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

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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

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Boomer the real dog

 

 

Sugar Lips

I’m a nicknamer.    I don’t know why but I’ve always given nicknames.  I call my oldest son Pop.  He’s 33 and I started calling him that when he was less than six months old.   It stuck.  There’s variations of the nick name as well like Popadoo, Popadoo-ron-ron, and Popodopolis  My other son I used to call Goosey-Goose’ because he was always bumping into things as a baby and getting goose eggs on his head.  This one did not stick which was probably good.  My daughter is Sweetie Girl, Holly is Hollis Marie, and so on and so on.

All the nicknames are organic; they just happen.  They just come out of my mouth without much thought (as do a lot of things I say!) and sometimes they stick and sometimes they don’t.

So it shouldn’t be surprising that “the girls” (Kali and Kloe) have nicknames.

Kali:   Kalis Marie (precarious because of the aforementioned Hollis Marie), Kal, Kalidonia, Fat Girl (sorry Kali), Kalifornia, and Sweetie Girl (yes, same as my daughter).

Kloe: Klois Marie (there’s a theme here), Kloe Bowie, Sweets (which always followed by me saying, “mind if I call you sweets”, and  Klo Klo.

The names are always organic except for one that I now have for Kloe:  Sugar Lips.

Some time ago Holly was teasing me saying that I have all these nick names for the girls.  So I say, “like what”.  And she goes on to name a few and throws in Sugar Lips for Kloe which I had never used before.  I said,  “I don’t call Kloe Sugar Lips….   until now”.

“Hey Sugar Lips” is now my usual response to Kloe when she comes to greet me.   Her lips and kisses are indeed very sweet so long as I don’t think about all the foraging she has been doing around the Golden K but that’s a post for another day.

So yeah, Sugar Lips.   What nick names do you have for your pups?

Sugar Lips Chillin’ on the deck of the Golden K

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Leading The Way Around The Golden K

It’s been satisfying to see Kali get more and more comfortable around the five acres that comprises The Golden K.  For Kali’s followers that are not familiar, The Golden K is what what we call our home in the mountains where we moved to almost a year ago.     Kali now freely romps and explores as I am out and about doing various chores or just exploring and appreciating the change of seasons and the beauty of “the hill”. She never strays too far and always comes running to me if I call.

Actually, Kali has always been comfortable and her behavior has not changed. She’s always been trust worthy and attentive to my calls if she has wandered too far away or into a neighboring property.

But if I’m honest with myself I know that It’s been me – the suburban transplant and worry wort – who hasn’t wanted to loosen my purse strings and allow Kali to roam freely due to my aforementioned “worry-wortiness”.

But maybe Kali felt a bit over confident as we headed out for chores today as she settled in the tractor trailer as a passenger and spectator versus an active participant in the activities.

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She sat still long enough for the photo but it wasn’t long before Kali was back on her feet and leading the way around The Golden K.

 

Winter Dance

I thought we were getting a Golden Retriever but we got a bucking bronco, a race horse, and at times a bull in a china shop.  At least that’s how it’s seemed the past several days.  Kloe is the bull and the rest of us and the house is the china shop….

A recent series of much needed storms has grounded “Air Kloe”.  If we could somehow harness and store (externally) her unused energy it could potentially serve two good purposes.  First, we could sell the stored energy to power companies and make a few bucks while the energy was put to good use running power tools in a factory or local lumber mill.  It would probably last them weeks.  And two, and even more important, the energy would not be in her body (hence the reference to external storage) and our world would a much safer and saner place to ride out these storms.

Golden Kali’s last post was called Rain Delay.  And the rains have continued to delay and preclude Kloe from spending any significant time outside.  The Golden K has a lot of places for Kali and Kloe to roam and explore.  There are a series of gates, chain fences, and farm fences that connect our wrap around deck to several large areas that the girls can roam and run in.  Well Kloe can roam and run, Kali mostly just roams for a few minutes and then quickly lies down and enjoys the scenery.  The rain makes these areas, except for the deck that just gets icy, mud bowls.  We’ve learned a lot of things this first year at the Golden K and one of them is that we need better drainage throughout the areas the girls have access to.  There is definitely a Spring project or two having to do with grates, drains, and pipes in there somewhere…

Although Kloe is impervious to rain the house is not impervious to mud.

A decision to allow Succumbing to Kloe’s pretty brown eyes and relentless pleas to allow her outside in the wet and mud is usually followed by 30 or 45 minutes of getting her cleaned up and house worthy.  We’ll try to work in walks when it’s not raining too hard but this past series of storms has been very wet and walks have been few during the past week or so.

