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

Remembering Bailey

I was cleaning out some files today and came across a few small pages from a notebook that I immediately recognized.  The pages were dated 3/27/20o9 the day after Bailey, our first Golden Retriever, was put down.   The notes were made after my morning run (wow – I was still running back in “those days”) and recorded my experience during that particular run.

I’m transcribing the notes verbatim here (with a few clarifications in brackets) not as a way to say, “oh poor me – I still miss him so much” (although I do!) but because I know many Golden Kali followers may have lost a beloved pet at some point and probably have their own stories and experiences to share.  In the end what I experienced during this particular run was incredibly cathartic and helped with my grieving process.

By the way the trail I was running on is the trail that would five years later become Kali’s “Creek Trail” that we shared so many great times walking along before moving out of the area.

So here it is….

Went for a run along the golf course – normal path. Went all the ay to the end.  Felt very strong not he way out and for most the the run.  The conditioning is evident.  Should try to expand the distance over time = much of the challenge is mental.

I thought about Bailey throughout much of the run. I sobbed from time to time as I kept “seeing” him on the table [at the vet] getting the injection.  His eyes – I hope he knew as he went down forever that what we did was out of love.

On the way back [way back home on my run] I was in a pretty good zone.  An upbeat song was on the iPod and I was gliding along at a good clip.   I pictured Bailey running freely at full stride like he did from time to time after a cat in the neighborhood.  I saw him in a field of green with blue skies – much like the weather today.  It was like a daytime dream almost – maybe the endorphins (?)  but I was watching, not controlling the vision as you would with a thought. It was more like a dream…

I saw Bailey running, running and then he jumped up into my dad’s arms [my dad had passed away about 15 years before].  Bailey was so happy!  My dad was happy. I said out loud, “you found him! Bailey you found Papa [Papa is what my kids called my dad].  

I started crying and I was so happy. I was so happy for Bailey.  the “dream” started to fade a little but I could still see him and replayed it in my head several times the rest of the way home.  It was a good release and I hope it last and helps how lonely the house felt this morning.

To this day I still miss Bailey.  He was a birthday present for my son when he turned 10 and as the years passed when my son went to College Bailey and I became very close.  He was a great friend and companion at a time that my kids were growing and moving on with their lives.  My kids always came home but Bailey never actually left – he was always with me and remains so to this day.


Bailey in his senior years.  To this day this picture remains the desktop image on my computer.



In a moment of weakness, and just to see what would happen, I patted the top of the bed and said, “Kali- up”.  To my surprise Kali’s eyes and ears perked up and she seem interested.  She took a half step back and then lunged forward placing only her front paws on the bed.  She then made a (feeble) attempt to spring up with her hind quarters and failed miserably.  Kali is not a good jumper…  So in a second moment of weakness I lifted her butt and she was on the bed.  She settled quickly and was – as they say – out like a light.

Kali has a very comfortable bed that sits on ground next to my side of our bed.  Kali loves her bed.  If it is later than 8:00 pm Kali longs for her bed and patiently waits for us to retire up stairs so she can collapse on her comfy cushy bed totally spent from a  long day of naps in the sun and frequent trips to the kitchen to see “whaz up” each time refrigerator door opens.

So there she laid on our bed, she is immediately fast asleep, and Holly say’s, “I’m ok with it; there’s plenty of room on my side.”   She was right.  But my side, not so much.  I have to admit it was pretty cool to have Kali on the bed in between Holly and I.  She was a very good bedmate sleeping quietly with no snoring, no squirming, and no, er how do I say… Free Air Roaming Throughout (FART).  As I settled down to sleep it was reminiscent of when Panda the cat would sleep next to me and I would put my hand on his chest and feel the rumbling of his purring which was calming to me and helped me to fall asleep.  With this in mind I put my hand down to touch Kali but all I got was butt since she was facing the foot of the bed and obviously much larger than Panda.  Still it was nice to have her so near as I drifted off to sleep.

