Christmas Trees At The Golden K

This will be our third Christmas at The Golden K., our mountain home in the Sierra Nevada Foothills.   When living in suburbia with our now grown children Holly and I  bought high priced Christmas Trees, usually Noble Pines, from various lots or drove miles to cut them down ourselves.  Later we invested in artificial trees that looked great until the lights started to go out after being wrapped back up and stored for a couple of years.

While packing up Suburbia three years ago we threw out the last artificial tree.   When Christmas rolled around several months later, and now living in the mountains we went to a local nursery to see about buying a live tree.   While looking at what was available we had a “duh” moment realizing that we have five acres full of trees.  Why would we spend money on a Christmas tree when we have hundreds of trees of our own to choose from.   Our pine trees are a hundred feet tall and we don’t live in altitude high enough for firs.  But we do have a lot of cedars so choosing a small cedar for our Christmas tree each year from our own property has become our new tradition.

While cedars are not ideal for hanging ornaments it hasn’t mattered to us.   This new tradition has become important to us as a symbol of our transition out of Suburbia and our new way of life in the mountains.

So today we headed out with the girls and a chain saw in tow to hunt for a tree.

After about 20 minutes of surveying our options we chose a tree on the edge of our property.   After giving the tree a sniff and once over the girls approved of our selection.  Good thing because it was already cut!

After some trimming of branches and securing the tree stand we were ready to trim the tree.

The girls were not to interested in helping with the trimming and almost immediately went into power nap mode.  Kloe woke up briefly to “snoopervise” (thanks for the term Monika!) but it didn’t last too long.

After a couple of hours of trimming the tree was done.  The girls seemed to approve as they leaned into to get on their Christmas cheer.

IMG_6498

*Editors Note:  The girls would have had on their Christmas scarves for this photo but that is just not possible with a six month old puppy who would rip her sister’s scarves to pieces as well as her own….. 

Life changes

Life changes just a little bit when a puppy joins your pack.

On one hand things really shouldn’t change too much when you already have two other dogs that already dictate the flow of household.  On the other hand when those two dogs are two and a half and nine years old it’s a little bit like bringing a new born home just after all your existing kids are out of diapers.

Kali, the nine year old and Kloe the two and a half year old are pretty self sufficient and respectful of the house and our belongings.   When Koda – the puppy – came home the dog gates went up, regular trips outside for house breaking began again, sleeping in became a thing of the past, and all shoes and slippers had to be put away when they weren’t on our feet.   Is it hectic?  Duh!  Is it worth the disruption to the pack?   Absolutely!

Little Koda, now five and a half months old and 36 pounds is tenacious with attitude.

This is not a great combination when we need an immediate behavior correction.  But I think in the long run it will serve her well once she learns how to pick her battles.   She is quite vocal tells us in no uncertain terms that she is not pleased to know that she cannot jump on visitors or the furniture.  A little yelp or “Roo roo roo” as she begrudgingly adheres to our request to behave is not uncommon.

For now (and hopefully not forever) Koda is binary.  She is either on or off.  When on, her energy level is 11 on a scale of 10.  During play Kloe will wrap her entire mouth around Koda’s head to demonstrate her dominence and deliver a lesson.   Koda will momentarily acquiesce to Kloe’s reminder of who is bigger and stronger before immediately striking back with her own gnashing teeth never for a moment acknowledging the 45 pound advantage Kloe has on her.  Kloe does shoulder rolls landing on Koda like a greco wrestler pinning her down only for Koda to reemerge and perform the same move on Kloe.

Much to Koda’s chagrin Kali is not interested in any type of play with her.  At nine years old and visibly much slower than she was only a year ago Kali prefers sleeping to almost all activities other than eating.  I’ve seen Koda sneak attack a sleeping Kali landing on her back and riding her like a bronco as Kali gets up trying to toss her off while she moves off to another corner of the room to sleep.  Koda used to sass back Kali just like she does to us when being told no.  “Yelp! Roo roo roo…!  Play with me…”  To Koda’s credit she now (mostly) understands that Kali is the big sister she sleeps next to when she is in the off position. Kloe, although sometimes a reluctant participant, is the big sister used for rough play when Koda is in the on position.

