about the weather or the trail and golf course he looks out on.  Don makes nonsensical talk about his house and who lives in it, about the planes that are flying overhead, and  asks where I live; how far down along the trail.  Kali sits patiently while we talk.  Don has always admired Kali. When Kali and I first started walking by Don would always comment about how pretty she was and what a good dog she was as we came to the street to cross as Kali sits and turns to me.  He’d say, “Now that’s a good dog.  That’s how a dog should behave”.

Today as we passed the Farmhouse Don was out doing his “thing”, which pretty much is doing nothing.  It strikes me now that Don is cognizant enough to feel as though he is a burden and he knows he is in the final stage of his life. I don’t know if this makes his sad or not.  He seems mostly content.  Content.  It’s a word my mom and aunt both use to describe how they feel.  Not happy, not excited or sad, just content.  I think Don goes outside to smell the fresh air and hope that someone on the trail will interact with him, say hello, and maybe – just maybe – stop for a minute to chat.

I was glad to see Don outside yesterday.  I haven’t seen him much lately and I was concerned about him.   It was about 7:30 am, a warm 70 degrees with clear skies and the smells of damp grass in the air from the creek and golf course. I love that smell.  Kali and I walked up to Don and he greeted us.  Don reached down to Kali and petted her, squeezed her neck with both arms while he put his face next to hers.  Kali greeted Don with a major lick all around his face.  Don, standing up and wiping his face says, “That’s ok, I’m ok with that”.  He was beaming.  Don felt alive.  So alive he bent down again and Kali repeated the process.

We chatted for a few minutes.  Don asked me where I lived.  I told him down the trail about a mile.  He looked surprised.  Then he looked over his shoulder towards the farm house and said, “I live there?”.  It was a question.  I said, “yep, that’s your house”.

As Kali and I turned to begin walking back home Don reached down one more time to give Kali a pat on the head.  He smiled broadly.

It’s great to know that on this beautiful morning in paradise that Kali made a difference in Don’s life.  Or so it seems.

Mommy Time

This busy at work thing is really cutting into my Kali time and blogging about Kali time!

I usually work most days in my home office but recently new clients have taken me out of my “Kali Zone” and off to far away places.  In other words past my front yard!  There have been missed walks and late arrivals home well past Kali’s dinner time.  Kali’s been forced – the poor soul – to stay by herself for (gasp!) over an hour at a time.  The fact that she has survived the past several weeks is a testament to her perseverance and Goldeness.

Actually, and as you can surmise, Kali has been just fine.  It’s me that misses the Kali time weaving throughout my day as the thread that connects all things good.  The routine, the banter, and the nudges from Kali’s nose to get me out of my office chair and outside for some playtime or her walk are examples of the rituals I came so fond of and miss during this busy period.  Lucky for Kali, and for me, (and for Holly too), that Holly – now on summer break from teaching – is there for Kali and eager and willing to pick up some of the slack.

Over the past year since Kali joined our pack Holly has joined us  plenty of times on our walks but she has also respected and appreciated that this was Kali/Dad bonding time and gave us our space.  In other words, during Fall and Spring Holly was way too warm, cozy, and cuddled up with her cup of coffee and a book in the morning to join us.

But lately, with Dad working at those far away lands that stretch out well beyond the front yard, Holly has been taking Kali on walks.  When I walk with Kali I have training treats tucked in one pocket and poop bags in the other.  So when I saw this small purse-like bag in the refrigerator packed with training treats and poop bags in a pocket it brought a smile to my face.  Holly is highly organized and it should have not been a surprise – a pleasant one – that I came across her Kali-walking bag fully equipped and ready to go on a moments notice.  It made me feel good for both Kali and Holly.

I’ve teased both Holly and Kali that over the last several weeks Kali has gone from “Daddy’s girl” to “Mommy’s girl”.  Mommy walks her, Mommy feeds her, and Mommy has been seen giving her precious cuddle time.  Holly counters with, “She’s still your girl.  She hears your car from three blocks away and goes to the door to wait for you to come in”.  This of course makes me feel good.

But what makes me feel even better is that Kali is “OUR” girl and after a year and two weeks WE are stronger than we were before the night she landed at SFO with 23 other fur babies from Taiwan.

Holly’s “Kali Walking Bag”

Cuddle Time with Mom

Cuddle Time with Mom