I wonder if dogs can recognize smiles.

I’m sure the answer, or a scientific opinion, is in one of the many books I have about canine behavior and development. But rather than scouring those books for corroborative information I turned to the source of all knowledge: Google. Or as Holly calls it, “Uncle Google”. I firmly believe that one can find any answer they want – correct or otherwise – by searching the internet. Of course we all have our reliable sites that we trust, or search engines that may return more mainstream information than others. But bottom line if one digs deep enough one can find a plethora of information to support their opinion or beliefs.

So now realizing that Uncle Google is not a reliable source for something as important as learning if dogs can recognize smiles I turned to the real experts. My girls Kloe and Koda.

I sat them down in front of me and began the conversation…

“Girls, I need your help. I’m trying to figure out if you can recognize smiles and know what they mean”. The girls sit patiently waiting for a biscuit that doesn’t come. “Girls, please pay attention.” Koda lies down but continues to pay attention. Kloe is looking out the window for a ball. “Kloe – watch!” She does.

I go on to describe the smile to them. “Girls, as humans we smile in many ways for many reasons. We smile when something is funny; that smile may be accompanied by laughter. We smile at the end of movie with a happy ending or when the hero prevails. You’ve seen me do that, right? Sometimes we smile when we feel sorry or bad for someone; a smile that says, ” I feel bad for you and wish I could help”. At this point I’ve totally lost Koda who wonders off to the kitchen. Kloe stays close still believing there is a biscuit in her future.

I give one last example. I say, “And of course humans smile just at the site of puppies, or even the thought of puppies!” Kloe seems to be thinking back to the last time we brought a puppy home (Koda) and is reticent at the mention of puppies. Koda, who must have continued to listen from the kitchen, comes running over and again is sitting in front of me with full attention. A giant thought bubble appears over her head that says, “Puppies? Did you say Puppies? Because the other day Mom told me that I needed a puppy to keep me busy and to play with when Kloe didn’t want to play. Did you say Puppy? Are you really going to get me a puppy??”

I now realize this is an exercise in futility. The girls are staying nearby only because they think I have biscuits in my pocket. [Full disclosure – I may have promised a treat at some point to hold their attention]. I consider getting up, giving them a biscuit, and returning to Uncle Google if he will still have me. But I decide to try an experiment to see of dogs can recognize a smile.

“Ok girls” I say. “Sit down here together”. I return to my chair about 10 feet away. I stare at the girls. They stare back at me. I wait a moment for dramatic pause. And then, I smile. A big ear to ear smile. They run to me in unison and eagerly lick my face and my giant smile.

And there it is. The proof. Dogs do recognize smiles! My highly scientific experiment in a controlled setting with documented parameters and standardized measurements proves that dogs do recognize smiles!

Feeling very proud of myself and satisfied with my results I sit back to revel in the moment with my girls. They stare at me and both now have thought bubbles over their heads:

Kloe: “Where’s my biscuit?”

Koda: “Where’s my puppy?”

These girls of mine. How they make me smile!

No animals – specifically Kloe and Koda – were harmed during this highly scientific experiment in canine behavior. ūüôā


From the time I was a toddler my mom would periodically take my sister and I to have “our pictures taken”. ¬†Formal pictures taken at a professional studio with lighting, back drops, and those “umbrella-thingies”. ¬†Looking back it’s interesting to me, and it shows how much my mom valued capturing a moment in time of her kid’s lives, that she would spend money on professional portrait sittings when there was not a lot of extra money. ¬†As an example when out for dinner at a restaurant my sister and I would have to share a Shirley Temple drink (7-Up and Grenadine) because my parents couldn’t afford for both of us to have one. ¬† When ordering a hamburger we couldn’t have cheese because it was ten cents extra. ¬†In retrospect maybe that’s why my parents could afford these expensive portraits?….

My mom passed away recently and I’ve spent many days in her home cleaning and clearing. ¬†Although many of those portraits of my sister and I hung on the walls of her home over the years they took on more meaning and presented a stark contrast to contemporary times when the camera on our smart phones are a hundred times better than the box cameras of the day. ¬† Our phones are probably as good or better than the large and cumbersome equipment that was in those studios that used something called film.

