Life Without Kali

And then there were two…..

In the end it was not as hard a decision to make as I thought it would be. Not easy, but not hard because it was the right thing to do. This past Saturday my sweet Golden Kali took her final breath as she lay next to Holly and I in our home. It was very peaceful and she left this world with dignity and grace.

I’ve been preparing for this moment for quite some time as I’ve watched Kali age rapidly over the past year.

Kali had begun slowing down significantly over the past year with decreasing mobility.   It was mostly her rear legs and hips.  She started having problems getting up and down and staying on her feet several months ago.  When she did get up she would often times fall.   Cataracts clouded her eyes and the poor vision often left her confused as to her where-abouts.  Her appetite did remain strong and she enjoyed being with me on the days I worked from home.   But more recently she seemed confused and while in no visible pain, she was uncomfortable and restless when she wasn’t sleeping.  

After a nudge from a dear friend, and deep soul searching and discussion the day after Christmas with Holly, I decided to follow the advice I have given so many other dog owners when I hear of a situation with their senior dog.  And that is, “one of the last and greatest gifts we give our dogs is to take them out of their pain and let them go”.  While I don’t believe Kali was in any real pain her tank was empty and her eyes told me it was time to let her go.  So I did.

This past Saturday, New Years Day 2022, our vet Tanya, who has become as much a friend as she is the vet for our three girls, came to our home to administer to Kali. Tanya, Holly, and I sat with Kali who was very relaxed as the three of us just chatted and loved on her.   Tanya administered a sedative and we continued to just be with Kali as she got sleepy.  I whispered a lot of sweet nothings in her ear. So pretty much business as usual in that regard. 🙂  Eventually Tanya gave Kali the injection that put Kali down. I watched her eyes close and felt her take her final breath. As Kali left I harkened our Creek Trail in Livermore where we got to know each other so well in the days and weeks after she arrived from Taiwan.  Kali left this world on our collective terms and I am so grateful for that. I know other dogs and doggie parents don’t always have that grace.

It’s hard to believe that Kali is gone.  I think things may set in and maybe I’ll have a few moments in the days to come.  But for now, like Kali, I am at peace.

Footnote: The Golden Kali Blog was started on May 25th, 2014 the day after Kali arrived from Taiwan. The tag line of this blog at that time was “Kali’s New Life In America”. Two years later we moved to the Sierra Nevada Foothills and the tag line changed to “Kali’s New Life In The Mountains”. The Golden Kali Blog will live on and the tag line, at least for the coming weeks and months, will now be “Life At The Golden K Without Kali”. * The Golden K is what we call our home as a tribute originally to Kali herself and now to her and her two sisters Kloe and Koda.

Kali in her younger days

Kali and Kloe

Koda has been a great addition to our family. It’s hard to believe it’s been over three years since we adopted her at four months old. She and Kloe are almost always together and have grown to be good companions even though there is some sibling rivalry from time to time. It’s heartening to know that since only two years separate them they should have many more years together as they grow older.

But before there was Koda there was just Kali and Kloe.

Kali was seven years old when Kloe joined our pack at just nine weeks old. Kali was just the right age and had an ideal temperament for bringing a puppy into the family. She quickly accepted the new little whippersnapper and become a surrogate mother during Kloe’s formative years. They became great companions to one another. Kali was still young enough to have interest in playing. At first very gentle and then as Kloe grew larger and stronger more vigorous. It didn’t take Kloe long to become larger and stronger than Kali. By 9 months old she was 75 pounds surpassing Kali’s 60. As Kloe got older they became more of equals, never any competition or rivalry as there is at times between Koda and Kloe. Even as Kloe grew older and larger she continued to seek comfort from Kali as she did when she was a wee pup. I know that Kali enjoyed having a companion in Kloe and they were never far apart from one another.

Kali has slowed way down over the past year or so. She has wobbly legs, poor eyesight, hearing loss, and she doesn’t seem to have a good sense of smell any longer. Other than that she’s fantastic! 🙂 It’s become harder and harder for her to get around and at 12 plus years now she mostly sleeps. She’s earned it and she maintains a very special spot in my heart and in my day to day life.

Recently I pulled up some old photos of when it was just Kali and Kloe. It was fun to look back a photos of Kloe at 15 or 20 pounds laying on big sister Kali and then seeing photos from over the years with Kloe still using Kali as a pillow. And the photos of just the two of them hanging out together sometimes being a little goofy. Although the pack dynamics have changed over the past few years with the addition of Koda and with Kali aging, it continues to make me happy to know there is still a special bond between Kali and Kloe!