As is my usual pattern I woke up around 2:00 am and got up to drink water.  Kali is sound asleep in pretty much the same position she was at lights out four hours earlier.  But when I returned to bed there seemed to be significantly less foot room down where my legs and feet go.   I felt as though I had been on long flight, got up to use the rest room only to return to my seat and find I’d been downgraded from business class to coach.  But no worries, I suck, it up and hang one leg off the side of the bed and try to get comfortable.  After a few more minutes still awake I push Kali towards the center to make room for my legs.  This helped and we were both back to sleep within moments.

Then around 5:30 am we wake up to heavy breathing.  No, it’s to what you may be thinking (nudge nudge).  It’s our 58 pound Golden Kali panting heavily because she’s hot and probably thirsty from the long flight in business class. We’re (Holly and I) awake now and Holly “invites” Kali down to the ground  Kali looks at the floor and tries to comply but apparently the jump down is too far for her and she hesitates.  Holly ends up picking her up and sets her on the ground and Kali settles down on her own bed.  So it’ all good for about an hour until the heavy breathing begins again – this time right in my face from the side of the bed directly from Kali’s snout.

“Hey Dad”, Kali seems to say.  “Cool sleeping in the bed last night; I really liked it until it got real hot and starting panting.  By the way, your feet were pressing into my ribs most of the night until you got water at 2:00 am. When you got back to bed I sensed some resentment and maybe some regret about asking me onto your bed.  Just saying…”

So Kali and I rise at 6:30, actually later than usual, go down stairs and begin our day: we go outside to pee (Kali not me),  come inside to eat (Kali not me), drink coffee and read the sports section (me not Kali) then – depending on my work schedule – out for our walk.

So my moment of weakliness and whim yielded no harm no foul but from here on out Kali will stay on the ground floor  while Holly and I occupy the mezzanine level.   I think Kali and her sore ribs will be just fine with that.


I’m Still Kicking Myself: Epilogue

I’m no longer kicking myself and I managed to correct the mistake; the mistake of cutting Kali’s dew claw in a manner that it split and exposed the quick. So me with a sore butt from kicking myself and Kali with a slightly sore foot are finally doing better and are back to our routine. This is a good thing since we are both such creatures of habit.

As suspected the entire nail had to come off. So after the vet examined the nail on Monday afternoon I left Kali with her. I was very proud of Kali who let the vet examine her nail without flinching or making a fuss. The biscuit I held in front of her nose didn’t hurt the effort… Brenda, Kali’s new vet, said she’d be ready to pick up at 5:00 (Kali not Brenda  🙂 So I left Kali, went home, and watched the final innings of the San Francisco Giants home opener on TV.  I was surprised that I wasn’t stressed or worried. I don’t like anesthesia. Even with the modern technology to monitor blood oxygen levels mistakes can happen and if there isn’t enough oxygen flowing through the blood to the brain there can be irreversible damage. But I wasn’t worried and the only stress I had in my body was from watching my Giants losing the game.

When Holly and I arrived to pick up Kali the med tech told us what a great patient she was. I was like a proud dad talking to the doctors after a child’s tonsillectomy. The med tech brought Kali out and she had a major wrap job on her foot. She was happy to see us and was released with some antibiotics, pain meds to be used only if she needed them (she didn’t), and no restrictions for activity beyond the first night of “taking it easy”.

When we got home it was evident that Kali was still a little loopy from the anesthesia. She had a blank stare about her and when she lied down and fell asleep she had major dreams and was growling off and on in her sleep.

Although it was little hard for her to walk up the stairs that night she slept soundly through the night and by morning all was well. We took a couple of short walks with the bandage on the next day.   It probably felt a little strange to her to walk along the path with a artificially padded foot but she did fine and was glad to be back on the trail.

Last night I took off the bandages. It was really cool to watch Kali as I unwrapped all the bandages, tape,and padding the medical staff had compressed around the wound area. Although she was never in any pain Kali was not real pleased about her foot being wrapped. As I unraveled and removed the bandages she looked up at me and seemed to say thank you for getting all the “stuff” off her foot.

