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

Life Goes On…

…without Kali.

Life does go on. It’s a trite saying. A phrase, usually well intentioned, thats used when something bad has happened to remind the person feeling bad that their life can’t stop because of the bad thing or event. And it can’t.

In the case of Kali it is true that life has gone on for the rest of the pack. But I would not characterize the fact that Kali is gone as a bad thing, per se. I do miss her. I still consciously look for her when I enter the room or am handing out treats. I wake up at night and remember that she won’t be there in the morning. I’ve spent a lot of time over the past two plus weeks reminiscing about her. I’ve looked at hundreds of photos of her. But in the grand scheme of life (and death) while it wasn’t a bad thing, it wasn’t good either. But, it was the right thing to do. And once I began listening to Kali with my heart, instead of my ego that told me I could be her superman and savior forever, I knew it was right.

The days since Kali has been gone have been mostly normal. The out pouring of love, empathy, and well wishes from friends, fellow bloggers that follow The Golden Kali Blog, and social media connections has been heartwarming to say the least! There were a lot of special messages that meant so much to me. There was even one very special blogger friend (you know who you are!) that did some super sleuthing to find my home address and sent a beautiful hand painted card with a loving message inside.

I didn’t know how the Red Girls (Kloe and Koda) would react to Kali’s absence from the pack.

Neither Kloe or Koda have had a life without Kali. Kloe was 9 weeks old when we brought her home and Kali was a great surrogate mama for her. When Kloe was down for almost a year with her CCL injuries and surgery she was often sequestered from Koda and Kali. During that time Koda and Kali bonded quite a bit. In recent months Koda seemed to know Kali was struggling and in need of help. She watched over Kali. Several months ago Koda came running up to us barking and doing that Lassie “Timmy’s in the well” kinda of thing. She coaxed us to come to another part of the yard and sure enough there was Kali stuck and unable to get up. So I expected Kali’s absence might have an effect on Koda.

But it’s been Kloe who seems to notice a difference in the Pack. There were a few meals early on when given the release to go to her bowl Kloe hesitated. She looked around as if to say “where’s Kali? We can’t start without Kali…” Or perhaps I’m just projecting.

I thought I might have some moments but really didn’t until…

There was just one time I became outwardly emotional. I went to pick up Kali’s ashes at the vet. The receptionist looked a little uncomfortable when I told here why I was there. Her voice became tentative and here eyes looked sad, or maybe scared that I was going to break down. But I was upbeat and told her it was all fine. I think I put her at ease. She came back with a beautiful dark brown wooden case with a gold plaque on the front with Kali’s name and a card.

I went to my truck and with Kali’s ashes sitting beside me I opened the card. The card told he story about the Rainbow Bridge and how all the animals are once again healthy, play and run together, enjpy warm sunshine, lots of food, and are happy. I’ve always enjoyed the imagery of the Rainbow Bridge. But as I sat reading the card the last part got the best of me. It says:

The day comes when [during play] one [of the pets] suddenly stops and looks into the distance. Her bright eyes are intent. Her eager body quivers. Suddenly she begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, her legs carrying her faster and faster. You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart. Then you cross the Rainbow Bridge together…

Sitting in my truck with Kali’s ashes in my hands I lost it. I was overcome by the imagery and I weeped and cried out loud. It felt so good to have an emotional release for my special girl. A moment of retrospection and gratitude for all Kali gave me especially in the end when she gave me the courage to let her go and know that life does go on.

Until we meet again on the bridge sweet girl, my Kalimazoo, my Kalis Marie, my Golden Kali.

Life Without Kali

And then there were two…..

In the end it was not as hard a decision to make as I thought it would be. Not easy, but not hard because it was the right thing to do. This past Saturday my sweet Golden Kali took her final breath as she lay next to Holly and I in our home. It was very peaceful and she left this world with dignity and grace.

I’ve been preparing for this moment for quite some time as I’ve watched Kali age rapidly over the past year.

