California Burns

I’ve been trying to post all week and each time I’ve attempted to I find myself for a loss of words.   Well, at least a loss of significant words.

Many thriving communities have been devastated by the numerous wildfires throughout California.  Musing about Kali’s latest adventure or Kloe’s enthusiastic antics are insignificant when compared to the total devastation of  once thriving communities.   Posting  a cute picture of my pups romping around the homestead or cuddling before bed feels like an inappropriate action to take while the news in the background reports stories of people who lost their home or worse, their life.

The Golden K is over a hundred and fifty miles away from the fires raging in Sonoma and Napa counties so we are quite safe, at least from these fires.  I have many friends and colleagues that have been affected in these beautiful wine country towns and cities scattered throughout those counties.  Many evacuated early in the week and the fate of their homes is still in question. Some already know that their home is gone.

The winds have died down in Sonoma and Napa and finally there is some containment in these fires that have scorched over 150,000 acres which translates into 234 square miles.  To put that in perspective the area burned in those counties is greater than the size of San Jose, Denver, and New Orleans or Chicago (to pick just a few major cities).


So I sit here and write with Kali safely asleep and my heart breaks thinking about the lost, confused, and scared pets and live stock who are affected.  Surely many have died as a result of the fires.   My closest friend and family who live a few miles away from Santa Rosa were able to return to their home today.  They are out of danger.  For that I am very thankful. But am keenly aware of the fact that thousands upon thousands of others have no home to return to and worse, some lost their lives trying to escape danger in a fateful early morning of Monday October 9.

This week many of us in the Golden State, especially those who are directly affected, are reminded of what we already knew:  most possessions, even a home, can be replaced.  But a life cannot.

Our heartfelt prayers to all of California from Kali, Kloe, Holly, and Michael.  Alive,  safe, and grateful for our blessings at The Golden K.


Kloe and her red ball

Kloe loves to be outside and loves her red ball.  Although we’ve had a little rain until today the weather has been very mild for Fall with temps in the mid-seventies. Kloe’s taken advantage of this and spends a good part of her day outside although I don’t think the cold or rain would slow her down much.

She’s very attached to this red ball and carries it with her most of the day.  Inside the house as we are going about our business she’ll drop it at our feet and look up at us and with her eyes as if to say, “you know what to do – throw it”.

Although Kloe loves to chase and catch the ball when we’re outside she hasn’t yet got the full hang of dropping it on demand, instead playing coy and bringing it to us and then turning her head coyly away as if to say, “try to get it”.  She eventually drops or we take it, we throw it, and she is off to the races.  Our other pups, including Kali, have had little to no interest in chasing a ball so this is not only a lot of fun for Kloe for a lot of fun for us!

Kloe’s also learned that if she is on an incline she can drop the ball and it rolls away and then she chases after it.  So she plays fetch by herself which is pretty cool.

But mostly Kloe loves to hang outside and wait for us to come out and throw the ball.  It takes her a little while to poop out but eventually she does.


Thought bubble:  “I love to chase this red ball but I also like to play keep away in between throws”.



Thought bubble:  “OK, I’m a little tuckered out, maybe I’ll just rest here in the shade for a bit.


“I guess I was more tired than I thought.  I’ll just lay here and drink my water”

You might wonder what Kali is up to during all this ball throwing, fetching play time, and unconventional water drinking.  Well, mostly a lot of this.


Kali’s thought bubble:  “Zzzzzz”

Sleep Tight Golden Kali

“Off Kali” I said in a calm voice while gently pulling her down and letting her know it wasn’t alright to be on the furniture.  She had walked up to the leather couch in the family room and crawled up.  This happened the second or third day Kali joined our family during the summer of 2014.  Since then she hasn’t been on the couch – at least not when we’re home and that we know of.

We never let Bailey, our previous Golden, on the furniture.  Smokey on the other hand has full rights to be on any piece of furniture he desires: chairs, beds, pillows, under the covers at night, etc.  How unfair is that, right?  Well dogs don’t know fair and Kali has seemed to accept the fact the floor is her domain and the higher ground – such as the leather couch – is ours (and Smokey’s).

There really is no rhyme or reason to Kali not getting on the couch.  It’s not like her hair doesn’t already float through the air and find it’s way onto any and all surfaces, nooks, and crannies.  That’s life with a Golden – it get’s hairy at times (most of the time).  So while there has been no specific reason it’s been the rule and Kali has been fine with it.

Until recently.

A few nights ago Holly and I were in our usual position after dinner on a dark and cold Fall evening.  The TV is on the background, Holly is sitting on the couch reading with a blanket over her legs and I’m in my recliner futzing on my laptop.  Kali is also in her usual position along the side of my recliner on the floor.

