A Gental Soul

This past week marks five years since my gentle soul Golden Kali joined our family.  May 24 is Kali’s “Gotcha Day”.  Long time followers of the Golden Kali Blog may remember that Kali was originally rescued in Taiwan.   After receiving a few months of loving care and rehabilitation from her Taiwanese foster care givers she flew to America with 23 other Golden Retriever rescues, landed at SFO, and pranced straight into our hearts.  For newer followers this very first post from five years ago will provide you with some historical context:  Kali’s New Life In America Begins.

Kali very quickly turned our family into a pack inspiring us and shaping our lives in ways I never imagined.  Her sweet and gentle disposition was evident from the very start.  That first night home, unsure of what to expect I tethered her to the foot of my bed post when we went to bed.  I remember being gently nuzzled by a wet nose in the wee hours of the morning by this loving girl.  I took her outside to pee and we returned to the bedroom and she willingly settled down by the side of my bed and immediately settled down for the rest of the night.  By the next evening she had earned full run of the house and has never ever displayed anything other than respect and appreciation for her surroundings and our belongings.

I’ll always remember the first visit – a meet and greet – to the vet when the vet gave Kali a few treats.  “Look”, she said.  “She takes the treats with her lips.  She’s so gentle”.  I smiled proudly (as if I had anything to do with her gentle nature) and felt immediately blessed to be in the presence of a soul so sweet as Kali.

Two years later we shook up Kali’s world by bringing home Kloe, a nine-week old Golden Retriever.  After about 10 or15 minutes of a lot of barking (“get that little dog out of here”), followed by about 30 minutes of indifference (“fine she can stay but I’m not having anything to do with her”), Kloe won Kali’s heart and they’ve been nuzzling, playing, and sleeping together ever since.   During the first several months Kali was a wonderful surrogate mom to Kloe giving her lessons only another dog can.  As Kloe grew older the relationship transitioned to sisters and to this day Kloe idolizes her big sissy Kali.

Within three weeks of bringing Kloe home we moved from the SF Bay Area to the Sierra Nevada Foothills.  We named our home The Golden K in honor of our two “K” girls.  Kali loved her new environment with so much more area to explore and smell.   Kloe followed in Kali’s every footstep and they became great companions with a common disdain for squirrels, an eventual acceptance of the black tail deers, and a love for the smell and whooshing of the tall pines.

Late last year at the insistence of Kali I finally convinced Holly that we needed another pup.  Another pup to be an active companion for Kloe now that Kali was slowing down.  And as awkward as may sound, I want to make sure that Kloe had a companion when it’s time for Kali to cross over the rainbow bridge.  I don’t like to think about that day – it scares me to think about being without Kali.  But I also don’t want to get another pup in the middle of my grief.  I love Kloe too much to let there be a time when she doesn’t have a canine companion.

So….enter Koda!.   Our third Golden K girl joined us last fall at four months old. This tenacious little fire ball joined the pack guns-a-blazing full of attitude, mischief, and, occasional mayhem.   In spite of some of her more, er, well, hmm…. let’s say challenging traits, she is a sweet and loving pup who with continued patience from the rest of the pack will turn into a lovely young lady in the months and years to come.

Through all the figurative -and actual- “planes trains and automobiles”  that Kali experienced during the  past five years she is always the same gentle soul we met on May 24, 2015.  The same gentle should who flew 6,400 miles from Taiwan to San Francisco and later drove 100 miles from suburbia to our new mountain home.  The same gentle soul who has shaped much of my life, Holly’s life, and the lives of her little sissies.

The same gentle soul who’s life in America is chronicled here in The Golden Kali Blog.

Kali the morning after she arrived from Taiwan

Kali today.  Our gentlest of souls

Happy Gotcha Day Kloe

Three years ago today the sweetest girl I could ever imagine came into our lives forever.   At nine weeks old this pouty faced Golden Retriever stole our hearts and has held them close to her own since then.  Born in Bakersfield, rescued by True Love Rescue in Lodi, Kloe made her way into our arms and home to Livermore, CA.  Three weeks later we moved to the mountains to our home we call the Golden K. Kloe of course is one of those three Golden K’s our home is named after. Kloe weighs almost 80 pounds and I am convinced that the majority of that weight is from a very large heart of gold.

We are blessed that Kloe found her way into our lives and grateful to True Love Rescue for making that a possibility.

Happy Gotcha Day Kloe!  You are forever my Klois Marie, Klo-Klo, Kloe Bowie, Sugar Lips, Sweetness, and all the other silly names I have for you.   But at the end of the day as you lay on your mat when I kiss you goodnight and I tell you to sleep tight, you are simply my beautiful girl Kloe.

