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

Or So It Seems

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

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

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

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

Don's

Don’s “Farmhouse” along our trail

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mommy Time

This busy at work thing is really cutting into my Kali time and blogging about Kali time!

I usually work most days in my home office but recently new clients have taken me out of my “Kali Zone” and off to far away places.  In other words past my front yard!  There have been missed walks and late arrivals home well past Kali’s dinner time.  Kali’s been forced – the poor soul – to stay by herself for (gasp!) over an hour at a time.  The fact that she has survived the past several weeks is a testament to her perseverance and Goldeness.

Actually, and as you can surmise, Kali has been just fine.  It’s me that misses the Kali time weaving throughout my day as the thread that connects all things good.  The routine, the banter, and the nudges from Kali’s nose to get me out of my office chair and outside for some playtime or her walk are examples of the rituals I came so fond of and miss during this busy period.  Lucky for Kali, and for me, (and for Holly too), that Holly – now on summer break from teaching – is there for Kali and eager and willing to pick up some of the slack.

Over the past year since Kali joined our pack Holly has joined us  plenty of times on our walks but she has also respected and appreciated that this was Kali/Dad bonding time and gave us our space.  In other words, during Fall and Spring Holly was way too warm, cozy, and cuddled up with her cup of coffee and a book in the morning to join us.

But lately, with Dad working at those far away lands that stretch out well beyond the front yard, Holly has been taking Kali on walks.  When I walk with Kali I have training treats tucked in one pocket and poop bags in the other.  So when I saw this small purse-like bag in the refrigerator packed with training treats and poop bags in a pocket it brought a smile to my face.  Holly is highly organized and it should have not been a surprise – a pleasant one – that I came across her Kali-walking bag fully equipped and ready to go on a moments notice.  It made me feel good for both Kali and Holly.

I’ve teased both Holly and Kali that over the last several weeks Kali has gone from “Daddy’s girl” to “Mommy’s girl”.  Mommy walks her, Mommy feeds her, and Mommy has been seen giving her precious cuddle time.  Holly counters with, “She’s still your girl.  She hears your car from three blocks away and goes to the door to wait for you to come in”.  This of course makes me feel good.

But what makes me feel even better is that Kali is “OUR” girl and after a year and two weeks WE are stronger than we were before the night she landed at SFO with 23 other fur babies from Taiwan.

Holly’s “Kali Walking Bag”

Cuddle Time with Mom

Cuddle Time with Mom

I’m still kicking myself

I’m still kicking myself.  Holly told me to let it go but my nature is to continue kicking myself until I correct the mistake I made.  Sometimes it takes longer than I’d like but I usually find a way to fix “it” whatever it happens to be…  And I will this time too!

Kali’s nails never need clipping because our daily walks seem to keep them short.  They pretty much always look the same.  Neatly manicured by mother nature.  Except for her dew claws.  These tend to get long and I know when they begin to bother Kali because she’ll start to chew on them.  So last week when I saw her chewing on them I took a look and sure enough they looked like little hooks and in need of a trim.  I’ve trimmed them a few times and although it’s not a favorite grooming activity of Kali’s (to say the least) she usually reluctantly complies and I’m able to get off a quick snip without any problems.

But not last week.  Last week Kali squirmed away just as I was pressing down on the handle of the clippers and I immediately knew that I had hurt her.  I caught the nail too close to the quick.  There was a bit of blood and probably a bit of pain for Kali.  Holly helped and as I held Kali still Holly quickly cauterized the nail with styptic powder and wrapped the area with a sterile bandage and gauze.

Kali was fine but I wasn’t.  I walked around the kitchen saying, “#%&!!…”.  Holly:  “Stop it, she’l be fine.  It happens”.  Me:  “&*%$#!!”.

I went over to Kali who was now laying down and settled.   “I’m so sorry Kali.  I’m so sorry I hurt you”.  Kali didn’t seem to be in any pain and other than being a little confused about the bandage on her paw everything was fine.  But not for me.  I wasn’t fine and I’m still kicking myself.

The next morning I was surprised to find the paw quite swollen but during the course of the morning the swelling resolved and everything seemed fine.   Kali let me hold her paw and squeeze it gently.  There was no apparent pain.  The nail was black but there was no bleeding so I didn’t re-bandage it.   Then a couple of days later Kali was running in the yard and I saw her pull up and come hobbling back towards the house.  The nail was bleeding again.  We bandaged it and again the next day it was fine.  Yesterday on our walk I noticed it bleeding.  When we got home I did a closer inspection and could see that the nail was split – much like a hangnail – and the quick was exposed.  Great – more kicking myself and some silent #%$^@!!”s.  Kali walked on it fine but when I touched the “hangnail” she didn’t like that at all.  When I moved the small piece it clearly hurt her.

Kali tried her best to be a good soldier; she knew what I wanted.  I wanted her to hold still while I washed and bandaged her paw.  But she was too scared and her instincts overrode the desire to obey.  It was an interesting dynamic seeing in her eyes both acknowledgement of what I wanted and also the fear of being hurt.

It took about 15 biscuits and some magician-like maneuvers to get it cleaned and re-bandaged.   I soaked it for a few minutes in a pan of warm water, dried it off, and put on a new sterile bandage wrapped with gauze.  Kali gave the bandage a cursory lick but for the most part ignored it and went off to sleep in the sun while I scoured “source of all truth” (the internet)  to gather more information about cracked dew claws.

