Koda Gotcha Day

Koda’s “Gotcha Day” was this past Saturday and it came and went without fanfare or much excitement.   The same can’t be said for the first year she’s been with us.  It’s been quite the year of the puppy around the Golden K…  In many ways the Year of Koda!

We adopted Koda at 16 weeks old through the same Golden Retriever rescue group all our girls have come through.  As soon as I got her home I realized we had one tenacious pup on our hands.   Upon getting home I introduced her to our other girls who were only mildly interested.

Upon arriving home with Koda, Kali – almost ten years old at the time – had the same reaction she had when we brought Kloe home two years before: alternating looks between Koda and me, “Sniff, sniff…. WOOF, BARK, WOOF”.  Translation:  “Oh no no no.  You take that little pup right back to where you got her!  I will not stand for that in my house.”

Kloe was much more interested sniffing Koda up , down and under.  They began running and playing and it was now evident to Kali, and much to her chagrin, that this pup was here to stay.  Kali was probably thinking, “Great Kloe, we had it pretty good here just the two of us and now because of your open mindedness and welcoming demeanor this pup is probably going to stay”.  But Kali being Kali who above all is a gentle and loving soul quickly accepted Koda and has even taken on the occasional role of mom to her.

Koda was not shy about immediately exploring her new surroundings and getting in the face of her new sisters.  If her sisters tried to “school” Koda she would put her head down and her butt up in the air, puff up her mouth, and make this “aroo roo roo” sound as if to say, “bring it!”.  This has become a signature trait for this fearless little girl.

Koda’s tenacity was also immediately evident in her play, in her response to being scolded, and in her unrelenting desire to engage in rough play with her older sister Kloe.  She quickly learned and seem to accept that Kali was not going to play with her.  But as long as Kloe responded to Koda’s overtures that was fine for Koda.  As most puppies will do Koda initiated play with Kloe often by blind-siding her and jumping on her back or with a head crashing  tackle to her face.  The thing about it was that Koda at that time was just 22 pounds and Kloe was 80.  It didn’t seem to phase Koda.

Most older dogs instinctively are aware of their larger size and will go easy on a younger smaller pup.  Kloe started out this way but quickly learned that Koda was not your normal little pup who acquiesces to an older and much larger dog.  When provoked Kloe would thrash Koda around pretty good but each time Koda went back for more usually with an extended “aroo roo roo” head low to the ground and butt in the air tail ‘awagging.  “Bring it !  You’re not so big.  I can take it and give you some right back….a roo roo roo roo…”

Koda has been more challenging than her sisters ever were. Kali was a mature five year old when we adopted her and she demonstrated immediate respect for authority and her surroundings.  Kloe was a normal puppy with normal challenges but she is a rule follower by nature and therefore has always been easy to manage.  Koda on the other hand?  Well, “aroo roo roo” says it all!

“Down Koda”.  “Aroo roo roo”.   “Koda leave it!”  “Aroo roo roo, GRRRR, aroo!”.

Koda is still learning that every dog she meets is not instantly ready or able to play and that every stranger we meet is not a human trampoline for her personal use.  She is also slowly learning that good things happen when she is calm and obedient.  I’m growing too.  I’ve had to learn and deploy different training and management techniques.  I’ve had to develop more patience.  And, I’ve become a bit more tenacious myself in my commitment to helping Koda become the best dog she can be.

So one year down – the year of the Koda – and God willing many many more to come!

Happy Gotcha Day sweetie girl Koda!

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Koda First day at the Golden K

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Koda at about 5 months “aroo roo roo!”

 

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The heart of The Golden K

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Koda on her Gotcha Day

 

 

 

A Model Patient

It’s been three weeks since Kloe had her Bi-lateral TPLO surgery.   She is doing fantastic!  She is feeling so good that the hard part now will be to keep her on a short leash  – figuratively and literally – for at least another month or so.

The first few days home Kloe mostly slept and soaked up the love and attention that we gave her almost 24 x 7 staying within feet away to make sure there were no mishaps.  We’re fortunate that we have a one bedroom apartment under our home that has ground level access and a small patio area.  The apartment is used for friends and family when they visit the Golden K.  But for the first ten days post surgery it was Kloe’s convalescent home staffed primarily by Holly who did what she is so good at – taking care of her family.  I spelled Holly from time to time but it was mostly Holly who monitored Kloe during the critical first several days, administering medicine and changing bandages when needed.   Holly created a safe and comfortable environment for Kloe setting up a day bed in the main living area of the apartment and a nighttime bed in the bedroom where Holly could sleep on the floor next to Kloe.

