The Story of a man who had never seen a dog

It’s always great fun when Smokey visits.  Smokey is my daughter’s seven year old Morkie:  half Maltese and half Yorkshire Terrier.  He weighs 11 pounds.

Smokey met Kloe the first time after we moved to the mountains.  Kloe was just a few months old but already four or five times the size of Smokey.  Upon introduction Kloe became instantly enamored with Smokey.  With puppy-pose in full force Kloe invited Smokey to run, play, wrestle and good old fashioned tug-o-war.  Smokey played it cool, gave Kloe a sniff, and sauntered over to some bushes to leave some pee-mail.

Throughout that weekend Kloe would follow Smokey wherever he went.  Kloe would initiate play, Smokey would give her some sniffs and a lick on the face, and then move along his way.  When Smokey would jump on the couch to settle in for a nap Kloe would lay on the floor and stare at him. When Smokey went outside to do his business Kloe would follow in his tracks. Occasionally Smokey grew weary of Kloe’s attention and gave a snarl telling Kloe to back off.  Kloe respected that and gave him his space.  It was good that Smokey, this little miniature Ewok, established some ground rules for Kloe who is always eager and totally unaware of the size difference.

Fast forward a couple of years and things haven’t changed much.  Kloe remains enamored with Smokey who is still just 11 pounds and still holds his own navigating in and around Kloe’s 80 pounds of energy and constant motion.  Upon arriving for a visit the two of them greet one another with enthusiasm, some “kissy face” and both seem to enjoy the familiarity with one another

The Story of a man who had never seen a dog

A man had never seen a dog before arrived at our house a couple of weekends ago when  Smokey was up for a visit   This man thought Kloe and Smokey were two different species.  The man said, “which one is the dog? And if one is a dog what is that other creature?”   When I told him they were both dogs the man responded, “That can’t be true!  One is barely 10 pounds, not much bigger than a squirrel, and looks like a fur ball in the wind. The other is 10 times that size, looks like a pony, and runs swiftly like a  gazelle.  No this can’t be so. They cannot both be dogs.” The man was puzzled and interested in understanding how these two creatures could both be dogs.

I explained how dogs come in many different sizes, have varied physical attributes, and come from many different walks of life.   I told him that dogs have a wide variety of backgrounds, experiences, and qualities.   I explained that although some dogs have been bred for specific purposes like hunting, or herding, or mousing they are all still dogs.  I went on to say that in spite of these different qualities and experiences, and having come from all around the world, they are still all just dogs.  Dogs who recognize each other as dogs.  Not as a different breed.  Not as a lesser or more superior beast. But as equals with a set of universal codes of communication, respect, and an natural ability to get along and co-exist in peace.

The man seemed less puzzled now and began to understand what I was saying.  The man said, “So what you’ve told me is a lesson for dogs?”.

I said no, “What I told you is a lesson for men”.

*****

Smokey arriving for a visit

 

 

 

 

Nature versus Nurture

Its that nature versus nurture discussion.  Is Kali who she is because of her  genes or past experiences? 

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Snow Day At The Golden K

Finally, a snow day with the girls.

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Two Years This Weekend

Wow – it’s been two years this Memorial weekend that  we welcomed Kali to our family  with open arms on the Saturday evening of Memorial Day Weekend 2014  We picked up Kali from SFO and drove off into the night to Livemore where she has given us unconditional love and shaped our lives.   And for the past three weeks she’s also having a positive and loving impact on the life of her little sister Kloe who joined the pack  three weeks ago.  Kali has been a wonderful big sister and we are thrilled to see a deep bond developing between Kali and Kloe.

This Memorial Day weekend is a little busier than two years ago.  On Friday the moving company loaded 23 years of Livemore into trucks and took it to our new home in the Sierra Nevada Foothills that we call “The Golden K”.

Although we’re quite busy getting unpacked and settled into our new home I had to take a moment to write this brief post to note this anniversary weekend and reflect on how much our  Golden Kali has meant to our family.   We especially want to thank the volunteers at True Love Dog Rescue here in California and in the volunteers in Taiwan who work tirelessly to save dogs like Kali and bring them to loving homes in the U.S.

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Kali watching carefully to make sure her food bin gets unloaded

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Enjoying life at the Golden K

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Our drive way leading up to The Golden K

 

 

Kloe: a sneak peek

As mentioned a few posts ago the tag line of this Golden Kali blog has changed to “Kali’s New Life In The Mountains“.  It used to be “Kali’s New Life In America” but it’s been almost two years since she arrived and we are now off to new adventures in the Sierra Foothills.

