Why Do I Have Three Dogs?

After Koda joined our pack a couple of years ago someone asked me why I had three dogs.   I said, “because my wife won’t let me have four”.  Boom – Rim shot!  I wasn’t the one who thought of that answer. I had seen it somewhere else; maybe on a tee-shirt or a Facebook meme.   But I am pretty sure that if I seriously suggested getting a fourth pup my wife would present me with an ultimatum.  That’s not to say that Holly doesn’t love our three girls as much as I do or that I want another dog.   I’ve also had the question about what it’s like to have more than one dog, or as in my case, three.

Having more than one dog definitely has it’s merits: An obvious one is that they provide companionship and security to each other when Holly and I aren’t around.   More selfishly is how great I feel when my three girls are nearby and laying together fast asleep with parts of each other’s bodies on one another.  Ahhh…peace.

But there are plenty things that could be considered downsides:   Three times the cost of food, vet bills, pet insurance, and toys.   And the exponential affect of poop. Or as I say, poop squared.  I’m convinced that having three dogs yields enough poop for nine dogs!

Getting On The The Same Page

Like with human siblings there are times that my three girls are not barking off the same woof sheet.  Koda is maturing and more often she will acquiesce to the flow of the family, wait her turn, or just give me some space with one of her sisters.  But for much of her first two years she wanted demanded the attention of the entire pack during all waking hours.   She initiated commandeered rough play from her two older sisters – Koda and Kali – throughout much of the day. Whether they wanted to play or not.

When Kali joined the pack at five years old it was just her.  Most of my routines revolved around her.   Our walks to the Creek Trail, play time, cuddle time and so on. I have to admit I miss the times that it was just Kali and I.  We established an ever lasting bond that has transcended the passing of time and addition of siblings.   But now at 11 years, Kali has slowed down significantly and mostly sleeps the day away.  Often there are activities when she has to be left behind.  Like morning walks or an excursion beyond The Golden K like a trip to the lake.  That makes me a little sad.

Food Is The common Denominator

Regardless of age, distractions, or personalities there is one activity where The Girls are in lock step.  Meal time!  When breakfast and dinner preparation begin they work in harmony to get under my feet supervise and root me on.  As I lift the filled bowls from the counter they move as a single unit to the designated feeding area.  Their moves are so aligned and focused you’d think that Bob Fosse had choreographed it!  Once bowls are on the ground they sit without prompting, collectively look adoringly in my eyes stare impatiently while waiting for the release to their bowls.  Teamwork at it’s finest!

And then there were three

My Girls have distinct personalities and priorities.  They were never as evident as one day shortly after Koda joined the pack as a four month old puppy.   For potty training and other reasons we used gates to make sure Koda stayed in the kitchen and could not wonder too far out of our site.   One afternoon The Girls were all in the kitchen as I was busy going in and out for various reasons.  To get out of and back into the kitchen I would need to step over one of the gates.  As went to step over the gate my shoe got stuck at the top and I fell taking the gate down with me.  My knee landed hard on the gate and I laid there sightly crumbled on the ground.   Here is where the The Girl’s priorities were on full display.

It all happened quickly.  As I laid on the ground in a bit of pain The Girls all rushed to my side.  But for different reasons.

Koda was first and in a flash threw her body on mine.  Her tail was wagging fast, her tongue was out, and she was very excited to see me on the floor.   Surely this was play time!  Kloe is very sensitive and intuitive.  She knew immediately that I was in pain and came to my side to comfort me.  As I lay there trying to fight Koda off,  Kloe sat by my side leaning into my body with a concerned look on her face.  And then there was Kali; last to arrive but no less passionate (about her priority).   Most dogs – especially Goldens – are food motivated.  If there are levels of food motivation from one to 10 Kali would be at least 500.  These days she struggles to get up from a down position because of her bad hips.   Often times I have to help her up.  But if there is food involved Kali springs up like Tigger of Winnie The Pooh fame and is first in line.

So on this day as I lay there on the ground with the full weight of Kloe’s 75 pounds leaning into me and Koda’s paws and tongue in my face, here comes Kali.   And what does Kali do?  She sticks sticks her snout into my pocket because she knows that there are usually treats there.

So why do I have three dogs?  Because my wife says I can’t have four!

Kloeville

There a place that Kloe goes that we call Kloeville.   Actually it is not really a place but a state of mind.  Or a moment in time.  It might even be considered a spiritual or out of body experience.  Kloe won’t say so these are my assumptions from observing her when she’s in Kloeville; her special place.

She lays on her back,  back legs spread, front legs limp with paws dangling.  Sometimes there’s a ball in her mouth and sometimes her lips are just curled up in a smile.   Her eyes don’t fixate on anyone thing but they are open and alert looking mostly up.  Her body is relaxed and it seems that her spirit is too.

Kloe is gentle soul with a gentle demeanor.   I am convinced that her body, at almost 80 pounds – and larger than average for a female of her breed – is so big in order to house her giant heart of gold.  And her large head is to hold all the wisdom she could share if she could speak.  Instead her actions do the talking for her…

Often as I go about my day I’ll walk into a room, or when I’m sitting in a chair or at the kitchen table I’ll look over and see Kloe in Kloeville.  And it makes me happy.  It also makes me a little envious that my own version of Kloeville is not as defined and refined as hers.   Even if it was I’m not sure I could go to it achieve it as often or as easily as Kloe does.

