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

Life changes

Life changes just a little bit when a puppy joins your pack.

On one hand things really shouldn’t change too much when you already have two other dogs that already dictate the flow of household.  On the other hand when those two dogs are two and a half and nine years old it’s a little bit like bringing a new born home just after all your existing kids are out of diapers.

Kali, the nine year old and Kloe the two and a half year old are pretty self sufficient and respectful of the house and our belongings.   When Koda – the puppy – came home the dog gates went up, regular trips outside for house breaking began again, sleeping in became a thing of the past, and all shoes and slippers had to be put away when they weren’t on our feet.   Is it hectic?  Duh!  Is it worth the disruption to the pack?   Absolutely!

Little Koda, now five and a half months old and 36 pounds is tenacious with attitude.

This is not a great combination when we need an immediate behavior correction.  But I think in the long run it will serve her well once she learns how to pick her battles.   She is quite vocal tells us in no uncertain terms that she is not pleased to know that she cannot jump on visitors or the furniture.  A little yelp or “Roo roo roo” as she begrudgingly adheres to our request to behave is not uncommon.

For now (and hopefully not forever) Koda is binary.  She is either on or off.  When on, her energy level is 11 on a scale of 10.  During play Kloe will wrap her entire mouth around Koda’s head to demonstrate her dominence and deliver a lesson.   Koda will momentarily acquiesce to Kloe’s reminder of who is bigger and stronger before immediately striking back with her own gnashing teeth never for a moment acknowledging the 45 pound advantage Kloe has on her.  Kloe does shoulder rolls landing on Koda like a greco wrestler pinning her down only for Koda to reemerge and perform the same move on Kloe.

Much to Koda’s chagrin Kali is not interested in any type of play with her.  At nine years old and visibly much slower than she was only a year ago Kali prefers sleeping to almost all activities other than eating.  I’ve seen Koda sneak attack a sleeping Kali landing on her back and riding her like a bronco as Kali gets up trying to toss her off while she moves off to another corner of the room to sleep.  Koda used to sass back Kali just like she does to us when being told no.  “Yelp! Roo roo roo…!  Play with me…”  To Koda’s credit she now (mostly) understands that Kali is the big sister she sleeps next to when she is in the off position. Kloe, although sometimes a reluctant participant, is the big sister used for rough play when Koda is in the on position.

It’s striking how the dynamics of a family can change so dramatically when that newborn baby puppy comes home.   I think it rocked Kali and Kloe’s world a bit to have a new little sister that seems to get more attention and more treats.   I’ve been caught off guard from time to time realizing that Koda is not Kloe and training may be more challenging and that different techniques may need to be deployed.  These pups are not plug and play.  But I like it that way.  Like people, dogs are unique and don’t fit into the same mold as the previous puppy.  Life would be boring if all of your dogs had the same personality and demeanor.   It might be easier but so much less “fun”.

So is it hectic?  You bet.  Is it worth it?  Absolutely!

So yeah, life changes just a little bit when a puppy joins your pack.

IMG_6301

Left to right Kloe, Koda, and Kali

 

Smiles

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.

img_3473

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

img_3528

Kali smiling because wine makes mom and dad happy

img_3541

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

img_3540

Kali right after Kloe deadpanned a hilarious joke.

img_3196

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

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.

img_3558

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

img_2926

 

 

My Wrestling Heros

When I was nine years old my dad gave me a Christmas present that today remains one of the greatest Christmas presents I have ever received.

It was Christmas morning 1966 and we were opening our gifts in the living room.  My dad, who was the (self) designated present “giver-outer” handed me a small box.  I noticed that the “from” on the little tag said only “Dad”.  Not Santa.  Not Mom and Dad.  Just Dad. I opened the box and inside was an envelope.  In the envelope were two tickets to a wrestling match the very next day.

