Sissy Mama

As Kali grew older I began referring to her, in relationship to her two sisters Kloe and Koda, as Sissy Mama. None of my girls were blood related but they were and are sisters (sissies) no less. So we would always refer to them as sissies. “Koda, where is your sissy”. Or, “Kloe, go get your sissies for dinner”. Yes we well I speak to them as though they are my kids. Because they are!

But Kali was much older and she became the Sissy Mama.

Six years shouldn’t seem so long ago. But if I think in “dog years” it is quite some time. Like six years ago when we brought Kloe home as a nine-week old puppy. That was a long time ago. Looking at her now, as she sleeps by my feet (filling in the empty space Kali left under my feet when she crossed the bridge), it’s hard to think that Kloe was ever a wee pup of 16 pounds. Green, fearless, and ripe for schooling by an older dog. Enter Kali.

Since Kali has been gone I find myself looking at pictures of her from over the years. Like today when I came across some pictures and videos of the first day we brought Kloe home. After the initial few minutes, when Kali made it very clear that Kloe was not welcome in her house, she quickly warmed up to Kloe and was every bit the surrogate mama we hoped she would be.

I had forgotten how inseparable Kali and Kloe were when Kloe was a pup. Mostly because at only weeks and months old Kloe adored Kali and followed her everywhere she went. There were so many tender moments sleeping side by side or on top of one another. And there were periods of play when Kali exhibited great patience with her new little sissy and also delivered lessons when needed.

In retrospect I now realize that Kali became the Sissy Mama the moment we brought Kloe through the front door in Livermore at 9 weeks old on May 7, 2016.

Sissy Mama In Action

Sissy Mama Gallery

Except In My Dreams

My sweet Golden Kali has come to visit me several times over the past few weeks. Some of the visits have been short and some were extended stays with lots of kisses and hugs. The feel of Kali’s fur is so familiar. Her smell has been a welcome reminder that my girl is near by. I hope these special visits never end!

I’ve always been a very vivid dreamer and I remember most of my dreams in great detail; places, colors, smells, etc. After Kali passed many people suggested that she would visit me in the quiet of my dreams. I didn’t put too much thought into it at the time. The first few weeks after Kali passed were uneventful and although I missed her it wasn’t emotional. My rationale side processed Kali’s memory in a logical and matter of fact manner. My brain told me, “I did the right thing, grace and dignity, on Kali’s terms, last and greatest gift”, and so on….

But more recently, especially the past few weeks, I find myself longing for Kali. I find myself whispering her name as I think of her or see something that reminds me of her. I’ve become emotional a few times and realize that my brain had been managing the loss but now that loss has made it’s way to my heart and gut. When someone misses a family member or close friend but knows they will see them again at some point they may say, “yes, I miss him”. In their head. When that person is gone forever they also say, ” I miss him”. But now it’s in their heart and gut.

As obvious as it was that I would never see Kali again, it has now just hit me. I will never see, smell, or hug my sweet girl again. Except in my dreams.

Alexandria Horowitz is an author and professor of psychology, animal behavior, and canine cognition. I’ve read many of her books on canine behavior such as “Inside A Dog, What Dogs See, Smell, and Know”. In one of her books Ms. Horowitz was describing how dogs experience time relative to missing their owner. She talked about how (I’m paraphrasing) if the owner is gone for 20 or 30 minutes upon return the behavior of the dog may be much different than if the owner was gone for several hours. When it has been several hours the “welcoming committee” will probably be much more animated and excited upon the return of their owner. I know this is the case with my girls.

Ms. Horowitz explains this dynamic in simple terms. When the owner leaves their scent at first is very prevalent. It’s easy, especially with their keen sense of smell, for the dog to smell their owner after they’ve left the area. But as more and more time passes that scent begins to diminish and the dog’s owner begins to “fade away” creating anxiety or maybe even fear in the dog. Upon return the scent is back and all is well once again. Let the celebration begin!

A few nights ago Kali was present in my dream all night long. I woke up several times, probably from the adrenaline rush. Each time I went back to sleep quickly and she was still there. Kali was always good at stay! Another night’s visit was more fleeting. Kali went running by me like a puppy only slowing down long enough to let me know she was there and having so much fun running. There have been several visits over the past few weeks and each time I wake up knowing that deep connection with Kali will never end, even in death.

