As Kali grew older I began referring to her, in relationship to her two sisters Kloe and Koda, as Sissy Mama. None of my girls were blood related but they were and are sisters (sissies) no less. So we would always refer to them as sissies. “Koda, where is your sissy”. Or, “Kloe, go get your sissies for dinner”. Yes we well I speak to them as though they are my kids. Because they are!
But Kali was much older and she became the Sissy Mama.
Six years shouldn’t seem so long ago. But if I think in “dog years” it is quite some time. Like six years ago when we brought Kloe home as a nine-week old puppy. That was a long time ago. Looking at her now, as she sleeps by my feet (filling in the empty space Kali left under my feet when she crossed the bridge), it’s hard to think that Kloe was ever a wee pup of 16 pounds. Green, fearless, and ripe for schooling by an older dog. Enter Kali.
Since Kali has been gone I find myself looking at pictures of her from over the years. Like today when I came across some pictures and videos of the first day we brought Kloe home. After the initial few minutes, when Kali made it very clear that Kloe was not welcome in her house, she quickly warmed up to Kloe and was every bit the surrogate mama we hoped she would be.
I had forgotten how inseparable Kali and Kloe were when Kloe was a pup. Mostly because at only weeks and months old Kloe adored Kali and followed her everywhere she went. There were so many tender moments sleeping side by side or on top of one another. And there were periods of play when Kali exhibited great patience with her new little sissy and also delivered lessons when needed.
In retrospect I now realize that Kali became the Sissy Mama the moment we brought Kloe through the front door in Livermore at 9 weeks old on May 7, 2016.
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!
I’ve always likened having dogs to having children. We do so many things for our dogs that we do or did for our kids. We feed them, educate them, entertain, love, discipline, and so on. We even refer to them as our kids, our fur-babies, or in my case as “the girls”. Our human children are all gown and have been out of the house for many years. There are many things I don’t know about their day to day lives. When they were very young I observed and knew every small detail of their lives. As they grew older I saw less and eventually knew less. Which is the way it should be. I know as I grew older into a young adult and beyond my parents knew less and less of the details of my life. I needed them less. They were glad I was independent. I feel the same way about my grown children.
My kids many years ago. Left to right Michael (now 34), Jessi (now 30), and Jonathan (now 37). Wow! In some ways I wish they could have stayed just like in this photo forever. But time marches on. They are independent with full and robust lives of their own.
But with our dogs it’s a little different. They never become independent in the way our children do. They rely on us their entire lives for their care and well being. While there are many similarities between a puppy and a human baby, the baby grows to be a toddler and beyond and they puppy grows to be like a toddler and mostly plateaus there. As dogs mature and age we continue to not only know, but also mostly control all the details of our their lives. When they eat we know it. When they walk we know it. When they find themselves into some sort of trouble or problem we not only know it but also correct it. Our dogs become moderately independent for short amounts of time but they can’t be (or shouldn’t be) left overnight by themselves. And as they grow older, like my 12 year old Kali, they need us more and more.
My “girls” a few hours ago. Left to right Koda (3.5 years, Kali (12 years), and Kloe (5 .5 years). Koda has finally matured into a toddler, Kali’s hips and eyes are deteriorating, and Kloe’s muzzle is graying. Like their human siblings they also have a full and robust life but rely on Holly and I to make sure of that. They are very dependent and we are ok with that.
So having dogs is like having kids but way different.
The Golden Kali Blog
Newer followers of Golden Kali can get caught up to speed about each of my girls here:
Thanks to everyone who follows Golden Kali! We’ve been away for a while busy with pack life but will be posting much more often. Tells us what you think about the Golden Kali blog and what questions or interests you may have about life in the mountains with three Golden Retrievers.
About 15 years ago I was sitting in my vet’s waiting room in Livermore, CA with our first Golden Retriever, Bailey. Hanging on the wall was a print of a Firefighter with his arms around a Golden Retriever. The picture captivated me in a deeply emotional way. The firefighter is sitting on the ground, eyes closed looking exhausted and traumatized. He wears knee pads, leather gloves, and a helmet with a mounted flashlight. He is positioned in a way that he can cradle his partner, a Golden Retriever, between his legs. The Golden is wearing an orange vest with an American Flag and the word “Rescue” inside a white cross. With tired eyes the dog looks equally exhausted and sad as his handler.
What struck me about this print was that within the tired eyes of the golden retriever I also saw compassion.
I stood up and got a closer look at the print and learned it was called “Partners”. I later learned that the firefighter’s name was Skip Fernandez and the rescue dog’s name was Aspen. The painting depicted a real life scenario where they sat in the rubble of the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City after the infamous bombing in April of 1995.