The girls have always had unlimmited in and out privileges so Kloe is very used to going out for a spell, coming in to see what’s up inside, and then asking to go back outside again.  She’ll do this several times throughout the day but when it’s wet and muddy, depending on what we’re doing at the time, it may not be practical for Holly or I to sign up for the clean up rotations.  We were talking about this the other day and were saying to each other that other dogs spend the day outside rain or shine and the owners are ok with.  Why aren’t we ok with it?  This in itself doesn’t make us good dog owners or make them bad dog owners.  Like us they love their pups.  In fact those dogs may be happier than Kloe (or our perception of her happiness?)…

But that’s not how we roll at the Golden K and that’s not the type of relationship we want to have with our pups.  They sleep next to us at night, lie under the table when we eat dinner, wrestle at our feet when we watch TV, and are lavished with treats (healthy treats of course!) throughout the day.

It finally stopped raining and things are drying out.  Kloe was able to spend significant time outside yesterday and will again today and tomorrow.  Clean up rotations will be much shorter and “the bull” will be happier outside the china shop where she can burn off some energy, chase a ball, do a little “Tazing”, and be able to take some long power naps when the energy is finally spent.

But alas, the rains will back again by Thursday and apparently in full force.  China will need to be protected in the shop and clean up rotations will be longer. Our 70 pound puppy bull will stare out the window, look at us with pleading eyes, and of course we’ll relent and let her out for a short while.

Rain, pleading stares, relent, clean up, and repeat.  This is the Winter dance we do at The Golden K.  We’re’OK with it.

Holly, the puppy bull, and the stare

OK with it.

What’s The Poop?

I guess that every blog about dogs eventually comes down to this topic.

Poop!

Ever since Kloe joined the pack there seems to be an abundance of poop.  Of course I expected the volume to increase (by 2) with two dogs but there defiantly seems to be an exponential affect with two dogs that make having two seem more like four.

To illustrate my point I’ll use last Friday morning as an example.  We have a large part of our property – around 50 yards long by 30 yards wide –  that is mostly for the dogs to roam and poop. We call it The Pen…. Kloe hangs out there sometimes to dig, find pine cones to chew on, and dart to and fro’ like the Tasmanian Devil (think Looney Tunes) when she’s tired of terrorizing Kali and needs to burn off some of her Golden puppy energy. For the most part the dogs know that when they “gotta go” that is where they gotta go.

It had been a few days since I picked up poop so there were numerous poopertunities for me to use the new scooper I had purchased the previous day.  I was pretty thorough and I’m certain that I captured every “dog pile” (Ok, I’ll slow down on the puns but hey – it’s a post about poop!) that my two sweet girls had left or me.

The very next  morning I wondered by The Pen and decided to go down to see what the poop was ((last pun – I promise).  I grabbed my new scooper and expected to find find three to four poopertunities (it doesn’t count because I already used it) to scoop. One scoop, two scoop, three scoop four.  Five scoop six scoop, seven poop more?!?  What the….? I stopped counting at 10 and it had been only 24 hours since my last endeavor in The Pen.

I know my dogs poop routine probable better that I should.  Kloe “goes” first thing in the morning when she gets up, after lunch, and usually one other time during the afternoon.  Kali goes during our morning walk and maybe one other random time during the day.  That adds up to four or five poops per canine pack members per day.  So why was there over 10 poopertunities for me Saturday morning??  I cannot say but I’m pretty sure there are other dogs jumping over the five foot cyclone fence that surrounds the Pen.

You might say, “but Michael, it would take a pretty athletic dog to jump a five foot fence and why would they do that just to poop and then jump out?”  And if you did say that I in turn would ask you how two dogs can poop over 10 times in a 24 hour period?

So that’s the poop.

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Part of The Pen.  Look closely – I’m sure you’ll find some “buried treasures”…

The Third 4th

Fourth of July has always been a favorite holiday.  While I recognize it’s significance for our country for me it’s really more about communities and traditions.   Parades, BBQ’s, flags and banners.  Long warm days that end with ice cream cones and fireworks.

Traditions.

Kali and I have a special tradition on Fourth of July.  This tradition involves a scarf that she received when she arrived from Taiwan a little over two years ago.  She and the other 23 dogs that traveled over 6,000 miles to meet their new families at  SFO arrived sporting light brown scarves.  Upon arriving at SFO rescue group volunteers replaced the brown scarves with red, white, and blue scarves that had stars, stripes and flags peppered throughout the design.  For me this was symbolic of Kali’s New Life In America and the changes that were to come for both her and I.  I still recall vividly the moment the scarf was put on her and how I felt at that moment. I wrote about this last year in a post called Tradition.

