A Gental Soul

This past week marks five years since my gentle soul Golden Kali joined our family.  May 24 is Kali’s “Gotcha Day”.  Long time followers of the Golden Kali Blog may remember that Kali was originally rescued in Taiwan.   After receiving a few months of loving care and rehabilitation from her Taiwanese foster care givers she flew to America with 23 other Golden Retriever rescues, landed at SFO, and pranced straight into our hearts.  For newer followers this very first post from five years ago will provide you with some historical context:  Kali’s New Life In America Begins.

Kali very quickly turned our family into a pack inspiring us and shaping our lives in ways I never imagined.  Her sweet and gentle disposition was evident from the very start.  That first night home, unsure of what to expect I tethered her to the foot of my bed post when we went to bed.  I remember being gently nuzzled by a wet nose in the wee hours of the morning by this loving girl.  I took her outside to pee and we returned to the bedroom and she willingly settled down by the side of my bed and immediately settled down for the rest of the night.  By the next evening she had earned full run of the house and has never ever displayed anything other than respect and appreciation for her surroundings and our belongings.

I’ll always remember the first visit – a meet and greet – to the vet when the vet gave Kali a few treats.  “Look”, she said.  “She takes the treats with her lips.  She’s so gentle”.  I smiled proudly (as if I had anything to do with her gentle nature) and felt immediately blessed to be in the presence of a soul so sweet as Kali.

Two years later we shook up Kali’s world by bringing home Kloe, a nine-week old Golden Retriever.  After about 10 or15 minutes of a lot of barking (“get that little dog out of here”), followed by about 30 minutes of indifference (“fine she can stay but I’m not having anything to do with her”), Kloe won Kali’s heart and they’ve been nuzzling, playing, and sleeping together ever since.   During the first several months Kali was a wonderful surrogate mom to Kloe giving her lessons only another dog can.  As Kloe grew older the relationship transitioned to sisters and to this day Kloe idolizes her big sissy Kali.

Within three weeks of bringing Kloe home we moved from the SF Bay Area to the Sierra Nevada Foothills.  We named our home The Golden K in honor of our two “K” girls.  Kali loved her new environment with so much more area to explore and smell.   Kloe followed in Kali’s every footstep and they became great companions with a common disdain for squirrels, an eventual acceptance of the black tail deers, and a love for the smell and whooshing of the tall pines.

Late last year at the insistence of Kali I finally convinced Holly that we needed another pup.  Another pup to be an active companion for Kloe now that Kali was slowing down.  And as awkward as may sound, I want to make sure that Kloe had a companion when it’s time for Kali to cross over the rainbow bridge.  I don’t like to think about that day – it scares me to think about being without Kali.  But I also don’t want to get another pup in the middle of my grief.  I love Kloe too much to let there be a time when she doesn’t have a canine companion.

So….enter Koda!.   Our third Golden K girl joined us last fall at four months old. This tenacious little fire ball joined the pack guns-a-blazing full of attitude, mischief, and, occasional mayhem.   In spite of some of her more, er, well, hmm…. let’s say challenging traits, she is a sweet and loving pup who with continued patience from the rest of the pack will turn into a lovely young lady in the months and years to come.

Through all the figurative -and actual- “planes trains and automobiles”  that Kali experienced during the  past five years she is always the same gentle soul we met on May 24, 2015.  The same gentle should who flew 6,400 miles from Taiwan to San Francisco and later drove 100 miles from suburbia to our new mountain home.  The same gentle soul who has shaped much of my life, Holly’s life, and the lives of her little sissies.

The same gentle soul who’s life in America is chronicled here in The Golden Kali Blog.

Kali the morning after she arrived from Taiwan

Kali today.  Our gentlest of souls

I stand corrected.

I urged the original poster who was looking for advice to ignore the wrestle-mania advice of this so called and self-professed professional wrestler trainer.   Within moments another comment  from wrestle-mania central was directed at me telling me that I knew nothing about dog training and that the method they described was decades old and highly effective.

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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

 

 

 

The Master Teacher

As I helped my Golden Kali with her aging hips onto the couch I cuddled her. We were alone in the family room while Holly cleaned up after dinner. Puppy Kloe was still sleeping under the dinner table.

As Kali settled onto the couch I whispered out loud into her ear. “I love you Kali, more than you can ever comprehend”.

Kali looked at me with sleepy eyes and it hit me. I paused for a moment and then I said, again out loud, “Wait – maybe you love me more than I can ever comprehend”.

And so it was. Another moment, another day, and another lesson I’ve learned from my Golden Kali.

My Golden Kali The Master Teacher.

Long Running Story

Kali’s new life in America and the mountains is now a long running story.

As most owners of a rescue pet know it’s the pet that usually rescues us and provides us with a more enriched life.  So often it is the pet, in my case Kali, who teaches us new ways to love, re-calibrates our priorities, and shows us that the simplest things in life can also be the most rewarding and heartening.