I have hundreds of pictures of Kali and Kloe with me at all times because they’re on my phone. ¬†A digital version of that accordion-like deck of pictures dad’s in previous generations would pull out of their wallets to proudly show off their kids and wives in blurry and faded pictures taken with his box camera.

With this in mind I thought I should take a lesson from my mom and lose the selfies and candids and have some portraits of the girls taken. ¬† Formal sittings (“sit, stay”) with lighting and back drops and “umbrella-thingies”. ¬†And so I did and I proudly display them here in this post.

OK… full disclosure. ¬†These were taken with my iPhone using portrait mode. ¬†But the sentiment remains the same. ¬†I think mom would be proud. ¬†Don’t you?







Do dogs smile when they’re happy?

Kali doesn’t¬†smile that often but when she does¬† – ears forward, mouth curled up slightly, tongue hanging out loosely – I’m pretty sure she’s¬†happy.

Fortunately this is not a scientific blog so I don’t feel compelled to back up my assertions with data. ¬†Instead¬†I offer up photographic evidence.


ALL smiles and chilling after a long walk at Pinecrest Lake.


Kali smiling because wine makes mom and dad happy


Waiting for mom to return from an errand.  Kali smiling but Kloe, well not so much.


Kali right after Kloe deadpanned a hilarious joke.


I’m pretty sure Kloe is smiling inside after this monster WWF take down of her big sister!

Cheez-It, Dogs, and Dishwashers

Buying appliances can be a long endeavor with so many models, features, brands, and price ranges. ¬†I’m always reminded when shopping for things of something my friend Bob, said a few years ago. ¬†He said, “Mike – you can’t just go by Cheez-It any more. ¬†There’s low fat Cheez-It, wheat Cheez-It, low sodium, white cheese, spicy, etc. ¬†You can’t just go and buy Cheez-Its any more.” ¬†And Bob was and is right. ¬†It’s that way with everything. ¬†We live in a world with infinite choices. ¬†I’m not complaining, just saying’…

So there we were at Lowe’s shopping for dishwashers. ¬†Holly, me, Kali, and Kloe. ¬†Full disclosure – Holly had done the research on what we might want before our trek to Lowe’s but we still had questions and knew that if we chose to buy there it would take some time.

We spent about 45 minutes looking at dishwashers, getting our questions answered, making the decision, and going through the purchase process about¬†delivery information, extended warranty details, ¬†installation, etc. ¬†Throughout the entire process our girls – Kloe and Kali- were so patient laying on the ground next to us and¬†charming all the shoppers who passed by. ¬†Yes, there were some treats involved every now and then. ¬†Occasionally Kali would let out a short bark to get my attention and remind me that there were treats in my pocket. ¬†And once or twice Kloe stood up and repositioned herself in a way that she tied Holly’s legs up in a square knot.

But all in all¬†our¬†girls were so well behaved for such an extended period¬†of time you would have thought they had been promised filet mignon for dinner. ¬†But there were no steaks¬†offered. ¬†There were no¬†brand new squeaky toys. ¬†There were just¬†a few biscuits and our sweet girls lying by mom an dad’s feet while we¬†purchased¬†a box of Cheez-it¬†Dishwasher.


Too many choices: ¬†you can’t just go and buy a box of Cheez-It these days.




The Outdoor Bath Tub

Of the many canine friendly amenities at Kali’s new mountain house¬†there is one that will make both our lives easier about once a month. ¬†The outdoor bath tub. ¬†The previous owners were dog lovers like us. ¬†They had three of their own and many things in and around the house were very clearly designed to be dog friendly and safe.

The tub was pretty dirty from winter and not being used for some time and I finally got around to cleaning it today. The out door bath tub is located adjacent to the stand alone garage up the hill from the house.   I headed up the to garage with some cleaning supplies and Kali followed along.

I was only planning on cleaning the tub – not Kali. ¬†But that all changed as I as¬†I finished cleaning and¬†looked over to my right to see¬†Kali laying down in a large puddle of mud. ¬†It’s been pretty hot the past several days and I’m sure the cool muddy water felt very good to her. ¬†I look over at Kali¬†and start to laugh. ¬†Kali¬†looks up and smiles as if to say, “Hey Dad – this is great! ¬†A girl needs spa treatment every now and then and this mineral laced mud and mountain water will do wonders for my skin and completion.”