So today for the first time in almost two weeks we walked without a cracked nail, blood, or a bandage. Kali walked, I walked.  And for the first time in almost two weeks I didn’t kick myself.

Golden Kali (and Dad) is back!

Wrapped (looks a little like those socks the race horses wear - kinda cool!)

Wrapped (looks a little like those socks the race horses wear – kinda cool!)

Unwrapped (looks like we got our money's worth)

Unwrapped (looks like we got our money’s worth)

After the procedure and bandages off

After the procedure and bandages off

Nine Months and Thinking…

As I pass the nine month mark with Kali I find myself a little concerned that she is too dependent on, or attached to me. But I think that’s just me being me.  I’m a worrier. I want everything perfect for those that I love the most. In Kali’s case I want to know that she is happy whether she is with me or not.  She is mostly by my side which is exactly what I had envisioned when I began seriously considering adoption a couple of years ago.
We bonded the instant I attached her leash to her collar and took her out of the crate last May when she arrived from Taiwan. Thinking back it’s quite remarkable how she almost imprinted on me like a duckling does on its mother as it emerges from its shell.

Kali is tuned in to my movements, my general routine, and watches and waits for signals that something is about to happen.  Like the signals for our walk.  She’s even learned to not get fooled and that just because I’m putting on my shoes and grabbing a jacket this doesn’t always mean that it’s time for a walk.  I’m not sure what nuance she sees but I must do something different when preparing for our walk versus preparing to leave the house for some other reason.  A sure-fire signal to Kali that the walk is on comes when I tell her to get her collar which is usually laying where we left it the night before during cuddle time.  I’ll say, “get your collar” (sometimes I have to point to it) and she’ll pick it up and bring it to me. This is very satisfying for both of us!  I’m proud that she is smart and she is happy that the walk is on.

And so it was this morning.  She grabbed her collar, I grabbed a jacket and we were on our way.

The elements for a walk were just about perfect this morning.  The 41 degree air was still and crisp, the sun was shinning, and the path was quiet.  On walks like this I find myself wishing we lived in the mountains at about 5,000 foot elevation and that our walk was among the pines instead of the neighborhood creek trail.  Day dreaming, I imagine ourselves walking through the pines with a trace of snow on the ground from an earlier storm, the smell of pine prominent, and occasional wafts of wood fire coming from homes that spread out far enough from one another to offer intimate privacy and close enough for community.  We’d explore until we were content or too cold and then return to a warm fire back home.

Of course when one lives in Northern California, where the average annual low temperature is 50 degrees – rarely getting below 30- it’s easy to romanticize living in an area away from suburbia, less populated, and with less infrastructure. I’m grateful for all that we have and never take our blessings for granted.  But I’m human and it’s easy to fantasize about a simple and slower paced life.

Then I begin to feel guilty.  I feel guilty for allowing myself to want anything more or different from what I all ready have. Because what I have is a life filled with good health, a loving family, friends, and wonderful canine friend that is dependent on, and attached to me.  I fell guilty because while I walk along suburbia in relatively warm weather much of the country is experiencing debilitating conditions making it difficult or even impossible to get to work or school; just waiting for a break in weather in order to able to dig out and clean up in time for the next storm to arrive.

But wait – that’s not so bad.  What about the hundreds of millions of people in third world countries. They’d be happy to have a twelve-foot snow bank to dig out of knowing there was a Ford or Mercedes somewhere underneath that snow, food in the fridge, and oil in the furnace. Or those in countries torn apart by political strife and war who would gladly trade the bombs and terrorist threats for extreme temperatures and a living wage.

There is a song by the late Beatle, John Lennon, called “God”.  The opening lyrics are, “God is a concept by which we measure our pain”

“God is a concept by which we measure our pain”.