It’s striking how the dynamics of a family can change so dramatically when that newborn baby puppy comes home.   I think it rocked Kali and Kloe’s world a bit to have a new little sister that seems to get more attention and more treats.   I’ve been caught off guard from time to time realizing that Koda is not Kloe and training may be more challenging and that different techniques may need to be deployed.  These pups are not plug and play.  But I like it that way.  Like people, dogs are unique and don’t fit into the same mold as the previous puppy.  Life would be boring if all of your dogs had the same personality and demeanor.   It might be easier but so much less “fun”.

So is it hectic?  You bet.  Is it worth it?  Absolutely!

So yeah, life changes just a little bit when a puppy joins your pack.

IMG_6301

Left to right Kloe, Koda, and Kali

 

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”

img_5289

Kloe and Chewie acting like dogs

 

 

 

Boomer

On the day after we moved to the mountains I met a dog named Boomer.  This  dog sauntered up the long driveway to our house like he owned the place.  As a suburbanite transplant who just moved to a rural area I thought, “uh-oh” how many dogs run around freely in the surrounding areas that will be coming onto our property?”  I shooed Boomer away not knowing what to expect.  Would he charge?  Would he bark and take an aggressive stance?   But Boomer, who’s name I didn’t know at the time,  gave me a sad little look as he jogged back down the driveway and out of sight.

The next time I encountered Boomer was a few days later when I took Kali out for her first walk in our new “neighborhood”.  The neighborhood is comprised of mostly five acre parcels with an eclectic mix of homes,  many set back away from the road and out of sight.  As Kali and I walked and explored I noticed Boomer, whose name I still didn’t know,  following us but keeping his distance.   I posted it about it a the time expressing moderate concern about safety and how walks might be significantly different from our old creek trail in Livermore.    Boomer stopped when I looked back at him and he remained still as Kali and I moved on.   As we headed back home Boomer was still in the same place and as we got closer I realized it was the same dog that walked up our driveway a few days earlier.  As Kali and I passed by he kept his distance and eventually ran off with the same sad little look he gave when when he jogged down our driveway.

It turns out that Boomer is a very friendly and sweet dog.  With his black and white speckles and round body shape and short legs he looks like a cartoon dog.

 

Boomer the cartoon dog

images-2

While there are many dogs in the area I’ve never seen another dog walking around freely like Boomer does.  Most families here have at least one dog, many have more, and they seem to fall into one of two categories.   One, they are like our girls who stay within fenced areas or inside the house. Or two, they roam their fenceless property freely and only occasionally come out to the edge of their property line as we walk by but not onto the road where we walk.  They seem to know their limits and what their job is.

With the exception of one or two instances I’ve never seen anyone else walk their dogs.  I can’t blame them as we live on a mountain and it’s usually uphill both ways….  But we walk our girls almost every day.  Often Boomer will join us skipping along in front by several yards and then scurrying back to wait while we catch up.  It used to concern me that Boomer was out and about by himself all the time; and without a collar.  But he seems very capable and comfortable and knows his limits.  I’ve never seen him near the main road where cars travel and he seems to know where everyone else lives and takes care to help them find their way.

On a recent walk Boomer led Kali and I back home.  He was a little ahead of us and he stopped in front of our gate that leads up to our property.  Boomer seemed to know that’s the gate we use to go back home from our walks although it is not the same gate we use when start our walk.  Boomer stopped and waited.  As we approached and headed into the gate he ran on up the hill back to his house, probably feeling satisfied that he got us home safely.   He is truly a great escort and I now laugh at how I could have been concerned the first day I saw this sweet guy saunter up our driveway who only wanted to welcome us to his neighborhood.

Boomer leading the way back home

IMG_4867

Boomer the real dog

 

 

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

images-2

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…

IMG_4133

Golden Kali

Swim Time At The Lake

It was almost as though the water took the weight of the world off my eight year old Kali.  Well, I guess in some ways it did because when you’re paddling and floating the water is absorbing much of your weight instead of your joints and bones.

And so it was for Kali this afternoon at the lake.

With summer winding down we wanted to get the girls back up to the lake for another romp in the water while the weather was still reasonably warm.  I’m sure they wouldn’t mind the cold freezing snow melt later this year but Holly and I would!  Kloe loves the water and we knew that she would have no problem getting in the deep stuff so we were prepared this time with the long 30 foot leash.   We’re not yet comfortable letting either of the dogs, especially our little dare devil Kloe, into the Lake without a “safety net”.

