Kali crossed the bridge over a year ago and there is not a day that ends where I haven’t thought about her at least once. I find myself day dreaming about her. At night she is often in my dreams. Her name comes off my lips at times when I am speaking to one of her sissies. Sometimes I call out to her for no reason in particular other than to beckon her sweet spirit. And I will speak softly to her when I see a picture of her on my computer or in a photo frame.
I miss her desperately. Not in a deliberating way, or even in a sad way. But in a way that stops me in my tracks and takes my breath away as I realize what an incredible relationship we had and what a very special dog Kali was. Her history is storied having been rescued in Taiwan and flying across the world into our arms in the SF Bay Area. Two years later we moved to the Sierra Nevada Foothills and she was an instant local. Nothing ever phased her. She adapted within minutes to any new environment or situation. And like a true Golden she loved all people almost as much as she loved food. 🙂
Recently a picture came up in my Facebook Memories. A photo from four years ago. In the photo Kali, Kloe, Koda, and Holly were all lying on the floor sleeping. Everyone was tired from a day of playing off and on in the snow. What struck me about this photo was that as they slept on the floor Kloe, Koda, and Holly each had their heads resting against Kali. She was our anchor. She was our energy. She was our heartbeat. Kali was and remains the pulse of The Golden K!
Kali, anchoring a power nap after a day in the snow. February 5, 2019
I miss my walks with Kali. There are times when I find myself missing the days when it was just Kali and I. Kali and I and our Creek Trail.
We still lived in the Bay Area town of Livermore when Kali joined the pack. There was a trail through the neighborhood that ran along a small creek and a local 9 hole golf course. The trail head was at the end of our street. Kali and I walked that trail almost every day and it became a very special place for us.
I don’t miss the Bay Area for a second. But I do miss our Creek Trail and our daily walks along it!
Kali and I got to know each other on our Creek Trail. She was great on a leash except when other dogs passed by which made her nervous. We eventually worked through that issue. In retrospect it was one of many ways that we gained a deeper understanding of one another. The pace of our walks was great. She was a little prissy and had a cute lightness to her walk. I recall one time taking her for a walk with a friend and my friend says, “look – she prances”. So although not athletic she was very light on her feet. Like a dancer…
I think what I miss most about our walks are the long talks Kali and I had along the way. Under all circumstances Kali and I were in regular communication with each other; especially during the first several months and especially when we walked. I used words and gestures. Kali used her eyes and body language and sometimes a grunt or a small bark. We learned each other and learned from each other. Over the years I realized that I learned much more from Kali than she from me. She was a great teacher!
Sometimes we walked in silence. Walks where we were justtogether. Words, gestures, or body language wasn’t necessary. I loved those times when our cadence and rhythm were in total sync. We walked in total peace, as one, and side by side.
In 2016 we moved to Tuolumne City; a rural community in the Sierra Nevada Foothills. Our walks became different. We would walk on dirt and gravel roads under majestic pine and oak trees. Homes were not side by side in this neighborhood. Instead they were set back off the road on parcels of two to three acres or more. Wildlife was much more evident. On the Creek Trail we regularly saw geese and ducks. Along our new walking venue we would encounter black tail deers, wild turkeys, and farm animals: pigs, goats and horses and cows. One would think that all the new sights, and especially the smells, would have been like a smorgasbord for Kali. But just as when Kali arrived in Livermore from Taiwan -and immediately assimilated- she seemed to do the same in Tuolumne. She pranced along our walks with a calm demeanor as if she had lived here all her life.
As the years passed Kali and I walked less and less – both in frequency and distance. Her legs were no longer very strong and her hip displaysia became more of a factor. Kali was always eager to have out and about time with me (and I with her) so she of course jumped (figuratively not literally cause remember her hips 🙂 ) at the chance to go on walks. But the pace became slower, there were more stops along the way and I often had to coax her to move along.
Eventually the walks stopped completely and Kali began sleeping much of the day. We always found time to be together just to the two of us. During those times we talked and reminisced about our Creek Trail. And sometimes we just sat in silence. And our cadence and rhythm were in total sync. We were together and at peace.
From the day Kali came into my life, whether we were walking along our Creek Trail in Livermore, navigating the rural roads around the Golden K, or just sitting in silence on the deck looking out at a warm evening sky, my Golden Kali and I were always been in sync. Same cadence and same rhythm. And same heartbeat.
I’m sure the answer, or a scientific opinion, is in one of the many books I have about canine behavior and development. But rather than scouring those books for corroborative information I turned to the source of all knowledge: Google. Or as Holly calls it, “Uncle Google”. I firmly believe that one can find any answer they want – correct or otherwise – by searching the internet. Of course we all have our reliable sites that we trust, or search engines that may return more mainstream information than others. But bottom line if one digs deep enough one can find a plethora of information to support their opinion or beliefs.