He repeats that line and then goes on to cite a litany of things or people he doesn’t believe in; the Bible, Buddha, Elvis, Kennedy, and so on. Then he sings, “Just believe in me”.

My take-away from this song has always been that one can make themselves feel really good or really bad about their lives depending on who or what they compare themselves to.

Bombs are not going off in my neighborhood – my life is great.  I’m not independently wealthy and playing golf in Hawaii – my life sucks.

So today I will enjoy, without guilt, my Golden Kali, the spring-like weather in Northern California, the crisp morning air, and the peaceful neighborhood creek trail that has been inspiring in many ways over the past nine months. I will also be cognizant of how fortunate I am and that there are others around me and around the world who may have far greater challenges than I can ever imagine or appreciate. And, as much as I’d like to make a difference for those people, my good fortune is nothing I should feel guilty about and has no impact on their happiness.



The Lighted Angel Ritual

Kali was disappointed. She tried not to let on but I could see it in her eyes. “This is it?”, she seemed to say. “This is the big deal?”

In a recent post I mentioned a fall ritual that involved setting up a lighted Angel in front of our house to mark the beginning of the holidays. This year, as with most, the ritual took place the day before Thanksgiving. The ritual has been greatly streamlined over the years from strands and strands of of lights and yard decorations to a simple lighted Angel. The children are all adults now and only one still lives at home. The first year that there was an absence of lights on the house and just the angel one of my boys was home for a visit. He asked me about the lights; why weren’t they up? What about tradition? I invited him to go into the shed to dig out the box of lights and yard ornaments, get the ladders out, and get to work. He said something like, “the angel looks nice”. And that was that.

So on Wednesday Kali and I headed out to the shed to get the angel, check her lights, and get her positioned and secured in front of the house. In my romantic version of this ritual the day is cold and damp, the skies are dark with rain threatening, the shed is on the “back 40” requiring a pre-dawn start in order to finish the job by sundown, and a flask full of brandy is in my hip pocket for purposes of warmth and motivation.

The "back 40" (in my mind)

The “back 40” (in my mind)

It’s fun to romanticize about a cold and harsh fall ritual with a lighted angel but in the spirit of honesty here is what really went down this year with Kali and the lighted angel ritual.

Kali and I head to the shed to get the angel. The shed is not on the Back 40. We don’t have a Back 40. I don’t think I have ever been on a Back 40… the shed sits about 30 feet from the front yard and is easily accessed from the backyard. It’s 2:00 pm, the sky is clear and blue with no rain forecast for at least a week. The outside temperature is 74 degrees. I consider getting some brandy but opt for a beer instead. After all, it’s 74 degrees out and with the low sun feels more like 80! Kali is already suspecting that I misled her. She was really looking forward to the Back 40…

I didn't sign up for this...

I didn’t sign up for this…

OK, so Kali has the stakes and hammer and we set off to secure that angel in place. But wait, it’s 74 degrees and the rose bushes think it’s spring. We’ll need to do a little pruning first.

I didn't sign up for this either

I didn’t sign up for this either

Kali’s endurance (interest) is less than anticipated so she needs a break. She opts to take the break on the “Front 0.16”.

Union dog taking her "15 minutes"

Union dog taking her “15 minutes”

The Angel is finally secured, my beer is empty, and Kali of course proudly accepts thanks for a job well done.

I did it all by myself - where's my brandy?

I did it all by myself – where’s my brandy?

Later that night Kali invites Smokey out to see the fruits of all her hard work.

I look good under lights don't I?

I look good under lights don’t I?

Kali and Smokey chilin' in the mild evening air

Kali and Smokey chilin’ in the mild evening air

And yes Kali, this is the big deal.


This weekend marks six months since the grand arrival of Nala and 23 of her Taiwanese foster brothers and sisters. When I mentioned this to Kali this morning she looked at me as if to say, “who’s Nala?” and promptly went back to sleep. I nudge her and ask, “Don’t you remember being called Nala before you arrived from Taiwan in America and joined our family?”. Kali: “Zzzzzz”.

