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.


Left to right Kloe, Koda, and Kali


A Much Belated Post

Thinking back on almost three years of posts, one of the first posts for this Golden Kali blog should have been a link to this wonderful video that shows Kali and 23 other Goldens at the airport in Taiwan preparing for their journey to America.

The video is beautifully done and starts with Kali and Team arriving at the airport, waiting with their caregivers in the terminal, and finally getting into their crates and heading down the moving ramp to be loaded into the plane.

This video, for me, is very moving and after all this time I still get choked up watching it (which I do often).

Kali:  Dad, blog posts are for reading.  No one wants to watch a video of me and my 23 cargo mates.

Me: I know Kali.  And they don’t have to if they don’t want to.

But just in case you do, here’s the link.

p.s.  thanks to all the volunteers at Taiwan Pawprint Dog-Friendly Society (TPDS), Rescued Love From Taiwan, and True Love Rescue for all the work they do match loving Goldens with families like mine in Northern California.


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.


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


Kali smiling because wine makes mom and dad happy


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


Kali right after Kloe deadpanned a hilarious joke.


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

The Outdoor Bath Tub

Of the many canine friendly amenities at Kali’s new mountain house there is one that will make both our lives easier about once a month.  The outdoor bath tub.  The previous owners were dog lovers like us.  They had three of their own and many things in and around the house were very clearly designed to be dog friendly and safe.

The tub was pretty dirty from winter and not being used for some time and I finally got around to cleaning it today. The out door bath tub is located adjacent to the stand alone garage up the hill from the house.   I headed up the to garage with some cleaning supplies and Kali followed along.

I was only planning on cleaning the tub – not Kali.  But that all changed as I as I finished cleaning and looked over to my right to see Kali laying down in a large puddle of mud.  It’s been pretty hot the past several days and I’m sure the cool muddy water felt very good to her.  I look over at Kali and start to laugh.  Kali looks up and smiles as if to say, “Hey Dad – this is great!  A girl needs spa treatment every now and then and this mineral laced mud and mountain water will do wonders for my skin and completion.”

So what better way to christen the outdoor bath tub than on a warm Sunday afternoon enjoying Kali’s new life in the mountains.


The tub and Kali’s “mineral springs” to the right


I love this place


Can I get a Pedi next?

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.




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.


Kloe, sitting with the red collar


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

Reluctant Participant

We used to joke about our last Golden, Bailey, that he was more like cat than a dog.  He was scared of water, hated getting his feet wet, and  would rather sit on your lap than roll around on the grass or tromp through the mud.   My kids were still kids when Bailey, a rescue from NorCal Golden Retriever Rescue, joined our family.  At 18 months he was more like a kitty happily curling up with the kids on their beds, or with the cat Panda.

baileyMBM young

My son Michael Brandon and his “Birthday Present” Bailey at 5th grade show and tell



About 6 years later Bailey and Panda Cuddle Time

When Bailey passed seven years ago I never thought another dog could capture my heart and soul like Bailey did.  Although Bailey was technically my son’s dog as the years passed Bailey and I grew closer and closer together, especially after my son went away to college.  He was my best friend and I thought he could never be replaced.

And then there was, and is, Kali.

Kali, a lot like Bailey, jumped out to me in a picture on the internet and I immediately knew she belonged with Holly and I.  My search of shelters on the (fledgling) internet in 1998 when I was looking for a dog for my son came up with Bailey.  I immediately called the number and it all worked out.  Fast forward to Kali sixteen years later and as I looked at the newly posted photos on the Rescued Love From Taiwan‘s Facebook page, I saw Kali and in a nanosecond knew we were meant for each other.  I called to Holly, “Come here, I found our dog”.  Holly looked at Kali and immediately agreed.  We called and got first in line for Kali who would travel within a couple of months from Taiwan to our home in Northern California.

And Kali is a bit, or a lot depending on how I measure, like Bailey.  Part cat part dog.  Kali is totally indifferent to water with paws seemingly impervious to water and mud but not inclined to chase squirrels, birds, or cats.  She’ll sleep in a 90 degree sun but would rather be inside on the cool tile than digging a spot in the yards cool dirt to take a nap.  I love Kali for who and what she is but I can’t help but get her to be a little more like a “dog” once in a while.

I love seeing Kali roll around in the grass when we walk on the golf course fairways adjacent to our creek trail.  But mostly I love seeing her run, gallop really.  She’s not fast, she’s a little clumsy, and with her mellow demeanor she is sometimes a reluctant participant.  But when I tell her to chase the geese she does it because she loves me and wants to make me happy.  And this is the distinction that assures us she is a dog.  Because a cat would never chase geese especially if it was your idea.

An Uneventful Reunion

I think the earth is spinning faster.  How else do you account for the fact that Christmas is less than two weeks away and I haven’t even begun shopping for Kali Holly yet?   We got back from spending Thanksgiving with my son and his wife in Illinois, picked up Kali, and in a blink of an eye we’re looking Santa straight in the eye.  Yikes.

