Over the past (almost) two years since Kali has been in America she has had countless stuffed animals, chew toys, balls of all size, frisbees, and various and sundry other objects intended to distract, challenge, or please her.  Countless hundreds of dollars have been spent at the pet store in an effort to give her things to stimulate her, engage her, and make her happy.

The flaw in this dynamic of gift giving to express love is that Kali could give a hoot. About the gift, not the love….   Like a lot of people Kali likes the thought (smell) of a new toy and the anticipation (let me taste it) of playing with a new [insert your favorite pastime here].  But really what Kali wants most is to be with me.

“But Kali”,  I say, “I love you and want you to have things.  This is what people do; how we express love.  We give gifts and take great joy in the faces of the recipients who we love so much.

“OK Dad”, Kali seems to say.  “I’ll take that new fuzzy toy from your hand but you know that for the most part I just want to be with you, go for walks, and return home to hang out with you in the backyard.  I know you like me to be outside after our walks so that when I gulp down the quart of water I don’t slobber half of it in the house on the tile and carpet.  I’m ok with that because as long as I’m with you life is good and toys are a mere extravagance more suited for human toddlers.  Which of course I will love if your children ever give you the grand babies you long for.  See Dad, you never told me that but I can tell you really want a grandchild and I would like to see you have one or two  because I love babies and children.  Maybe they might want all the toys you’ve given me over the years that I don’t play with?  I would be totally ok with sharing.”

Random reader of this blog post:  “Ok, we get it Mike.  Kali loves you and doesn’t really care about toys”.

And then there was Christmas 2015 when I gave Kali a fluffy little Elf toy.  It was loosely wrapped so that she could open it.  Using her teeth and paws she removed the wrapping paper and the Elf emerged.  SHE LOVED IT!! She loved it like no toy she had ever had before.  After a few minutes chewing the Elf outside the reach of little brother Smokey and the rest of the clan she came back into the circle and proudly showed off her new toy.  For the rest of the day, weeks and since then still Kali favors this toy above the  others.

I’m not sure what it is about Mr. Elf, but Kali is very possessive of this toy and it is usually the first one she brings to me when she wants to engage in play.  It makes me happy to see her happy and even now that Mr. Elf has only one leg and has lost most of his stuffing Kali still loves him as much as on Christmas day when she unwrapped him.

We all have our Mr. Elfs.  As kids and as adults.  Who is your Mr. Elf?


A sampling of choices



Mr. Elf (with one leg)


Sleep tight Mr. Elf



It’s good to be a dog

Punxsutawney Phil didn’t see his shadow this year so that could mean an early Spring.  I mean who can argue with science like this 130 year old gem, right?  To further corroborate the science, Canada’s Shubenacadie Sam also did not see his shadow.  Since Groundhogs are not prone to collusion there is a strong argument for early Spring.

Spring is still five or six weeks away on calendars and even farther away in reality. Out here in the wild wild west we need more rain – lots of it – so I hope if there is an early Spring there are more than just Spring showers…

But this past week of unseasonable weather has been warming (pun intended) to the  body, mind, and soul.  I know this because Kali told me.  Not with words (you do know she can’t actually speak, right?) but with her actions.

Our walk along the creek trail was nothing less than glorious this morning.  The warm air and slight breeze wafting the smell of wet grass and emerging honeysuckle blossoms was not lost on either Kali or I.  Kali seemed particularly anxious to get to the pond.  Sometimes when we walk she stops in her tracks (pulling my arm out of my shoulder socket) in an effort to get a treat.  Other time she lallygags (it’s a word – look it up) smelling every pee-mail bush and pole along the path.  But today Kali marched like a trooper laser locked on her target which I thought was the pond but, as it turned out was the spot where we turn onto the golf course.

Since the golf course closed a few months ago Kali and I will often make our way back home by walking the fairways that parallel the creek and path.  With the relative vastness of the open fairways far from the streets and usually with no other walkers – two or four legged – I’ve become comfortable letting Kali off leash as we trek back home.  It’s great to see Kali wonder around off leash sniffing and exploring.  She never wonders too far from me and if I get too far ahead when she notices and comes galloping up to me to check in.  If there’s a flock of geese foraging along the way she’ll give chase, they’ll fly off in unison, and Kali follows convinced, I’m sure, that she can catch them.

Today I think the hint of Spring was in Kali’s senses.  As we walked home on the golf course Kali would sniff a patch of grass, plow her head into to the ground and then slam the rest of her body down as she rolled around on her back absorbing the wet grass and scents into her body.  Feet up in the air, smile on her snoot, and tongue hanging out she seemed to be saying (with her body because remember she doesn’t actually talk) “thank you Mother Nature for this glorious day”.

This happened several times along the way and each time she seemed to seek out an even wetter section with longer grass and she rolled and rolled and rolled.  And I laughed and laughed and laughed.  A happy laugh.  A loving laugh.  A “it must be great to be a dog” laugh.

We finally make it back to the short gravel path that leads to the trail head at the end of our street and I see that Kali has grass stains all over her coat.  Kali is rarely “a dog” but today she was and it made me so happy to see her so happy in her canine-ness.

So as we walk along the gravel stretch of path there’s a stream of water a few inches deep from run off from a garden or leaky pipe.  Kali goes straight to the stream and walks the rest of the way home in it.   Like a mare clip clopping through a shallow river Kali walked along looking at her feet and seeming to take great pride in the splashes and presumably, the cool wetness on her paws.

As the saying goes. “It’s good to be King”, but I think it’s way better to be a dog!