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

Kali and Kloe

Koda has been a great addition to our family. It’s hard to believe it’s been over three years since we adopted her at four months old. She and Kloe are almost always together and have grown to be good companions even though there is some sibling rivalry from time to time. It’s heartening to know that since only two years separate them they should have many more years together as they grow older.

But before there was Koda there was just Kali and Kloe.

Kali was seven years old when Kloe joined our pack at just nine weeks old. Kali was just the right age and had an ideal temperament for bringing a puppy into the family. She quickly accepted the new little whippersnapper and become a surrogate mother during Kloe’s formative years. They became great companions to one another. Kali was still young enough to have interest in playing. At first very gentle and then as Kloe grew larger and stronger more vigorous. It didn’t take Kloe long to become larger and stronger than Kali. By 9 months old she was 75 pounds surpassing Kali’s 60. As Kloe got older they became more of equals, never any competition or rivalry as there is at times between Koda and Kloe. Even as Kloe grew older and larger she continued to seek comfort from Kali as she did when she was a wee pup. I know that Kali enjoyed having a companion in Kloe and they were never far apart from one another.

Kali has slowed way down over the past year or so. She has wobbly legs, poor eyesight, hearing loss, and she doesn’t seem to have a good sense of smell any longer. Other than that she’s fantastic! 🙂 It’s become harder and harder for her to get around and at 12 plus years now she mostly sleeps. She’s earned it and she maintains a very special spot in my heart and in my day to day life.

Recently I pulled up some old photos of when it was just Kali and Kloe. It was fun to look back a photos of Kloe at 15 or 20 pounds laying on big sister Kali and then seeing photos from over the years with Kloe still using Kali as a pillow. And the photos of just the two of them hanging out together sometimes being a little goofy. Although the pack dynamics have changed over the past few years with the addition of Koda and with Kali aging, it continues to make me happy to know there is still a special bond between Kali and Kloe!

Kids and Dogs

Kids

I’ve always likened having dogs to having children. We do so many things for our dogs that we do or did for our kids. We feed them, educate them, entertain, love, discipline, and so on. We even refer to them as our kids, our fur-babies, or in my case as “the girls”. Our human children are all gown and have been out of the house for many years. There are many things I don’t know about their day to day lives. When they were very young I observed and knew every small detail of their lives. As they grew older I saw less and eventually knew less. Which is the way it should be. I know as I grew older into a young adult and beyond my parents knew less and less of the details of my life. I needed them less. They were glad I was independent. I feel the same way about my grown children.

My kids many years ago. Left to right Michael (now 34), Jessi (now 30), and Jonathan (now 37). Wow! In some ways I wish they could have stayed just like in this photo forever. But time marches on. They are independent with full and robust lives of their own.

Dogs

But with our dogs it’s a little different. They never become independent in the way our children do. They rely on us their entire lives for their care and well being. While there are many similarities between a puppy and a human baby, the baby grows to be a toddler and beyond and they puppy grows to be like a toddler and mostly plateaus there. As dogs mature and age we continue to not only know, but also mostly control all the details of our their lives. When they eat we know it. When they walk we know it. When they find themselves into some sort of trouble or problem we not only know it but also correct it. Our dogs become moderately independent for short amounts of time but they can’t be (or shouldn’t be) left overnight by themselves. And as they grow older, like my 12 year old Kali, they need us more and more.

My “girls” a few hours ago. Left to right Koda (3.5 years, Kali (12 years), and Kloe (5 .5 years). Koda has finally matured into a toddler, Kali’s hips and eyes are deteriorating, and Kloe’s muzzle is graying. Like their human siblings they also have a full and robust life but rely on Holly and I to make sure of that. They are very dependent and we are ok with that.

So having dogs is like having kids but way different.

The Golden Kali Blog

Newer followers of Golden Kali can get caught up to speed about each of my girls here:

Thanks to everyone who follows Golden Kali! We’ve been away for a while busy with pack life but will be posting much more often. Tells us what you think about the Golden Kali blog and what questions or interests you may have about life in the mountains with three Golden Retrievers.

Golden Light In My Life

Six years in the context of an average human lifespan is not very long.    Six years to a dog is quite a long time especially when that dog’s life span is 12 or 13 years on average.  Six years for Kali and I is both a flash and an eternity.