I think there is a lot I can learn from Kloe!

KLOEVILLE!

 

 

 

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”.

Kloeville

I’m a worrier and also an optimist and worry and hope have been omnipresent since Kloe’s Bi-Lateral Tibia Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO) just over ten weeks ago.

It was sometime in April when we learned that Kloe had a torn CCL and then a few weeks later when she tore the other CCL.  Because both tears were partial our vet suggested a wait and see approach.  Wait and see if they heal on their own.   This meant that Kloe would have to be held to almost zero activity in order to give these ligaments a chance to heal.  They  didn’t.

After four months of watching an waiting it was clear that surgery would be necessary in order for Kloe to return to normal activities and a normal of life.  Our vet recommended the TPLO.  Kloe is only three and a half and god willing has many more years of running, jumping, wrestling, and frolicking to experience.  Without surgery she wouldn’t have that.  At least not without pain.

Now, after ten weeks post surgery and observing daily improvement in Kloe,  I have even more hope and reassurances although the worry is still there in the background.

The TPLO surgery is invasive and includes cutting a semi circle through the tibia and then repositioning the bone with a plate and screws.

We have the most fantastic vet and her guidance throughout the past six months has been invaluable.   She told us to begin taking Kloe on short walks on flat ground at four weeks.  Apparently this stimulates healing process in the bones.  At eight weeks we began walks of increasing distance and also began a little up hill walking and a few stairs.  The idea is to go slow enough to be safe but also to begin introducing normal activities.   Most recently in the past few days we have allowed Kloe to be outside off leash under our supervision.

Play with sister Koda (the 18 month old) is still supervised and broken up when it get’s too rough or extends too long.  But play has begun again and both Kloe and Koda are enjoying that to say the least.

It makes us so happy to see Kloe happy again.  To see her smiling again.  To see her go to Kloeville which is lying on her back with a ball in her mouth and just staring into the sky.  Kloeville!   Kloe’s old playful personality has reemerged and Puppy Poses are frequent.

Dogs mostly live in the here an now.  But if Kloe could remember or realize all she’s been through in the past six months she would be very proud of herself for how far she has come.  I know I am!

KLOEVILLE

 

A Model Patient

It’s been three weeks since Kloe had her Bi-lateral TPLO surgery.   She is doing fantastic!  She is feeling so good that the hard part now will be to keep her on a short leash  – figuratively and literally – for at least another month or so.

The first few days home Kloe mostly slept and soaked up the love and attention that we gave her almost 24 x 7 staying within feet away to make sure there were no mishaps.  We’re fortunate that we have a one bedroom apartment under our home that has ground level access and a small patio area.  The apartment is used for friends and family when they visit the Golden K.  But for the first ten days post surgery it was Kloe’s convalescent home staffed primarily by Holly who did what she is so good at – taking care of her family.  I spelled Holly from time to time but it was mostly Holly who monitored Kloe during the critical first several days, administering medicine and changing bandages when needed.   Holly created a safe and comfortable environment for Kloe setting up a day bed in the main living area of the apartment and a nighttime bed in the bedroom where Holly could sleep on the floor next to Kloe.

After a few days Kloe became more ambulatory and willing to walk the few feet to the patio to “get busy” what we call it for our girls to pee and poop.   The summer temps were very warm and Kloe relaxed next to Holly’s side on the shaded patio.   Every minute that passed Kloe’s bones were knitting back together and our vet said a little bit of walking helped that process.

After about ten days we felt Kloe was strong enough, and safe enough, to come back upstairs.  Between the car, the driveway to the upper part of our home, and me carrying a heavy 75 pound load for the last 40 feet Kloe arrived back upstairs.   We celebrated on the deck by doing what we normally do – hang out with our girls, drink wine, BBQ, and enjoy the beauty of the Golden K.  It was great to have the band pack  back together!

The five of us are together so much that ten days of fragmented family life seemed like a lifetime.  It was great for this group of habit creatures to be back in our routine, even if it meant Kloe had to be tethered while on the deck.   She also must be on leash when we take her to “get busy” (pee and poop).  The sight of a squirrel, feral cat, or other critter could cause her to take off and run and jump which for now is a major no-no.

Since then we’ve lengthened the leash a bit but Kloe can still not be outside untethered. She once again has mostly free reign inside the house but when we leave she has to be sequestered in our bedroom by herself.  We’ve come too long to risk injury or setbacks.  Our vet says that in a week we can begin taking her for short walks – five minutes – on flat ground.  What comes after that I’m not sure.

I’m trying not to get to far ahead of things but I can’t help but wonder what the signal or trigger will be for when we can let her off leash outside and let her return to “normal” activities.  The prognosis is that she will return to almost 100% of her old self with periodic spells of soreness after very active periods.  In my eye’s mind I can see her muscular athletic body running through the Golden K as she once used to.  That image makes me both very happy and also scared.  I’m a worrier and I know I will be cringing every step of her way at first but hopefully not forever.