I often joke that I am more like a dog than a person. Wishful thinking… But I can’t help but wondering if this emotional longing for Kali (versus rational “missing”) is because her scent is less and less in the house. I can no longer pick up her scent as hard as a try. In my mind’s eye I can see Kali but I can’t smell her.

Except in my dreams.

Sleep tight my sweet Golden Kali. I hope to see you tonight.

Golden Kali

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

Kloeville

There a place that Kloe goes that we call Kloeville.   Actually it is not really a place but a state of mind.  Or a moment in time.  It might even be considered a spiritual or out of body experience.  Kloe won’t say so these are my assumptions from observing her when she’s in Kloeville; her special place.

She lays on her back,  back legs spread, front legs limp with paws dangling.  Sometimes there’s a ball in her mouth and sometimes her lips are just curled up in a smile.   Her eyes don’t fixate on anyone thing but they are open and alert looking mostly up.  Her body is relaxed and it seems that her spirit is too.

Kloe is gentle soul with a gentle demeanor.   I am convinced that her body, at almost 80 pounds – and larger than average for a female of her breed – is so big in order to house her giant heart of gold.  And her large head is to hold all the wisdom she could share if she could speak.  Instead her actions do the talking for her…

Often as I go about my day I’ll walk into a room, or when I’m sitting in a chair or at the kitchen table I’ll look over and see Kloe in Kloeville.  And it makes me happy.  It also makes me a little envious that my own version of Kloeville is not as defined and refined as hers.   Even if it was I’m not sure I could go to it achieve it as often or as easily as Kloe does.

I think there is a lot I can learn from Kloe!

KLOEVILLE!

 

 

 

Routines

Our morning routine at The Golden K typically kicks off with me opening my eyes to a morning sun and calmly rising from bed Koda sitting at the side of my bed insisting that we start our day; as in RIGHT NOW.   That’s usually around 6:15.  She is less insistent passionate as she has grown older but none the less very determined to get my attention and start our day.   But I can’t put it all on Koda .

Kali has usually been awake since 5:30.  She stands up in a dark bedroom and stares in my direction.   When she realizes I am not awake she’ll walk into the bathroom to get water.  Tap tap tap her nails go clicking across the tile as she subconsciously hopes her activity will get my attention.  When it does not she returns to the bedroom and shakes her head flapping her ears and rattling her collar to see if that will get my attention.   When it doesn’t she reluctantly lies back down with a thud and deep sigh.   She’s resigned to leaving the task of waking me to her younger and more determined sister.

Then there is Kloe.  Kloe is our  teenager-like girl who would be content to sleep and lounge in bed until lunchtime.   When Koda and Kali finally do get my attention and I get up I have to “encourage” Kloe to join us but sticking my foot under butt until she finally gets up and follows us out of the bedroom.

And so our day begins.

Turn the coffee pot on that Holly has prepared the evening before.   Administer CBD oil to Kali and Kloe who both have varying degrees of hip dysplasia.  Send the three girls outside to do their “business”.  Kali returns immediately: squat, pee, let me back in please so we can get on with food!   But the red girls take more time exercising their olfactory surveying the property “see” what critters may have come through over night.   Eventually they return and breakfast, consisting of chicken and rice kibble and egg whites, is served.  Kali is content to lie down and return to sleep; after all she’s been awake since 5:30.  Kloe and Koda restlessly wait for me to finish coffee and breakfast.  How dare I take so long to do so!   They know walks are to follow.

By now it’s about 8:00 and we take our 30 minute walk sometimes 1:1; me with Koda and later Holly with Kloe.  More recently it’s been me with both girls using the leash coupler which they’ve adapted to fairly well.  After walks the red girls are on their own to spend the morning asking to come in the house.  And then asking to go out.  And then asking to come in.  Meanwhile, Kali has been sleeping and is content to do so until Holly or I go into the kitchen to make lunch.  Because when there is someone in the kitchen there is always a chance for food.

This morning after walks was different.  The red girls were content staying  outside rather than following me into the house as they usually do.  They seemed to appreciate the mild weather and calmness in the air showing an unusual (and welcome) independence.  Fighting the urge to get on with my day and “get something done” around the house I joined the red girls outside.  I brought along a cup of tea and my computer to write this post.  Much to my surprise and pleasure Kali joined us and instead of lying down to sleep she began exploring and foraging with her sisters.

