Chewbacca

If you were expecting a post about Star Wars or the Millennium Falcon you will be disappointed.  If you were expecting a post about an adorable five month old Golden Retriever named Chewbacca you are in the right place.  Although the hair color is the same between the two aforementioned Chewbaccas, and they both go by the nickname “Chewie”, the similarities end there.

Chewie the pup came by The Golden K today for a meet and greet with my girls and will be back next month for an extended stay when we puppy sit while his mom is out of town.

Kali, as expected, was a little stand offish when Chewie arrived.  She barked a bit as if to say, “Who’s this whipper-snapper and what’s he doing in MY back yard?”  Kali is not a fan of change so when another dog enters her “space” it takes a while for her to adjust.  The same thing happened two years ago when we brought Kloe home at 9 weeks old.  Kali made it clear that she was not pleased but within an hour they were cooing, playing Tug-O-Dog, and spooning.  Today, Kloe eventually settled down and was accepting of Chewie especially when I assembled the trio for biscuits.  When Chewie returns in a few weeks I’m sure Kali will be a good pup-sitter and embrace the young Chewie just as she did with Kloe.

That is if Kloe gives her a chance!  Kloe was smitten with Chewie the moment he arrived.

Kloe has not been around a dog younger than her so I was anxious to see how she, now two years old, would play with a young pup a quarter her age and half her size.  When Kloe herself was a wee-young pup playing with Kali, Kali always used constraint and seem to instinctively know she could not use the full force of her size and mature skill set.  So I was pleased today to see Kloe exhibit similar constraint with Chewie.  When engaging with a dog she has not met before Kloe always assumes a non-threatening posture, usually in a attentive down position, waiting for the other dog to initiate play.  It was no different with Chewie.  Kloe seemed to immediately give Chewie the respect she shows older dogs and allowed him to get comfortable before assuming a puppy-pose and an invitation to play.

And play they did.  Keep away.  Chase.   Stick chewing and fetch.  Jumping, running and rolling.   So yeah – they were acting like a couple of dogs.

And I think those couple of dogs, and Kali too, are going to have a great time next month when Chewbacca comes back for an extended stay at The Golden K.

Chewbacca “Chewie”

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Kloe and Chewie acting like dogs

 

 

 

The Outdoor Bath Tub

Of the many canine friendly amenities at Kali’s new mountain house there is one that will make both our lives easier about once a month.  The outdoor bath tub.  The previous owners were dog lovers like us.  They had three of their own and many things in and around the house were very clearly designed to be dog friendly and safe.

The tub was pretty dirty from winter and not being used for some time and I finally got around to cleaning it today. The out door bath tub is located adjacent to the stand alone garage up the hill from the house.   I headed up the to garage with some cleaning supplies and Kali followed along.

I was only planning on cleaning the tub – not Kali.  But that all changed as I as I finished cleaning and looked over to my right to see Kali laying down in a large puddle of mud.  It’s been pretty hot the past several days and I’m sure the cool muddy water felt very good to her.  I look over at Kali and start to laugh.  Kali looks up and smiles as if to say, “Hey Dad – this is great!  A girl needs spa treatment every now and then and this mineral laced mud and mountain water will do wonders for my skin and completion.”

So what better way to christen the outdoor bath tub than on a warm Sunday afternoon enjoying Kali’s new life in the mountains.

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The tub and Kali’s “mineral springs” to the right

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I love this place

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Can I get a Pedi next?

Toast Of The Town

The town is the kitchen and the Toast is really just a piece of bread….

It all started over a year ago when Kali had a minor medical issue that required daily pills for a week or so.  Kali is not the most discerning diner in the world Kali will eat just about anything.  So I thought I could just give her the pills and she would gulp them down as she does with anything that comes from the kitchen and out of my hand.

I was surprised when Kali spit the pill out of her mouth.  Being a resourceful and evolved human being I quickly figured out that if I wrapped the pill in a piece of bread that Kali would gulp down the pill wrapped in bread and be none the wiser for the experience.

This routine went on for the week without incident.