A flash in that it seems like just the other day I was sitting in the international terminal at San Francisco International Airport waiting for my precious cargo to be unloaded.  Waiting with two months of accumulated anticipation since first seeing Kali’s picture on the Facebook page called “Rescued Love From Taiwan”.   This group coordinates with True Love Rescue to bring mostly Golden Retrievers from Taiwan to loving families in Northern California.  This was where Kali came from.  I’ve documented that story of Kali’s journey from Taiwan to America any times.  Newer followers of Golden Kali can read about it here:  Meet Kali.

It also feels like an eternity because of the countless experiences Kali and I have had together during the past six years.  For much of this time Kali  was rarely far from my side.  As I write this post she lies sleeping at my feet; a very familiar spot and one that is so natural to both of us.  We estimated Kali’s age to be five years when she joined our pack.  Now a full fledged senior at 11 her hip dysplasia slows her down quite a bit.  Her cataracts impair her vision.  She’s developed either acute selective hearing or just plain hearing loss.  I believe it is the latter.   Still, Kali’s  love and devotion remain ever present and stronger than ever.  I try every day to live up to that example she sets for me!

Each year Memorial Weekend marks Kali’s Gotcha Day.

So here on the Sunday of the 2020 Memorial Day holiday I sit reflecting on that same weekend in 2014 when we welcomed Kali into our family and into our home in Livermore, CA.   Kali adjusted to her new life almost immediately.  The bond between us was instant.  For two years we carried out an almost daily routine of morning walks, meals, playtime in the afternoon, and cuddles in the evening.

In 2016 we added a new nine-week old puppy to the pack and named her Kloe.  Kali welcomed her with open paws and became a great big sister and teacher.   Within two weeks we moved to the Sierra Nevada Foothill town of Tuolumne, CA.  Kali took it all in stride welcoming her new surroundings and new baby sister.  “But wait Kali – there’s more…”

In 2018 we adopted Koda, a four month old rescue.  Koda was, and is, a bundle of energy and moxie!  This time around Kali is not as actively involved with the younger pup.  She stays above the fray and leaves the heavy lifting to her younger sister Kloe all the while remaining near by and willing to offer advice (woof!) and criticism (“Zzzz”) when necessary.

So on this 2020 Memorial weekend, as we remain mostly sheltered in place,  I am feeling blessed that my Golden Kali remains in my life and by my side.

Happy Gotcha Day Kali.  You will forever be the Golden light in my life and at The Golden K.

 

Routines

Our morning routine at The Golden K typically kicks off with me opening my eyes to a morning sun and calmly rising from bed Koda sitting at the side of my bed insisting that we start our day; as in RIGHT NOW.   That’s usually around 6:15.  She is less insistent passionate as she has grown older but none the less very determined to get my attention and start our day.   But I can’t put it all on Koda .

Kali has usually been awake since 5:30.  She stands up in a dark bedroom and stares in my direction.   When she realizes I am not awake she’ll walk into the bathroom to get water.  Tap tap tap her nails go clicking across the tile as she subconsciously hopes her activity will get my attention.  When it does not she returns to the bedroom and shakes her head flapping her ears and rattling her collar to see if that will get my attention.   When it doesn’t she reluctantly lies back down with a thud and deep sigh.   She’s resigned to leaving the task of waking me to her younger and more determined sister.

Then there is Kloe.  Kloe is our  teenager-like girl who would be content to sleep and lounge in bed until lunchtime.   When Koda and Kali finally do get my attention and I get up I have to “encourage” Kloe to join us but sticking my foot under butt until she finally gets up and follows us out of the bedroom.

And so our day begins.

Turn the coffee pot on that Holly has prepared the evening before.   Administer CBD oil to Kali and Kloe who both have varying degrees of hip dysplasia.  Send the three girls outside to do their “business”.  Kali returns immediately: squat, pee, let me back in please so we can get on with food!   But the red girls take more time exercising their olfactory surveying the property “see” what critters may have come through over night.   Eventually they return and breakfast, consisting of chicken and rice kibble and egg whites, is served.  Kali is content to lie down and return to sleep; after all she’s been awake since 5:30.  Kloe and Koda restlessly wait for me to finish coffee and breakfast.  How dare I take so long to do so!   They know walks are to follow.

By now it’s about 8:00 and we take our 30 minute walk sometimes 1:1; me with Koda and later Holly with Kloe.  More recently it’s been me with both girls using the leash coupler which they’ve adapted to fairly well.  After walks the red girls are on their own to spend the morning asking to come in the house.  And then asking to go out.  And then asking to come in.  Meanwhile, Kali has been sleeping and is content to do so until Holly or I go into the kitchen to make lunch.  Because when there is someone in the kitchen there is always a chance for food.