So again this Fourth Of July weekend I have pulled out this very special scarf and placed it around Kali’s neck.  She’ll wear it throughout the weekend and we’ll be reminded that inspite of many warts the USA is a country I’m blessed and proud to live in.  But mostly I’ll be reminded of the night Kali arrived in America and changed our lives forever.

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2015 Fourth Of July Portrait:  “She was an American Girl…”  – Tom Petty

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2016 Fourth of July. A little more casual up her at The Golden K

Hachi

Most dog lovers are probably familiar with the story about Hachi (Hachicko), the Akita who would accompany his owner to the train station each morning as the owner went off to work.  Hachi would hang around the town and towards the end of the day return to the train station to greet his owner upon his return.  One day the owner passed away from a cerebral hemorrhage and never made the return trip.  The dedication, loyalty, and bond was so incredibly strong that for the rest of his life the dog made his way back to the train station and waited for the return of his owner.  When the owner didn’t return the dog would return home and repeat the routine the next day.

I was reminded of this story last weekend.  Holly and I were helping my daughter move to her new apartment.  We pulled out of our house about 11:00 AM and as I found out later  in my haste to get on the road after the truck was loaded I had left the front door ajar.

Around 1:30 I received a call on my cell phone from my neighbor directly across the street from me.  He says, “Mike – are you home?”  I told him I wasn’t and asked why he was inquiring.  He chuckled and said that he noticed the front door was open and Kali was sitting on the front porch.  Kali is never left alone in front of the house so my neighbor knew something was not right.  My neighbor, on his cell phone, now begins to walk across the street and Kali stands up to greet him.  He walks in the house and Kali follows.  Smokey was inside and they both took a sit in front my neighbor, now standing in my living room, as we talked on the phone.  He chuckled again and secured the house with both dogs safely inside.

Holly says, “what’s up, who called you?”.  When I told he what happened she says, “yeah, whenever you leave Kali always waits by the door that you left from.  She’s like that dog Hachi.  She would have probably waited on the porch all day until we got home”.

I was grateful that Kali was safe in spite of my mistake.  But I was also a little bit proud that “my dog” would venture out the open front door, lie down, and camp out waiting for my return.

Our bond is strong.  It always has been.  And it always will be.  My Golden Kali and I!

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“The Porch”

 

Toast Of The Town

The town is the kitchen and the Toast is really just a piece of bread….

It all started over a year ago when Kali had a minor medical issue that required daily pills for a week or so.  Kali is not the most discerning diner in the world Kali will eat just about anything.  So I thought I could just give her the pills and she would gulp them down as she does with anything that comes from the kitchen and out of my hand.

I was surprised when Kali spit the pill out of her mouth.  Being a resourceful and evolved human being I quickly figured out that if I wrapped the pill in a piece of bread that Kali would gulp down the pill wrapped in bread and be none the wiser for the experience.

This routine went on for the week without incident.

  • Get up in the morning
  • Get the medicine
  • Go to the cabinet and get a piece of bread
  • Wrap the pill in the bread
  • Ask Kali to sit a reasonable distance away from the kitchen
  • Bring the bread wrapped pill to Kali
  • Boom – Kali gets her medicine and as far as she is concerned she got some people food from the (people) cabinet

The evolved human being wins as usual.  Right?  Well, maybe…

Dogs love to be trained.  They love the interaction,  mental stimulation, and rewards that follow successful execution of the command, trick, or show of obedience.  When Kali followed me into the kitchen in the morning and I sent her out and followed that with a piece of bread that happened to have a pill inside she was trained.  Trained to know that when I go near the cabinet where the bread lives there is a good chance that she will get a piece of bread.  She’s believes it because since then I follow the same routine; because (duh!) I a very trainable….

Since that period of time when Kali had the meds and I wrapped them in bread there is the morning time routine – that occurs right after her formal breakfast of kibble – of me fixing my breakfast which almost always includes the bread cabinet.

Kali, and now Smokey too, will immediately “assume the position” on the edge of the kitchen and wait for their piece of bread; their “toast” as I now refer to it as.

It’s great to be trained.  It’s liberating.  I love the interaction and mental stimulation I get when Kali shows me what I need to do to make her happy.  I really like the rewards of licks and tail wags I get when I do something right.  And best of all, Kali loves it when i am obedient.