So for now I try not to think too much about the whats and whens of Kloe returning to normal activities and just focus on how far our sweet girl has come.  She’s been a model patient, stoically accepting everything we’ve thrown at her over the past several months not least of all an invasive surgery and long recovery period where she now feels normal but cannot yet act normal.  All in good time sweet girl (the authors says for himself as much as for the patient)….

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Kloe hanging on the deck next to me while I write this post

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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The Master Teacher

As I helped my Golden Kali with her aging hips onto the couch I cuddled her. We were alone in the family room while Holly cleaned up after dinner. Puppy Kloe was still sleeping under the dinner table.

As Kali settled onto the couch I whispered out loud into her ear. “I love you Kali, more than you can ever comprehend”.

Kali looked at me with sleepy eyes and it hit me. I paused for a moment and then I said, again out loud, “Wait – maybe you love me more than I can ever comprehend”.

And so it was. Another moment, another day, and another lesson I’ve learned from my Golden Kali.

My Golden Kali The Master Teacher.

Sticks

Kloe has never met a stick she didn’t like.

Like all puppies Kloe loved to chew and to this day is still a voracious chewer.  She was nine weeks old when she joined our pack and spent just two weeks in our home in Livermore, CA before we moved to The Golden K, our new home in the mountains.   Our Livermore home was a typical suburban home on a small suburban lot with a compliment of small suburban sticks.   Kloe had no problems finding these tiny sticks and she eagerly gnawed away at them.  We were initially concerned that being so small and young she would swallow too much of the bark and wood shavings she tore off with her razor-like puppy teeth.  But she was never interested in eating the shavings.  Instead she would chew the small sticks into pieces and spit them out in a tidy pile next to her.   She quickly gained our confidence that she wouldn’t eat an entire tree while we weren’t watching.

Being the stick lover that she is you can imagine Kloe’s excitement when we moved to The Golden K on five acres in the foothills covered with oak, cedar, and pine trees.   The amount of sticks now available to her was not simply incremental it was exponential.  It must have been like if I had moved from a home that had a modest wine rack holding six bottles of middle shelf wine to a mansion with a huge wine cellar holding hundreds of bottles of the finest wines money could buy.  Or, more likely, that’s just me projecting and in reality Kloe probably didn’t notice or comprehend the plethora of sticks now available to her and only focused on the stick “at hand” at any given moment.

These days the sticks, like Kloe, are much bigger and she still hasn’t met one she doesn’t like.

One down a million to go….

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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.

 

 

Long Running Story

Kali’s new life in America and the mountains is now a long running story.

As most owners of a rescue pet know it’s the pet that usually rescues us and provides us with a more enriched life.  So often it is the pet, in my case Kali, who teaches us new ways to love, re-calibrates our priorities, and shows us that the simplest things in life can also be the most rewarding and heartening.

It’s been three and half years since Kali rescued me. I vividly remember the moment her crate was opened and she was released to us at SFO after a 12 hour flight from Taiwan.  The bond was instant and was fortified on the drive home and in the ensuing days and weeks.

So while Kali’s adventure is a long running one she herself rarely runs…. or trots, or gallops.  Kali is rarely in a hurry to get anywhere except to her food bowl and even then doesn’t run although she does display a remarkable ability to pirouette, bounce, and hop.   A main reason for the lack of speed are her hips which, typical of Goldens, are not in great shape.  She has dysplasia in one hip and the other, while not diagnosed, is not much better.

So on the rare occasion Kali does “run” it makes me laugh and smile.   It’s not the fact that she’s “running”  but that it is so darn cute.  Because even when Kali is moving fast (for her) it’s not very graceful.  If you saw Kali “run” (note the quote marks around the word run and running in the proceeding sentences when referring to Kali) it would not inspire images of racehorses, jack rabbits, or world class athletes.  When Kloe runs it might but not Kali.  Kali’s motion when moving fast is as much up and down as it is forward.   You might say that she runs with her entire body, head to tail, perhaps to compensate for those wonky hips of hers.

Picture a long wavelength and you will get an idea of how Kali runs; it takes a lot of up and down to move forward just a little bit…

Kali’s “running” motion

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There is a gate that leads out of our patio onto the driveway and surrounding land.   This is the gate Kali and I usually leave from to go on our walks or across to my office.  For Kali walks translate to treats.  My office sometimes translates to a bully stick to chew on or at the least a respite from her sister Kloe’s antics and chance to have dad all to herself.  There is also an area nearby my office where raccoons and other critters have made a “deposit” the previous night.   Much to my chagrin Kali loves to forage for those deposits…

More often than not when we go out the gate Kali begins running with her up and down and up and down motion.  As she “runs” she turns back to me with a smile on her face as if to say, “look at me, I’m running – can you believe it?” Or maybe it’s to say, “C’mon, I’ll show you where all the critters pooped last night.”  Whatever it is it makes me smile and laugh out loud as Kali reminds me that the simplest things in life can also be the most rewarding and heartening.

And it’s these moments that I am most grateful to have been rescued by my Golden Kali.

A picture of Kali not running…

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Golden Kali