This morning after walks was different.  The red girls were content staying  outside rather than following me into the house as they usually do.  They seemed to appreciate the mild weather and calmness in the air showing an unusual (and welcome) independence.  Fighting the urge to get on with my day and “get something done” around the house I joined the red girls outside.  I brought along a cup of tea and my computer to write this post.  Much to my surprise and pleasure Kali joined us and instead of lying down to sleep she began exploring and foraging with her sisters.

Although the three girls are always together they are not always “together”.   Kali and Kloe tend to do their thing (rough-housing, exploring, digging, barking at critters) and Kali tends to do hers (sleep).  The contrast is obvious and understandable.  Kloe is in her prime at four years old.  Koda is emerging from puppyhood at almost two years.  Kali’s At 11 years old it’s obvious why Kali’s post breakfast day is much different than that of the Kloe and Koda’s.

So this morning we had nowhere to go and all morning to get there.   But what made that trip so special was my Golden Kali was along for the ride.

 

Road Trip with Kali

Kali doesn’t get out to often these days.  At ten and a half she prefers instead to sleep much of the day and inside the house given the choice. After all these years she’s earned it.  Until recently Kloe was also house bound for much of the year due to her injury and then post surgery recovery period.   So for several months it’s mostly been just Koda who gets to get out of the house and accompany us on various errands and car rides.

Kloe is mostly cleared now for normal activities after her surgery so she has been getting out and walking more and coming along for various excursions.   Today we decided to head out to a favorite spot of ours to get our growler filled with apple cider and to enjoy the relatively mild day.  Our routine, now that Kloe is back on her feet so to speak, is to take the “red girls” with us when we go out and about.  Red girls being Kloe and Koda. Kali, the blondie or cream girl, typically stays behind content to sleep in peace without her sisters (or us) milling around and interrupting her daytime slumbers.

So we “geared” Kloe and Koda up with their harnesses and leashes, filled our pockets with treats, and headed towards the door to leave.  As I glanced back at Kali she flashed me sad eyes as if to say, “Can I go? I promise not to be any trouble and I’ll do my best to keep up with the younger Red Girls as we walk around even though my legs aren’t as strong as they used to be.  Can I go?”

I smiled at Kali and then hollered down to Holly who had already gone down the stairs to the garage,  “Road trip! Kali’s coming along.”

And for the first time in a long time we packed up all three girls into the car and headed out for a road trip with Kali and her posse.   It sure felt great to all be together on a short trip to one of our favorite places on a beautiful Fall day with our beautiful girls!

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ROADTRIP! Kali and her posse of red girls.

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Holly and “the girls”.

Koda Gotcha Day

Koda’s “Gotcha Day” was this past Saturday and it came and went without fanfare or much excitement.   The same can’t be said for the first year she’s been with us.  It’s been quite the year of the puppy around the Golden K…  In many ways the Year of Koda!

We adopted Koda at 16 weeks old through the same Golden Retriever rescue group all our girls have come through.  As soon as I got her home I realized we had one tenacious pup on our hands.   Upon getting home I introduced her to our other girls who were only mildly interested.

Upon arriving home with Koda, Kali – almost ten years old at the time – had the same reaction she had when we brought Kloe home two years before: alternating looks between Koda and me, “Sniff, sniff…. WOOF, BARK, WOOF”.  Translation:  “Oh no no no.  You take that little pup right back to where you got her!  I will not stand for that in my house.”

Kloe was much more interested sniffing Koda up , down and under.  They began running and playing and it was now evident to Kali, and much to her chagrin, that this pup was here to stay.  Kali was probably thinking, “Great Kloe, we had it pretty good here just the two of us and now because of your open mindedness and welcoming demeanor this pup is probably going to stay”.  But Kali being Kali who above all is a gentle and loving soul quickly accepted Koda and has even taken on the occasional role of mom to her.

Koda was not shy about immediately exploring her new surroundings and getting in the face of her new sisters.  If her sisters tried to “school” Koda she would put her head down and her butt up in the air, puff up her mouth, and make this “aroo roo roo” sound as if to say, “bring it!”.  This has become a signature trait for this fearless little girl.

Koda’s tenacity was also immediately evident in her play, in her response to being scolded, and in her unrelenting desire to engage in rough play with her older sister Kloe.  She quickly learned and seem to accept that Kali was not going to play with her.  But as long as Kloe responded to Koda’s overtures that was fine for Koda.  As most puppies will do Koda initiated play with Kloe often by blind-siding her and jumping on her back or with a head crashing  tackle to her face.  The thing about it was that Koda at that time was just 22 pounds and Kloe was 80.  It didn’t seem to phase Koda.