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Kali and Smokey waiting for their toast from their all trained Dad

 

 

 

 

Respect

“R-E-S-P-E-C-T.  Find out what it means to me”

Aretha Franklin

From the first day Kali arrived from Taiwan almost two years ago she has always been very respectful of the house, the yard, and our possessions.  She seemed to inherently know what was a toy and what wasn’t.  Even if they looked the same or were the same.

We have a beanie baby that we use to keep our door ajar at night.  It’s an old habit from when Panda the cat was still with us.  It kept the door from shutting all the way when the heater came on (house air flow dynamics) and gave him a way to come and go while we were sleeping.  Full transparency about that: initially it wasn’t so much because we cherished this animal and wanted him to have full access to us even when we were asleep.  It was because, well, he was a cat and he would tear up the carpet outside our bedroom door if we didn’t.  I’ve mentioned before that we’re very trainable, right?

The point about the beanie baby was that Kali has a couple of beanie babies in her toy box that she plays with from time to time.  But she never touches the beanie baby next to our bedroom door.  As I recall she picked it up one time when she first saw it, I said “no – that’s not yours” – she dropped it and it’s never been an issue since.

She has fuzzy toys she likes to chew on and some of them look a lot like socks or slippers but she’s never chewed on a slipper, shoe, or anything else that wasn’t “hers” as appealing as they may be to her.  She instinctively knows what’s hers and what’s not hers and shows proper respect.

Kali is very highly extremely food motivated.  She is “all about the food” which makes it easy to provide positive reinforcement for good behavior and obedience.  So as respectful as she is about “things” what is truly notable is how she respects Smokey’s food. She has never exhibited any food aggression even from the first week she arrived and ate side by side with Smokey.   She knows what food is hers and respects Smokey’s even when it’s left unattended.

Smokey is not so much about the food.  Mealtime for Kali is an event.  Mealtime for Smokey is about the 6th or 7th item on his daily “to-do” list.  For convenience and routine sake I feed both Kali and Smokey at the same time.  Kali never fails to do her Suppertime dance even at breakfast.   The house could literally be on fire with fire fighters spraying water and burning beams falling and Kali would stand her ground and finish her meal before reacting to the mayhem around her.  When Smokey’s bowl is put on the ground I usually have to call him over to it.   I’ll say, “come on, Smoke.  Eat up or Kali will get your food”,  even though I know she won’t.  Smokey will saunter over to the bowl, take a sniff and look around the room (what is he a cat?!), and usually walk away and return to the spot in the sun or couch he was sleeping on.  He’ll eventually go back and eat but it might be a while and long after Kali has finished her puzzle-maze filled bowl.

I used to think that Kali would eat Smokey’s food if left on the ground unattended so I would hang around until they had both finished.  She did try to eat it once and Smokey made it very clear that even though he was not interested in the food at that moment that it was his and Kali should back off, which of course she did.

Here is what I found to be a truly remarkable event.

The other morning I put the food bowls down, Kali’s first.  With the bowl in front of her she immediately goes into a sit with eyes fixed on mine.  It’s our routine and I wait four or five seconds before I say “ok” and point to the food.  I do believe that she would sit with eyes fixed on mine for 10 minutes if I made her.  I would never do that of course but I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t eat until I told her it was ok no matter how long she had to wait.

Smokey’s bowl went down next a few feet away from Kali’s.  Smokey does his routine and eventually walks away from the food without eating.   I head upstairs to my office and see Kali’s eyes glancing back and forth between Smokey’s bowl of food and me.  As I head up I tell Kali to “leave it”.  She walks past the food and lies down in at the edge of the kitchen.  I know Smokey will eventually eat.   I usually check after about 10 minutes and if the food is still there I pick it up and it becomes dinner for him later that evening.

This particular morning I forgot to go back downstairs to check on whether Smokey had eaten.   About 30 minutes had passed.  I head down and I see that Kali is lying in the same spot and Smokey’s bowl is still full.  But Smokey isn’t around.   I then remembered hearing my daughter pass through the kitchen and go back to bed. I realized that Smokey had followed my daughter into her room without eating.

But as I’ve said about Kali, she is all about the food.  For her to lay there for half an hour by herself with a bowl full of food and not eat it was truly remarkable.  I couldn’t have been prouder of her at that moment.  I picked up Smokey’s bowl and opened the cookie jar and handed Kali a couple of biscuits while telling her what a good girl she was.

I only hope she had some idea of why she was being rewarded.

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Love these guys!

 

 

 

 

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)