Kali had begun slowing down significantly over the past year with decreasing mobility.   It was mostly her rear legs and hips.  She started having problems getting up and down and staying on her feet several months ago.  When she did get up she would often times fall.   Cataracts clouded her eyes and the poor vision often left her confused as to her where-abouts.  Her appetite did remain strong and she enjoyed being with me on the days I worked from home.   But more recently she seemed confused and while in no visible pain, she was uncomfortable and restless when she wasn’t sleeping.  

After a nudge from a dear friend, and deep soul searching and discussion the day after Christmas with Holly, I decided to follow the advice I have given so many other dog owners when I hear of a situation with their senior dog.  And that is, “one of the last and greatest gifts we give our dogs is to take them out of their pain and let them go”.  While I don’t believe Kali was in any real pain her tank was empty and her eyes told me it was time to let her go.  So I did.

This past Saturday, New Years Day 2022, our vet Tanya, who has become as much a friend as she is the vet for our three girls, came to our home to administer to Kali. Tanya, Holly, and I sat with Kali who was very relaxed as the three of us just chatted and loved on her.   Tanya administered a sedative and we continued to just be with Kali as she got sleepy.  I whispered a lot of sweet nothings in her ear. So pretty much business as usual in that regard. 🙂  Eventually Tanya gave Kali the injection that put Kali down. I watched her eyes close and felt her take her final breath. As Kali left I harkened our Creek Trail in Livermore where we got to know each other so well in the days and weeks after she arrived from Taiwan.  Kali left this world on our collective terms and I am so grateful for that. I know other dogs and doggie parents don’t always have that grace.

It’s hard to believe that Kali is gone.  I think things may set in and maybe I’ll have a few moments in the days to come.  But for now, like Kali, I am at peace.

Footnote: The Golden Kali Blog was started on May 25th, 2014 the day after Kali arrived from Taiwan. The tag line of this blog at that time was “Kali’s New Life In America”. Two years later we moved to the Sierra Nevada Foothills and the tag line changed to “Kali’s New Life In The Mountains”. The Golden Kali Blog will live on and the tag line, at least for the coming weeks and months, will now be “Life At The Golden K Without Kali”. * The Golden K is what we call our home as a tribute originally to Kali herself and now to her and her two sisters Kloe and Koda.

Kali in her younger days

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.

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

 

Or So It Seems

Kali makes Don feel good.  And that makes me feel good.  Good for Don and good for Kali who is able to make a small difference for someone.  Or so it seems.

Over the years there have been times I’ve felt guilty for having a so much when so many have so little.  I feel as though I should be doing something grandiose to make a difference in the world or at least my community.    It’s been many years since we’ve attended church regularly and even longer since I “went to confession”.   But years ago, when the kids were young and we were quite involved in our Catholic church, I mentioned during a face to face confession with Father Steve that I struggled with the idea that my life was so good and so many people were suffering.  I told him that it pained me to know there were people suffering all around the world and I was doing nothing to help them.  On one had this “confession” was a little random but it represented both my guilt for doing so little and also my hope to be able to somehow do more. Steve was a great guy.  A regular guy and a guy I admired and trusted.  Priests are people and not all priests are great people.  But Steve was and to this day I miss his homilies, the prayerful feeling he could invoke in me, and his practicality.

Father Steve told me to relax.  He knew I was sincere and reminded me that I couldn’t fix the whole world in one fell swoop.  Take small bites he said…  He was right of course.  He made me fell better and more importantly he helped me to understand that it’s the small things that can make a big difference.

There is a “farm house” along the trail Kali and I walk.  It’s not really a farm house but it looks like one and when my kids were little they named it the farm house.  Don lives in the farm house.

Don's

Don’s “Farmhouse” along our trail

Don is an older gentlemen who hangs out on the side of the house, sometimes smoking a cigarette but mostly just looking around and killing time.  Killing time that some older folks do when there is nothing much else going on for them.  Months ago on one of our walks Kali and I stopped to introduce ourselves and since then when we pass by, if Don is out, I say “hello” or “good morning Don” and he usually replies, “how ya’ doin’?”  To which I say, ‘Good Don.  How are you”.  “I’m ok” is his usual reply.  It’s become apparent over the months that Don lives in the farmhouse with one of his children and grand children.  It’s also become apparent that Don has early stages of alzheimer’s disease.  I recognize it because both my mom and my aunt are in the early stages as well.