After a few days Kloe became more ambulatory and willing to walk the few feet to the patio to “get busy” what we call it for our girls to pee and poop.   The summer temps were very warm and Kloe relaxed next to Holly’s side on the shaded patio.   Every minute that passed Kloe’s bones were knitting back together and our vet said a little bit of walking helped that process.

After about ten days we felt Kloe was strong enough, and safe enough, to come back upstairs.  Between the car, the driveway to the upper part of our home, and me carrying a heavy 75 pound load for the last 40 feet Kloe arrived back upstairs.   We celebrated on the deck by doing what we normally do – hang out with our girls, drink wine, BBQ, and enjoy the beauty of the Golden K.  It was great to have the band pack  back together!

The five of us are together so much that ten days of fragmented family life seemed like a lifetime.  It was great for this group of habit creatures to be back in our routine, even if it meant Kloe had to be tethered while on the deck.   She also must be on leash when we take her to “get busy” (pee and poop).  The sight of a squirrel, feral cat, or other critter could cause her to take off and run and jump which for now is a major no-no.

Since then we’ve lengthened the leash a bit but Kloe can still not be outside untethered. She once again has mostly free reign inside the house but when we leave she has to be sequestered in our bedroom by herself.  We’ve come too long to risk injury or setbacks.  Our vet says that in a week we can begin taking her for short walks – five minutes – on flat ground.  What comes after that I’m not sure.

I’m trying not to get to far ahead of things but I can’t help but wonder what the signal or trigger will be for when we can let her off leash outside and let her return to “normal” activities.  The prognosis is that she will return to almost 100% of her old self with periodic spells of soreness after very active periods.  In my eye’s mind I can see her muscular athletic body running through the Golden K as she once used to.  That image makes me both very happy and also scared.  I’m a worrier and I know I will be cringing every step of her way at first but hopefully not forever.

So for now I try not to think too much about the whats and whens of Kloe returning to normal activities and just focus on how far our sweet girl has come.  She’s been a model patient, stoically accepting everything we’ve thrown at her over the past several months not least of all an invasive surgery and long recovery period where she now feels normal but cannot yet act normal.  All in good time sweet girl (the authors says for himself as much as for the patient)….

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Kloe hanging on the deck next to me while I write this post

TPLO

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CCL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Kloe during healthier days.

Our sweet Kloe last week

Our sweet Kloe last week

This Dog Is Driving Me Nuts

This dog is driving me nuts!

As a parent of three now grown children I can tell you first that these statements are true:

Child one: “I’ follow the rules”.  

Child two: “I’m the reason for the rules”.

Child three: “The rules don’t apply to me”.

And so it seems with dogs too….

Kali is the oldest and fur-baby number one.  From day one she did was asked of her, never complained and was happy to comply.   Kloe is fur-baby number two.  Kloe was the reason for certain changes and routine in the pack as she was growing up.  Now at almost three years of age she is very much a rule follower herself but wasn’t always that way and she was definitely the reason certain controls and limits had to be put in place.

And then there is fur-baby number three: Koda.

Sigh…

At eight months old Koda is a natural at living up to the child number three statement.  The statement oozes from every single one of her 48 pounds.  Her breath in the cold frosty air whispers the statement.   Somewhere there are tee-shirts with the child number three statement on the back with a picture of Koda on the front.  Double sigh…

Koda’s tenacity, confidence, and strong will is something to behold.  I really do admire it and am so glad Koda is who she is.   Is her tenacity challenging?  Yes.  Does her strong will try my patience?   Hourly.   Can I channel her strong will into positives that will make her a tremendous adult dog.  I hope so.   Can I leverage the combination of all three to reverse the effects if global warming?   Maybe.  Ok probably not  but that is the power of Koda.

Potential song lyrics for Koda’s enshrinement into the Child Number Three Hall of Fame:

“And I love her” – Lennon and McCartney

“That’s the power of love” – Huey Lewis

“This dog is driving me nuts” – Michael Morales

Crazy, nuts, bananas – whatever.  But also, crazy with love.  Crazy with the optimism a puppy brings to one’s every day life.   Crazy fun to see her play with abandonment.

But yeah, this dog is driving me nuts!