  • Get up in the morning
  • Get the medicine
  • Go to the cabinet and get a piece of bread
  • Wrap the pill in the bread
  • Ask Kali to sit a reasonable distance away from the kitchen
  • Bring the bread wrapped pill to Kali
  • Boom – Kali gets her medicine and as far as she is concerned she got some people food from the (people) cabinet

The evolved human being wins as usual.  Right?  Well, maybe…

Dogs love to be trained.  They love the interaction,  mental stimulation, and rewards that follow successful execution of the command, trick, or show of obedience.  When Kali followed me into the kitchen in the morning and I sent her out and followed that with a piece of bread that happened to have a pill inside she was trained.  Trained to know that when I go near the cabinet where the bread lives there is a good chance that she will get a piece of bread.  She’s believes it because since then I follow the same routine; because (duh!) I a very trainable….

Since that period of time when Kali had the meds and I wrapped them in bread there is the morning time routine – that occurs right after her formal breakfast of kibble – of me fixing my breakfast which almost always includes the bread cabinet.

Kali, and now Smokey too, will immediately “assume the position” on the edge of the kitchen and wait for their piece of bread; their “toast” as I now refer to it as.

It’s great to be trained.  It’s liberating.  I love the interaction and mental stimulation I get when Kali shows me what I need to do to make her happy.  I really like the rewards of licks and tail wags I get when I do something right.  And best of all, Kali loves it when i am obedient.

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Kali and Smokey waiting for their toast from their all trained Dad

 

 

 

 

Does Kali Know It’s Christmas?

In 1984 a group of musical artists organized by Bob Geldof came together to record a song Geldof had written called “Do They Know It’s Christmas”.  It was written and recorded to bring awareness to a famine occurring in Ethiopia.

The spirit and intentions of the song, performance, and related revenue donated to the cause  was noble and righteous.   It marked a trend of social responsibility from artists wanting to make a difference in the world.  This has been carried on over the years by many others with events like Willie Nelsons’ Farm Aid benefiting farmers with financial challenges and Neil Young’s annual Bridge School Concert that benefits individuals with severe speech and physical impairments.

I thought about the song earlier today when I watched Kali sleeping after a long walk (in the cold and rain – poor me, right?).  It’s Christmas Eve but what the heck does she care.  She’s warm, fed, loved, and rescued. It’s just another day in paradise and for that I am grateful.   It makes me feel good to know that this beautiful soul will be safe and loved for the rest of her life.  It also pains me to know there are so many dogs that aren’t as fortunate as Kali as they wait to be rescued – both figuratively and literally – but may never be.

So on this Christmas Eve does Kali know it’s Christmas?  Of course not. Tomorrow family will be over and we’ll open gifts, eat, drink, reminisce, honor those that have passed before us (I miss you Dad!) and be merry.  But before all of that Kali and I will get up about 6:30, she’ll eat breakfast, she’ll watch me drink coffee and read the paper, she’ll beg while I prepare my breakfast (but retreat to her “spot” when asked), complain that we haven’t gone for our walk yet, go for a walk, return home to a warm bed, nap, and on and on and on like every other day.  So will she know it’s Christmas?  Nope.

And that’s just fine for both of us.

Having said all of that, I think if Kali had a concept of Christmas she would wish each and every one of you a very merry and blessed Christmas.

 

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My favorite picture of my Kali.  She rarely smiles but when she does it’s Golden.

 

 

Update on “the attack”

We were pleasantly surprised that Kali woke up feeling much better the morning after being attacked by the two Rottweilers. Although still stiff she was able to put weight on her hind leg that had been so sensitive the hight before.   We kept the vet appointment that afternoon and found out that she had a severely strained ligament.  All in all Kali was fortunate to have come away with only this strain given the 150 pounds of Rottweilers that pounced on her only 24 hours before.

Dr. Brenda sent us home with some muscle relaxers and pain medicine (for Kali not us) and instructions to apply cold therapy along her back muscles and heat therapy to the ligament a few times a day and to perform frequent massages to the ligament.  Talk about doggie day-spa! Kali is a great patient and of course loves the extra attention she has been getting.

After a few days off we’re back on the trail and Kali is doing just fine.  In fact, now that the golf course is closed we’ve gone off trail for some of our daily walks taking advantage of the open fairways to let Kali romp and explore.

If I only had another biscuit

We were at my older son Jonathan’s end of the year soccer party.  He was seven at the time and his younger brother Michael was four.  The party was at a pizza parlor with the usual array of video games peppered throughout the building.  Like most kids my boys loved video games and they would spend hours and hours (and a lot of money) playing them if we had allowed them to.  My younger son Michael was especially “passionate” about video games and could become laser locked on any given game especially if he was about to beat a “level” or the “boss”.