Although the three girls are always together they are not always “together”.   Kali and Kloe tend to do their thing (rough-housing, exploring, digging, barking at critters) and Kali tends to do hers (sleep).  The contrast is obvious and understandable.  Kloe is in her prime at four years old.  Koda is emerging from puppyhood at almost two years.  Kali’s At 11 years old it’s obvious why Kali’s post breakfast day is much different than that of the Kloe and Koda’s.

So this morning we had nowhere to go and all morning to get there.   But what made that trip so special was my Golden Kali was along for the ride.

 

Kloeville

I’m a worrier and also an optimist and worry and hope have been omnipresent since Kloe’s Bi-Lateral Tibia Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO) just over ten weeks ago.

It was sometime in April when we learned that Kloe had a torn CCL and then a few weeks later when she tore the other CCL.  Because both tears were partial our vet suggested a wait and see approach.  Wait and see if they heal on their own.   This meant that Kloe would have to be held to almost zero activity in order to give these ligaments a chance to heal.  They  didn’t.

After four months of watching an waiting it was clear that surgery would be necessary in order for Kloe to return to normal activities and a normal of life.  Our vet recommended the TPLO.  Kloe is only three and a half and god willing has many more years of running, jumping, wrestling, and frolicking to experience.  Without surgery she wouldn’t have that.  At least not without pain.

Now, after ten weeks post surgery and observing daily improvement in Kloe,  I have even more hope and reassurances although the worry is still there in the background.

The TPLO surgery is invasive and includes cutting a semi circle through the tibia and then repositioning the bone with a plate and screws.

We have the most fantastic vet and her guidance throughout the past six months has been invaluable.   She told us to begin taking Kloe on short walks on flat ground at four weeks.  Apparently this stimulates healing process in the bones.  At eight weeks we began walks of increasing distance and also began a little up hill walking and a few stairs.  The idea is to go slow enough to be safe but also to begin introducing normal activities.   Most recently in the past few days we have allowed Kloe to be outside off leash under our supervision.

Play with sister Koda (the 18 month old) is still supervised and broken up when it get’s too rough or extends too long.  But play has begun again and both Kloe and Koda are enjoying that to say the least.

It makes us so happy to see Kloe happy again.  To see her smiling again.  To see her go to Kloeville which is lying on her back with a ball in her mouth and just staring into the sky.  Kloeville!   Kloe’s old playful personality has reemerged and Puppy Poses are frequent.

Dogs mostly live in the here an now.  But if Kloe could remember or realize all she’s been through in the past six months she would be very proud of herself for how far she has come.  I know I am!

KLOEVILLE

 

A Model Patient

It’s been three weeks since Kloe had her Bi-lateral TPLO surgery.   She is doing fantastic!  She is feeling so good that the hard part now will be to keep her on a short leash  – figuratively and literally – for at least another month or so.

The first few days home Kloe mostly slept and soaked up the love and attention that we gave her almost 24 x 7 staying within feet away to make sure there were no mishaps.  We’re fortunate that we have a one bedroom apartment under our home that has ground level access and a small patio area.  The apartment is used for friends and family when they visit the Golden K.  But for the first ten days post surgery it was Kloe’s convalescent home staffed primarily by Holly who did what she is so good at – taking care of her family.  I spelled Holly from time to time but it was mostly Holly who monitored Kloe during the critical first several days, administering medicine and changing bandages when needed.   Holly created a safe and comfortable environment for Kloe setting up a day bed in the main living area of the apartment and a nighttime bed in the bedroom where Holly could sleep on the floor next to Kloe.

After a few days Kloe became more ambulatory and willing to walk the few feet to the patio to “get busy” what we call it for our girls to pee and poop.   The summer temps were very warm and Kloe relaxed next to Holly’s side on the shaded patio.   Every minute that passed Kloe’s bones were knitting back together and our vet said a little bit of walking helped that process.

After about ten days we felt Kloe was strong enough, and safe enough, to come back upstairs.  Between the car, the driveway to the upper part of our home, and me carrying a heavy 75 pound load for the last 40 feet Kloe arrived back upstairs.   We celebrated on the deck by doing what we normally do – hang out with our girls, drink wine, BBQ, and enjoy the beauty of the Golden K.  It was great to have the band pack  back together!