Kloe had a blast, as expected, swimming out to retrieve the sticks we threw in the water.   This was the first time she really had an opportunity to outright swim without her legs touching the bottom of the lake and it was fun to see her eyes when she realized she was floating and then started paddling.   She did get a little more reserved the deeper out she got.   This actually made me feel relieved because one, she knows her limits to a degree, and two, I wouldn’t have to reel her in like a Marlin.  On the other hand if squirrels could swim and happened to be in the lake all bets would be off and I’m pretty sure Kloe would hyperplane towards the dastardly swimming vermin.

But Kali was really the surprise star of the afternoon.

Kali had been hanging around in the shallow water as Kloe swam out to retrieve sticks.  We gave Kloe a break and put the long leash on Kali just for grins.   Before we knew it she was romping and stomping in the water.   I threw a stick as a joke but the joke was on me.  Kali dove into the water, swam out to the stick, grabbed it, and brought it back and dropped it.   I threw it again and she repeated the exercise.

So shame on me for underestimating my (aging) Golden Kali who seemed years younger as soon as her fur hit the water and her feet began to paddle.  Most days with Kali are a joy but today will stand out for many months to come.

She won’t get a lot of points for style or grace but I give her a 10.0 for effort and heart. Good girl old lady!

Conversing With Our Eyes

“The eyes are the window to your soul.”  

cropped-cropped-cropped-nala-31.jpg

It’s unclear who first said that. I know this because I waited 0.74 seconds for the Google search to return about 48,200, 000 results. I didn’t corroborate each and every 48 million results with one another.  But I did spend about 15 seconds reviewing the summary of the first article and came to my conclusion that the originator of the phrase is not certain.

What is clear to me is that when I stare deeply into Kali’s dark eyes it’s like staring into a pool of dark water at dusk with glimmering and subtle refections of the setting sun.   I can see her emotions and wants.  Sometimes I can see her fears.  But mostly I see the unconditional love and devotion that has been present since the moment we met three years ago.

So when I talk to Kali and she answers with her eyes, and I understand the answer, am I simply projecting a logical human conclusion or is she really talking to me with her eyes?  I believe it is the latter.  Someone who has never bonded with a dog might question my position.  But that same person could be reminded of the time his  significant other gave him a glance from across the room at a social event and he instantly knew what she was telling him (“I’m bored, let’s go).   Or the time his son hit a walk off home run in little league and as the boy crossed home plate he his eyes met the eyes of his dad in the stands (“We did it Dad.  “WE did it!”).

But even when drawing upon those memories that man may still question my position pointing out that dogs aren’t people and dogs can’t think in such complex terms.   To that man I say, “adopt and love a dog and you will understand”.

So it is for Kali and I throughout the day that she answers me or she herself initiates the conversation with her eyes.

Like first thing in the morning as Kali (not so) patiently waits for me to open my eyes and then stares at me and says, “the sun is up and I’m hungry”.   Or when she is so rudely awakened from a nap when her her “little” sister Kloe sneak attacks her by jumping on her to prompt play.   Kali glances at me as she rises in defense and her eyes say, “Please save me.”  When I give Kali a Kong filled with apples and peanut butter while lying on the ground,  tongue probing the Kong for the treats, she looks up and stares directly into my eyes, “Thank you dad I love this Kong almost as much as I love you”.  And of course there are the annoyed eyes as it gets close to dinner time and I get the prolonged stare, “You can tell time, right?”

One of my favorite lyrics is from “Mrs. Potter’s Lullaby” performed by the Counting Crows.   Adam Duritz writes, “If you’ve never stared off in the distance, then your life is a shame”.  That lyric really resonates with me and I might take it one step further. I suggest that if you have never stared off into the distance with your dog by your side who is also staring off into the distance then your life is a shame.  There is something special about being outdoors somewhere sitting side by side with your dog and looking off into the distance.   A cloud formation may catch my eye and a bird or squirrel may catch Kali’s.   But mostly we are just together with no particular goal in mind.

And then after a while I look into Kali’s eyes and silently say, “ready to go?”.  She stares back into mine and says, “This was great but yeah, let’s go home”.   And so off we we go where we can continue our silent conversation with our eyes.

 

 

Face Lift for the Golden K

The Golden K had a bit of a face lift last week.  33 dead pine trees were cut down at their knees.  They never saw it coming.  But we did.

When we bought the property there were already 16 dead pines.  Over the past year – mostly during early spring – another 17 bit the dust.  Bark Beetle dust that is.  The beetles bore their way into the bark of the pines and the pines, after five years of drought, can’t produce enough sap to fend them off.  It’s evident from red dust protruding from the bark instead of sap.  You can almost see the trees dying in front of your eyes.  The death starting at the very top and quickly working its way down to the lowest needles.