 

 

 

Number Three

Why this yearning for dogs?… Maybe it’s the endless feed of Golden Retriever puppy pictures served up in a Facebook group I belong to.  Or perhaps it’s because of an Instagram account I follow that posts nothing but Golden Retriever puppy pictures.  Or maybe, and most likely, it’s a life force that pulses through my body physically, spiritually, and emotionally.   Something in me that guides me and defines me all at the same time.   I joke that if I have the chance to hang out with people or dogs I choose dogs.  I guess its not completely a joke.  I gravitate towards dogs over people if there is a pup anywhere I am.  I consider myself to be a very social person so it’s not that I shy away from people.  I enjoy people.  It’s just that if there is a dog around it usually commands my attention.  If there is more than one dog more of my attention (and joy).

So I guess it was inevitable that we would eventually add a third dog to our pack.   This morning I picked up “Koda” from True Love Rescue (TLR).  TLR is a wonderful rescue group in Northern California.  It’s the same group that brought us Kali and Kloe.  And yeah, it’s a “K” thing with the girl’s names and we call our mountain home The Golden K where it’s mostly about the pups.

As with many things in our  life Holly and I don’t hesitate once we’re ready to do something; buy a car, buy a house, move from the Bay Area to the mountains, and adopt another pup.  It was just four days ago that we decided the time was right, especially when we learned that there were two pups remaining from a rescued litter.  We called the organizer, told her we wanted to adopt “purple” (the color of the pup’s collar in the picture) and here we four days later with our new pup Koda.  The big girls, Kali and Kloe, were very welcoming and there was no drama when I introduced them to Koda.  Kali was mostly indifferent but polite and accepting.  Kloe, as she is with most new dogs she meets of any age or size, immediately engaged with Koda, with puppy poses, and sniffs of all the usual body parts.  Kloe followed Koda around as she explored her new surroundings and ultimately they engaged in some light play.  Kloe restrained herself appropriately and was instinctively aware of the 60 pound size difference between her and Koda.  I was proud of the the big girls and I know they’ll both be great role models and teachers for Koda in the weeks, months, and years to come.

So yes, number three was inevitable.  I can only ignore the aforementioned life force and pulse in me for so long.  As I end the post I reflect on some of the things I know about dogs in general and especially my girls.  They can lower my blood pressure simply by being nearby.  They can calm me after a difficult day or negative experience.  They can lick my tears away when I cry, and make me laugh when I’m sad.   Sure they can try my patience at times but their patience with me is unlimited.  And the unconditional love they have for me is humbling and consistently challenges me to be a better person.

I  look down and see that all three are now all asleep at my feet.  And for this moment in time I am harmonized with the world, The Golden K, and my girls.

KODA

 

 

 

Play Ball!

The regular season of Major League Baseball ends this Sunday and moves into the playoffs.  My San Francisco Giants had one of the worst seasons in the Clubs 100+ years history.  But even in the down years baseball is never very far from my heart.   And any ball is never very far from Kloe’s mouth.

I always wanted a dog that would fetch.  One that would chase the ball down with the passion of Willie Mays making an over the shoulder catch in the 1954 World Series.   A dog that would love to play ball.  Bailey had no interest in playing ball choosing instead to chase squirrels and birds.  I thought Kali might have been a ball chaser but it didn’t take her long to find out that the ball was not food and therefore why exert any energy running to it and – God forbid – pick it up and bring it back to me!

So this may fall into the category of be careful of what you wish for.

Kloe loves the ball.   Kloe is never far from a ball.   Kloe sleeps with her ball.  Kloe drinks with her ball.  Kloe can play fetch for as long as your arm can muster up another throw.  Hey she’s 18 months old, is strong as an ox, impervious to fatigue, and frankly has a little tunnel vision (the ball).

So I muse about being careful what you wish for but really I think it is pretty cool that I finally have a dog that will “Play ball”.

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Somebody PLEASE throw the ball for me!

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Really?

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Kloeville

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“I can do this forever Mom”

Hurricane Harvey

As we sit here in the relative safety of The Golden K we are thinking about the impending impacts of Hurricane Harvey that, as of the writing of this post, will hit shore within the hour.  Our thoughts are with Kali’s followers and anyone else who is or will be in harms way.

Prayers, positive vibes, good thoughts, well wishes –  however you want to phrase it – we are sending all of them your way.

Its times like this that our country can show it’s greatness, resolve, and unity by helping one another regardless of race, religion, political affiliations, or sexual identity.