On a recent walk as Kali and I passed by the farm house on our way home we saw Don and I called out hello.  He answered, “how ya’ doing?”   I said “good” and continued walking along.  As we passed by Don’s eyes followed us and I heard him say, “that’s it?”.  I realized that Don was looking for something more than a hello.  He was looking for a connection, a conversation.  Don wanted to make sure he wasn’t invisible; that he was alive.

Later when I reflected on that brief interaction – or lack of it – Don’s words stuck with me.  “That’s it?”

That’s it?  That’s all there is?  That’s all I get?

Since that day I’ve had several conversations with Don.   If he’s out Kali and I make a point to stop and chat.  I don’t know anything about Don’s life and I don’t ask him about it. Instead I make small talk about the weather or the trail and golf course he looks out on.  Don makes nonsensical talk about his house and who lives in it, about the planes that are flying overhead, and  asks where I live; how far down along the trail.  Kali sits patiently while we talk.  Don has always admired Kali. When Kali and I first started walking by Don would always comment about how pretty she was and what a good dog she was as we came to the street to cross as Kali sits and turns to me.  He’d say, “Now that’s a good dog.  That’s how a dog should behave”.

Today as we passed the Farmhouse Don was out doing his “thing”, which pretty much is doing nothing.  It strikes me now that Don is cognizant enough to feel as though he is a burden and he knows he is in the final stage of his life. I don’t know if this makes his sad or not.  He seems mostly content.  Content.  It’s a word my mom and aunt both use to describe how they feel.  Not happy, not excited or sad, just content.  I think Don goes outside to smell the fresh air and hope that someone on the trail will interact with him, say hello, and maybe – just maybe – stop for a minute to chat.

I was glad to see Don outside yesterday.  I haven’t seen him much lately and I was concerned about him.   It was about 7:30 am, a warm 70 degrees with clear skies and the smells of damp grass in the air from the creek and golf course. I love that smell.  Kali and I walked up to Don and he greeted us.  Don reached down to Kali and petted her, squeezed her neck with both arms while he put his face next to hers.  Kali greeted Don with a major lick all around his face.  Don, standing up and wiping his face says, “That’s ok, I’m ok with that”.  He was beaming.  Don felt alive.  So alive he bent down again and Kali repeated the process.

We chatted for a few minutes.  Don asked me where I lived.  I told him down the trail about a mile.  He looked surprised.  Then he looked over his shoulder towards the farm house and said, “I live there?”.  It was a question.  I said, “yep, that’s your house”.

As Kali and I turned to begin walking back home Don reached down one more time to give Kali a pat on the head.  He smiled broadly.

It’s great to know that on this beautiful morning in paradise that Kali made a difference in Don’s life.  Or so it seems.

Brandy

It all started with Brandy

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Panda

I think she can take them or leave them.  Mostly she leaves them but I wonder at times if Panda were still here would Kali warm up to him.  I think she would.

Panda was a cat who sometimes acted more like a dog than a cat which was fine with me because I’m not a cat person.  In his later years he would spend a lot of time in the backyard; usually late afternoon into the late evening. He’d emerge from under the bed where he spent most of the day sleeping and saunter downstairs and head outside.  He taught himself to open the screen door to the backyard (but never learned how to close it!).  With one or two exceptions he never seemed interested in leaving the yard and when Holly and I were ready to go to bed I would whistle and Panda would come running in.  I’m really  not a cat person but Panda turned out to be a great companion who I miss a lot.  Panda got very sick and we had to put him down about a year and half ago when he was twelve years old.