Kids and Dogs

Kids

I’ve always likened having dogs to having children. We do so many things for our dogs that we do or did for our kids. We feed them, educate them, entertain, love, discipline, and so on. We even refer to them as our kids, our fur-babies, or in my case as “the girls”. Our human children are all gown and have been out of the house for many years. There are many things I don’t know about their day to day lives. When they were very young I observed and knew every small detail of their lives. As they grew older I saw less and eventually knew less. Which is the way it should be. I know as I grew older into a young adult and beyond my parents knew less and less of the details of my life. I needed them less. They were glad I was independent. I feel the same way about my grown children.

My kids many years ago. Left to right Michael (now 34), Jessi (now 30), and Jonathan (now 37). Wow! In some ways I wish they could have stayed just like in this photo forever. But time marches on. They are independent with full and robust lives of their own.

Dogs

But with our dogs it’s a little different. They never become independent in the way our children do. They rely on us their entire lives for their care and well being. While there are many similarities between a puppy and a human baby, the baby grows to be a toddler and beyond and they puppy grows to be like a toddler and mostly plateaus there. As dogs mature and age we continue to not only know, but also mostly control all the details of our their lives. When they eat we know it. When they walk we know it. When they find themselves into some sort of trouble or problem we not only know it but also correct it. Our dogs become moderately independent for short amounts of time but they can’t be (or shouldn’t be) left overnight by themselves. And as they grow older, like my 12 year old Kali, they need us more and more.

My “girls” a few hours ago. Left to right Koda (3.5 years, Kali (12 years), and Kloe (5 .5 years). Koda has finally matured into a toddler, Kali’s hips and eyes are deteriorating, and Kloe’s muzzle is graying. Like their human siblings they also have a full and robust life but rely on Holly and I to make sure of that. They are very dependent and we are ok with that.

So having dogs is like having kids but way different.

The Golden Kali Blog

Newer followers of Golden Kali can get caught up to speed about each of my girls here:

Thanks to everyone who follows Golden Kali! We’ve been away for a while busy with pack life but will be posting much more often. Tells us what you think about the Golden Kali blog and what questions or interests you may have about life in the mountains with three Golden Retrievers.

Partners

About 15 years ago I was sitting in my vet’s waiting room in Livermore, CA with our first Golden Retriever, Bailey. Hanging on the wall was a print of a Firefighter with his arms around a Golden Retriever. The picture captivated me in a deeply emotional way. The firefighter is sitting on the ground, eyes closed looking exhausted and traumatized. He wears knee pads, leather gloves, and a helmet with a mounted flashlight. He is positioned in a way that he can cradle his partner, a Golden Retriever, between his legs.  The Golden is wearing an orange vest with an American Flag and the word “Rescue”  inside a white cross. With tired eyes the dog looks equally exhausted and sad as his handler. 

What struck me about this print was that within the tired eyes of the golden retriever I also saw compassion. 

I stood up and got a closer look at the print and learned it was called “Partners”.  I later learned that the firefighter’s name was Skip Fernandez and the rescue dog’s name was Aspen. The painting depicted a real life scenario where they sat in the rubble of the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City after the infamous bombing in April of 1995.

During each subsequent visit to the vet I would look at the print of Skip Fernandez and Aspen and be drawn further and further into the scene. A couple of years ago began searching for “Partners” to purchase. l found that it had been out of circulation for many years. There were a few copies on eBay that were framed and very expensive. The two I found were located in the MidWest and East Coast. With shipping and insurance I deemed it cost prohibitive.  I was about to give up looking when I found an unframed copy on eBay. I bought it had it framed locally and it now hangs in my office.

The first time I saw the print was many years before my sweet Kloe, now five years old, was born. Years later I now see the same compassion in Kloe’s eyes that I see in Aspen’s eyes. Kloe has lived a blessed life and has never had to sacrifice and serve as Aspen did.  But I beleive that Kloe, with the right training, could have been effective in some type of service. Her desire to please, to communicate, and to serve is strong. But mostly it’s her compassion and her ability to feel what the person next to her is feeling; and to react to those feelings. If it’s joy she shares that joy. And if it’s pain I believe she tries to absorb the pain and  bring relief to the person who is suffering.

