Reluctant Leader

Four and a half years ago when Kloe joined the pack Kali was seven and took an almost immediate role as surrogate mother to Kloe. To this day I am grateful that Kali’s maternal instincts activated almost immediately upon meeting Kloe as a nine-week old puppy. Within about an hour Kali went from the the “no way that puppy is coming in my house” stage to the “Ok little whippersnapper, I’ll show ya’ the ropes” stage. Within an hour Kloe was laying on a willing mommy Kali’s tummy and the bond grew stronger each day.

As The months passed Kloe grew in size. By the time she was six months old Kloe was already as big as Kali – 60 pounds – and much taller. By the time Kloe was 9 months old she was 80 pounds. During play Kloe would sometimes use her size advantage over Kali. But it was never aggressive and it was never in any effort to establish herself as the dominant or alpha female. It was more of a “if you’ve got it flaunt it” demeanor and only occasionally did I have to come to Kali’s aid as she got older and a little more fragile.

Kloe 9 months, Kali 8 years

Enter Koda two years ago. She joined the pack at four months and was full of energy piss and vinegar; she still is. Koda at four months old was 17 pounds. Kloe now two and a half was still around 80. Koda’s moxie was remarkable. She played hard often bouncing off of Kloe during rough play but getting right back up again and never backing down. I occasionally had to come to Kloe’s aid and protect her against her tough little sister! I recall thinking that by the time Koda was six months old she would establish herself as the alpha female.

Koda and Kloe

Kali, now nine, was slowing down and she never really had any interest in being in charge; unless it was in charge of food. Looking back Kloe was too young to be a surrogate mother to Koda like Kali was to her. I thought Kloe would be that surrogate but at just two and a half she was still very much a pup herself. So I began thinking that Koda was going to be the leader of this pack. From day one, and to this day, Koda always pushes herself to the front of the line (first out the door and first back in), steals toys from her older and bigger sisters, and makes her voice heard above all others. She vocalizes like no other dog I’ve ever been around. I’ve said it before, if she could actually talk her vocabulary would make Jon Gruden blush.

So yeah, Koda as the alpha. Made sense then and it still kind of does. But she’s not the Alpha. She wants Kloe to be the alpha dog but Kloe is a reluctant leader.

Kloe is a gentle soul (except when she see’s a cat). She really has no interest in being in charge. She has aways been a rule follower. Most dogs want to please their human mom and dad. Kloe takes this very seriously and if she could intellectualize it she would tell you that her sole purpose in life is to make Holly and I happy. Koda tends to get excited out of control at times. During those times we have to very direct with Koda and put her in a sit or down position to help her calm down. Kloe can be in a different room but if she hears one of us sternly tell Koda “SIT!” Kloe sits. If we say “Koda settle. DOWN!” Kloe immediately puts herself in a down position. So yeah, beyond all else she wants to please us.

Koda wants Kloe to be Alpha. In spite of Koda’s pushiness she looks to Kloe for her cues. If there is a deer or some other critter outside she runs to the door and looks back at Kloe as if to say, “should we go out and get that critter”? If I suggest that the girls go outside by opening the door Koda, of course, is first out. But if Kloe doesn’t follow Koda turns around and comes back in the house. And when Kloe sees or smells trouble in or around the property and runs off barking Koda follows her even though she – most of the time – has no idea what’s going on. But if her big sister is going she’s going to provide back up.

Koda wants Kloe to be Alpha. And while over times I have seen glimpses of it in Kloe it is with reluctance that she takes a leadership role in the pack. She is the logical choice. At almost five years Kloe is in her prime. She is all muscle. Her legs are fully repaired (thank God) from her Bi-lateral TPLO in August of 2019, and she once again runs like a gazelle. She is a sight to behold when “she is on the move”.

Fortunately (for us and them) our girls are spoiled to the max and there really is no need for an alpha dog. In the wild, Kali at 11 years with very bad hips and legs, would need a protector. Koda would need an alpha dog to dampen her “enthusiasm” when predators much bigger than her came calling. Kloe would be that logical choice. Would her gentle soul allow her to be that Alpha dog if it was necessary?

I’d like to think that Kloe would step up to the role and protect her sisters even if reluctantly. I also know that if she did, and when all was once again well with the pack, she would come looking for Holly and I to please us with her gentle demeanor and by doing whatever we asked of her.