Christmas Trees At The Golden K

This will be our third Christmas at The Golden K., our mountain home in the Sierra Nevada Foothills.   When living in suburbia with our now grown children Holly and I  bought high priced Christmas Trees, usually Noble Pines, from various lots or drove miles to cut them down ourselves.  Later we invested in artificial trees that looked great until the lights started to go out after being wrapped back up and stored for a couple of years.

While packing up Suburbia three years ago we threw out the last artificial tree.   When Christmas rolled around several months later, and now living in the mountains we went to a local nursery to see about buying a live tree.   While looking at what was available we had a “duh” moment realizing that we have five acres full of trees.  Why would we spend money on a Christmas tree when we have hundreds of trees of our own to choose from.   Our pine trees are a hundred feet tall and we don’t live in altitude high enough for firs.  But we do have a lot of cedars so choosing a small cedar for our Christmas tree each year from our own property has become our new tradition.

While cedars are not ideal for hanging ornaments it hasn’t mattered to us.   This new tradition has become important to us as a symbol of our transition out of Suburbia and our new way of life in the mountains.

So today we headed out with the girls and a chain saw in tow to hunt for a tree.

After about 20 minutes of surveying our options we chose a tree on the edge of our property.   After giving the tree a sniff and once over the girls approved of our selection.  Good thing because it was already cut!

After some trimming of branches and securing the tree stand we were ready to trim the tree.

The girls were not to interested in helping with the trimming and almost immediately went into power nap mode.  Kloe woke up briefly to “snoopervise” (thanks for the term Monika!) but it didn’t last too long.

After a couple of hours of trimming the tree was done.  The girls seemed to approve as they leaned into to get on their Christmas cheer.

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*Editors Note:  The girls would have had on their Christmas scarves for this photo but that is just not possible with a six month old puppy who would rip her sister’s scarves to pieces as well as her own….. 

Life changes

Life changes just a little bit when a puppy joins your pack.

On one hand things really shouldn’t change too much when you already have two other dogs that already dictate the flow of household.  On the other hand when those two dogs are two and a half and nine years old it’s a little bit like bringing a new born home just after all your existing kids are out of diapers.

Kali, the nine year old and Kloe the two and a half year old are pretty self sufficient and respectful of the house and our belongings.   When Koda – the puppy – came home the dog gates went up, regular trips outside for house breaking began again, sleeping in became a thing of the past, and all shoes and slippers had to be put away when they weren’t on our feet.   Is it hectic?  Duh!  Is it worth the disruption to the pack?   Absolutely!

Little Koda, now five and a half months old and 36 pounds is tenacious with attitude.

This is not a great combination when we need an immediate behavior correction.  But I think in the long run it will serve her well once she learns how to pick her battles.   She is quite vocal tells us in no uncertain terms that she is not pleased to know that she cannot jump on visitors or the furniture.  A little yelp or “Roo roo roo” as she begrudgingly adheres to our request to behave is not uncommon.

For now (and hopefully not forever) Koda is binary.  She is either on or off.  When on, her energy level is 11 on a scale of 10.  During play Kloe will wrap her entire mouth around Koda’s head to demonstrate her dominence and deliver a lesson.   Koda will momentarily acquiesce to Kloe’s reminder of who is bigger and stronger before immediately striking back with her own gnashing teeth never for a moment acknowledging the 45 pound advantage Kloe has on her.  Kloe does shoulder rolls landing on Koda like a greco wrestler pinning her down only for Koda to reemerge and perform the same move on Kloe.

Much to Koda’s chagrin Kali is not interested in any type of play with her.  At nine years old and visibly much slower than she was only a year ago Kali prefers sleeping to almost all activities other than eating.  I’ve seen Koda sneak attack a sleeping Kali landing on her back and riding her like a bronco as Kali gets up trying to toss her off while she moves off to another corner of the room to sleep.  Koda used to sass back Kali just like she does to us when being told no.  “Yelp! Roo roo roo…!  Play with me…”  To Koda’s credit she now (mostly) understands that Kali is the big sister she sleeps next to when she is in the off position. Kloe, although sometimes a reluctant participant, is the big sister used for rough play when Koda is in the on position.

It’s striking how the dynamics of a family can change so dramatically when that newborn baby puppy comes home.   I think it rocked Kali and Kloe’s world a bit to have a new little sister that seems to get more attention and more treats.   I’ve been caught off guard from time to time realizing that Koda is not Kloe and training may be more challenging and that different techniques may need to be deployed.  These pups are not plug and play.  But I like it that way.  Like people, dogs are unique and don’t fit into the same mold as the previous puppy.  Life would be boring if all of your dogs had the same personality and demeanor.   It might be easier but so much less “fun”.