Come on people now
Smile on your brother
Everybody get together
And try to love one another right now

-Jesse Colin Young

Kali and Kloe praying for the safety of Gulf Coasters.    Let us know how you are.

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Back To The Earth

It was like any other morning when Kali and I took the walk down our long driveway and onto the road to get the newspaper.  The newspaper tubes hang along a wooden rail, several in a row for about a dozen homes nearby. It’s quite different than suburbia where your paper is delivered to your door stoop or driveway.  So most mornings Kali and I make the trek down onto the road, take in the sights and smells, grab the paper, and then head up the back side of our property and “take the long way home”.

So Tuesday was not much different than so many other mornings since we moved to the Golden K five months ago.  The air was colder, the ground a little damp from recent rains (thank the Lord for rain!), and I noticed a lot of mud backing up in the drainage ditch.  So as we opened the farm gate I unclipped Kali’s leash and I diverted slightly to take stock of the mud and what I might need to do to clear it out.  I surveyed the drains as Kali foraged and waited patiently  to head up the hill towards the gravel road that circles The Golden K.

A sound of rustling caught my attention.  I looked over and saw a large buck trying to right itself from a laying position.  Kali and I had obviously disturbed the deer, who I initially thought was simply nesting,  and all three of us were a caught off guard.  Kali ran toward the buck barking.  I immediately called to Kali to come back fearing the buck would kick her which could be fateful.  I don’t know if it was all the years of recall training that paid off or if Kali became frightened.  But thankfully she came running back to me.  I clipped on her leash and we headed quickly up the hill towards the house.

My main concern was to get Kali under control and out of harms way.  The deer are regular visitors and have never demonstrated any aggression to any of us including the dogs who from time to time will bark at them behind a fence or through the windows of the house.  But this buck was obviously under duress and I was taking no chances especially with Kali under tow.  As we headed up the hill I looked back to see the Buck still partially down leaning on his front legs motionless and staring at us.

It was the posture of the buck that made me realize he was the deer we fondly called Gimpy.  Gimpy because he had a broken leg and hobbled around on his three good legs.  We hadn’t seen him regularly like the other bucks who make daily visits.   But we had seen him enough to know he was surviving and seemingly very healthy in spite of being crippled. In fact he was the largest of the bucks and probably the oldest.   I now realized why he hadn’t simply bounced off when we we startled him.  He couldn’t.

The image of Gimpy’s piercing black eyes staring back at Kali and I as we moved up the hill stuck with  throughout the day.   Under normal circumstances I would assume that he recovered and moved along his way once we were out of sight.  But my instincts told me otherwise.  So later that afternoon I walked down to see if he was still there.  He was. He had settled himself into a laying position and I stood along the our fence staring back from about 25 feet away.

That was Tuesday afternoon.  Wednesday morning he was still there.  I wanted to believe that this was his new nesting spot and that he was out and about throughout the day.  But I knew better.  I watched him lay motionless staring at me for a few minutes and walked back up the hill.  Wednesday afternoon same thing – he was still there.  I knew that Gimpy was waiting to die and this was the spot he chose to do that. As I walked off I looked his way and made the sign of the cross like I still do when my children or Holly drive off.  A hold over from my Catholic upbringing and my mom who always did the same for me.

Thursday morning I left before sunrise to head to the Bay Area for the day. As I drove past where Gimpy had been I thought of stopping and getting out with my flashlight to see if he was there. But why, I thought and continued to drive on.  Holly text me about 10:00 that morning with a picture of Gimpy, now with his head on the ground.  He was dead.

As I arrived home Thursday afternoon the sun was low in the sky, the air was calm, and the ground was damp from rain earlier in the day.  It smelled and looked beautiful. One of my favorite times living up here on the hill is arriving back at The GK after a day down in the crazy Bay Area.  I pulled over along the fence, got out of the truck and stood by the fence staring at Gimpy.  It made me sad to see him lying there dead.  But it also made me a little happy to know after suffering for some time that suffering was over, and hopefully his spirit was at peace as his body returned back to the earth.

I stood there for about five minutes to, if nothing else, pay my respect.  This grand buck, even with three legs,  was  a majestic animal and part of this hill for for much longer than me.  I was honored to have known him from afar.

Before I turned back to my truck I took one last look at Gimpy and made the sign of the cross.  As I drove up the road and onto our driveway I felt peaceful and happy to be back home at The Golden K.

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Back To the Earth at The Golden K