It’s been three and half years since Kali rescued me. I vividly remember the moment her crate was opened and she was released to us at SFO after a 12 hour flight from Taiwan.  The bond was instant and was fortified on the drive home and in the ensuing days and weeks.

So while Kali’s adventure is a long running one she herself rarely runs…. or trots, or gallops.  Kali is rarely in a hurry to get anywhere except to her food bowl and even then doesn’t run although she does display a remarkable ability to pirouette, bounce, and hop.   A main reason for the lack of speed are her hips which, typical of Goldens, are not in great shape.  She has dysplasia in one hip and the other, while not diagnosed, is not much better.

So on the rare occasion Kali does “run” it makes me laugh and smile.   It’s not the fact that she’s “running”  but that it is so darn cute.  Because even when Kali is moving fast (for her) it’s not very graceful.  If you saw Kali “run” (note the quote marks around the word run and running in the proceeding sentences when referring to Kali) it would not inspire images of racehorses, jack rabbits, or world class athletes.  When Kloe runs it might but not Kali.  Kali’s motion when moving fast is as much up and down as it is forward.   You might say that she runs with her entire body, head to tail, perhaps to compensate for those wonky hips of hers.

Picture a long wavelength and you will get an idea of how Kali runs; it takes a lot of up and down to move forward just a little bit…

Kali’s “running” motion

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There is a gate that leads out of our patio onto the driveway and surrounding land.   This is the gate Kali and I usually leave from to go on our walks or across to my office.  For Kali walks translate to treats.  My office sometimes translates to a bully stick to chew on or at the least a respite from her sister Kloe’s antics and chance to have dad all to herself.  There is also an area nearby my office where raccoons and other critters have made a “deposit” the previous night.   Much to my chagrin Kali loves to forage for those deposits…

More often than not when we go out the gate Kali begins running with her up and down and up and down motion.  As she “runs” she turns back to me with a smile on her face as if to say, “look at me, I’m running – can you believe it?” Or maybe it’s to say, “C’mon, I’ll show you where all the critters pooped last night.”  Whatever it is it makes me smile and laugh out loud as Kali reminds me that the simplest things in life can also be the most rewarding and heartening.

And it’s these moments that I am most grateful to have been rescued by my Golden Kali.

A picture of Kali not running…

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Golden Kali

Conversing With Our Eyes

“The eyes are the window to your soul.”  

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It’s unclear who first said that. I know this because I waited 0.74 seconds for the Google search to return about 48,200, 000 results. I didn’t corroborate each and every 48 million results with one another.  But I did spend about 15 seconds reviewing the summary of the first article and came to my conclusion that the originator of the phrase is not certain.

What is clear to me is that when I stare deeply into Kali’s dark eyes it’s like staring into a pool of dark water at dusk with glimmering and subtle refections of the setting sun.   I can see her emotions and wants.  Sometimes I can see her fears.  But mostly I see the unconditional love and devotion that has been present since the moment we met three years ago.

So when I talk to Kali and she answers with her eyes, and I understand the answer, am I simply projecting a logical human conclusion or is she really talking to me with her eyes?  I believe it is the latter.  Someone who has never bonded with a dog might question my position.  But that same person could be reminded of the time his  significant other gave him a glance from across the room at a social event and he instantly knew what she was telling him (“I’m bored, let’s go).   Or the time his son hit a walk off home run in little league and as the boy crossed home plate he his eyes met the eyes of his dad in the stands (“We did it Dad.  “WE did it!”).

But even when drawing upon those memories that man may still question my position pointing out that dogs aren’t people and dogs can’t think in such complex terms.   To that man I say, “adopt and love a dog and you will understand”.

So it is for Kali and I throughout the day that she answers me or she herself initiates the conversation with her eyes.

Like first thing in the morning as Kali (not so) patiently waits for me to open my eyes and then stares at me and says, “the sun is up and I’m hungry”.   Or when she is so rudely awakened from a nap when her her “little” sister Kloe sneak attacks her by jumping on her to prompt play.   Kali glances at me as she rises in defense and her eyes say, “Please save me.”  When I give Kali a Kong filled with apples and peanut butter while lying on the ground,  tongue probing the Kong for the treats, she looks up and stares directly into my eyes, “Thank you dad I love this Kong almost as much as I love you”.  And of course there are the annoyed eyes as it gets close to dinner time and I get the prolonged stare, “You can tell time, right?”

One of my favorite lyrics is from “Mrs. Potter’s Lullaby” performed by the Counting Crows.   Adam Duritz writes, “If you’ve never stared off in the distance, then your life is a shame”.  That lyric really resonates with me and I might take it one step further. I suggest that if you have never stared off into the distance with your dog by your side who is also staring off into the distance then your life is a shame.  There is something special about being outdoors somewhere sitting side by side with your dog and looking off into the distance.   A cloud formation may catch my eye and a bird or squirrel may catch Kali’s.   But mostly we are just together with no particular goal in mind.