I was honored to have known a search and rescue dog named Indie.  Indie, like so many other Golden Retrievers, was diagnosed with cancer.   He continued to serve until the end but recently the pain became evident and his owners recently made the difficult decision to put Indie down and take his pain away. As his owner and handler wrote, “The average dog is a better person than the average person; Indie was never average.”   So this print of Partners now has an even more special meaning for me.   I will always see Kloe in Aspen’s eyes.  But this print will now also serve to remind me of Indie and the many search and rescue dogs and their handlers who make so many sacrifices to help others.

RIP Aspen.  RIP Indie.   Thank you for your service.

                      “partners”, Skip Fernandez and “Aspen”

 

“indie”

 

Memorial Weekend Seven

Memorial Weekend has always been a favorite holiday of mine. This weekend marks the unofficial start of Summer, warmer and more predictable weather (at last in Northern CA), and BBQs, beaches, and pool parties.

It’s easy to forget the meaning of this holiday which is to honor those who have died while serving in the US military and more recently anyone who has served. So before launching into the underlying subject of this post I’d like to say thank you to all who have served. My dad in WWII, uncles and older cousins who served during the Korean conflict, friends and who served in Vietnam, and sons and daughters of friends and family who have, or are serving in the middle east and around the world.

Flashback: Memorial Weekend 2014. It was Saturday and we drove to the San Francisco International Airport to pick some very special cargo from Taiwan. That special cargo was my sweet and precious Golden Kali.

As long time followers of Golden Kali know, Kali was a rescue from Taiwan. I didn’t really know what kind of life she had before being taken in by the rescue group in Taiwan who lovingly cared for her while she became healthy enough to travel to the US. But I did know what kind of life Kali would have now that she was in America – only the best!

Since that weekend seven years ago Kali and I have traveled many miles together – both figuratively and literally. Never far from my side Kali has been, other than my wife Holly, my best and closest companion. Our daily walks (until about a year ago when her legs became too weak) we’re like therapy sessions. Sometimes we engaged in deep conversation and other times we walked in silence enjoying the scenery and solitude of being alone. For seven years Kali has been my trusty confidant with whom I can share my deepest secrets. She listens, never judges, and aways offers compassion and reassurance. So who rescued who, right?

So this weekend is special to me and always will be. It’s so much more than a “Gotcha Day”. I will always remember that weekend in 2014. I also remember to take a few minutes each year to toast Kali’s caregivers in Taiwan for all they did for her and, over the years through Kali, for me. But I mostly remember this special girl who was given the name Nala in Taiwan and became Kali when she landed at SFO that Saturday evening of Memorial Weekend 2014. She got into our SUV at the airport and entered our hearts forever. This blog was started Sunday morning after she arrived and Kali’s journey is documented here: Kali’s new life in America and later Kali’s new life in the mountains.

SFO Saturday, May 24, 2014. Holly, my daughter Jessi, Kali, and me
“Nala” in Taiwan

Time Moves Faster For Kali

The canine stages from puppyhood to adolescent to adult and finally senior is very much like us humans. I’m sure there is a more scientific and accurate manner in which to define stages of life for both canine and humans. And there are probably more than four stages. But this not a scientific blog. This is a blog about Kali, her sisters, and our collective life in the mountains. So I’m gonna stick with these four stages that serve my purposes in this post.

As a father I’ve watched all three of my children through the first three stages; baby/toddler, adolescence, and now adulthood. I observed my mother go through the last two stages: adult to senior. When she was in the senior stage she initially was quite healthy. She had her physical and mental facilities intact and was capable of caring for herself. Then, over time, her health declined and she began requiring increased help to get around. She began losing her cognitive ability. Eventually she was diagnosed with and ended up dying from dementia.

Hang in there. I’m getting to the part about dogs now… 🙂

What stage are my girls in? Koda at two and half is my adolescent and Kloe at almost five is my adult. Kali at almost 12 is my senior. But wait a second. When Kali joined the pack seven years ago she was an adult. And so was I. I felt as though we were contemporaries. My best friend was the same age as me and we’d share a long life and grow old together. But now Kali is a senior and I’m still an adult (although my wife might argue otherwise at times…). The average life expectancy for humans in the United States is 78 years. The average life expectancy for a Golden Retriever is around 12 years. Time moves faster for Kali and at times it makes me sad.