Kali will have a new companion beginning next week.  Her name is Kloe and she is an eight week old Golden Retriever.

So while this post provides a sneak peek to the new pup who joins our pack next week, it’s mostly about why Holly and I feel compelled to bring more craziness love into our lives.  Especially during a time of significant transition.

(BTW Kloe is pronounced Chloe but spelled with a K because well, because of Kali… makes sense, right?…)

My sister Victoria and  I came out of the same womb, had the same parents and same wonderful childhoods growing up in Suburbia USA.  But we couldn’t be more different in so many ways… Last week I called Vicki to update her on our move and tell her we were getting a new pup. My sister is only four years older than me but at times we seem a generation apart.  She scolds me gives me “motherly” advice and has a hard time understanding or relating to many of the life choices Holly and I make; like moving to the mountains…

So when I told her about Kloe she didn’t offer congratulations but she did offer many cautions and some of the aformentioned motherly advice.  Vicki says, “Michael, puppies are a lot of work.  Do you really know what you’re getting into?  That puppy is going to pee all over your new house”.  I was a little hurt but not surprised.  I love my sister and as we’ve aged I’ve come to see her as the beautiful loving person she is.  She married late, never had children, and has always been a loving aunt to my kids.  She is also a sincere  animal lover donating time and money to various animal causes.  Maybe in this case just not a lover of animals who may  make her brother’s life hectic and dirty his house…  🙂  She is compelled after almost 60 years to take care of me and I love her for that.

This morning I received an email from Vicki apologizing for “being a downer” when I told her about the puppy. The email was an appreciated but not necessary gesture.  After all we’re siblings so why start apologizing now!   As I went to delete the email I paused and decided to respond.   This is what I wrote:

Vicki – Thanks for your email.   No apology necessary.  Crazy how life works sometimes….

Why do many people have kids?  They’re a lot of work, heartache at times, and cost a lot of money.  They break things, make messes, and demand your attention when you’re too tired to even think let alone play a game or throw a ball.   Yet we have them, mostly on purpose, and once our children are born we have no regrets.  Why?  Because kids are unconditional love,  they’re innocent (at least for a while), they’re fun, they keep us young at heart, they make us feel secure and make us feel complete.  Children complete the family unit and sometimes the more the better.

I think for me this is why, especially now that the kids are grown,  we have dogs.  All the same rationale above about children apply.  

Crazy huh?…
– Love, Michael

 

I’ve never thought about having a dog in these terms before. At least not consciously.  But this morning at 7:00 am as I read my sister’s message on my iPhone with Kali lying by my side it was perfectly clear and I felt compelled to reply.   Although Vicki had no children family has always been paramount to her and she will understand and agree with my rationale and emotions.  She may not even care if Kloe has an “accident” when I bring her over to visit.

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Kloe, sitting with the red collar

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Kloe and her sisters.  I wish we could bring home the Trio!

Just Another Day

Sing out the old, bring in the new.  Should auld acquaintance be forgot and auld lang syne! Whatever…

Even as a young adult I never enjoyed New Years Eve.

I never liked the pressure and expectation I felt of having to stay up late and have fun “ringing” in the new year.  During the early years of our marriage our friends would urge us to come out for New Years and have fun.  We usually declined because we preferred to be home and in bed at our usual hour.   Later when our children were teenagers and young adults I grew to hate New Years because I worried that my kids were going to make a bad decision at the party they were at or would be on the road late at night with all the real and imagined dangers I laid awake worrying about.

Now my kids are grown, two of them married, and one still at home.   I worry less about them but always feel better waking up New Years Day knowing everyone is safe and we can now get past all this silliness of “New Years” and move on with life.  Yes, I know – what a Scrooge I am!

This year was a little unique in that one of my kids was on vacation in Paris with his wife.   So at 3:15 PM Pacific Time I text him and said “hey – I just realized it’s the new year in Paris. Happy new year”.  Jonathan replied (in his usual dry humor), “Indeed.  Happy New Year from the future…”  My other son was on a plane with his wife flying home to Illinois after spending the holidays in Southern California with her family.  Michael text me about 10:15 PM and said, “happy new year from the central time zone”.  They had made it home from O’Hare just in time for midnight – their first new years eve as a married couple.