“Come on Kali – you must remember. This was a big deal for you. It was a life changing event”.

Kali looks up at me and with her big sweet brown eyes now open wide and keenly alert. She’s sits up and stares directly into my eyes. Her breathing quickens. Her head tilts slightly When I ask again if she remembers once being Nala. Kali opens her mouth and to my amazement she speaks. I mean actually speaks words. In clear distinct voice she says, “You realize I’m a dog right? So while there may be a chance that at some emotional or instinctive level I remember this event you refer to and this thing called Nala it’s highly unlikely that I can intellectualize the experience. It’s even more unlikely that I can articulate my thoughts in a way that would be understandable to a human. I mean no disrespect and of course I love you more than you’ll ever know. But, as I said, I am a dog. You do know that right…?”

At this point this post could go in several directions. Which makes most sense to you?

The Obvious Ending
“..you do know that right?” I wake up and look over at Kali still sound asleep even thought the light is beginning to shine in though the blinds. I’ve always had very vivid dreams and can remember many of the dream’s details even weeks and months after waking up. This dream with Kali was pretty cool but honestly speaking I don’t know if would really want her to talk. I was a little intimidated by Kali’s masterful command of the language and frequent usage of five syllable words. Then there was the cleverly ironic manner in which she used those big words to tell me that it was crazy to believe she could rationalize her own emotions. And frankly, I was a little put off by her posh British accent. I mean, where the heck did that come from?

The Practical Ending
“..you do know that right?” It’s fun to muse about dogs talking but there are a lot of situations where it would be very cool to have a real conversation with your dog. What if they could understand relatively complex concepts. For example time. If only Kali could understand what I mean when I tell her, “We’ll go for our walk later.” This way she’d know that I haven’t forgotten. I can hear a rational Kali responding with something like, “Ok, I’ll take another nap and you let me know when you’re ready.”

It would also be helpful at certain times if dogs could articulate their desires and emotions with words. For example, Kali: ” I know you don’t like me eating the decorative figs that fall on the ground but if you would pick them up more regularly I wouldn’t be tempted”. I’d know that she was trying and not simply ignoring me, but it would be helpful if the figs weren’t there to tempt her.

Or, Me: “What’s bothering you? You seem a little lethargic today.” Kali: “I ate a couple of those dried up figs that you keep forgetting to pick up. Oh, yeah and I ate some of a green apple that fell on the ground this morning. My stomachs just a little upset. After I eat some grass I’ll be fine”. Worries mitigated and trip to the vet avoided.

Kali’s Ending
..you do know that right?” Then I snap out of my silly day dreaming and see Kali asleep at my feet. “Nala” I whisper. Kali looks up at me and thumps her tail on the ground. She does remember! Then I whisper, “Kali”. Same result, thump thump. “Agnes”. Again, same result.

And then it hits me. “Kali”, I say, “you respond to all the words I say. I don’t have to say walk. All I need to do is get up and put my shoes on. When we come to a street crossing I stop and you sit without me saying a word. You read my body language. When I do give a command you respond because whether you recognize the word or not you read my body language. You stare into my eyes waiting for me to tell you what I want and when I want it and you are always glad to oblige. So, I guess we do have real conversations, don’t we. Maybe it’s not so absurd after all that dogs could talk.”

Kali smiles and I see a thought bubble over her head:

“At last, he’s thinking like a dog. I’ve made good progress with my new dad over the last six months. He’s very trainable and definitely a keeper. My foster brothers and sisters would be so proud of me. I hope they’ve made as much progress with training their American families as I have with mine. Hey Dad – I’m looking at your eyes. Tell me what to do next ’cause I’m ready when you are”.

Oh yeah, all right  Take it easy baby  Make it last all night  She was an American girl - Tom Petty

Oh yeah, all right
Take it easy baby
Make it last all night
She was an American girl
– Tom Petty