I observe similar characteristics in Kali that I saw in my mom as her health was declining during the final stages of her life. At first walking with help, then with a walker, and eventually a wheel chair. Kali has hip dysplasia. It is increasingly hard for her to get up or lay down, she walks very slow and wobbly. Under certain circumstances I have to pick her up to get her where she needs to be. Other than for meals my mom spent her day in her chair looking at the TV and out the window. Kali spends the majority of her day sleeping and watching the world go by around her. Over time my mom forgot things, repeated herself, and eventually had limited awareness of where she was. She eventually stopped talking, only nodding her head in response to questions. Kali at times is disoriented and seems confused. She has stopped responding to commands. Her hearing is either very bad or very selective. And her eyes are clouded with cataracts that diminish her vision. My mom lost her appetite and had to be coaxed to eat. Good news here for Kali is that meal time is still her favorite time of the day and she remains very passionate about food!

My mom was 97 when she passed away far exceeding the average life expectancy. At almost 12 Kali is creeping towards the outer edge of life expectancy for Golden Retrievers. In spite of her advanced age Kali still exhibits some of the same behaviors as she did seven years ago as a much younger dog. Like the fixed stare she gives me about 30 minutes before meal time. Like head butting me as I prepare her food. And in spite of her bad legs and poor sight at times she still sits at the gate waiting for me to return home or comes looking for me in the house if I’m in another room. This is heartening and encouraging to me. It reminds me that my Kali is still in so many ways the same dog that came into my life seven years ago as an adult, as my contemporary, and as what turned out to be my best friend.

Time moves faster for Kali. I wish I could slow it down.

Adult Kali
Senior Kali

Reluctant Leader

Four and a half years ago when Kloe joined the pack Kali was seven and took an almost immediate role as surrogate mother to Kloe. To this day I am grateful that Kali’s maternal instincts activated almost immediately upon meeting Kloe as a nine-week old puppy. Within about an hour Kali went from the the “no way that puppy is coming in my house” stage to the “Ok little whippersnapper, I’ll show ya’ the ropes” stage. Within an hour Kloe was laying on a willing mommy Kali’s tummy and the bond grew stronger each day.

As The months passed Kloe grew in size. By the time she was six months old Kloe was already as big as Kali – 60 pounds – and much taller. By the time Kloe was 9 months old she was 80 pounds. During play Kloe would sometimes use her size advantage over Kali. But it was never aggressive and it was never in any effort to establish herself as the dominant or alpha female. It was more of a “if you’ve got it flaunt it” demeanor and only occasionally did I have to come to Kali’s aid as she got older and a little more fragile.

Kloe 9 months, Kali 8 years

Enter Koda two years ago. She joined the pack at four months and was full of energy piss and vinegar; she still is. Koda at four months old was 17 pounds. Kloe now two and a half was still around 80. Koda’s moxie was remarkable. She played hard often bouncing off of Kloe during rough play but getting right back up again and never backing down. I occasionally had to come to Kloe’s aid and protect her against her tough little sister! I recall thinking that by the time Koda was six months old she would establish herself as the alpha female.

Koda and Kloe

Kali, now nine, was slowing down and she never really had any interest in being in charge; unless it was in charge of food. Looking back Kloe was too young to be a surrogate mother to Koda like Kali was to her. I thought Kloe would be that surrogate but at just two and a half she was still very much a pup herself. So I began thinking that Koda was going to be the leader of this pack. From day one, and to this day, Koda always pushes herself to the front of the line (first out the door and first back in), steals toys from her older and bigger sisters, and makes her voice heard above all others. She vocalizes like no other dog I’ve ever been around. I’ve said it before, if she could actually talk her vocabulary would make Jon Gruden blush.

So yeah, Koda as the alpha. Made sense then and it still kind of does. But she’s not the Alpha. She wants Kloe to be the alpha dog but Kloe is a reluctant leader.

Kloe is a gentle soul (except when she see’s a cat). She really has no interest in being in charge. She has aways been a rule follower. Most dogs want to please their human mom and dad. Kloe takes this very seriously and if she could intellectualize it she would tell you that her sole purpose in life is to make Holly and I happy. Koda tends to get excited out of control at times. During those times we have to very direct with Koda and put her in a sit or down position to help her calm down. Kloe can be in a different room but if she hears one of us sternly tell Koda “SIT!” Kloe sits. If we say “Koda settle. DOWN!” Kloe immediately puts herself in a down position. So yeah, beyond all else she wants to please us.

