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!

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.

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The Golden K

 

‚ÄúThe mountains are calling and I must go.‚Ä̬†
‚Äē¬†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

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Our drive way leading to the Golden K