Most older dogs instinctively are aware of their larger size and will go easy on a younger smaller pup.  Kloe started out this way but quickly learned that Koda was not your normal little pup who acquiesces to an older and much larger dog.  When provoked Kloe would thrash Koda around pretty good but each time Koda went back for more usually with an extended “aroo roo roo” head low to the ground and butt in the air tail ‘awagging.  “Bring it !  You’re not so big.  I can take it and give you some right back….a roo roo roo roo…”

Koda has been more challenging than her sisters ever were. Kali was a mature five year old when we adopted her and she demonstrated immediate respect for authority and her surroundings.  Kloe was a normal puppy with normal challenges but she is a rule follower by nature and therefore has always been easy to manage.  Koda on the other hand?  Well, “aroo roo roo” says it all!

“Down Koda”.  “Aroo roo roo”.   “Koda leave it!”  “Aroo roo roo, GRRRR, aroo!”.

Koda is still learning that every dog she meets is not instantly ready or able to play and that every stranger we meet is not a human trampoline for her personal use.  She is also slowly learning that good things happen when she is calm and obedient.  I’m growing too.  I’ve had to learn and deploy different training and management techniques.  I’ve had to develop more patience.  And, I’ve become a bit more tenacious myself in my commitment to helping Koda become the best dog she can be.

So one year down – the year of the Koda – and God willing many many more to come!

Happy Gotcha Day sweetie girl Koda!

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Koda First day at the Golden K

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Koda at about 5 months “aroo roo roo!”

 

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The heart of The Golden K

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Koda on her Gotcha Day

 

 

 

The Fifth 4th

The 4th of July has always been one of my favorite holidays.  Not because of any great traditions or specific memories but because its been one of those holidays where I feel ok not doing much and not feeling guilty about it.  As a kid the long July days made it hard to wait for fireworks.  It seemed as though it would never get dark.  I have many fond memories of when our kids were young.  There was the annual neighborhood bike parade where the kids would decorate their bikes in red and blue streamers, flags, and whatever else they could come up with.  Usually a block party took place later in the day and was followed by volleyball and later fireworks.  But more recently, as in the past five years, the 4th has a much more special meaning for me.

Kali arrived from Taiwan on May 24, 2014.   She quickly assimilated into our family as in almost instantly.   The morning after she arrived I began this Golden Kali blog which at the time had the tag line, “Kali’s New Life in America”.  Kali arrived wearing a brown scarf that was put on her at some point before boarding the plane in Taiwan for the trip to America.  After greeting her at the airport, taking care of a few formalities, and letting her get her land legs back we headed home to Livermore.  But before we did one of the rescue group volunteers took off the brown scarf and replaced it with a scarf that had red, white, and blue stars and strips.  It was quite symbolic and a touching gesture that Kali was now an American.

So back to the 4th…   Although Kali arrived on a Memorial Day weekend because of this scarf it’s been the 4th of July that marks another year of her life in America.   Much of Kali’s life, and mine, has been chronicled in this blog over the past five years.  In a 2015 post called Tradition I wrote about how a new tradition began where on the 4th I put that red white and blue scarf on Kali and she wears it for the day.   This scarf for Kali and I stands for her journey from Taiwan to America and her her new chance at a good life in a furever home.  As important, when I hang the scarf around Kali’s neck, I do it as a tribute to all the rescue groups volunteers in both Taiwan and the US who have done so much good for so many Golden Retrievers like Kali.  For them I will always be grateful!

So on this fifth 4th the tradition continues.  This morning I took out the scarf and placed it around Kali’s neck and we went for a brief walk.  She’s twice as old (ten) as she was when she arrived and the tradition of the scarf becomes more meaningful with each year.  She doesn’t want to walk as far, uphill is not her friend, and there are may signs of her slowing and aging.  I don’t like to think about it but there will be a 4th of July when Kali is no longer with me.  Not physically.  But in spirit I know she will never leave my side.  And this scarf, her journey, and her time in America will be with her and I forever.

Happy fifth 4th Kali.  Thank you Rescued Love From Taiwan and True Love Rescue for brining Kali into our lives.

Cheers from The Golden K!

Left: Kali on her second 4th.   Center:  Kali, cousin Ben, and sister Kloe last year, her fourth 4th.  Right:  Kali this year, her fifth 4th.

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.