Kali’s six-day stay with Bucky and Callie while we were in Illinois was great.  In retrospect it was probably good for us both to have a little “away from each other time”.  After the first day I stopped texting her every hour partly because she didn’t respond but mostly because I knew she was in good hands with my dear friend Colleen and her two pups Callie and Bucky.

While I was on a plane Kali was at the park romping and wrestling with Bucky, the one year old golden lab.  While I was fighting the luggage carousel at O’hare Kali was being lavished with love from Auntie Colleen.   And while I was driving south from Chicago three hours  to Southern Illinois in the rain Kali was sleeping in front of the fireplace with Callie the 11 year old chocolate lab.  I want to be Kali!…

Holly and I had a great holiday week with my son and his wife and Kali had a great vacation with her new cousins.  The night after we arrived home I woke up and tried to be “cool” and not be all about going to pick up Kali.  At 3:30 am I asked Holly if she was ready to go get Kali.  She rolled over, punched me in the stomach and said “no, go back to sleep – it’s still night time and Auntie Colleen will kill you if you knock on her door this early”.  I tried again at 4:30, unsuccessfully,  and with a bloody nose went back to sleep now resigned to wait until first light to go get my Golden Kali.

Around 10:30 am we headed out to get Kali.  My car can go fast; real fast, but I kept it under 100 80 MPH on the 20 mile journey because I was still remaining “cool” and Holly said she would punch me in the stomach and nose again if I went any faster.

We get to Auntie Colleen’s, I knock on the door and Colleen’s husband Gary lets us in.  “They’re on a walk, come on in”.  “Wha..!  My Kali girl hasn’t been up since 3:30 waiting for me to pick her up?!?  She hasn’t been miserable without me?   Morning of day six and the day I pick her up and she’s on a “walk”?

After about 10 minutes Auntie Colleen comes in with about 220 pounds of dogs in tow; Bucky, Callie, and my Golden Kali.

I see Kali.  Kali sees me.  The moment I’ve been thinking about since I knew we’d be leaving her and more recently since 3:30 that morning.

Kali:  ” Hey Dad.  Bucky’s pretty cool and Callie has the same name as me but she spells it funny.  I’m gonna go play now.  See ya’…”

That’s it?  After six days of separation anxiety and 2000 miles all I get is a “Hi Dad”?

And that’s how it goes with kids.  And pups.

And for this uneventful reunion I am grateful to my dear friend Colleen and so proud of Kali.

But mostly proud of myself for staying in bed at 3:30, and 4:30, and for staying under 100 MPH.


New Cousins



Five slightly less Golden days

Well it’s been almost five days and I think I made it.  But I still have about 20 hours to go….

Holly and I went to visit my son and his wife in Chicago for Thanksgiving.  Admittedly it was very stressful for me to think about leaving Kali behind for five days.  We’re fortunate to have a dear friend with two dogs of her own who offered to watch Kali while we were gone.

Our friend Colleen has two very nice dogs of her own: Bucky, a one year old golden lab who is as full of spunk and energy as you would expect.  The other dog is Callie, a Chocolate lab around 11 years and a little slower and full of love.  Bucky and Callie live in a dog house.  By that I mean, like Kali and Smokey, Colleen’s home is all about the dogs with human family members embracing them as family members of the highest status.  They took Kali in with welcome and loving arms and for that I will be forever grateful.

From the regular texts Colleen sent to me it sounds like Kali had a full week of walks, playing in the park with her new fur-cousins, and lots and lots of sleeping in front of the fire place.  In the photo below , not surprisingly, Bucky the youngster of the group wanted no part of sitting sill for the picture in front of the fire place where the dogs’ fluffy beds were laid out.  Kali and Callie had no such problem after a long walk and lots of rolling around and wrestling at the park.


Kali and Callie in front of the fire.  But where’s Bucky?

Kali has never been away from us for this long before so it will be fun to see her reaction (and mine) when we pick her up in the morning.  Meanwhile, I sit at ORD writing this post thinking that tomorrow can’t get here fast enough.

Sleep tight Golden Kali and I’ll see you in the morning.


Camp Bow Wow

As Holly and I sat and searched for airline flights the “rubber met the road”.  We’d be gone for four nights while visiting our son and his wife in Illinois and this was a trip that Kali could not come along on.  Admittedly it was very hard for me to push the “buy now” button as I sat there looking Virgin America’s website. Hard because as soon as the button was pushed I would be  pushed to find overnight accommodations for Kali.  This would be hard for me.

Kali has never spent the night away from both Holly and I.  Collectively, there have only been five or six nights since Kali arrived 16 months ago when Holly or I have been gone for the night.   There has never been a time when we were both gone for the night.