So what better way to christen the outdoor bath tub than on a warm¬†Sunday afternoon enjoying Kali’s new life in the mountains.


The tub and Kali’s “mineral springs” to the right


I love this place


Can I get a Pedi next?

It’s good to be a dog

Punxsutawney Phil didn’t see his shadow this year¬†so that could mean an early Spring. ¬†I mean who can argue with science like this 130 year old gem, right? ¬†To further corroborate the science, Canada’s¬†Shubenacadie Sam also did not see his shadow. ¬†Since Groundhogs are not prone to collusion there is a strong argument for early Spring.

Spring is still five or six weeks away on calendars and even farther away in reality. Out here in the wild wild west we need more rain – lots of it – so I hope if there is an early Spring there are more than just Spring showers…

But this¬†past week of unseasonable weather has been warming (pun intended) to the ¬†body, mind, and soul. ¬†I know this because Kali told me. ¬†Not with words (you do know she can’t actually speak, right?) but with her actions.

Our walk along the creek trail was nothing less than glorious¬†this morning. ¬†The warm air and slight breeze wafting the smell of wet grass and emerging honeysuckle blossoms was not¬†lost on either Kali or I. ¬†Kali seemed¬†particularly anxious to get to the pond. ¬†Sometimes when we walk she stops in her tracks (pulling my arm out of my shoulder socket) in an effort to get a treat. ¬†Other time she lallygags (it’s a word – look it up) smelling every pee-mail bush and pole along the path. ¬†But today Kali marched like a trooper laser locked on her target which I thought was the pond but, as it turned out was the spot where we turn onto the golf course.

Since the golf course closed a few months ago Kali and I will often make our way back home by walking the fairways that parallel the creek and path. ¬†With the relative vastness of the open fairways far from the streets and usually with no other walkers – two or four legged – I’ve become comfortable letting Kali off leash as we trek back home. ¬†It’s great to see Kali wonder around off leash sniffing and exploring. ¬†She never wonders too far from me and if I get too far ahead when she notices and¬†comes galloping up to me to check in. ¬†If there’s a flock of geese foraging along the way she’ll give chase, they’ll fly off in unison, and Kali¬†follows convinced, I’m sure, that she can catch them.

Today I think the hint of Spring was in Kali’s senses. ¬†As we walked home on the golf course Kali would sniff a patch of grass, plow¬†her head into to the ground and then slam the rest of her body down as she rolled around on her back absorbing the wet grass and scents into her body. ¬†Feet up in the air, smile on her snoot, and tongue hanging out she seemed to be saying (with her body because remember she doesn’t actually talk) “thank you Mother Nature for this glorious day”.

This happened several times along the way and each time she seemed to seek out an even wetter section with longer grass and she rolled and rolled and rolled. ¬†And I laughed and laughed and laughed. ¬†A happy laugh. ¬†A loving laugh. ¬†A “it must be great to be a dog” laugh.

We finally make it back to the short gravel path that leads to the trail head at the end of our street and I see that Kali has grass stains all over her coat. ¬†Kali is rarely “a dog” but today she was and it made me so happy to see her so happy in her canine-ness.

So as we walk along the gravel stretch of path there’s a stream of water a few inches deep from run off from a garden or leaky pipe. ¬†Kali goes straight to the stream and walks the rest of the way home in it. ¬†¬†Like a mare clip clopping through a¬†shallow river Kali walked along looking at her feet and seeming to take great pride in the splashes and presumably, the cool wetness on her paws.

As the saying goes. “It’s good to be King”, but I think it’s way better to be a dog!


Boring Home Videos

I remember years ago a friend showing me a video of their toddler getting a bath. ¬†It was about 30 minutes of water, splashing, water, and then more splashing. ¬†I thought to myself, “well this is quite boring”, while saying out loud, “how cute!..” ¬†And of course, “videos” back in the day were quite blurry and low quality even when one would spring the extra buck or so for the “HQ” 60 minute video tape.

So with that mindset established this post is my daddy dog-owner version of a boring home video. ¬†The good news is that these videos are comprised of less than one minute, slightly better quality than tape thanks to Mr. Jobs, and you’re not trapped in a living room in front of the TV with your friend asking, “hey – want see some videos of my kid?”