Koda wants Kloe to be Alpha. In spite of Koda’s pushiness she looks to Kloe for her cues. If there is a deer or some other critter outside she runs to the door and looks back at Kloe as if to say, “should we go out and get that critter”? If I suggest that the girls go outside by opening the door Koda, of course, is first out. But if Kloe doesn’t follow Koda turns around and comes back in the house. And when Kloe sees or smells trouble in or around the property and runs off barking Koda follows her even though she – most of the time – has no idea what’s going on. But if her big sister is going she’s going to provide back up.

Koda wants Kloe to be Alpha. And while over times I have seen glimpses of it in Kloe it is with reluctance that she takes a leadership role in the pack. She is the logical choice. At almost five years Kloe is in her prime. She is all muscle. Her legs are fully repaired (thank God) from her Bi-lateral TPLO in August of 2019, and she once again runs like a gazelle. She is a sight to behold when “she is on the move”.

Fortunately (for us and them) our girls are spoiled to the max and there really is no need for an alpha dog. In the wild, Kali at 11 years with very bad hips and legs, would need a protector. Koda would need an alpha dog to dampen her “enthusiasm” when predators much bigger than her came calling. Kloe would be that logical choice. Would her gentle soul allow her to be that Alpha dog if it was necessary?

I’d like to think that Kloe would step up to the role and protect her sisters even if reluctantly. I also know that if she did, and when all was once again well with the pack, she would come looking for Holly and I to please us with her gentle demeanor and by doing whatever we asked of her.

Sweet Gentle Kloe

Winter Rules

Winter brings out the cozy in my girls. All for one and one for all. Mi casa coat tu casa coat. Any coat port in a storm. You get the idea…

Winter rules means all bets off, grab a partner, and get cozy.

Gotcha!

Today is Koda’s gotcha day. Or maybe it’s mine…. I’m not sure who got who but we’ve got each other now. After two years our (almost) two and half year old Golden Retriever puppy has finally begun growing out of puppyhood and into… well whatever comes next.

Like many other things Holly and I do we decided to rescue Koda on kind of a whim after Holly gave into my obsession with looking at Golden Retriever puppies on Facebook and Instagram. And also my incessant nagging about how we needed another dog. Sitting after dinner or at breakfast or anywhere else when I would see a picture of a puppy and say, “Look a puppy!” Or, “We need a puppy; Kali’s getting old and Koda needs an active playmate”. Or… “Can we please please please please please get another puppy?”. I may have exaggerated the “pleases” but you get the idea. I was begging!

So one night when I showed Holly a picture of a puppy on the facebook page of the rescue group all my girls have come from she says, “Michael if you want another puppy, get one.” Holly and I almost always make big decisions together but in this case I really wanted a pup and Holly was reticent. She must have thought it would be better to have a puppy in her face than my laptop or iPad with pictures of puppies in her face. I called the rescue group organizer and said I was in. The next day I drove to pick up my sweet sweet Koda and the rest, as they say, is history was a lot harder than I had planned.

Koda totally changed the dynamics of the pack. She was, and still is, tenacious, fearless, and had mouth on her that would make your English Mastiff blush! She was four months old when we rescued her. When I brought her home she was intimidated by Kloe and Kali for about 3 minutes. She tried to take charge and they kind of let her. At the time I thought she’d be the alpha by the time she was six months old. Kali was nine at the time and slowing down. Kloe was two and not quite ready to be the mother authority figure. Kloe also has such a gentle demeanor she let Koda walk all over her at first. They eventually worked it out – sometime around last week 🙂 – and Koda has grown into a lovely young lady loving dog full of piss and vinegar. I wouldn’t change a thing!

Happy Gotcha Day Koda, Koda Koda Koda, Kodachrome, Kode-red, Suger Pie Honey Bunches of Oats, Suger Beets. And all of the other goofy names I have for you. You have made me better at being a doggie parent and probably a better human being too. But dogs have a way of doing that to us uprights, don’t they?

Kloe Hates Cats

So Koda pretends to hate cats. Mostly I think because she knows Kloe hates them. When Koda sees one of the feral cats before Kloe does, she’ll sound the alarm with her high bark and then immediately look at Kloe. “Kloe, there’s a cat. See it? See it? C’mon, lets go get it.”

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