During each subsequent visit to the vet I would look at the print of Skip Fernandez and Aspen and be drawn further and further into the scene. A couple of years ago began searching for “Partners” to purchase. l found that it had been out of circulation for many years. There were a few copies on eBay that were framed and very expensive. The two I found were located in the MidWest and East Coast. With shipping and insurance I deemed it cost prohibitive. I was about to give up looking when I found an unframed copy on eBay. I bought it had it framed locally and it now hangs in my office.
The first time I saw the print was many years before my sweet Kloe, now five years old, was born. Years later I now see the same compassion in Kloe’s eyes that I see in Aspen’s eyes. Kloe has lived a blessed life and has never had to sacrifice and serve as Aspen did. But I beleive that Kloe, with the right training, could have been effective in some type of service. Her desire to please, to communicate, and to serve is strong. But mostly it’s her compassion and her ability to feel what the person next to her is feeling; and to react to those feelings. If it’s joy she shares that joy. And if it’s pain I believe she tries to absorb the pain and bring relief to the person who is suffering.
I was honored to have known a search and rescue dog named Indie. Indie, like so many other Golden Retrievers, was diagnosed with cancer. He continued to serve until the end but recently the pain became evident and his owners recently made the difficult decision to put Indie down and take his pain away. As his owner and handler wrote, “The average dog is a better person than the average person; Indie was never average.” So this print of Partners now has an even more special meaning for me. I will always see Kloe in Aspen’s eyes. But this print will now also serve to remind me of Indie and the many search and rescue dogs and their handlers who make so many sacrifices to help others.
The Golden K, the history, and how Kali brought us to this place.
Long time followers of Golden Kali may remember that Kali was a rescue from Taiwan. I remember vividly sitting with her in the back yard of our home in Livermore the morning after we picked her up from the airport in San Francisco. Kali assimilated so quickly into her new environment. It had been less than 24 hours and here she was sitting calmly and seemingly very content at my feet as I started this blog. That was almost seven years ago.
The name for the blog was an easy pick. It would be about Kali’s new life in America. She is a Golden Retriever. So as I set up the WordPress site my fingers quickly, and without hesitation, typed Golden Kali into the title field for the site.
At the time I had no idea Kali would be such a big influence on our lives and our future.
A few weeks later Holly, Kali, and I were sitting in the same spot of our yard enjoying a nice Summer evening. Holly told me she wanted to start camping again. She said wouldn’t it be great, now as mostly empty nesters, to get away just the three of us – Holly, Kali, and I – and take some road trips. I agreed and said that was not going to do tent camping again; my back was too old for that. So we decided to start looking for small trailers we could pull behind our SUV.
Fast forward a couple of months and we take a visit to our friends vacation home at Pine Mountain Lake in Groveland, CA. It was a nice weekend, Kali’s first road trip, and she did just fine. Holly and I were like first time parents and we packed everything under the sun that we thought Kali would need. Her crate, food, treats, toys, blankets, leashes, and I’m sure items I am now forgetting. Of course Kali needed none of it including the crate. All she needed was to be with us.
A few weeks later, again sitting in the yard, Holly says to me, “I don’t want a camper anymore”. I asked her why. She said she wanted a vacation home! OK….. I can switch gears pretty quickly. Now instead of researching camper options I start looking at properties in the Sierra Nevada Foothills. A home comes up that I instantly fall in love with. I showed Holly and said, “Look, I found our our home. Not a vacation home but a full time home”. Holly laughed and said she wasn’t moving but she wouldn’t mind taking a road trip to see the home. Cutting to the chase, and after looking at more homes in Tuolumne County over the next couple of months, we closed escrow on that very home I saw online that evening in the back yard. One of the many selling points of the home was it was five acres and had plenty of room for Kali to roam and also be safe with various fences and gates that allowed us to give her a lot of room or just a little depending on circumstances. This was the end of 2015 and we prepared to move.
My romantic vision of living in the mountains included having a name for our home and surrounding property. This was important to me.
Like with this blog it didn’t take long for me to realize that the name of our new home would beThe Golden Kin honor of my beautiful Kali.
And the “K’s” just kept on coming…. A few weeks before we moved we adopted a new 9 week old Golden Retriever puppy and named her Kloe. It had to be a K name, right? And then a couple of years later we adopted another Golden Retriever, this time a 4 month old. We named her Koda. It is safe to say that the Golden K is full of beautiful Golden K’s! And Kali started it all!
Five years in Taiwan, two years in Livermore, and five years (and counting) in Tuolumne, my Golden Kali has been on a great journey and I’ve been lucky enough to have spent the last seven years with her. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that if not for Kali, there would not be a Golden K, a Kloe, or a Koda. How can one dog have so much influence over the lives of her humans? How can one dog can bring so much joy and happiness into the lives of two people who were otherwise already very happy with their lives?
I guess when that one dog is my Golden Kali it’s as natural as taking that 12 hour flight from Taiwan and straight into my heart.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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!