Like most things you read about on the internet, and in life,  there are many versions of the truth.  But I did gather enough reasonable information to feel as though I had done the right thing by wrapping Kali’s dew claw up and keeping it clean.   It was quite interesting to read comments in forums from many dog owners that suggest the dew claw should be removed completely in order to avoid the problem in the first place. Many owners advocate amputation when the dog is spayed or put out for some other reason.   I’m no expert but that seems rather excessive and not something I would ever consider unless it became medically necessity.  There were many countering opinions that suggested that dog’s need this appendage to help them maneuver when running and turning quickly as well as helping to hold things still such as a bone or Kong toy.  That seemed much more reasonable to me.

Kali’s is no pain and walks just fine but clearly something needs to be done.  So to be sure I’ll take her to the vet to get a professional assessment and to see if the nail needs to be clipped completely off in order to grow back properly or what the best treatment may be.  I’m hoping the prognosis is that it will resolve itself without medical intervention but I’m not very optimistic. I’ll know later today after we see the vet.

One thing I do know for sure is that it will be difficult for me to trim Kali’s dew claws in the future.   We’ll get past this and then I will begin a regimen of touching her toes and nails without involving clippers in order to get Kali used to it and to regain her confidence in me.  It’s really something I should have done in the first place. I should have been regluarly touching her toes and nails and lavishing her with treats to reinforce her allowing me to do so before I ever attempted to clip the first time. Had I done so she wouldn’t have pulled away last week.  There would be no cracked dew claw and no drama for my Golden Kali girl.

Like the old saying goes “should’ve, would’ve could’ve”.  I knew better and ignored it.   And for that, I’m still kicking myself.

Give me more biscuits or I'll pull off the bandage  :)

Give me more biscuits or I’ll pull off the bandage 🙂

 

Kong

Kali absolutely loves her Kong toy.  Or does she?

Dogs do seem to love the Kong toy but mostly I think they love the food stuff we put in the Kong.  Kali gets so excited when she sees me take her Kong out of her toy box.  She dances with delight and anticipation of what is usually a mix of apples, carrots, and maybe a couple of biscuits all smothered with doggie peanut butter.  She watches me prepare the Kong and drools like a Pavlovian Pit Bull. When I finally hand her the Kong she gingerly takes it from my hand with eyes darting to and fro looking for the ideal spot to enjoy the tightly packed feast.

She usually picks the mat in the kitchen or the foot of the stairs to begin her work.  If I’ve moved upstairs to my office she may join me after a while to show me her handy work and finish the job.  Sometimes I’ll put her outside to enjoy the treat in order to avoid saliva and peanut butter getting on the carpet.  I don’t think she really cares where she eats so long as she gets to!

I have to admit I feel a little guilty at times watching Kali feverishly exercise her tongue trying to get out the treats.  Is it heaven for her or a cruel reminder that she lacks opposable thumbs?  It’s not often that we don’t get our daily walk in but there are times when I’m too busy and instead Kali gets the Kong.  This seems a bit like a parent plopping their toddler in front of the TV with a DVD instead of engaging them in stimulating play-time.  Maybe it’s just me over thinking things….

Here is what Kong says about their product:

  • Keeps dogs occupied and mentally stimulated for hours
  • Requires skill and persistence to get to the treats
  • The unpredictable bounce has been known to cause spontaneous eruptions of playtime fun

Seems reasonable.  It does keep Kali occupied for about 30 minutes (but not hours) or longer depending on how sinister I felt when packing the treats in.  Her persistence is quite remarkable and I’m convinced that even without a skillful tongue Kali would never leave a morsel uneaten even if it was packed inside with glue instead of peanut butter.  As for the spontaneous eruption of playtime fun, well that’s just not Kali.  She is very predictable and not very spontaneous – a lot like me I guess.

So to ease my guilt I turned to the source of all wisdom and truth:  the internet.   A quick Google search on Kong Toy returned about 24,800,000 results (in 0.75 seconds!).  I passed over the sponsored ads and clicked on “How to Stuff a KONG Toy | ASPCA”  and here is what the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals says about the Kong:

Why Give Your Dog a KONG (according to the ASPCA)?

“Nature made dogs to hunt, forage, scavenge and work for their food—not have it delivered for free in a bowl! One reason dogs develop behavior problems is sheer boredom, resulting from a lack of physical exercise, problem solving and outdoor exploration and investigation. To make your dog’s life more enjoyable, you can give to  fun “work” to do when he’s home alone or when you can’t play with him.  Food puzzle toys give dogs a chance to work for their food. “

(By the way, if you don’t already have an inkling of how to stuff a Kong Toy then maybe….)

So the statement by the ASPCA did help me a bit but I still wondered if Kali really enjoys quality time with her Kong. So I turned to the expert on Kali which of course is Kali herself.

Me:  Kali do you like hunting, foraging, and scavenging for food.

Kali: Woof!  Translation:  Dad, for all you know as a stray I may have spent the better part of my life hunting, foraging, and scavenging for food.  What do you think?

Me:  Oh, well I guess that makes sense.  How insensitive of me.  Ok then, how do you feel about work?  Do you like working for your food?  It’s more like play really, so you know “fun” work.

Kali:  Woof (with a slight growl on the end).  Translation:  I’m not an Australian Cattle Dog.  I’m a Golden Retriever.  I’m part of the Sporting Group of dogs.  I’m intelligent, friendly, and devoted.  Do you see anything about work in there?  Place my food in my bowl as I have trained you please and I will remain forever friendly and devoted.

So after my “scientific” research, soul-searching, and guilt-laden conclusion that I’m somehow responsible for Kali’s lack of opposable thumbs will I continue to give her a treat filled Kong toy?

Of course I will!  She absolutely loves it!

Who needs opposable thumbs?  I absolutely love this Kong toy!

Who needs opposable thumbs? I absolutely love this Kong toy!