Kali had a recent unexpected visit from a couple of my friend’s dogs Jaynee (Piper’s sister) and Sadie. ¬†This visit was¬†much to Kali and Smokey’s surprise (how would they know, right?) and I was pleasantly surprised to see what good hosts they were. ¬†After a couple of minutes of barking, posturing, and butt smelling the four of them got along swimmingly spending a couple of hours romping in the yard and exploring the house.

Kali doesn’t get a lot of doggie play time and now that she’s much more comfortable around other dogs I’m trying to find opportunities for her build on her socialization skills.¬†So like any proud dad I diligently recorded a few moments of play time¬†for posterity but¬†mostly because it’s a lot easier these days to pull out a iPhone instead of a 20¬†pound VHS video camera who’s battery was usually dead when you needed it the most!

Roll tape….

Oh, and feel free to say in thinly veiled¬†sarcasm, “how cute, wow, my dog never does that, your dog is the only dog to ever get a bath run around and play. ¬† Don’t worry – you won’t hurt our feelings.


Five slightly less Golden days

Well it’s been almost five days and I think I made it. ¬†But I still have about 20 hours to go….

Holly and I went to visit my son and his wife in Chicago for Thanksgiving. ¬†Admittedly it was very stressful for me to think about leaving Kali behind for five days. ¬†We’re fortunate to have a dear friend with two dogs of her own who offered to watch Kali while we were gone.

Our friend Colleen has two very nice dogs of her own:¬†Bucky, a one year old golden lab who is as full of spunk and energy as you would expect. ¬†The other dog is Callie, a Chocolate lab around 11 years and a little slower and full of love. ¬†Bucky and Callie live in a dog house. ¬†By that I mean, like Kali and Smokey, Colleen’s home is all about the dogs with human family members¬†embracing them as family members of the highest status. ¬†They took Kali in with welcome and loving arms and for that I will be forever grateful.

From the regular texts Colleen sent to me it sounds like Kali had a full week of walks, playing in the park with her new fur-cousins, and lots and lots of sleeping in front of the fire place. ¬†In the photo below , not surprisingly, Bucky the youngster of the group wanted no part of sitting sill for the picture in front of the fire place where the dogs’ fluffy beds were laid out. ¬†Kali and Callie had no such problem after a long walk and lots of rolling around and wrestling at the park.


Kali and Callie in front of the fire. ¬†But where’s Bucky?

Kali¬†has never been away from¬†us for this long before so it will be fun to see her reaction (and mine) when we pick her up in the morning. ¬†Meanwhile, I sit at ORD writing this post thinking that¬†tomorrow can’t get here fast enough.

Sleep tight Golden Kali and I’ll see you in the morning.


GPS – Golden Positioning System

Kali loves car rides.

When Holly is with me Kali¬†lies down in the back seat and relies on us to the get to right place. ¬†But apparently she has caught on to the fact that when Holly is in the car she tends to provide a lot of “input” about which road to take and where to turn. ¬†So, when it’s just me and Kali, she insists on helping out with the navigation. ¬†But Kali’s technique is a little different than Holly’s…

Kali will look to the skies and quickly establish connection with a satellite staying fixed on it¬†in order to¬†relay the correct coordinates to me, her pilot. ¬†The cockpit is a little awkward for her but she doesn’t seem to mind and she almost always gets us to our destination on time and without incident. ¬†Which is usually the pet store where treats and praise await my co-pilot.

Golden Positioning System

Golden Positioning System

Weekend reflections along the creek trail

Kali and I had some beautiful mornings along our creek trail this week and also one very special sunset.  As much as I hate to see Summer end the beginning of Fall in Northern California is a beautiful time.

As we head out of the hot and into the warm Kali thought it would nice to let the pictures be worth a thousand blessings…

Rise and shine for Kali and Dad. "Let's go"!

Rise and shine for Kali and Dad. “Let’s go”!

Sun just creeping up over the trail head.

Sun just creeping up over the trail head.

Stopping to "reflect" at the Duck Pond; our turn around point.

Stopping to “reflect” at the Duck Pond; our turn around point.

Never too early for Kali to pose at our favorite spot.

Never too early for Kali to pose at our favorite spot.

And again...

And again…

Heading home

Heading home

And later that night- what a show the sun and clouds put on for us!

And later that night