Then with the pat of a hand all bets were off.  No more Bailey rule and no more Smokey Only rule…  Anarchy!

Kali get’s up from her lying position walks up to Holly and places her magic snout on Holly’s lap.  Kali’s eyes are alternating between Holly and the couch.  Before I could say, “Kalice Marie” ( my most frequent nick-name for Kali during faux dramatic situations)- “you are not allowed on the couch”, Holly has spread out the blanket along the couch and has invited Kali up with a  pat of her hand on the blanket.


The Magic Snout

Kali has a very soft and fluffy bed.  It’s not like she has never experienced a soft place to lie down.  In fact it’s always puzzled me that she typically chooses to lie on the cold tile in the kitchen area or cement outside when there are softer alternatives such as the carpet in the house or grass outside.

She laid there on the couch looking like Oliver Twist in bed on the first night that Mr. Brownlow rescued him from the streets of London and offered him solace in his mansion.

And so it’s been and so it goes in the life of my Golden Kali.  I’m fine with her being on the couch, Smokey seems to like the company (and the extra warmth Kali provides), and Holly Brownlow had better be OK with it because she’s the one who plucked Kaliver Twist out of Fagin’s den and plopped her up onto the couch and into a life of luxury.


Quit hogging the pillows!


                  Sleep Tight Golden Kali.



Where’s Kali?

What a glorious morning along the creek trail it was!  I think it must be “that time of year” when I know colder and (hopefully) wetter weather is just around the corner.  The creek and duck pond seemed more beautiful than ever during our walk this morning.  It won’t be long before the shorts, golf shirts, and flip flops are replaced by jeans, hiking boots, and a wool jacket.  December through February can get mighty cold (well cold for us CA wimps) dipping down in my area to the mid twenties in the morning.  But for now it is warm, sunny, and still flip flop weather even at 7:00 in the morning.

This morning Kali guided me through an area of the pond that is surrounded by low dry golden foliage (because it was dead due to the drought).  None the less I found it strikingly beautiful with colors that closely matched Kali’s fur.  Almost like camouflage for her.

So, patient and as always a very willing subject, Kali sat amongst the dry straw-like weeds and allowed me to take a few photos.  It was a great morning and I will miss the sun and warmth as I begin my annual ritual of lamenting winter.

Where's Kali?

Where’s Kali?

Fixated on ducks or just being patient?

Fixated on ducks or just being patient?

Good girl!

Good girl!

A glorious autumn morning.

A glorious autumn morning.

Ducks Like Rain!

It’s still too early to expect it.  All we can do is hope it eventually arrives.  If it doesn’t get here soon we are in deep trouble.  Especially our farmers, our ranchers, and our eco-systems.  Yes, I’m talking about rain – or lack of it – out here in “droughtville”.

“They” say El-Nino is coming.  I hope whomever they are know what they’re talking about!  I’ve never been a fan of rain but lately I find myself praying for it!  Many of my neighbors are replacing lawns with drought resistant plants, rocks, stones, and cement.  Yuck!  Suburbia is all about green lawns, lush parks, and strip malls.  Ok scratch the strip malls;  we could definitely do without any, or at least with less, strip malls. But I’m holding out one more year and, at least for now, the lawns are staying.  I’m giving the grass enough water to keep them alive but not so much as to exceed our mandatory reduction percentages.  My five minute showers in the morning have been pared down to two minutes and I’ve allocated that water to my lawn.  Well at least that’s my rationalization…

Meanwhile, we did get some rain this past week.  It wasn’t much but it was rain.  A steady drizzle.  Precipitation.  Whatever – we’ll take it.  Even with that little sprinkling the yards around the neighborhood seemed to come alive.  More importantly it surely helped the firefighters around the state battling a number of record setting wildfires.  The drought resistant plants could give a hoot but the rocks and stones sure looked pretty when they were wet!

Even our creek and pond seemed to come alive.  The water levels with even this little bit of rain seemed to rise a couple of feet.  This morning along our walk the duck’s seemed happier.  Seriously.  They were swimming and preening with newfound gusto.

There was a male in the middle of the pond quacking loudly and proudly as if to say, “Ducks like rain!”.

The duck caught Kali’s attention for several seconds and I believe I saw her smile as if to say, “Hey feathered friend – I’m happy for you”.  I smiled too.  Seeing the pond and creek looking a little bit like it’s old self made me happy.  And for a few seconds on this glorious sunny and warm morning time stopped and it was just me, Kali, and mother nature enjoying a moment.

