Do dogs smile when they’re happy?

Kali doesn’t smile that often but when she does  – ears forward, mouth curled up slightly, tongue hanging out loosely – I’m pretty sure she’s happy.

Fortunately this is not a scientific blog so I don’t feel compelled to back up my assertions with data.  Instead I offer up photographic evidence.


ALL smiles and chilling after a long walk at Pinecrest Lake.


Kali smiling because wine makes mom and dad happy


Waiting for mom to return from an errand.  Kali smiling but Kloe, well not so much.


Kali right after Kloe deadpanned a hilarious joke.


I’m pretty sure Kloe is smiling inside after this monster WWF take down of her big sister!

Back To The Earth

It was like any other morning when Kali and I took the walk down our long driveway and onto the road to get the newspaper.  The newspaper tubes hang along a wooden rail, several in a row for about a dozen homes nearby. It’s quite different than suburbia where your paper is delivered to your door stoop or driveway.  So most mornings Kali and I make the trek down onto the road, take in the sights and smells, grab the paper, and then head up the back side of our property and “take the long way home”.

So Tuesday was not much different than so many other mornings since we moved to the Golden K five months ago.  The air was colder, the ground a little damp from recent rains (thank the Lord for rain!), and I noticed a lot of mud backing up in the drainage ditch.  So as we opened the farm gate I unclipped Kali’s leash and I diverted slightly to take stock of the mud and what I might need to do to clear it out.  I surveyed the drains as Kali foraged and waited patiently  to head up the hill towards the gravel road that circles The Golden K.

A sound of rustling caught my attention.  I looked over and saw a large buck trying to right itself from a laying position.  Kali and I had obviously disturbed the deer, who I initially thought was simply nesting,  and all three of us were a caught off guard.  Kali ran toward the buck barking.  I immediately called to Kali to come back fearing the buck would kick her which could be fateful.  I don’t know if it was all the years of recall training that paid off or if Kali became frightened.  But thankfully she came running back to me.  I clipped on her leash and we headed quickly up the hill towards the house.

My main concern was to get Kali under control and out of harms way.  The deer are regular visitors and have never demonstrated any aggression to any of us including the dogs who from time to time will bark at them behind a fence or through the windows of the house.  But this buck was obviously under duress and I was taking no chances especially with Kali under tow.  As we headed up the hill I looked back to see the Buck still partially down leaning on his front legs motionless and staring at us.

It was the posture of the buck that made me realize he was the deer we fondly called Gimpy.  Gimpy because he had a broken leg and hobbled around on his three good legs.  We hadn’t seen him regularly like the other bucks who make daily visits.   But we had seen him enough to know he was surviving and seemingly very healthy in spite of being crippled. In fact he was the largest of the bucks and probably the oldest.   I now realized why he hadn’t simply bounced off when we we startled him.  He couldn’t.

The image of Gimpy’s piercing black eyes staring back at Kali and I as we moved up the hill stuck with  throughout the day.   Under normal circumstances I would assume that he recovered and moved along his way once we were out of sight.  But my instincts told me otherwise.  So later that afternoon I walked down to see if he was still there.  He was. He had settled himself into a laying position and I stood along the our fence staring back from about 25 feet away.

That was Tuesday afternoon.  Wednesday morning he was still there.  I wanted to believe that this was his new nesting spot and that he was out and about throughout the day.  But I knew better.  I watched him lay motionless staring at me for a few minutes and walked back up the hill.  Wednesday afternoon same thing – he was still there.  I knew that Gimpy was waiting to die and this was the spot he chose to do that. As I walked off I looked his way and made the sign of the cross like I still do when my children or Holly drive off.  A hold over from my Catholic upbringing and my mom who always did the same for me.

Thursday morning I left before sunrise to head to the Bay Area for the day. As I drove past where Gimpy had been I thought of stopping and getting out with my flashlight to see if he was there. But why, I thought and continued to drive on.  Holly text me about 10:00 that morning with a picture of Gimpy, now with his head on the ground.  He was dead.

As I arrived home Thursday afternoon the sun was low in the sky, the air was calm, and the ground was damp from rain earlier in the day.  It smelled and looked beautiful. One of my favorite times living up here on the hill is arriving back at The GK after a day down in the crazy Bay Area.  I pulled over along the fence, got out of the truck and stood by the fence staring at Gimpy.  It made me sad to see him lying there dead.  But it also made me a little happy to know after suffering for some time that suffering was over, and hopefully his spirit was at peace as his body returned back to the earth.

I stood there for about five minutes to, if nothing else, pay my respect.  This grand buck, even with three legs,  was  a majestic animal and part of this hill for for much longer than me.  I was honored to have known him from afar.

Before I turned back to my truck I took one last look at Gimpy and made the sign of the cross.  As I drove up the road and onto our driveway I felt peaceful and happy to be back home at The Golden K.


Back To the Earth at The Golden K



She’s still our puppy

It’s official!  Kloe is bigger than Kali.  At seven months she now towers over her big sister.  But don’t let the serious expression on her face in the photo below fool you.


Inside, she is still this same puppy that she was the day we brought her home at nine weeks old.




I'm Looking Up

I walk around looking up in the air a lot these days.  With my neck stretched as far back as my spine will allow I walk and  look up at the tall trees.

We have hundreds of trees.  Oak trees, cedars, manzanitas, and pines.  The beauty they bring to the Golden K here within these Sierra Nevada Foothills goes beyond words.  But it’s the pines that cause me to arch my back, stretch my neck and gaze upwards. The pines are terribly stressed from lack of water and crowding.  This makes it hard for them to produce the necessary sap to fend off bark beetles from boring in, reproducing, and ultimately killing the tree.