The five of us are together so much that ten days of fragmented family life seemed like a lifetime.  It was great for this group of habit creatures to be back in our routine, even if it meant Kloe had to be tethered while on the deck.   She also must be on leash when we take her to “get busy” (pee and poop).  The sight of a squirrel, feral cat, or other critter could cause her to take off and run and jump which for now is a major no-no.

Since then we’ve lengthened the leash a bit but Kloe can still not be outside untethered. She once again has mostly free reign inside the house but when we leave she has to be sequestered in our bedroom by herself.  We’ve come too long to risk injury or setbacks.  Our vet says that in a week we can begin taking her for short walks – five minutes – on flat ground.  What comes after that I’m not sure.

I’m trying not to get to far ahead of things but I can’t help but wonder what the signal or trigger will be for when we can let her off leash outside and let her return to “normal” activities.  The prognosis is that she will return to almost 100% of her old self with periodic spells of soreness after very active periods.  In my eye’s mind I can see her muscular athletic body running through the Golden K as she once used to.  That image makes me both very happy and also scared.  I’m a worrier and I know I will be cringing every step of her way at first but hopefully not forever.

So for now I try not to think too much about the whats and whens of Kloe returning to normal activities and just focus on how far our sweet girl has come.  She’s been a model patient, stoically accepting everything we’ve thrown at her over the past several months not least of all an invasive surgery and long recovery period where she now feels normal but cannot yet act normal.  All in good time sweet girl (the authors says for himself as much as for the patient)….

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Kloe hanging on the deck next to me while I write this post

Note to self…

Note to self:  Don’t work on sprinklers and drip irrigation when your two year old pup has a 6 month old friend over to play.  Although there was plenty of dry ground available for playing chase and wrestling the water was like a magnet and these two had quite the time.

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Thought bubble over Kloe’s head:  “That was awesome!”

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Thought bubble over six month old Chewie’s head:  “Are we in trouble?”

Needless to say, baths followed and the irrigation project was put on hold for a couple of days.

Chewbacca

If you were expecting a post about Star Wars or the Millennium Falcon you will be disappointed.  If you were expecting a post about an adorable five month old Golden Retriever named Chewbacca you are in the right place.  Although the hair color is the same between the two aforementioned Chewbaccas, and they both go by the nickname “Chewie”, the similarities end there.

Chewie the pup came by The Golden K today for a meet and greet with my girls and will be back next month for an extended stay when we puppy sit while his mom is out of town.

Kali, as expected, was a little stand offish when Chewie arrived.  She barked a bit as if to say, “Who’s this whipper-snapper and what’s he doing in MY back yard?”  Kali is not a fan of change so when another dog enters her “space” it takes a while for her to adjust.  The same thing happened two years ago when we brought Kloe home at 9 weeks old.  Kali made it clear that she was not pleased but within an hour they were cooing, playing Tug-O-Dog, and spooning.  Today, Kloe eventually settled down and was accepting of Chewie especially when I assembled the trio for biscuits.  When Chewie returns in a few weeks I’m sure Kali will be a good pup-sitter and embrace the young Chewie just as she did with Kloe.

That is if Kloe gives her a chance!  Kloe was smitten with Chewie the moment he arrived.

Kloe has not been around a dog younger than her so I was anxious to see how she, now two years old, would play with a young pup a quarter her age and half her size.  When Kloe herself was a wee-young pup playing with Kali, Kali always used constraint and seem to instinctively know she could not use the full force of her size and mature skill set.  So I was pleased today to see Kloe exhibit similar constraint with Chewie.  When engaging with a dog she has not met before Kloe always assumes a non-threatening posture, usually in a attentive down position, waiting for the other dog to initiate play.  It was no different with Chewie.  Kloe seemed to immediately give Chewie the respect she shows older dogs and allowed him to get comfortable before assuming a puppy-pose and an invitation to play.

And play they did.  Keep away.  Chase.   Stick chewing and fetch.  Jumping, running and rolling.   So yeah – they were acting like a couple of dogs.

And I think those couple of dogs, and Kali too, are going to have a great time next month when Chewbacca comes back for an extended stay at The Golden K.

Chewbacca “Chewie”

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Kloe and Chewie acting like dogs

 

 

 

Snow Day At The Golden K

Finally, a snow day with the girls.

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