So is it hectic?  You bet.  Is it worth it?  Absolutely!

So yeah, life changes just a little bit when a puppy joins your pack.

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Left to right Kloe, Koda, and Kali

 

Leader Of Our Pack

For two and a half years Kloe was the “baby”.   The youngest of two pups in the house.  As  she grew from 16 to 80 pounds she remained the baby in the overall pecking order of the pack.  Kali welcomed and embraced Kloe from the start and played a big role in Kloe’s successful assimilation into the pack.  Kloe looked up to her big sister and would run to her when scared, cuddle with her when sleepy or cold, and was always subservient to her Kali, although Kali only showed love and never any attempt to dominate or control Kloe.

Golden’s Retriever’s are a breed that retain a puppy-like personality for a long time.  Many never totally lose the playful and whimsical demeanor that puppies exhibit.     With the recent arrival of the new “baby” Koda it’s been interesting to watch Kloe quickly evolve into a more senior member of the pack.  An adult member of the pack.  In fact Kloe has become the protector of the Golden K Pack.

Besides there being a puppy in the house there is another dynamic that is contributing to this emerging maturity in Kloe.   Kali, once very vibrant and alert, is aging.   At nine and a half she sleeps most of the day and has lost some of her vibrance.  The sparkle in her eyes is fading. She walks slower often needing to be coaxed along the way when out for our short excursions.

Although there has never been an true four-legged alpha in our pack if there was one Kloe would be it.   Kali is old and slowing.  Koda is young and immature. At 80 pounds Kloe is large for a Female Golden retriever.  She is bigger, stronger, faster, more alert, and has keener senses than Kali and Koda.  It seems to me that she instinctively realizes this especially now within the context of living with a smaller puppy and a weaker senior. This is not to say that Kloe does, or has any interest in, physically dominating either of her sisters. Although she does seem to take some pleasure of throwing Koda down on the ground or wrapping her entire jaw around Koda’s head when Koda doesn’t get “the message” that enough is enough…  But that’s another subject and post about “Kloe the Teacher” for another day.

So now Kloe is the protector.   Where Kali once took the lead in calling out perceived danger or intruders Kloe takes the lead.   I see Kloe alert and viggilent at times outside while her sisters sleep in the sun.  If there’s a need to sound the alarm she does so and leads the charge running while her muscles ripple through her body like a thoroughbred horse.  Kali hangs back offering high pitched barks of encouragement and Koda bounces along side of Kloe trying keep up not really knowing what’s happening or where they’re going.

Maybe it’s just me projecting but in Kloe I see a more mature and wiser dog.  Kloe will always have a fun and spirited side to her.  She will always go to Kloeville; that figurative place when she lies on her back and stares up at nothing in particular.  She will always throw her shoulder on the ground and wriggle her way between my legs with her butt up in the air and then roll on her back and push off with her legs doing her version of the doggie-back-stroke.  But there has been a change.

It seems to me that Kloe now realizes that her stature in the pack is different.  She realizes that there are two weaker members of the pack that make her stand out physically and in some ways mentally.  Kloe relates to Holly and I in different ways now that Koda is here.  If Kloe observes Koda doing something that is not allowed Kloe looks to Holly or I to correct her.  As much as Koda tries to engage Kali in play Kali has no interest in rough housing with her and if engaged tries to get out of the fray.  Recently I watched that dynamic unfold when Kali became annoyed after Koda ran to her and jumped on her head trying to play.  Kloe came running over put herself between Koda and Kali and wrapped her jaw around Koda’s leg to move her way from Kali as if to say, “leave it”.

In some ways it’s sad to see my “little” baby Kloe grow up into adult hood.  But it’s also warming and makes me proud to watch that 16 pound nine-week old pup we brought home two and a half years ago mature into a fine young lady.  And  lately I’m sure I see something different in Kloe’s eyes. I see less wonderment of the world around her and more of a familiarity with that world and her role in it as a leader of our pack.

 

Portraits

From the time I was a toddler my mom would periodically take my sister and I to have “our pictures taken”.  Formal pictures taken at a professional studio with lighting, back drops, and those “umbrella-thingies”.  Looking back it’s interesting to me, and it shows how much my mom valued capturing a moment in time of her kid’s lives, that she would spend money on professional portrait sittings when there was not a lot of extra money.  As an example when out for dinner at a restaurant my sister and I would have to share a Shirley Temple drink (7-Up and Grenadine) because my parents couldn’t afford for both of us to have one.   When ordering a hamburger we couldn’t have cheese because it was ten cents extra.  In retrospect maybe that’s why my parents could afford these expensive portraits?….