It's nice to see the water levels higher - at least for a few days. Last week this area was totally dry with just cracked mud.

It’s nice to see the water levels higher – at least for a few days. Last week this area was totally dry with just cracked mud.

Even this stoic Blue Heron seemed happy as he surveyed the pond.

Even this stoic Blue Heron seemed happy as he surveyed the pond.

I guess Kali and I got a little too close for Mr. Heron’s comfort and he flew off to the other side of the creek.  Have a great day BH, enjoy the water and sun.

If you’ve made it this far down the page and post congratulations!  Your reward is the full lyrics of “Ducks Like Rain”.

DUCKS LIKE RAIN by Franciscus Henri

Quack quack quack quack quack
Quack quack quack quack quack
Quack quack quack quack quack
Quack! Quack! Quack!

Ducks like rain! Ducks like rain!
Ducks like splishing splashing in the rain.
Ducks like rain! Ducks like rain!
Ducks llike the rainy weather,
Water running off their feathers,
Ducks like splishing splashing in the rain.

Quack quack quack quack quack…

Ducks like rain! Ducks like rain!
Ducks like to widdle waddle in the rain.
Ducks like rain! Ducks like rain!
Ducks like to widdle waddle,
Water knee-deep in the puddle,
Ducks like to widdle waddle in the rain.

Quack quack quack quack quack…

Weekend reflections along the creek trail

Kali and I had some beautiful mornings along our creek trail this week and also one very special sunset.  As much as I hate to see Summer end the beginning of Fall in Northern California is a beautiful time.

As we head out of the hot and into the warm Kali thought it would nice to let the pictures be worth a thousand blessings…

Rise and shine for Kali and Dad. "Let's go"!

Rise and shine for Kali and Dad. “Let’s go”!

Sun just creeping up over the trail head.

Sun just creeping up over the trail head.

Stopping to "reflect" at the Duck Pond; our turn around point.

Stopping to “reflect” at the Duck Pond; our turn around point.

Never too early for Kali to pose at our favorite spot.

Never too early for Kali to pose at our favorite spot.

And again...

And again…

Heading home

Heading home

And later that night- what a show the sun and clouds put on for us!

And later that night

Tails From The Trail – One


Wow – what was that??  Kali and I walked on in relative peace having done a very good job of avoiding what could have been a confrontation.

Kali and I love our walking trail.  The trailhead is within a stones throw from our front door.  It winds around with the neighborhood, intersects at points with a municipal golf course, and has a creek that runs throughout.  Kali and I have become intimately familiar with the trail having walked it almost every day for the past six months.  We’ve also become familiar with many of the faces – both human and canine – that we see often.  We’re blessed to have the time, the area, and health to be out and about in such a beautiful environment.

The single blemish on this otherwise perfect picture is that Kali has leash aggression. I’ve come to grips with that. I’ve done a fair amount of reading and research and it is clear that this behavior will take us a long time to work through.   Maybe she’ll never get past it. But I’m committed to partner with Kali in the most positive way possible so that one day she will be able to meet another dog without lunging or barking and instead simply sniffing, playing, and enjoying their company.

Kali and Smokey bonded very quickly. They are wonderful to watch.  So I know Kali can be a loving and enjoyable companion for another dog.  She’s spent extended face to face time with just one other dog – a close friend’s dog – and after the usual barking and anxiety she settled down and got along just fine. In fact they were in the back of our SUV for an extended drive laying next to one another and Kali was very calm and comfortable.

Kali is very eager to engage with me.  The first thing I taught her was to “watch” me and then I would immediately reward the eye contact with high value treats.  This fundamental discipline and foundation for effective training has been invaluable.  I say “watch” or just stand in front of her and she’ll gaze into my eyes and wait for me to tell her what to do next.  All it takes is the word “watch” and more lately just the click of my tongue.  On our walks I am proactive when we approach another dog.  I’ve learned to make sure that Kali is more interested in me than the oncoming dog.   We take care not to walk a direct path into the dog, we’ll take a wide berth when there is room on the trail, or simply pull over to the side with Kali’s back to the dog and attention on me as the dog and owner pass by.   A couple of “watches” and a “let’s go” and more often than not there is no barking or lunging and we continue to move along our way thankful for the aforementioned blessings. Sometimes I’ll stop and turn around after we’ve gone a short distance and have her sit facing the other dog who is now walking away. “See Kali, no danger. I kept you protected. I’ve got your back. It’s ok to relax. Let’s go”.

For Kali and I it’s all about the positive.  Praise when she get’s it right.  Understanding when she doesn’t and self-evaluation to see what I could have done different to make her successful it the particular situation.  It’s helping and I’m optimistic that over time – probably a long time – we will overcome this behavior and Kali will be able to enjoy being around other dogs.