We lived in San Francisco near the Cow Palace.  The Cow Palace was a venue that held music events, conventions, and sporting events like basketball, boxing and wrestling.  Wrestling! When I was nine years old I loved wrestling and watched matches on TV regularly. I had my favorites – all good guys of course – like Bear Cat Wright with his signature figure four leg lock and Pepper Gomez and his patented face slap.  I was thrilled to get these tickets as a present and what made it even more special was that it was just from Dad and he and I would be going just the two of us with no girls (my mom and my sister).

As I grew older the fascination with wrestling wained as the “sport” became too glitzy.  But I’ll never forget that day, seeing all the wrestlers I had only seen on TV and spending the day with my Dad.

Fast forward (at least) a few decades and wrestling is now a big part of my life once again.  This time I’m a slightly reluctant witness.  The wrestling occurs daily and frequently.  It’s fast and furious, sometimes vicious, and usually accompanied by snarling, teeth-gnashing, and growling.  Yet these wrestlers, like those in the sixties, have a special place in my heart and my life.

In one corner hailing from Taiwan is King Kong Kali weighing in at 57 pounds of muscle and attitude.  In the other corner is newcomer Kloe the Fearless who at 35 pounds has at least 75 pounds of confidence and attitude that makes her a formidable foe for any opponent who dares to compete.

Yes, these new generation of wrestlers at my house are dogs. The matches are unscheduled and can begin at a moments notice or, which is usually the case, at the whim of Kloe who loves to terrorize her big sister Kali who (usually) accepts the match gracefully.  Kali has been a great trainer and coach for her little sissy.

But here is my issue with these wrestling matches.  They tend to happen at my feet under my desk while I’m working, or under our chairs while Holly and I are enjoying a glass of wine (or two) at the end of a busy day.  We have a large deck, a large protected wooded area for the dogs to play in, and an empty living room pending purchase of furniture.  But these impromptu matches start under our feet or quickly migrate to under feet wherever Holly and/or I are sitting.

When I was nine I would have been thrilled to have one of my wrestling heroes fighting right at my feet, although my dad may have thought otherwise.  But what could he have done, right?  If he intervened he might have found himself in a figure four leg lock from Bear Cat Wright or smashed by a belly flop from the 350 pound Haystack Calhoun.  Worse yet his head could have been slammed into the belt buckle by Ray Stevens or Pat Patterson!  Yikes.

With visions of my dad being pummeled by these 1960’s era wrestlers I think better of intervening when my two modern day canine wrestlers are engaged in head locks, muzzle guzzles, and raptor captures.  So I protect my legs, the wine on the adjacent table, and I do my best to capture as much action on my iPhone as possible.  Because these moments are precious.  Almost as precious as the tickets to the wrestling event at the Cow Palace that my dad gave me so many years ago.  My dad is gone and one day my Golden Kali and little Kloe will likely pass before me to.  But I will forever hold dear in my heart my  wrestling heroes who impacted my life at nine years old and more recently as an aging baby boomer.

IMG_3134

Kloe’s signature tackle, ear chew, and roll move. Impressive take down move for a pup of only 4 months!

A Long Smokey Weekend

Fire in the hills…  Wait, that’s not the smoke I’m referring to….

The familiarity was evident. Kali walked down the driveway and Smokey immediately ran up to her and smelled her face.  The normal dog greeting is usually on the opposite end but Smokey has always enjoyed “Kissy Face” with Kali often time placing his two front paws on her snout to balance while smelling the top of her head.  Kali smiled and I did too because it was great to see Kali and Smokey back to together for a few days.

When we moved to the mountains my daughter Jessi, who is Smokey’s mom, moved into an  apartment in the Bay Area.  So after living together for almost two years Smokey and Kali would not be seeing each other very often.  Jessi’s move proceeded ours by about a month and Smokey had two brief meetings with new puppy Kloe when Jessi came back home a couple of times.  During their first meeting Smokey made it clear that he didn’t approve of Kloe’s presence in his old house.  Kloe who was 10 weeks old at the time, but twice as big as Smokey,  approached Smokey who growled and went off to sleep in his crate with a big old “Who in the heck is that?!?” thought bubble over his head.  Kloe’s thought bubble was something like “But I just wanted a hug”. But the message was delivered and Kloe kept her distance Smokey’s visit and also the next one.