The soccer team and their siblings were given a small bag with eight quarters to play video games before the pizza came out and before awards were presented.  My boys quickly consumed the eight quarters and then I gave them another eight quarters each.  The end of the year party goes on and most of the kids have had enough video games and are ready for pizza.  But then there’s Michael standing in the middle of the dinning room looking quite forlorn.  Looking at no one directly he says in a most exasperated voice, “If I only had another quarter”.  All at once about ten dads reach in their pockets and offer their quarters to Michael.

So fast forward about 25 years and now this is Kali. Standing in the middle of the room saying, “If only I had another biscuit.”

Today was not much different from most days for Kali.  Get up, eat breakfast.  Go for a walk, get training treats.  Come home watch dad make his breakfast and for staying out of the kitchen, get biscuits.  Later on watch dad make his lunch and get biscuits for staying out of the kitchen again.  Later in the afternoon get a Kong filled with carrots and peanut butter just ’cause.  I think even my son Michael, at four years old as he was in that pizza parlor,  would have to agree that this is a lot of (figurative) quarters.

But there Kali is with her big brown eyes and her oh-so-optimistic outlook.  If dad’s got food there is a chance I’ll get some.  If dad has quarters in his pocket there’s a chance for one more video game.

And Kali, like Michael, is right.  There’s always another quarter. All you’ve got to have is a little moxie to ask for it, indirectly or otherwise.   I love Kali like I love my kids. But as a parent there had to be some limits.  And for Kali there needs to be limits too, right?  Michael’s sad eyes staring longingly over at the giant Atari game.  Kali’s beautiful brown eyes staring at my snack.  Arghh!…  Stay strong.  Be mature,  Be the voice of reason and discipline.  Don’t lie.  Be honest and say “yes, I do have another quarter but it is not in your best interest if I give it to you”.

Kali with her sweet brown piercing eyes and  thought bubble over her head with a small picture of my son Michael next to it, “If I only had another biscuit”.

Me with a thought bubble over my head “Kali and Michael have been spending WAY too much time together”.

If I only had another biscuit

If I only had another biscuit

Blazing New Trails

The neighborhood was all a twitter as the engines rolled in with sirens and hoses.  One after another the engines kept coming and more and more firemen hit the trail.

You know you live in a quiet neighborhood when the biggest event in recent history is five or six fire vehicles pulling onto your street to douse a small fire.  But, it could have been a much larger fire – lord knows the elements are prime for a huge blaze – but our guys took care of business quickly and efficiently.

The trail head to Kali’s creek trail begins at the end of the block.  After over a year of walking the trail almost daily Kali knows the trail like the back of her paw.  Pretty much the same sights, same smells, and same neighbors out for strolls with the dogs, a bike ride or a jog.  Hit the trail head, stop for a quick poop (Kali not me), wrap around the golf course, bark -if antagonized – at a couple yap-yap dogs through a fence in a trailside home, on to the duck pond, a quick jaunt past the dog park (past being the operative term here since Kali is not ready to go in yet), and then we head home.  It’s our routine.

So it was of some personal interest to Kali and I when we heard the fire engines and saw that they were converging at the trail head from both sides of the creek to address a fire that had started in the brush.  One of the fire fighters told me that the fire had been started by someone throwing a flare into the creek.  I hate to assume it was kids who did it but boredom in suburbia after two months of summer vacation is the likely circumstance for someone to “see what would happen”.

We’re in the middle of a mini-heat wave and the temps were in the low 100’s yesterday and will remain so for another couple of days.  So on top of an already drought-ridden landscape the high temps and moderate winds make anywhere in this area prime for a major fire with little effort on mother nature’s part of any one stupid enough to throw a burning cigarette – of flare – into a wooded area. Fortunately, the fire was put out quickly with minimal impact to the creek and no harm to any of the surrounding homes.