My daughter was home and in bed by 10:00.   I knew she would have rather been somewhere else celebrating.  But not much was happening and she stayed in for the night sharing dinner with us and hitting the sack early.  I felt a little bad for her but inside I was happy that I could retire not having to worry about her getting home.

And then there is my Golden Kali for whom December 31 really is just another one the 364 and 1/4 days per year.

Except for the “boom-booms”.  The boom-booms began at midnight and lasted for about 30 minutes.

As expected, they spooked Kali and made her uneasy.  The firecrackers and other means of “ringing” in the new year make Kali very skittish.   She experienced the same thing this past July 4th.  After last night I know I’ll need to get something (hopefully something natural) that I can use to  proactively help her stay calm during periods of foolish (see, what a Scrooge I am!) celebration and also during the occasional thunderstorm (which will occur more regularly later this year but more on that in a future post).

Kali and I began our day like most others: rising relatively early, breakfast for Kali, coffee and the sports section for me, and so on from there.  I have to admit that as much as I dislike New Years Eve I have always really liked News Year Day.  Part of the reason is that New Years Eve is over with and the other part is that during the morning much of the neighborhood and town is asleep from to much ringing, singing, and auld lang syne-ing the night before.

Like almost every other morning, Kali and I walked along our creek trail out to the pond and back along the fairways of hole number four and five of the recently closed golf course.  It was just another morning except the world was just a little more quiet than usual because of the aforementioned sleeping singers, ringers, and syners.

So 2016 begins just as 2015 began and ended:  by waking up next to my bride of 33 years whom I remain desperatly in love with, by thinking about my kids spread around the globe that I am so proud of, and with a dog by my side waiting patiently for me to get up so that we can get on with our routine and enjoy this, which is just another day.

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Just another day at the pond…. (1/1/16)

 

 

Does Kali Know It’s Christmas?

In 1984 a group of musical artists organized by Bob Geldof came together to record a song Geldof had written called “Do They Know It’s Christmas”.  It was written and recorded to bring awareness to a famine occurring in Ethiopia.

The spirit and intentions of the song, performance, and related revenue donated to the cause  was noble and righteous.   It marked a trend of social responsibility from artists wanting to make a difference in the world.  This has been carried on over the years by many others with events like Willie Nelsons’ Farm Aid benefiting farmers with financial challenges and Neil Young’s annual Bridge School Concert that benefits individuals with severe speech and physical impairments.

I thought about the song earlier today when I watched Kali sleeping after a long walk (in the cold and rain – poor me, right?).  It’s Christmas Eve but what the heck does she care.  She’s warm, fed, loved, and rescued. It’s just another day in paradise and for that I am grateful.   It makes me feel good to know that this beautiful soul will be safe and loved for the rest of her life.  It also pains me to know there are so many dogs that aren’t as fortunate as Kali as they wait to be rescued – both figuratively and literally – but may never be.

So on this Christmas Eve does Kali know it’s Christmas?  Of course not. Tomorrow family will be over and we’ll open gifts, eat, drink, reminisce, honor those that have passed before us (I miss you Dad!) and be merry.  But before all of that Kali and I will get up about 6:30, she’ll eat breakfast, she’ll watch me drink coffee and read the paper, she’ll beg while I prepare my breakfast (but retreat to her “spot” when asked), complain that we haven’t gone for our walk yet, go for a walk, return home to a warm bed, nap, and on and on and on like every other day.  So will she know it’s Christmas?  Nope.

And that’s just fine for both of us.

Having said all of that, I think if Kali had a concept of Christmas she would wish each and every one of you a very merry and blessed Christmas.

 

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My favorite picture of my Kali.  She rarely smiles but when she does it’s Golden.

 

 

An Uneventful Reunion

I think the earth is spinning faster.  How else do you account for the fact that Christmas is less than two weeks away and I haven’t even begun shopping for Kali Holly yet?   We got back from spending Thanksgiving with my son and his wife in Illinois, picked up Kali, and in a blink of an eye we’re looking Santa straight in the eye.  Yikes.

Kali’s six-day stay with Bucky and Callie while we were in Illinois was great.  In retrospect it was probably good for us both to have a little “away from each other time”.  After the first day I stopped texting her every hour partly because she didn’t respond but mostly because I knew she was in good hands with my dear friend Colleen and her two pups Callie and Bucky.