Sweet Gentle Kloe

Kloe Hates Cats

So Koda pretends to hate cats. Mostly I think because she knows Kloe hates them. When Koda sees one of the feral cats before Kloe does, she’ll sound the alarm with her high bark and then immediately look at Kloe. “Kloe, there’s a cat. See it? See it? C’mon, lets go get it.”

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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!

 

 

 

Grateful This Christmas Eve

A Christmas Eve walk with Kloe this morning put this particular holiday season in perspective for me.  It was a brisk forty five degrees as we headed out at about 8:30 am.   The morning was calm with no wind, the tall pine trees at the Golden K were still, the sky was grey but dry, and the neighborhood was quiet.

As Kloe and I headed out I was grateful that we had nowhere in particular to go and all day to get there.  Quite a difference from the days when my children were small and there were so many tasks to complete in time for the “big day”.  All those tasks parents like us were fortunate to be able to undertake to make that big day special for our children.  They were great times that I will cherish forever.  But I have to admit this morning as we headed out to walk I was grateful that those days were in the past and Kloe and I were in the present.

This has been quite a year for my special girl Kloe.   It was April when she was diagnosed with a torn CCL.   For over seven months we nursed her back to health.  In that time she tore the other CCL,  had double CCL surgery (bi-lateral TPLO), and then convalesced back to so far what seems to be a full recovery.  During that period much of our life was consumed with caring for (and worrying about!) Kloe.  Her injuries had a major impact on our lives as well as her two sisters who often took a back seat to Kloe’s needs; especially puppy Koda who just wanted to play with big-sissie but could not because Kloe was at zero activity level.

So as we walked in the crisp air I reflected on how grateful I am for Kloe’s recovery.  Grateful for having the flexibility and resources to dedicate much of our time over the past months to ensure the best chance for her recovery.  Grateful that she is now pain free, can run and jump without restrictions,  can wrestle with puppy Kloe and just be a dog again.  But mostly I am grateful that Kloe came into our lives as a nine week old pup three and half years ago and changed our lives for the better and for ever.

Kloe and I stopped along the seasonal creek to take a quick photo and memorialize this special walk.

Christmas Eve morning 2019

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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

TPLO

Golden Kali followers may recall my last post where I described our three year old Kloe’s condition: two torn CCL’s (cranial cruciate ligament) that after three months did not heal on their own as we had hoped.   The TPLO (tibial plateau leveling osteotomy) surgery took place this past Wednesday and everything went as planned.  No surprises, no complications, and a prognosis of full recovery over the next few months.

With surgery behind us the recovery period begins and Kloe’s condition should get better every day.  The hardest part now may be keeping Kloe’s activity level to almost zero for the next four weeks.   She will begin feeling better and stronger each day.  After about four weeks we can begin to introduce more structured and supervised activities but no running, jumping, or play for at least 8 weeks or longer.  Aside from a swelling and the trauma of surgery, where a semi-circle of the tibia is sawed, rotated, and secured back in place with an orthopedic plate, Kloe’s knees after four days are probably feeling better than they were before the surgery.   For those interested in more info on the TPLO procedure you can get it here.

Dropping Kloe off Wednesday morning for the surgery was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do.  During the days leading up to surgery both Holly and I were stressed, worried, and didn’t sleep well.  We trust our vet Dr. Tanya Jackson without reservation.  The surgeon she recommended, Dr. Justin Uhl, has a lot of expertise with the TPLO procedure.  Plus Dr. Jackson would be assisting him and by Kloe’s side the entire time.  Still, when I worry about things outside my control I go to that dark place of unfounded fears.

What if the saw cuts through the bone got botched? What if Kloe had a problem with the anesthesia and didn’t wake up?  What if during surgery there was an emergency like a major fire or earthquake and the building had to be evacuated?  What if a giant fissure opened in the earth and the building, Kloe, and the doctors fell to the earth’s core of molten lava where evil monsters prey on canines?  What if!

I kept mostly busy Wednesday but found myself looking at the clock periodically. The surgery was to take place about 1:00 and take up to two hours.   At 12:30 I told myself that Kloe was probably sedated by now and therefore not too aware of things.  At 1:15 I told myself that she was now under anesthesia so not awake or scared.  At 2:45 I told myself they were probably sticking her up.  At 3:30 the phone rang and it was Dr. Uhl.

Dr. Uhl told me that Kloe was starting to wake up and that the surgery  went just fine.   I asked him if she would fully recover and he said she would and be able to resume normal activities in a few months so long as we took good care during the recovery period.  I wanted to ask him if there had a been any natural disaster warnings or if he had noticed a fissure opening in the earth’s crust but I though better of it and simply thanked him and hung up.