My mom passed away recently and I’ve spent many days in her home cleaning and clearing.  Although many of those portraits of my sister and I hung on the walls of her home over the years they took on more meaning and presented a stark contrast to contemporary times when the camera on our smart phones are a hundred times better than the box cameras of the day.   Our phones are probably as good or better than the large and cumbersome equipment that was in those studios that used something called film.

I have hundreds of pictures of Kali and Kloe with me at all times because they’re on my phone.  A digital version of that accordion-like deck of pictures dad’s in previous generations would pull out of their wallets to proudly show off their kids and wives in blurry and faded pictures taken with his box camera.

With this in mind I thought I should take a lesson from my mom and lose the selfies and candids and have some portraits of the girls taken.   Formal sittings (“sit, stay”) with lighting and back drops and “umbrella-thingies”.  And so I did and I proudly display them here in this post.

OK… full disclosure.  These were taken with my iPhone using portrait mode.  But the sentiment remains the same.  I think mom would be proud.  Don’t you?

KALI

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KLOE

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Kloe Gotcha Day #2

How embarrassing!   I thought Kloe’s Gotcha Day was on May 9th but it is actually on May 7th – today.   Thank goodness for Facebook who reminded me this morning by showing me my post from last year. As if Kloe would know or even knows what the heck a Gotcha Day is.  But I know what it is and I’l always remember the day we brought her home from Lodi, CA where we picked her up.

She rode home to Livermore on Holly’s lap squirming a little bit but only because she wanted to play and  cuddle.   We arrived home to introduce her to Kali, her new big sissy and soon to be surrogate mother.   Kali, true to herself, barked when Kloe entered the house as if to say, “No!  I’ve been very happy here having mom and dad to myself for the past two years and I don’t need the competition of a incredibly cute puppy.   So you, missy can just go back where you came from.”

Within an hour Kloe won over Kali’s heart and they were playing and cuddling.  Kloe wanted to be wherever Kali was.   At times coaxing Kali to play tug-o-war and Kali was so respectful and cognizant that Kloe was a wee 15 pounds so taking it easy on her.  At other times when Kali was sleeping Kloe would lay on top of Kali or find a way to spoon.  Kali was so tolerant and such good big sissy.

Two weeks later we packed up 23 years of Livermore, put Kali and Kloe in the back seat of my truck and drove to our new home in the Sierra Nevada Foothills.  Kloe wasn’t in Suburbia long enough to get used to that so our five acres in the middle of the foothills was just another step in her brief two month life.

Fast forward two years and Kloe is a true mountain girl chasing squirrels and jack rabbits, co-existing with the black tailed deer and – being the chewer she is – loving the lifetime supply of twigs and sticks that are at her disposal.

That little 15 pound pup we brought home two years ago has grown up into a beautiful 80 pound young lady who brings endless and ongoing love and joy into our lives.

Happy Gotcha Day Kloe.  You are my sweetie girl.  You are a great companion,  You are a fantastic listener.  You are unconditional love in it’s truest form.  For that and for you I am so grateful.

Kloe:  then and now

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Spunk

Kali got into a dog fight this past week.  On the other hand it was more of a spat between cousins than a real fight. But I saw some spunk in Kali that surprised me.  It lasted only a few seconds, and although I wasn’t happy that Kali and Jaynee “got into it” I was glad to see the spunk.

Kali and Kloe usually spend the day with our friends Marty and Jen when we’ll both will be gone for the day.  And so it was this past Thursday when we went to the Bay Area to visit my cousin.  Marty and Jen have two pups -Jaynee and Sadie – and our girls are very familiar with them and they all get along fine.

When we arrived to pick up the girls we were standing around chatting with Marty and Holly had some high value treats (HVT) in her pocket and was doling them out to the gang.  I guess these HVT’s were HV enough that they were worth fighting for.   In a flash – as it usually happens – there was a scuffle and Jaynee had gnashed teeth on Kali’s muzzle.  Kali swung around and grabbed Jaynee’s ribs with her teeth.   The fight was quickly broken up.  It was no one’s fault and, just like with kids playing together all day, the pups were all tired and a little cranky.  So no harm and no foul and Kali and Jaynee went about their business in peace probably instantly forgetting the scuffle and only concerned about whether there would be anymore HVTs doled out.  They weren’t.