Fortunately we still have 107 Pines and plenty of Oaks and Cedars and the 33 now removed pines will hardly be missed in the landscape and organic fabric of the Golden K.

The crew was here for five days and there was a lot of chain saw action to say the least.  Much to Kloe’s chagrin.   When you live in the mountains the sound of chain saws is as natural as the chirping of the birds or cockle-doodle-doing of the roosters.  Kloe has literally grown up listening to chain saw noise. Maybe it was the proximity of the saws cutting down our 33 trees or perhaps some sound beyond our audible spectrum that bothered her.   Whatever it was Kloe was very agitated when the saws were buzzing.  Kali, not so much.  Except for thunder nothing seems to rattle Kali.

Kloe survived the week and The Golden K is better off with the 33 dead 100 foot plus matchsticks.  If you’ve never experienced the sound of a 120 foot tree hitting the ground you are really missing something.  There’s a certain majesty of something that big and heavy hitting the ground with a massive thud and bounce!  On one of the falls I was about 15 feet behind the crew member making the cut.  After it was on the ground he turned around. I told him that I knew he does it all the time but for me it was so awesome to see and hear this massive piece of mother nature hitting the ground.   He grinned and told me that it never gets old for him.  Every time he still feels the rush.

 

So 33 dead trees and a chunk of change later the Golden K is a safer place.   33 fewer matchsticks in the event of a fire and 33 fewer chances of a giant child of nature falling on our house, or God forbid one of us or The Girls.

So at the end of the day ( a term I dislike but use here any way) our small piece of the forest was thinned for the greater good and as we look out over it, or under it as the case may be, we continue to feel blessed with our romantic perspective of life at 3100 feet.

IMG_8613

Boss Lady Holly declaring the job is officially done.

Too much of a good thing is just about right…

Having two Golden Retrievers I understand the exponential affect of more than one fur kid in and around the house.  One plus one does not always equal two but instead some greater number.  The key word in the last sentence is greater. There is a greater amount of work and a greater amount of patience required.  There is a greater amount of expense and there is a greater amount of… poop.

But mostly there is a greater amount of love.

  • “All things in moderation”.
  • “Too much of a good thing [is not always good]”.
  • “Too many cooks in the kitchen can spoil the broth”.

These quotes are all sound, logical and practical.  But they may don’t not apply to Golden Retrievers.   You cannot have too many Goldens in one place at the same time because you cannot ever have too much love.

And so it was yesterday at an event hosted by True Love Rescue.  This is the rescue group that brought both Kali and Kloe to us.  And for that I am forever indebted to them.  This group of caring, compassionate, and knowledgeable volunteers do wonderful work that has had a positive affect on hundreds of dogs and families over the years.  This annual event is “advertised” as a play day and reunion for many of the Goldens, like Kali, who came from Taiwan.  But in a large way this event is also a celebration of the great work of the rescue group.

The Pack at large

And so there we were on Saturday watching dozens of Goldens romp around on a beautiful Spring day in the sun.  They barked, wrestled, fetched, jumped in and out of the kiddie pools, rolled in the dirt and then came back around for more.  But mostly they loved.  Because this is what Goldens (all dogs really) do best:  they love.

On this sunny day the exponential impact of having forty plus Golden Retrievers in one place was palpable. The love and positive vibe wafting through the light breeze was evident in the beaming faces of the proud parents as they watched their fur kids run around amongst the pack.  I especially like seeing first time attendees smiling like little kids as they watch experience all these Golden Retrievers, all in the same place, all at the same time.  If you’re an aging Baby Boomer like me think Summer of Love without the sex and drugs…  I also get a kick out of parents struggling at times to pick their dog out of the pack because many are so similar in looks.  “OK, there he is, no wait that’s not him.  I should put a scarf on him…”.

Besides all the dogs there’s all the parents.   People who may have different political views, who may come from different walks of life, and perhaps with varying socioeconomic backgrounds.  But in spite of diversity there is one overriding factor that each has in common:  a deep love, bond, and devotion for dogs.

  • “Too much of a good thing can be wonderful.”  – Mae West
  • “Too much of anything is bad, but too much whiskey is barely enough.” – Mark Twain
  • “Too much of a good thing is just about right.”  – Jerry Garcia

I like these quotes better than those at the top of the post.  Especially if “too much” is a Golden Retriever.

My Girls Kloe (red scarf) and Golden Kali