I spend a lot of time placing hoses with deep watering spouts in the dirt around as many of the pines that I can reach.  We’re fortunate that our irrigation uses well water and I can liberally inject water into the ground in an effort to help the trees stay alive.  We had 14 of the largest pines around the house injected with chemicals that will kill the beetles if they invade the tree.  The success rate is about 95% if the tree is treated before the beetles attack.  It would be cost prohibitive to treat every single tree on the property but it’s also very expensive to have trees removed.   It happens fast.  One day a tree can look healthy with vibrant green needles and the next day you may notice the needles throughout the entire tree fading into a dull grayish green color and ultimately – within a couple of weeks – the tree is burnt toast.

When we bought The Golden K last December we knew there were 15 dead trees that eventually would need to be taken down.  A few weeks ago we noticed four trees with needles dulling.  Upon closer inspection we saw dozens and dozens of holes in the tree with tell tale red boring dust from the bark beetles as far as our eyes could follow up the tree.  These trees are goners so the count is up to 19 that we are aware of.

I walk around our five acres with a combination of awe and wonder at the beauty of it all.  I also walk around with a bit of anxiety and worry that seemingly healthy looking trees may be infected with beetles and I don’t know it yet.  I feel sad when I think about the drought not ending soon enough and the face of the foothills, and The Golden K itself, may look significantly different in just a few years.

So I’m looking up.  Looking up at at the pine needles in the tree tops that soar above the Golden K.  I’m looking up in awe of Mother Nature.  But mostly I’m looking up and praying for rain.


View from The Golden K deck waiting for rain 


Even having that as a subject line at this time of year really bothers me.

Source: Christmas!

Golden Kali followers will enjoy this book and heartwarming story about Ray, a beautiful Rotty Shepard mix and his dedicated dad Colin and their adventure from adoption through assimilation, journey, and personal growth.  A great read!

Still a Puppy

At seven months Kloe is now bigger than her big sister Kali.  Kali has more girth and more fur which makes her seem even bigger than she is but Kloe is taller and weighs as much – about 60 pounds.  It would be easy to think the she was no longer a puppy being so big and so smart and so independent.

But at the end of the day she is still a puppy.

There was a time when we used a “Pet Corrector”; those air cans that make a loud hissing sound that gets your “pet’s” attention and “corrects” their behavior.  We used it for a time with Kloe to “correct” her behavior of jumping on us (and guests) when she was excited.  It was very effective.  Almost too effective.  When she heard it she would, with tail between legs, come running to my feet,  even if it was me who had the Pet Corrector in my hand, and press her body into my legs as if to say, “save me from that scary and forbidding sound”.

We havn’t used the Pet Corrector for some time.   Partly because it ran out of hiss but mostly because Kloe has matured and though conditioning and training was much better about jumping when she became excited.  Recently however we noticed that when we sneezed Kloe had a similar reaction to our sneezes as to the Pet Corrector.

The picture below is the end result of Holly having sneezed and Kloe running to me as I sat in my recliner and pressing her body against my legs so that I would save her.  As she sat there, tail between her legs, like a snake she began slithering up into my body and I didn’t stop her because, well, it was so darn cute. She ended up in my lap and that was ok with me because, after all, she is still a puppy.


Kloe: “Be my hero dad and save me”.  Me:  I will always be your hero Kloe and I will always there to save you (even if it’s just a sneeze from mom).

R.I.P. Eko

Although I should have started my work day at least an hour ago I sit here at my computer and can’t shake the bad news I read this morning.  Bad news about a dog I’ve never met but feel as though I know because I’ve read and watched a big part of his life unfold before my eyes in blog posts and videos.  A sister.  A household move.  A wedding.  A lot of joy, happiness, running, sleeping, and craziness.  A lot of love.

Eco was is a Rhodesian Ridgeback of magnificent stature and grace.  His dad’s blog from Monday was brief and to the point.  The title of the post said it all but as I opened the post to read it I was hoping against hope it was not what I thought it was. But it was; Eko  passed away suddenly this weekend without a known cause.

As Kali and Kloe finished their breakfast and came to lay down at my feet I sat there a little stunned.  Holly came into the room and gave me a morning kiss as is our routine and must have felt some emptiness because she said, “is everything alright?”  I said no and told her that Eko had passed away.  I got choked up because saying it out loud made it real and I became emotional.  I told her how silly it was for me to act this way when I didn’t even know this dog.  But she knew it wasn’t silly and so did I.

I can imagine what Eko’s family is going through because I’ve gone through it myself with Bailey several years ago.  All dog parents know that the day will come when one of their beloved pups will pass.  But knowing doesn’t make that day any easier especially when one day your best friend is healthy and vibrant and the next he or she is gone forever without any immediate reasons why.

I hugged my girls a little tighter as I got out of my chair to prepare to take Kali for her walk.       But this post is not about me.  This post is about Eko and how much I will miss reading about him and watching his muscular frame and graceful athletics in the occasional and wonderful videos posted on the blog.  But then again, I guess this post is just a little bit about me because I needed write it in order to go on with my day.  Eko’s family will eventually get on with their “day” one of these days.  I hope that day comes soon for them.

R.I.P. Eko from Mike, Holly, Kali, and Kloe.


This photo is used without permission.  I hope the owner will not mind as I post it as a tribute to Eko, a magnificent pup whom I will miss