I was in the Bay Area for work on Thursday and picked Smokey up from my daughter on my way back to our home in Tuolumne.  Because of the dynamic with Smokey and Kloe during their two brief encounters we thought it best to be a little strategic in how we re-introduced them.  When I arrived home Holly brought Kali out first to greet Smokey.  After he had time for a little Kissy Face and to sniff around the front of the house Holly went to get Kloe.

When Kloe came down she was full of enthusiasm which goes without saying.  I think Smokey was more interested in Kloe than vice-versa.  They did a few butt sniffs and went about their own business.   As good as Kloe’s training has been going I expected some fireworks between Smokey and her.  She’s just four months old and sometimes her enthusiasm gets the best of her and that wouldn’t play well with Smokey. I knew that if Kloe tried to rough house with Smokey like she does with Kali it would be a problem.  But they’ve mostly stayed clear of one another and as much as I would love to see them interact Smokey is only 10 pounds and Kloe is too young to know to take it easy on him (like Kali takes it easy on Kloe [but not for long]…).

Smokey will be with us until Monday morning when Holly will take him back home to Jessi.  So until then we’re enjoying a long Smokey weekend with the trio in the photo below.

IMG_3231

 

 

The Golden K

 

“The mountains are calling and I must go.” 
― John Muir

As some followers of Golden Kali know, Holly, Kali Kloe and I recently  relocated to the Sierra Nevada Foothills.  Last September a home in the mountains called us and, like John Muir, we decided we must go.   After a long process of buying and selling homes, preparing for the move, and finally executing on the plan we arrived in Tuolumne CA at our new home that sits on five acres under a forest of pines and oak trees.

We call our new home The Golden K in honor of our Golden Kali who we’ve learned so much from, and for Kloe who represents the brightest of futures for all of us through her unbridled enthusiasm for life.

And so a new blog was born that’s called “The Golden K”.  Kali, Kloe, Holly, and I hope you’ll stop by from time to time to check in on our family’s new adventure and read about my romantic perspective of life at 3100 feet.

Check us out here:  About the Golden K  and www.goldenk.net

40

Our drive way leading to the Golden K

Walking

Since the week we brought Kali home a little over two years ago our walks along the creek trail and neighborhood was a special time for her and I.  Our bonding time.  Our golden  one on one time.  A time to talk about world events, to argue, and to simply appreciate one another’s company.

Since moving to the mountains the routine is different and I miss the walks.  I think Kali does too.

Don’t get me wrong.  We love our new home, the rural surroundings, the mountain air (for me) new smells (for Kali), the wildlife, and the slower pace of life.  But we miss our walks.

It’s not for lack of a trail or roads to walk that has kept us from our ritual.  Up here in the mountains the roads go on forever and sometimes there is nothing except trees and wildlife as far as the eye can see.  And dogs.  Off leash dogs.  Dogs protecting their land and owners.  This makes sense and is normal for a rural area like ours but it’s new ground for us “city folk”.

Back in the big city of Livemore (population 85,000 compared to Tuolumne population 1,780)  we almost never encountered an off leash dog.  So even with Kali’s anxiety with dogs I knew the situation would be under control between myself and the dog’s owner during our frequent encounters along the old creek trail.  In most cases Kali had become quite comfortable and uninterested as we passed other dogs walking as we passed without incident or a woof.

As things began settling down after our move I decided it was time to get back to our daily walks.  Kali and I headed off our property to a road that goes pretty much straight up hill.  OK, that’s good exercise for both of us I thought.  “Let’s go Kali”, and off we went.  When we got to the top of the hill I looked back and there was a big dog (who I had shoo’d off  our property a couple of times and he had run off timidly).   He or she was sitting at the bend watching us from about a city block away.  I watched the dog and he watched us.  Kali sniffed and smelled enjoying herself.  I waited to see if he would follow us. He didn’t.   This big black spotted dog just sat there and watched us as I contemplated what would happen when we headed back and had an encounter.  Would he sniff Kali hello?  Would Kali get anxious and bark or lunge?  Kali and I walked on and the dog sat watching us walk away.