So did someone get punched in the face?  The short answer is I don’t know.

On an otherwise non-eventful walk yesterday I saw an owner with her dog come around the bend about 150 feet ahead of us.   As we approached each other Kali and I used our techniques for keeping her calm.  I moved to the edge of the path, “Kali.  Watch.”  She does.  “Good.  Watch.”  Kali takes a quick look over her shoulder at the dog and then back at me.; loose leash no barking.  “Good girl! Let’s go.” Kali is relatively calm and we peacefully move along our way.  BUT, as we pass by I get a closer look at an uncomfortable owner and a fearsome looking dog.  This dog could eat Kali for lunch if it wanted.  It probably didn’t want to but that’s the look the dog had. The owner had a very tight leash on this dog with her fist about 12 inches from the dog’s neck jerking up with all her might, and the dog choking from a now very tight collar.  The dog was very mad and upset.  Who could blame him?

To be fair maybe this dog has serious aggression issues and would actually have eaten Kali for lunch if the owner had not restrained him.  Or, maybe it’s the owner who has serious aggression issues and needs a punching bag other than her dog (the Blogger says judgementally). I look back over my shoulder as we move on and I hear the owner say as she pulls up on the leash, “No. NO!  I will punch you in the face”.

I wanted to go back and give the dog a hug. I didn’t.  I wanted to go back and punch the owner in the face.  No, of course I didn’t.  Kali just wanted to continue walking home and of course, we did.

So did someone or something get punched in the face?. I guess I’ll never know.

Tails From The Trail

Tails From The Trail

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.

Kali’s New Fall Rituals

Today Kali and I closed down the backyard. “Closing down the yard” is one of my annual rituals that marks the ending of warm weather and outside living. It’s also marks the preparation for the Holidays and winter. Yes – the harsh Northern California Winter where some days we have to actually put on a coat and wear shoes… what’s up with that?!? 🙂

Closing down the yard is a rather silly ritual and more of a mindset than a physical act. These days the activity consists of packing up patio cushions, throwing covers over the patio furniture, moving small outdoor items into the shed, performing light pruning, and swapping out the Summer BBQ for the Winter BBQ. What? Doesn’t everybody have two?… None-the-less it took Kali and I around three hours all the while taking our time to enjoy the relatively warm fall morning since we didn’t have anything else specific planned for the day.

Since my Bailey Boy died five years ago I’ve performed the ritual alone. So this year it was great to have Kali helping. As usual she supervised and I did the work. I say supervised but really Kali is a bit of a micro-manager. She’s never more than a few feet from where I’m working following me around and cracking the whip. By cracking the whip I mean watching my every move in between short naps of course and an occasional sprint and woof chasing off a squirrel or bird who may distract her worker (me) from doing a good job. Eventually she’ll stop following me around and set up a command center with a global vantage point allowing her to monitor my activities without having to get up as I move from spot to spot.

Global Command Center

Global Command Center

I’m fine with the micro-management. I like having Kali by my side. I’ve become so accustomed to it over the past six months that on the rare occasion that she’s not right there next to me it feels a bit odd and I’ll call her or go looking to see what she’s up to.

The next Fall ritual Kali and I will share is setting up the lighted angel in front of the house while listening to Kenny Loggins’ album called December. This will happen on the day before Thanksgiving. In years past this ritual involved strands and strands of Christmas lights hanging on the house and a variety of lighted lawn decorations to assemble and place around the front yard. There would be ladders, hammers and nails, trips to the hardware store to get replacement strands or bulbs, brandy, and a little swearing. When my kids were small it was important to them that the house had a full complement of lights along every eave and window. I was younger and I liked doing it. When they were away in college they’d come home for the holidays and I wanted the house lit up for them as we drove in from the airport. I liked it a little less but I still did it because it was what they remembered and wanted. But these days there’s just the lighted angel; simple, elegant, and less likely to need multiple trips to the hardware store and little cause for swearing. There will, however, still be brandy.

So this year Kali will supervise the Angel ritual just as she did the closing of the yard ritual. And there will be more after that. The setting up the Christmas tree listening to the Vince Guralidi Trio’s A Charlie Brown Christmas album ritual, the taking down of the tree and lamenting that Summer is light years away ritual, the re-hanging of the SF Giants flag ritual, and, wait for it…… The opening of the backyard ritual.

And for all these things and a blessed life I am so very thankful that Kali will be by my side supervising my every move.

Kali:  "job well done dad"

Kali: “job well done dad”