And then after a while I look into Kali’s eyes and silently say, “ready to go?”.  She stares back into mine and says, “This was great but yeah, let’s go home”.   And so off we we go where we can continue our silent conversation with our eyes.

 

 

The Chopping Board

She’ been conditioned and I guess it’s my fault.   When Kali hears the sound of a knife on a chopping board she comes running from into the kitchen and alternates glances between me and chopping board.   She knows there’s a pretty good chance she’ll get a sample of what is being chopped especially if it’s a vegetable or an apple.  If I’m chopping up left over cold chicken for a salad or sandwich she will usually get a little sliver of that.   OK fine, I admit it.   Usually whatever is on the chopping board she will get a little piece so long as it’s not unhealthy.  Since I don’t eat too many unhealthy foods I guess this means she just about always get’s a little “sumpin’ sumpin” from the chopping board when I’m chopping.

Chopping boards make a distinctive sound especially when someone like me is a “hack chef” doesn’t know how to cook.   I always thought it would be cool to be like those chefs on the cooking shows where they can dice up a five pound zucchini while making hardly any sound faster than you can say Magic Bullet.  Not me.  CHOP!  KER-CHOP… CHOPPITY CHOP!

Kali sees well but not as well as she used to.  She rarely catches a tossed biscuit or treat in mid air any longer.  She’s getting on in years (8 now) and her eyes have begun to get a cloudy look to them.   Hopefully it won’t be an issue as she continues to age.

Her hearing though is still very keen especially when it is the sound of the chopping board.

There could be sirens sounding overhead, howling wind, and explosions all around and Kali would still be able to distinguish the sound of the chopping board that she loves so much.

Recently Kali was outside on the deck and I was in the kitchen, chopping.   CHOP!  KER-CHOP… CHOPPITY CHOP!  It must have been driving Kali nuts because although she could hear the sound of chopping she couldn’t see first hand what was going on.   Another aging part of Kali’s anatomy are her hips.   She is not a very good jumper and it would put her in pain if she was propped up on just her hind legs for more than a second or two.

But that sound of the chopping board sure motivated her to jump up and get a look through the kitchen door to see what was on the chopping block as evidenced by this brief video of her trying desperately to see what was being chopped while also trying to get my attention.

The Chopping Block in Action (wait for it…….)

 

Good Citizens

“The family that obeys together stays together”.   At least that’s what we say around the Golden K.  OK, we might not actually say that but maybe we’ll start.

Earlier this Spring Kloe participated in an obedience training program conducted by a local group affiliated with the American Kennel Club.  Since the time Kloe was a pup Holly (mostly) and I had been working 1:1 with Kloe using the training skills we learned from a private trainer we hired when Kali first arrived from Taiwan.  We felt Kloe needed more socialization and structure so Holly enrolled her in the program.  Kali had been getting a little sloppy I had become sloppy with Kali so I decided to enroll her too so that we could all go through the program as a united pack.  The family that trains together remains together.  Maybe we’ll start using that phrase too…

Both girls flew through the program with flying colors.   Eventually…

When we arrived for the first session our “girls” entered the building with guns-a-blazing!  They announced their arrival with a lot of robust barking.  Kali: “Who are all these dogs and why don’t they run away when I bark at them?” Kloe:  “Who are all these dogs and why won’t you let me off my leash so I can go play with them?”  All the other dogs: “Who are those two loud mouths?”

After a couple of weeks both girls settled in, Kloe realized she was there to work and gave Holly her full attention for most of the 55 minute sessions. Kali was the star pupil.  I wasn’t surprised.  Most of the other dogs were pretty young because this is the class that is intended to follow the Puppy class.  At eight years old Kali was the the Geriatric Granny of the class but I was none the less proud of her. The trainers and other owners watched and smiled as Kali pranced around the room listing to and responding to my every command.  In Kali’s mind a command, regardless of who it is directed at, means a treat is not far away which has made her very trainable.

At the conclusion of the seven week course the trainer told us about an upcoming AKC Good Citizens Certification test that would be available for the members of the class.  This test is comprised of ten behaviors the dog has to demonstrate.  They are relatively basic behaviors such as sit, heel, stay, etc.  They are also tested on distractions, walking through an area crowded with people, and so on.  They must score 10 out of 10 in order to be certified.  AND, there can be no treats used or on the owners body while they are being tested.  Rutt Roh…!!

So last Sunday Kali and drove to Jamestown to take the test.  I was a little apprehensive because Kali still gets a little anxious when new dogs are around.  Kali on the other hand was Kool, Kalm, and Kollected and when it was her turn performed all ten behaviors without issue (and notably with out treats).