We went farther up another steep road enjoying the scenery looking forward to the walk back home which would be presumably all down hill.  We hadn’t gone very far but for our first exploration it was good enough and we would be able to find our way back home without having to call Holly for a search and rescue.

As we turned a bend there was that dog still sitting and waiting for us.  Kali was oblivious but I was concerned about an encounter where even if the this dog was friendly he might react if Kali barked (which was highly likely given her new surroundings).  But this time when the dog saw Kali walk in his direction he ran off timidly as he done when I shoo’d him from our property.  Kali and I walked on down the hill and within another minute or two I heard barking come from the front of a house set back from the road.  This time the dog ran out towards us.  I kept walking and braced myself for an encounter.  The dog stopped short of the road, barked a few more times, and watched us move along.  I guess he or she had done their job protecting their pack and making sure no intruders stepped onto the property.   It was interesting that Kali was not fazed by the dog’s barking; in fact I don’t think she noticed because she was too interested in all the new smells around her.

So us city folk will have to adjust to the fact that most of the dogs in this area are free to roam on their properties without the oversight of their owners.  In fact Kali does too so what am I worrying about.  While Kali doesn’t wonder our 5 acres alone I have given her the freedom to be off leash when I’m out and about tending to outside household business.  We’re far off the road and Kali tends to stay close to me and around the house which gives me confidence that she is learning her limits and is uninterested in exploring beyond her safe zone.  Our backyard has expanded immensely and Kali has for the most part complied with the limits I’ve set for her and enjoys wondering within my sight and following me around.  So I guess were not much different than the dogs and owners.

I’ve never seen a dog on the main road that turns onto our little road so its seems these dogs know their boundaries, are certainly not strays, and are just used to living in the mountains where they can enjoy more freedom.  And because their dogs I’m sure most if not all are just as loving and friendly as Kali.   Maybe Kali and can bake some biscuits and take them to the “neighborhood” dogs, introduce ourselves, and put dad’s concerns to rest.

 

IMG_3133

That was one steep hill! Hey who’s that dog way back there watching us?

Leave It

We brought Kloe home two weeks ago and we couldn’t be more thrilled to have her as part of our pack.  I was fairly certain that Kali would welcome her and be a good big sister or maybe even a surrogate mama.  My Golden Kali has exceeded my expectations and has not only  accepted embraced Kloe but has assumed responsibility for helping with Kloe’s training.

Kali is doing all the natural things you would expect from an older dog to help socialize the pup to the pack. She allows Kloe to chew on her face and use her body as a personal jumpy but only within reason.  When Kali has had enough she let’s Kloe know through body language, a mild growl, and by throwing her 57 pounds of body weight on Kloe’s 18. When Kali naps she welcomes Kloe to spoon with her or lay on her belly.   During  tug of war Kali allows Kloe to hold her own until the very end when Kali shakes her loose.

But this morning I saw something that surprised me and made me realize that Kali is truly helping with training our newest Golden K.

It was around 6:30 am (yes 6:30 we have a puppy!!) and Holly and I were sitting on the floor in the family room drinking coffee, watching the dogs play tug 0f war after breakfast (theirs not ours).   They did their tug of war dance for about 15 minutes and then we observed something rather remarkable.  Kali was teaching Kloe “leave it”.  A basic of training is to ask your pup for the toy they have in their mouth, by saying, in our case, “leave it”, and then rewarding them for letting go and then immediately giving them the toy back.  It builds an important bond of trust between you and your pup.

