All In – Happy Gotcha Day Koda

Koda, Koda, Koda!

This week marks four years since Koda joined our pack. She was four months old when we welcomed her and she came in with guns-a-blazing! Koda very quickly made her presence known. I remember driving her home in my truck and pulling up to our property. She was just 90 minutes separated from her two litter mates who had not been adopted yet. Koda hopped out of the truck and followed me through the gate where her new sisters were “waiting”. Koda 18 pounds at the time was greatly over matched by her new sisters – Kali at 60 pounds an Kloe at 80. There was about five minutes when Koda seemed a little intimidated and she acquiesced to the “big girls”. But she quickly made herself at home and began romping around the yard chasing and being chased by Kloe. Kali went off to sleep and resent the new whippersnapper that dad had just brought into the family without her permission.

The aforementioned five minutes of being intimidated was the last time I ever saw Koda be intimidated by anybody or anything.

Koda is a tough pup who initially made up for her size with loads of attitude.

It was immediately evident how vocal Koda was. Tilting her head slightly down, butt up in the air, and a mouthed puffed up with air she exclaims, “A roo roo roo”. This was just day one/hour two and she had already established her spot in the pack. She was not be the oldest or the biggest or in charge of anything but she always made here needs, wants, and opinions known! To this day Koda speaks her mind and always gets her point across to her intended audience and anyone else who will listen. As if they have a choice… If she could speak english she’d use what might be considered “salty language”.

Early on there were some very touch and go periods.

Holly: “Get that dog out of my house. Send her back”!

Me: She is such a loving girl. She’s doing so much better. I just need a little more time to work with her.”

Koda: (Looking directly at Holly) “A roo roo roo! Roo roo rooooo….”

Me : (Turning to Koda and under my breath) “Koda – work with me here.”

Koda: (Thought bubble over her head) “Hey – where did mom go?”

And so it went.

Koda has matured and has (mostly) learned to temper her enthusiasm. She is lovingly referred by a close friend who also has Golden Retrievers, as my “wild child”. A spot on characterization! But Koda has learned to be a (mostly) respectful and responsible member of the pack. She is very smart and learns things the first time. Whether she chooses to adhere to the learning is another matter. But she does learn it and then makes her choices. I (mostly) respect that.

Did you notice all the “mostly’s” in the previous paragraph? So yeah lot’s of mostly’s. But the all-ins” far outnumber and outweigh those mostlys.

Koda is all in on Loyalty. She is all in on loving her pack members. She is all in on recall – where ever she is, if I call she comes.

Koda was all in on Kali, her Sissy Mama. During the last year or so of Kali’s life when she had a hard time getting around Koda looked after Kali. A great example was a time when Kali got stuck in a corner of the property and couldn’t get up. Koda came running up to us barking and alternating looks from us to where she wanted us to go. We followed her and found Kali OK but stuck in a small hole and unable to get up. Talk about a Lassie and a “Timmy’s stuck in the well moment”… wow!

Koda is all in on being Kloe’s wingman. Kloe, “Protector Of The Golden K” – often sees, smells, or hears potential bad guys. Bad guys like cats, deer, squirrels, someone walking along the road at the bottom of our property, and so on. If Kloe stands up and barks, Koda does too; even though she doesn’t know what she’s barking at. She looks to Kloe for her cues. If Kloe takes off running in the bad guys direction Koda follows even thought she has no idea where she’s going. To Koda, if Kloe is barking, upset, or on the prowl Koda is by her side to provide all necessary back up. Koda is definitely all in on Kloe.

I’m so happy to Koda in my life and part of our pack. My sweet “Koda Koda Koda”, my “Sugar Beats”, my “Kodachrome”, my “Kode-Red”. Oh, yeah and full disclosure of another often used nick name for Koda: “Damn it Koda!” ūüôā

Happy Gotcha day sweet Koda. Dad will always be all in on you!

The First Fourth…

…without Kali.

It was the evening of May 24, 2014 when I met that special girl from Taiwan. The door opened, our eyes met, and we instantly fell in love. Well, at least I was immediately taken back and infatuated with her. It took only minutes for that infatuation to turn to love. And we rode off into the sunset to Livermore, CA. and the rest as they say…. well you know.

That girl was Kali.

Long time followers of Golden Kali know that Kali is a rescue from Taiwan. Holly, my daughter Jessi, and I drove to the airport in San Francisco in great anticipation of meeting Kali, then known as Nala. We had only seen pictures and read her bio as we waited for about two months until her Taiwanese caregivers had her in perfect condition to come to America and join our family. Health, happy, and full of love.

I’ve written often about that evening at the airport when Kali and I met. How fate seemed to bring us together. If there really are matches made in heaven this would have been one! There was one special moment that stood out that I am reminded of every Fourth of July.

Kali arrived from Taiwan wearing a brown scarf with markings that were similar to mandarin characters. Once she was uncrated, leashed, and had time to get her land legs we prepared to drive home. A volunteer from the local rescue group, True Love Rescue, stopped us and took off the brown scarf and replaced it with a scarf that bore images of Stars and Stripes and the America Flag. It was a symbolic gesture of Kali’s transition from Taiwan to American where she became a true American Girl.

Kali wore the scarf for the first day home and then I took it off and stored it. I brought the scarf out several weeks later on the Fourth of July. That was 2014. Kali wore the scarf for the day and I again put it away. Since that time the scarf only comes out on the Fourth of July and Kali wears it for the day.

Except this year. This is the first Fourth without Kali.

There will always be two holidays that are special for me and Kali. I will always miss her just a little more on those days than others. One is Memorial Weekend. It was Memorial weekend in 2014 that we picked up Kali from SFO. That will forever be her gotcha day. The other is Fourth of July. The Fourth because of our ritual of taking out the scarf with stars and stripes, adorning it around my beautiful girls golden neck, and seeing her wear it for the day and evening.

So on this first Fourth without Kali, and for the Fourth’s to follow, the stars and stripes scarf will be worn by Kloe. This morning I pulled out the scarf and put it on Kloe, second in line of succession after Kali at the Golden K. Like Kali, she’ll wear it for the day and evening and in the morning it will be put away for another year.

Kloe may never know or appreciate the symbolism of wearing the scarf annually on the Fourth. Certainly she will never know the practical aspect of being a stray in Taiwan, going through rehab with the Taiwanese rescue group angels, or getting on a plane with 23 other Goldens and traveling across the world into the unknown. But I know that Kloe’s Sissy-Mama Kali would appreciate knowing the symbolism of the scarf and her transition from Taiwan to America will live on through her sister Kloe.

Happy Fourth Kali. For the first time in eight years as I write this Fourth of July post you are not laying at my feet. You can no longer warm my feet but will always warm my heart as I sit and write about you, for you, and with you close by in spirit.

Kloe sporting the special stars and stripes scarf handed down to her by Kali.

Golden Kali, July 4, 2015.

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

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! ūüôā 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!

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.

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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.

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

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Kali smiling because wine makes mom and dad happy

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

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Kali right after Kloe deadpanned a hilarious joke.

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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.

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

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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 Рall good guys of course Рlike 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.

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