Dr. Jackson is the best.  Around 9:00 that evening she called to give us an update.  She was still at the office and had been sitting with Kloe for quite some time.  She told us Kloe was looking more like her normal self, and staring into the doc’s eyes and pulling the doc closer to her with her paw.  That’s our Kloe.

Kloe has been home since Thursday afternoon and recovery is going very well and has been a model patient.  Each day the redness and swelling diminishes and her spirits elevate.  She is starting to get up on her own and taking a few steps without assistance.

So, day four.   We’ve got a long way to go but we will go as far and as long to get our Kloe healthy and back on her CCL’s, or feet as the case may be.

CCL

The past three months have been challenging for our pack.  Especially for Kloe!

Three months ago she was diagnosed with a partial tear of her right cranial cruciate ligament (CCL).  This is analigous to the ACL in humans. Since this was a partial tear the prescribed treatment from our vet was almost zero activity except to pee and poop and monitor for improvement.  After about six weeks of getting better she came up lame on the left leg and – yep – she tore the left CCL.  So just as she was improving on the right to the point where short walks on flat ground would be ok she was back to square one!

Now after three months there has been limited improvement and after in depth consultations with her vet we have scheduled her for a tibial-plateau-leveling osteotomy (TPLO) which is a surgery performed on dogs to stabilize the stifle joint after ruptures of the cranial cruciate ligament.

That’s a lot of acronyms and tongue twisting words!  There is also a lot of fear and worry.  But there is also a fair amount of optimism that it is a pathway to get Kloe back to Kloe.  A specimen of athleticism, muscle, and strength who used to run like a gazelle.

For the past three months Kloe has not been allowed to do much of anything as we were in our zero activity mode.   Now it will be another three months of the same zero activity.  Surgery is scheduled for the end of this month (August 28th) and then recovery and more rest time of 6 to 8 weeks after that (for starters..).

Rest rest rest! After all this is all over with Kloe is going to be the most rested dog on the planet!

Kloe’s eyes are often sad these days as she looks out the window longing to be out on her own.   She perks up when we pick up the leash because she knows that means we are taking her outside.  Sometimes to do her “business”.   But sometimes to just sit on the deck or patio where she can smell whiffs of squirrels, cats, and other critters in the air.  While sitting I see her eyes darting back and forth surveying what used to be her domain.  Her world where she was free to run, jump, chase, and wrestle.   But more recently a world she can’t be fully part of.  It’s sad for me and we’ve both adjusted but I don’t want either of us to let this be the new normal.  She’s much too young at three years old to make this her new normal!

I’ve resisted the temptation to go into the nitty gritty details about Kloe’s early symptoms,   information about the TPLO surgery, or about other alternatives that were considered.  Because this is not a medical or science blog.  It’s a blog about my three girls Kali, Kloe, and Koda, and our collective life and experiences living in the mountains.  But if any readers are interested in the details of the injury, or once the surgery takes place the surgery itself and subsequent recovery period,  please feel free to comment here to this post or email me at mike@goldenk.net.   I am not an expert by any means but I expect I will learn a lot over the coming weeks and I would be happy to share those learnings and related experiences with anyone who is interested.

Meanwhile, your well wishes, prayers, good vibes, chants, indigenous dances, or any other ways that you can send positive energy towards my sweet girl Kloe will be appreciated.

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Kloe during healthier days.

Our sweet Kloe last week

Our sweet Kloe last week

Happy Gotcha Day Kloe

Three years ago today the sweetest girl I could ever imagine came into our lives forever.   At nine weeks old this pouty faced Golden Retriever stole our hearts and has held them close to her own since then.  Born in Bakersfield, rescued by True Love Rescue in Lodi, Kloe made her way into our arms and home to Livermore, CA.  Three weeks later we moved to the mountains to our home we call the Golden K. Kloe of course is one of those three Golden K’s our home is named after. Kloe weighs almost 80 pounds and I am convinced that the majority of that weight is from a very large heart of gold.

We are blessed that Kloe found her way into our lives and grateful to True Love Rescue for making that a possibility.

Happy Gotcha Day Kloe!  You are forever my Klois Marie, Klo-Klo, Kloe Bowie, Sugar Lips, Sweetness, and all the other silly names I have for you.   But at the end of the day as you lay on your mat when I kiss you goodnight and I tell you to sleep tight, you are simply my beautiful girl Kloe.

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.

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*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…..