While I was on a plane Kali was at the park romping and wrestling with Bucky, the one year old golden lab.  While I was fighting the luggage carousel at O’hare Kali was being lavished with love from Auntie Colleen.   And while I was driving south from Chicago three hours  to Southern Illinois in the rain Kali was sleeping in front of the fireplace with Callie the 11 year old chocolate lab.  I want to be Kali!…

Holly and I had a great holiday week with my son and his wife and Kali had a great vacation with her new cousins.  The night after we arrived home I woke up and tried to be “cool” and not be all about going to pick up Kali.  At 3:30 am I asked Holly if she was ready to go get Kali.  She rolled over, punched me in the stomach and said “no, go back to sleep – it’s still night time and Auntie Colleen will kill you if you knock on her door this early”.  I tried again at 4:30, unsuccessfully,  and with a bloody nose went back to sleep now resigned to wait until first light to go get my Golden Kali.

Around 10:30 am we headed out to get Kali.  My car can go fast; real fast, but I kept it under 100 80 MPH on the 20 mile journey because I was still remaining “cool” and Holly said she would punch me in the stomach and nose again if I went any faster.

We get to Auntie Colleen’s, I knock on the door and Colleen’s husband Gary lets us in.  “They’re on a walk, come on in”.  “Wha..!  My Kali girl hasn’t been up since 3:30 waiting for me to pick her up?!?  She hasn’t been miserable without me?   Morning of day six and the day I pick her up and she’s on a “walk”?

After about 10 minutes Auntie Colleen comes in with about 220 pounds of dogs in tow; Bucky, Callie, and my Golden Kali.

I see Kali.  Kali sees me.  The moment I’ve been thinking about since I knew we’d be leaving her and more recently since 3:30 that morning.

Kali:  ” Hey Dad.  Bucky’s pretty cool and Callie has the same name as me but she spells it funny.  I’m gonna go play now.  See ya’…”

That’s it?  After six days of separation anxiety and 2000 miles all I get is a “Hi Dad”?

And that’s how it goes with kids.  And pups.

And for this uneventful reunion I am grateful to my dear friend Colleen and so proud of Kali.

But mostly proud of myself for staying in bed at 3:30, and 4:30, and for staying under 100 MPH.

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New Cousins

 

 

Sleep Tight Golden Kali

“Off Kali” I said in a calm voice while gently pulling her down and letting her know it wasn’t alright to be on the furniture.  She had walked up to the leather couch in the family room and crawled up.  This happened the second or third day Kali joined our family during the summer of 2014.  Since then she hasn’t been on the couch – at least not when we’re home and that we know of.

We never let Bailey, our previous Golden, on the furniture.  Smokey on the other hand has full rights to be on any piece of furniture he desires: chairs, beds, pillows, under the covers at night, etc.  How unfair is that, right?  Well dogs don’t know fair and Kali has seemed to accept the fact the floor is her domain and the higher ground – such as the leather couch – is ours (and Smokey’s).

There really is no rhyme or reason to Kali not getting on the couch.  It’s not like her hair doesn’t already float through the air and find it’s way onto any and all surfaces, nooks, and crannies.  That’s life with a Golden – it get’s hairy at times (most of the time).  So while there has been no specific reason it’s been the rule and Kali has been fine with it.

Until recently.

A few nights ago Holly and I were in our usual position after dinner on a dark and cold Fall evening.  The TV is on the background, Holly is sitting on the couch reading with a blanket over her legs and I’m in my recliner futzing on my laptop.  Kali is also in her usual position along the side of my recliner on the floor.

Then with the pat of a hand all bets were off.  No more Bailey rule and no more Smokey Only rule…  Anarchy!

Kali get’s up from her lying position walks up to Holly and places her magic snout on Holly’s lap.  Kali’s eyes are alternating between Holly and the couch.  Before I could say, “Kalice Marie” ( my most frequent nick-name for Kali during faux dramatic situations)- “you are not allowed on the couch”, Holly has spread out the blanket along the couch and has invited Kali up with a  pat of her hand on the blanket.

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The Magic Snout

Kali has a very soft and fluffy bed.  It’s not like she has never experienced a soft place to lie down.  In fact it’s always puzzled me that she typically chooses to lie on the cold tile in the kitchen area or cement outside when there are softer alternatives such as the carpet in the house or grass outside.

She laid there on the couch looking like Oliver Twist in bed on the first night that Mr. Brownlow rescued him from the streets of London and offered him solace in his mansion.