So now realizing that Uncle Google is not a reliable source for something as important as learning if dogs can recognize smiles I turned to the real experts. My girls Kloe and Koda.
I sat them down in front of me and began the conversation…
“Girls, I need your help. I’m trying to figure out if you can recognize smiles and know what they mean”. The girls sit patiently waiting for a biscuit that doesn’t come. “Girls, please pay attention.” Koda lies down but continues to pay attention. Kloe is looking out the window for a ball. “Kloe – watch!” She does.
I go on to describe the smile to them. “Girls, as humans we smile in many ways for many reasons. We smile when something is funny; that smile may be accompanied by laughter. We smile at the end of movie with a happy ending or when the hero prevails. You’ve seen me do that, right? Sometimes we smile when we feel sorry or bad for someone; a smile that says, ” I feel bad for you and wish I could help”. At this point I’ve totally lost Koda who wonders off to the kitchen. Kloe stays close still believing there is a biscuit in her future.
I give one last example. I say, “And of course humans smile just at the site of puppies, or even the thought of puppies!” Kloe seems to be thinking back to the last time we brought a puppy home (Koda) and is reticent at the mention of puppies. Koda, who must have continued to listen from the kitchen, comes running over and again is sitting in front of me with full attention. A giant thought bubble appears over her head that says, “Puppies? Did you say Puppies? Because the other day Mom told me that I needed a puppy to keep me busy and to play with when Kloe didn’t want to play. Did you say Puppy? Are you really going to get me a puppy??”
I now realize this is an exercise in futility. The girls are staying nearby only because they think I have biscuits in my pocket. [Full disclosure – I may have promised a treat at some point to hold their attention]. I consider getting up, giving them a biscuit, and returning to Uncle Google if he will still have me. But I decide to try an experiment to see of dogs can recognize a smile.
“Ok girls” I say. “Sit down here together”. I return to my chair about 10 feet away. I stare at the girls. They stare back at me. I wait a moment for dramatic pause. And then, I smile. A big ear to ear smile. They run to me in unison and eagerly lick my face and my giant smile.
And there it is. The proof. Dogs do recognize smiles! My highly scientific experiment in a controlled setting with documented parameters and standardized measurements proves that dogs do recognize smiles!
Feeling very proud of myself and satisfied with my results I sit back to revel in the moment with my girls. They stare at me and both now have thought bubbles over their heads:
A friend and recent follower of this Golden Kali blog told me that she read all the posts from beginning to current. She said she wanted to really know Kali’s story so she started from the beginning. Wow – that is quite a compliment that is not lost on me! It also inspired me to do the same – go back and re-read all my posts from the beginning. The beginning was the day after Kali’s arrival from Taiwan in May of 2014.
I’m currently up to July of 2016 and as I am reading these posts two things have stood out to me.
The first is how special my relationship with Kali was (and still is even though she is gone).
In my heart and soul I knew from day one that Kali was special. She was meant for me and I was meant for her! I knew it then, I know it now, and I will always know it. It was a once in a lifetime gift bestowed upon Kali and I from destiny.
Reading these posts again after so many years has reminded me in great detail of all the special moments Kali and I had together. For the first two years it was just Kali and I. We were almost always together. There were no other canine siblings and Kali had the full compliment of my attention 24/7. These early days – just her and I – established a foundation of mutual trust, respect, and love. And most importantly it established a bond that cannot be broken. I love Kloe and Koda as much as Kali but the relationships are a little different. There has never been just Kloe. There has never been just Koda. But there were two years when there was just Kali. Reading these old posts has reminded me of that special time in our lives with a renewed appreciation of what Kali meant to me and me to her.
The second thing that has stood out is the relationships and camaraderie that developed between fellow bloggers and followers of Golden Kali.
After each post I have also been reading comments made by these people many who have become friends over the years.
When my daughter was a teen-ager, in the early days of social media, she would occasionally refer to someone as her friend who she knew online from a social media site. As a parent this made me very concerned for obvious reasons. That my daughter was referring to someone as a friend who she had never met face to face or even voice to voice on the phone was a worry for me.
But later, through the Golden Kali blog, I realized that it was possible to make friends through social media. Comments resulting from blog posts created a basis for me to get to know the regular followers and vice-versa. While Kali has always been the “perfect” dog like so many rescues she had her set of challenges. I wrote about these challenges and many followers, offered empathy, advice, or simply shared a similar experience. I also followed their blogs and through ongoing dialogue and sharing of experiences – and life in general – we’ve developed friendships. For that I’m grateful.
So Kali, although physically gone, continues to very present in my life. I don’t expect that to ever change. Re-reading our story from beginning has been a great reminder (for my brain) of everything Kali means to me. This of course is something my heart always knew and will never need to be reminded of.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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!
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!
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)….
Kloe hanging on the deck next to me while I write this post