I’ve always been fascinated with fire fighting.  When I was five years old I told my mother I wanted to be a fireman.  To this day I wish I had gone into that line of work and don’t have a reason or excuse for why I didn’t.  When I see news stories about fires this time of year, homes in danger, and acres and acres ablaze I feel compelled to drive to the area to see what I can do to help.  “Give me a shovel. Here, I’ll help move that hose….. “.  “Stay out of the way old man.  If you wanted to be a fire fighter you should have done so years ago when you were in your prime!”.  Sigh….  “OK, I’ll just watch from here but let me know if you need anything.  I’ve got a real cool dog – you want to meet her later? Maybe she could ride in the engine next to you.”

The Trail Head

Gaining access at the trail head

Crews Converging

“Let’s roll boys! We’ve got a fire to put out before the game comes on back at the fire house….”

I guess this is one way to get the water level back up in the creek....

I guess this is one way to get the water level back up in the creek….

All is well again at the creek

All is well again at the creek

I have few if any regrets in my life but not being a fire fighter may be one.  And if I had been I guess I’d be adopting Dalmatians instead of Golden Retrievers, right?  NOT!  I can guarantee you that If I was a fire fighter my Golden Kali would be riding and smiling along side of me in Engine No. 7 and helping to keep her community safe.

Tradition

Kali arrived from Taiwan Saturday evening of Memorial Day Weekend, 2014.  At the airport In Taiwan volunteers had put scarfs  with Taiwanese characters on all the dogs as they prepared them for the long plane ride to America.  When I took Kali out of her travel crate she was sporting this handsome looking scarf from Taiwan.   I walked Kali around the parking lot at SFO and once she got her land legs back one of the volunteers took off the scarf from Taiwan and replaced it with a scarf bearing the American stars and stripes  This is the scarf that Kali wore home that night.   That gesture – the switching of the scarves –  served as a great symbol of Kali’s transition from Taiwan to America.  New sights, new smells, new symbols, and new care givers.

I took the scarf off of Kali the next day.  Holly had carried the scarf with the Taiwanese characters home in her purse the night before.  She tied both scarves to Kali’s crate, which by the way she never used because she never really needed it.  The crate was folded up and put in storage a few weeks after Kali arrived once we saw that Kali was able to find our her own safe and special places around the house. She had demonstrated to us very quickly how respectful she could be of the house.

Last year on the morning of the 4th of July I untied the stars and stripes scarf from her folded up crate and put it on Kali to wear for the day.  I did the same thing this year and you can see her regally sporting it in the picture below.

Besides routine I’m also a big fan of tradition.  Years ago I made a mix tape (remember those?) of songs that seemed Americana to me.  Some Country songs, some Rock, some Jazz; an electic mix of songs that reminded me of America for one reason or another.   I play it every fourth of July.  Now, after just two 4th of July holidays with Kali her stars and stripes scarf has quickly become part of my 4th of July tradition.  It made me feel so good to see her wear it last Saturday knowing what it stands for.

And what does it stand for? Yes, perhaps the obvious patriotic things associated with our red, white, and blue stars and stripes.  But with this tradition it stands more for Kali’s journey from Taiwan to America.  It’s gratifying to know there are people whom I’ve never met half way around the world who took Kali in, cared for her, and sent her to me, on a plane, with a scarf. And once she landed other volunteers made the symbolic gesture of changing the scarves out and sending her home with us as an American dog.

Traditions evolve and that mix tape I mentioned is actually now played digitally from my iPhone sent via bluetooth to speakers. Ahh, technology.   But the scarfs are and will remain fabric; both literally and figuratively.  Kali has memories and experiences from Taiwan I’ll never know or appreciate.  They’re as meaningful as the experiences she’s had in America and account for a large part of the fabric that makes her who’s she is.  In fact they’re probably more meaningful. Maybe the memories and instincts gained in Taiwan will fade as the years pass or maybe they’ll forever define who she is.  But make no mistake.  Kali has embraced America and all the blessings and privileges of being American (warts and all; and there are many).

Next year as the 4th of July holiday get’s close I’ll begin thinking about Kali’s scarf and my mix tape.  I’ll make a mental note about how many “4th’s” she’s been with us.  I’ll spruce up the yard for our BBQ and rationalize why it’s better to stay home than fighting the crowds at a community celebration.  I’ll take Kali for a walk sporting her scarf which will elicit smiles and compliments from those we pass along the way.   And at some point during the day I’ll sit with Kali and make a toast and give a nod of acknowledgment and thanks to the dedicated volunteers in Taiwan who made it possible for me to have a very special dog with a very special scarf.

Beds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

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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.