So while I was not glad to see Kali and Jaynee in a conflict – I love Jaynee almost as much as my own girls – I was pleased to see that Kali at nine years old still has some spunk in her.  And after all kids will be kids and pups will be pups.   This was a scuffle between canine cousins.  They each got their licks in (no pun intended) and it was over as quickly as it started.

So yeah, Spunk.  Kali’s got Spunk.

Pictured left to right:  Cousins Jaynee, Kloe, Sadie, Kali

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Tolerance, Indifference, or Love?

Tolerance, indifference, or love?

I think it started out as tolerance: “Dad says I have to be nice to this puppy.”   It evolved to tolerance:  “I guess she’s not so bad and is nice to have a a pal at nap time.”  But over time, make no mistake, it turned into love.  A love that as an upright I may never fully understand but in my heart I know it is a love as strong as I have for my closest family members.

18 months ago Kloe was nine weeks old when we brought her home.   From that first day Kali consistently obliged and acquiesced to this little 15 pound whippersnapper as though it was one of her own pups and not just a step sister.   Kloe regularly sought out Kali and found a spot next to Kali that was comfortable for herself even if it was not comfortable for her big sister.

Kloe:  I want to be where you are big sis!   Kali:  Zzzz…

 

 

So it’s warming and gratifying to me that although her “little” sister Kloe is now 80 pounds and outweighs Kali by 20 pounds nothing has changed.

So tolerance, indifference, or love?   I know it’s love.

Kloe:  Hey Kali, c’mon, wake up and wrestle with me!   Kali:  Zzzzz

 

 

 

Father Time

Mother Nature cycles through the seasons and in many ways repeats her actions:  Hot, cold, wet, dry, etc.  Father Time however moves in only one constant direction – forward. When we’re young we have our entire lives ahead of us.  As we get older we begin to rationalize our age.   Middle age is when we’re in our fifties and sixties, right?   If so then I guess we live until we’re 100 or 120?  A great example comes from my favorite all time movie “On Golden Pond” with Henry Fonda and Katherine Hepburn. Norman is turning 80 and his wife Ethel tries to convince him that he’s middle aged…  Umm yeah.

In many ways it is not different for our pups.  Kali is eight and a half years old.   Kloe is 19 months old.   By the time Kloe was six months old she was the same size as Kali in length, height and weight – 60 pounds. By the time Kloe was nine months she weighed 80 pounds and was head and shoulders taller and longer than her “big” sister Kali.  The average life span of a Golden is twelve years.   This puts Kali in the latter stages of middle age and entering her “golden” years.   Pun intended but still so true.

Kloe, the young whipper-snapper, has her entire life – God willing – ahead of her.  She’s young, strong, fast, agile, and – God help us – is still a puppy.  Kali has slowed, exhibits a bit of a struggle getting up and down, and is entering the “granny” stage of her life.

So picture Kloe as the young strong footballer on the field with an opponent (Kali) five times her age.   If the opponent is lucky and agile enough to get out of the way in time Kloe will pass by and easily score a goal.   If opponent Kali is not able to get out of the way she will be bowled over not knowing what hit her.  And this is the routine with my girls.  Kloe vs. Kali with the rope toy (weapon) of Kloe’s choice as she blind sides Kali slamming the toy into Kali’s face (even if Kali is sleeping) prompting grandma Kali to rise to the occasion and play-fight back.

But here’s the thing.  When the battle is over it’s is almost always Kali that ends up with the rope toy in her possession.   Under a paw or literally under her body as if to say, “yes Kloe you knocked me around quite a bit with your weight and age advantage but look who ended up with the prize”.  Ah, experience does count for something…

There are times when I have to step in and break up the battle.  Those times when granny has had enough and locks her eyes on mine as if to say, “help me….”.   And then sometimes just when I think Kali has had enough and will retreat she goes to the toy box, grabs a rope toy, and is now the aggressor and re-engages with Kloe on the battle field.  The battle field of the living room, family room, kitchen, or wherever my feet are at the time.

So as I consider my girls’ future, I rationalize my Golden Kali’s age and convince myself (for the moment) that she is just “middle aged”.   I look at Kloe see the future and I know that one day she too will be the granny and there will be a new whipper-snapper at her heels.  A new young buck more agile and stronger who calls out to her and invites her to wrestle and play rough even though Kloe may be more content sleeping, like her big sister Kali was back in the day.

And although Father Time moves only one direction, forward, it won’t stop me – when the time comes – from looking back.  Looking back and remembering how my Golden Kali, taught her wee little 80 pound sister Kloe how to be a great big sister.