As we were watching the dance we watch Kali shake the toy strongly enough to shake Kloe’s grip loose.  Kali is standing there with the toy in her mouth as Kloe stares.  Kali drops the toy on the ground no more than a foot from Kloe’s gaze with her head slightly tilted in Kloe’s direction.  Kali gives a soft but firm growl while looking at Kloe.  Kloe respects the growl, lies down, and doesn’t try to get the toy.  Kali picks up the toy and takes it Kloe and they begin tug of war again.  After another 20 or 30 seconds Kali shakes the toy loose and again drops it in front of Kloe.  She stares at Kloe.  Kloe stares at the toy but remains put.  Kali picks up the toy and takes it back to Kloe.  Kloe accepts the toy and they resume the play.

I turn to Holly and say, “I think Kali is teaching her leave it”.  Holly concludes that Kali is not impressed with the training we have provided so far and is taking matters into her own paws.

I’m ok with it.  As all of you know who have raised a puppy you need all the help you can get with a quickly emerging a teen-ager in both size and attitude.  And for me I would want no other canine trainer helping us other than my Golden Kali.

IMG_3030

Kali and her student Kloe

Kloe: a sneak peek

As mentioned a few posts ago the tag line of this Golden Kali blog has changed to “Kali’s New Life In The Mountains“.  It used to be “Kali’s New Life In America” but it’s been almost two years since she arrived and we are now off to new adventures in the Sierra Foothills.

Kali will have a new companion beginning next week.  Her name is Kloe and she is an eight week old Golden Retriever.

So while this post provides a sneak peek to the new pup who joins our pack next week, it’s mostly about why Holly and I feel compelled to bring more craziness love into our lives.  Especially during a time of significant transition.

(BTW Kloe is pronounced Chloe but spelled with a K because well, because of Kali… makes sense, right?…)

My sister Victoria and  I came out of the same womb, had the same parents and same wonderful childhoods growing up in Suburbia USA.  But we couldn’t be more different in so many ways… Last week I called Vicki to update her on our move and tell her we were getting a new pup. My sister is only four years older than me but at times we seem a generation apart.  She scolds me gives me “motherly” advice and has a hard time understanding or relating to many of the life choices Holly and I make; like moving to the mountains…

So when I told her about Kloe she didn’t offer congratulations but she did offer many cautions and some of the aformentioned motherly advice.  Vicki says, “Michael, puppies are a lot of work.  Do you really know what you’re getting into?  That puppy is going to pee all over your new house”.  I was a little hurt but not surprised.  I love my sister and as we’ve aged I’ve come to see her as the beautiful loving person she is.  She married late, never had children, and has always been a loving aunt to my kids.  She is also a sincere  animal lover donating time and money to various animal causes.  Maybe in this case just not a lover of animals who may  make her brother’s life hectic and dirty his house…  🙂  She is compelled after almost 60 years to take care of me and I love her for that.

This morning I received an email from Vicki apologizing for “being a downer” when I told her about the puppy. The email was an appreciated but not necessary gesture.  After all we’re siblings so why start apologizing now!   As I went to delete the email I paused and decided to respond.   This is what I wrote:

Vicki – Thanks for your email.   No apology necessary.  Crazy how life works sometimes….

Why do many people have kids?  They’re a lot of work, heartache at times, and cost a lot of money.  They break things, make messes, and demand your attention when you’re too tired to even think let alone play a game or throw a ball.   Yet we have them, mostly on purpose, and once our children are born we have no regrets.  Why?  Because kids are unconditional love,  they’re innocent (at least for a while), they’re fun, they keep us young at heart, they make us feel secure and make us feel complete.  Children complete the family unit and sometimes the more the better.

I think for me this is why, especially now that the kids are grown,  we have dogs.  All the same rationale above about children apply.  

Crazy huh?…
– Love, Michael

 

I’ve never thought about having a dog in these terms before. At least not consciously.  But this morning at 7:00 am as I read my sister’s message on my iPhone with Kali lying by my side it was perfectly clear and I felt compelled to reply.   Although Vicki had no children family has always been paramount to her and she will understand and agree with my rationale and emotions.  She may not even care if Kloe has an “accident” when I bring her over to visit.

IMG_2315

Kloe, sitting with the red collar

IMG_2321

Kloe and her sisters.  I wish we could bring home the Trio!