And so it’s been and so it goes in the life of my Golden Kali.  I’m fine with her being on the couch, Smokey seems to like the company (and the extra warmth Kali provides), and Holly Brownlow had better be OK with it because she’s the one who plucked Kaliver Twist out of Fagin’s den and plopped her up onto the couch and into a life of luxury.

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Quit hogging the pillows!

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                  Sleep Tight Golden Kali.

 

 

Nine Months and Thinking…

As I pass the nine month mark with Kali I find myself a little concerned that she is too dependent on, or attached to me. But I think that’s just me being me.  I’m a worrier. I want everything perfect for those that I love the most. In Kali’s case I want to know that she is happy whether she is with me or not.  She is mostly by my side which is exactly what I had envisioned when I began seriously considering adoption a couple of years ago.
We bonded the instant I attached her leash to her collar and took her out of the crate last May when she arrived from Taiwan. Thinking back it’s quite remarkable how she almost imprinted on me like a duckling does on its mother as it emerges from its shell.

Kali is tuned in to my movements, my general routine, and watches and waits for signals that something is about to happen.  Like the signals for our walk.  She’s even learned to not get fooled and that just because I’m putting on my shoes and grabbing a jacket this doesn’t always mean that it’s time for a walk.  I’m not sure what nuance she sees but I must do something different when preparing for our walk versus preparing to leave the house for some other reason.  A sure-fire signal to Kali that the walk is on comes when I tell her to get her collar which is usually laying where we left it the night before during cuddle time.  I’ll say, “get your collar” (sometimes I have to point to it) and she’ll pick it up and bring it to me. This is very satisfying for both of us!  I’m proud that she is smart and she is happy that the walk is on.

And so it was this morning.  She grabbed her collar, I grabbed a jacket and we were on our way.

The elements for a walk were just about perfect this morning.  The 41 degree air was still and crisp, the sun was shinning, and the path was quiet.  On walks like this I find myself wishing we lived in the mountains at about 5,000 foot elevation and that our walk was among the pines instead of the neighborhood creek trail.  Day dreaming, I imagine ourselves walking through the pines with a trace of snow on the ground from an earlier storm, the smell of pine prominent, and occasional wafts of wood fire coming from homes that spread out far enough from one another to offer intimate privacy and close enough for community.  We’d explore until we were content or too cold and then return to a warm fire back home.

Of course when one lives in Northern California, where the average annual low temperature is 50 degrees – rarely getting below 30- it’s easy to romanticize living in an area away from suburbia, less populated, and with less infrastructure. I’m grateful for all that we have and never take our blessings for granted.  But I’m human and it’s easy to fantasize about a simple and slower paced life.

Then I begin to feel guilty.  I feel guilty for allowing myself to want anything more or different from what I all ready have. Because what I have is a life filled with good health, a loving family, friends, and wonderful canine friend that is dependent on, and attached to me.  I fell guilty because while I walk along suburbia in relatively warm weather much of the country is experiencing debilitating conditions making it difficult or even impossible to get to work or school; just waiting for a break in weather in order to able to dig out and clean up in time for the next storm to arrive.

But wait – that’s not so bad.  What about the hundreds of millions of people in third world countries. They’d be happy to have a twelve-foot snow bank to dig out of knowing there was a Ford or Mercedes somewhere underneath that snow, food in the fridge, and oil in the furnace. Or those in countries torn apart by political strife and war who would gladly trade the bombs and terrorist threats for extreme temperatures and a living wage.

There is a song by the late Beatle, John Lennon, called “God”.  The opening lyrics are, “God is a concept by which we measure our pain”

“God is a concept by which we measure our pain”.

He repeats that line and then goes on to cite a litany of things or people he doesn’t believe in; the Bible, Buddha, Elvis, Kennedy, and so on. Then he sings, “Just believe in me”.

My take-away from this song has always been that one can make themselves feel really good or really bad about their lives depending on who or what they compare themselves to.

Bombs are not going off in my neighborhood – my life is great.  I’m not independently wealthy and playing golf in Hawaii – my life sucks.

So today I will enjoy, without guilt, my Golden Kali, the spring-like weather in Northern California, the crisp morning air, and the peaceful neighborhood creek trail that has been inspiring in many ways over the past nine months. I will also be cognizant of how fortunate I am and that there are others around me and around the world who may have far greater challenges than I can ever imagine or appreciate. And, as much as I’d like to make a difference for those people, my good fortune is nothing I should feel guilty about and has no impact on their happiness.

-Peace

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