I miss Panda during the warm evenings outside when he would come and cozy up next to Holly or I as we sat and enjoyed the warm weather.  I especially miss him at night laying next to me on the bed when I can’t sleep.  I miss being able to put my hand on his chest and feel his breathing and the vibrations of his purring.  It would calm me and help to fall back to sleep.  Usually at some point in the early morning he would go downstairs to look out the window and make that crazy erie sound that cats make in their throat when they see something moving in the dark; usually another cat. I miss hearing that sound.  I miss him coming upstairs in the morning to greet me when I get up.  I would usually pick him up and roll him over in my arms and scratch his stomach and rub his nose.  He liked that a lot.

Panda and Bailey, who was a Golden mix, got along just fine and would regularly hang out together.  They both seemed to appreciate one another’s company even snuggling together from time to time.

Panda and Bailey checking out the action in the neighborhood

Panda and Bailey checking out the action in the neighborhood

Panda and Bailey snuggle time

Panda and Bailey snuggle time

Kali seems mostly indifferent to cats but I think she and Panda would have had a great relationship.  After all, like Kali, Panda was an awesome member of our Pack.

2010 spring garden 060

Patrolling the perimeter of the yard

IMG_7813

One giant roar!

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Enjoying the warmth of the sun with Bailey

Alice Morales

The gift of making someone happy is a beautiful thing. The ability to make a sad person smile is an even greater gift. This is true especially if that person is reaching end of life and find themselves sad and tired of living. My Aunt Alice is 89 years old in a skilled nursing facility with a rapidly diminishing mental capacity. Her situation is not uncommon for someone her age. She’s not in any pain or discomfort but not too much makes her smile or laugh.

Except Kali.

Alice doesn’t remember too much about what happens during the day and she sometimes loses context of the world around her. But she always remembers Kali, who she calls Kelly, and refers to her as him. I’ve stopped correcting her on the name and sex because it doesn’t matter. What matters is that Kali makes Alice smile. When Alice sees Kali or thinks about Kali she smiles and seems genuinely happy for those few minutes.

Alice never married but was surrounded with nieces, nephews, and other family members and had a very happy life. But now Alice is ready to die. She’s told me that she wants to go to sleep and not wake up. This makes me sad but I understand.

Until a couple of years ago Alice was very independent, even well into her eighties, using public transportation (she never learned to drive) to run errands and go about her daily life. She maintained her home of 40 years with little help and I always considered her a very strong and determined person – physically and emotionally – even though she is only four feet eight inches tall. It was always a milestone for my kids when as eight or nine year olds they passed Alice in height. She and I would laugh about that as each kid grew taller than her. A low ( so to speak) bar but none-the-less a milestone. At Christmas Alice would decorate her house with hundreds, if not thousands, of decorations. Her home looked like Macy’s department store during the holidays. She had talking decorations, decorations that lit up, four-foot tall animation carolers that sang, and so many glittery shiny objects my kids eyes would spin the first time of the season that we visited Alice’s “Winter Wonderland”.

A couple of years ago Alice became sick and went into the hospital. She recovered but she was unable to move back to her home because she required more personal care. I helped her to move into an assisted living center. As my family and I cleaned out her house and prepared it for sale I found many half finished projects, partially assembled furniture items and tools, gadgets, and appliances. Even at less than 5 feet tall, in her eighties, and using public transportation Alice was determined to not succumb to relying on others to take care of her, her house, or her affairs.

So I understand that now that Alice must rely on caretaker for every-day activities like getting out of bed and walking, she has lost the will to live.

When I visit Alice she smiles as I walk into the room. She loves me and I her. She’s my godmother and she’s been in my life my entire life. We know each other very well. But as I greet her, as much as she loves me, the smile quickly fades and she seems to retreat to the emptiness she feels. But it’s different with Kali. When Kali visits Alice smiles broadly and the smile remains as her eyes are fixed on Kali. “Hi Kelly”, she says as she extends her hand to Kali. Alice remains in the moment and, for these few moments in time of an 89 year life, Alice is happy.

Washing up to smell pretty for Aunt Alice

Washing up to smell pretty for Aunt Alice

Kali is not unique in this ability to deliver happiness but none the less it makes me happy during those moments, and thinking upon it now, that Kali can make someone I love so much who has lost the will to live want to live in those moments.