  So as I pushed the button the proverbial rubber met the proverbial road…

A big part of my anxiety about leaving Kali for several nights stems from the social anxiety she has when first meeting new dogs.   And then some – a lot? -of the anxiety is just the fact that we will be apart for so long and as much as I will miss her I worry that she will miss us even more and be scared.  [Cut to shot of parent with unfounded worries dropping their child off for first day of school….]

Kali and I have been working on lowering her anxiety level around other dogs since she arrived from Taiwan.  There’s been steady progress and while there haven’t been a lot of opportunities for group socialization we’ve used our daily walks to reinforce polite and calm behavior when we encounter other dogs along our way.   At first it was hard work and took a lot of patience on both our parts.   More recently our fellow walkers and dog owners are commenting on how well behaved Kali is.   We’ve seen many of them for over a year now and they can tell how far she’s come, often commenting about her progress.

Recently Kali and I crossed paths with a neighbor whose dog has similar social challenges but this dog seems more aggressive than anxious.  As we got closer I guided Kali to the side of the trail and quickly gained her attention buy saying “watch!”, Watch is a word she has come to know and love because it usually means a treat will follow.  Upon “watch” she immediately gives me her her undivided attention and stares into my eyes.  We passed by the neighbor and her dog without incident and as we did I rewarded her with “good Kali” and give her the treat.  This calm interaction is now very common place which is rewarding.  As we passed by I heard the neighbor say to her dog, “See, now that’s a good dog. Why can’t you be like her?”  It was gratifying in some ways to hear that but I also felt bad for my neighbor who was frustrated and even worse for her dog who was not getting the direction and training from his mom that he needed.  Her primary source of control seemed to be pulling on his leash while he lunges and she yells, “no, no, bad dog”.

So back to the tickets…  Now that they were purchased I switched gears and considered my options for housing Kali while we were gone:  Boarding, house sitter, or maybe have her stay with a friend.  At this point I wasn’t sure.

I decided to look into boarders in the area first.  After considering a few I found Camp Bow Wow within a couple of miles from our home.  Camp Bow Wow offers Doggie Day Care, Spa services, and overnight boarding.  The dogs are campers, the staff are counselors, and the overnight crates are cabins.  You get the idea.  It’s a national chain and the facility near our home has fantastic reviews on Google, Yelp, and everywhere else I looked.  Holly and went to visit (without Kali) and we were impressed with the staff, the cleanliness, the multiple indoor and outdoor areas, the approach to managing 60 to 120 dogs at any given time, large “cabins” for overnight boarding, and the web cams available to see how your dog is doing during day time hours.    They also make sure that all Campers have documented and current vaccines.

The Counselor we spoke with told us there was an interview process to determine if Kali was a candidate for their camp. We liked that because dogs who are aggressive or otherwise unsuited for this environment would not be eligible.  But what about Kali and how she tends to bark at other dogs when she first encounters them?  I wouldn’t be there to say “Watch” and gain her attention and hep her to stay calm.  She’d be on her own and have to socialize and work things out on her own.  Uh-oh…  {Cue parent sitting in car around the block from first day of school unsuccessfully using rear view mirror to try to see their child on the playground…]

A few days later I took Kali in for her “interview”.  A counselor took her away and said that she would take Kali to meet separately  with a similar sized female dog, and then a similar sized male dog.  That was the first step.  If she did ok she would go into the large play area for dogs over 35 pounds. They asked me to wait and then off she went.

The counselor returned within a few minutes and said she did fine.  She told me that Kali barked a couple of times but allowed the dogs to sniff and check her out and she did the same to them.  She pointed to the web cam screens they have in the lobby and said, “There she is – see her?”.  And there was Kali in the middle of the yard with around 20 other dogs sniffing and checking out the newbie.  She seemed to reciprocate and was relatively calm and – wait for it – was having fun.

I left Kali at Camp for about five hours and checked in on the web cams from home frequently.  I was pleased to see her playing chase, sniffing around the yard, and at times just lying down observing.  When I picked her up I scheduled another two days for her to go back next week.  We’ll work up to an overnightnstay within a couple of weeks.  I realize now that I’ve been “the leaf in the drain” that has slowed Kali’s socialization.  I’m a worrier, a protector, and admittedly a controller.  So this was much more of a growth experience for me than Kali.  I get that now.  Holly’s been telling me that for months and of course she has been right.

As we left Camp the counselor handed me a folder with a certificate indicating that Kali had successfully passed the Canine Camper Interview and is now welcome to attend Doggy Day Camp and Overnight Camp.  Proud dad for sure.

Happy Camper

Happy Camper

Kali is now an official Camp Bow Woe Camper and we’ll continue to have periodic visits to Camp for further socialization.

As it turns out a friend of mine who has two pups of her own was eager to have Kali as a guest and we’ll be meeting up next week to do a meet and greet for Kali and her dogs.  We’ll do this a couple of times before we travel to Illinois.   With Kali’s emerging social skills I think she will do just fine.  As for me missing her, well, let’s just say it will be a good growing experience for me too.