Kali will always be my precious Golden Kali with or without any certificates or awards.  On the one hand this test was not a big deal and changes nothing.  On the other hand this test reinforced, at least to me, three years of development anD growth for Kali and I as a team.  So I will mail the paperwork to get the official certificate from the AKC to commemorate Kali’s accomplishment.  It will be framed and proudly hung in a place of distinction at the Golden K.  For me it will mean a lot.  For Kali it may only serve as a reminder of the day she did everything asked of her, on command and as described in the AKC good citizen manual,  without receiving one treat.

This ribbon will have to do until the official certificate arrives.  I wonder where I can buy a golden frame?….

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Toasty Time (for four)

Kali and Kloe have guests.  Jaynee and Sadie will be here for the week while their parents and our good friends Marty and Jen vacation in Hawaii with their human kids.

Sadie and Jaynee are quick studies.  They quickly and effortlessly adapted to a morning ritual I have with Kali and Kloe.

My breakfast usually includes toast.  A long time ago, and before Kloe was born, Kali and I established a morning ritual where I give her  a corner (or two) of a piece of bread while I cook my breakfast.  I call it Toasty Time.  When Kloe joined the pack she eagerly adapted to the ritual.

This morning, the first morning that Jaynee and Sadie were with us, they didn’t miss a beat.  As I announced Toasty Time they got into position for their corner of bread as though they had been doing it for years.

Toasty Time For Four

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Sharing

When you’re two dogs living in the same house there are a lot of things you have to share.  You have to share mom and dad, treats, toys, and sometimes the same bed.  I’ve always been very proud of Kali, and especially of Kloe who is still a puppy, for doing very well with sharing without fighting; well sometimes tug of war but mostly with toys are rarely with mom and dad.

One of the things I respect is when our pups have a meal or a special treat like a bully stick.  I don’t take it for granted that they will share it or that I can simply walk over and take it away.  I can take it away and I make a point, again especially with Kloe,  to occasionally pick up her bowl in the middle of a meal and then immediately give it back.  Kloe trusts me and I can’t imagine she would ever become aggressive with me when taking away her bowl or a toy.   But that doesn’t mean I don’t respect that she is an animal with instincts.  Oh yeah and large sharp teeth.

I don’t give the pups bully sticks very often.  Those are usually reserved for special occasions or what I call Rainy Day Recess.  Calling this Rainy Day Recess is an artifact of Holly having taught pre-school for over 20 years.  It’s those days when the dogs can’t outside because it’s raining and they’ve got a lot of energy to burn of with little room to do it in – kind of like pre-schoolers on a rainy day…

So earlier this week when we had some rain I declared Rainy Day Recess and pulled out a couple of bully sticks.  The girls really love this treat and if they had more cognitive thinking skills they would probably wish every day was raining.  I handed them the sticks and Kali and Kloe went to their respective corners of the living room and began chewing.  They looked a lot like I do with a real big piece of beef jerky trying to soften it up and get it into my body as fast as possible.  Because, well because I love beef jerky.

I made a point – a couple of times – to go to each one of them individually and ask them to “leave it” and let me take the bully stick.  They are clearly more reluctant to give up the bully stick than a bowl of regular meal food but they do.  I give it right back to them all the while praising them for “leaving it”.  With a pat and sometimes a kiss on top of their heads I let them know that I approve of them giving up this treasured treat but that I will give it back.  It’s a good relationship, as most good relationships are, built on trust.

So I’m accustomed to the pups not having any food aggression of any sort.  But when it comes to meal time, although they eat next to one another with bowls only inches away, it would only be expected that one or them to get a little testy if the other placed their mouth near her bowl.  Kali and Kloe eat meals at the same time right next to each other.  Although they get different size portions (Kloe gets more because she is still growing) they usually finish up about the same time.  You’d think that Kloe would take longer because she get’s more food but sometimes she finishes fist.  I noticed this the other night and I was a little surprised when I saw Kloe move over to Kali’s bowl while Kali was still eating.  There had been one incident when Kloe was only nine weeks old and tried to take some food out of Kali’s dish while Kali was eating.  With a low growl and quick nip to Kloe’s ear Kali delivered a message and lesson to Kloe that I thought would last a lifetime.

So on this night when Kloe put her snout into Kali’s dish I thought, “uh-oh” Kali’s not going to like this.  I was waiting for Kali to take an aggressive move and put Kloe in her place.  But no.  Instead she kept eating and allowed Kloe to help finish off the few morsels that remained in her bowl.

Wow!  My Golden Kali set such a great example that transcends pets.  If only we as people could exhibit as much tolerance and sharing as she has this world would have to be a better place.  Right?

So thank you my Golden Kali for teaching me yet another lesson in a series of so many since you rescued me.

This is how they usually start out – side by side.

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But to finish like this was rather remarkable!

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