Spring Break

The Golden K finally got a few days of dry warmish weather last week.   The red clay dirt mud finally starting drying out from weeks of being covered with snow followed by a lot of rain.  The girls were mostly house bound for much of the past two months because of it and were in bad need of a Spring Break.

When there was fresh snow on the ground it was not so bad because they could play in the snow and come back to the house and only be wet.  When the snow starts melting or it rains much of the girls Golden K playground becomes red mud and that’s a whole different deal when it comes to in and out privileges.   Towels were regularly piled up around the doors leading outside for much of these past two months so that upon re-entry we could at a minimum clean the girls’ paws off.  Sometimes it required a major wiping down or trip to the bath.  So the dry sunny days were a welcome sight that I think even the girls appreciated.  After all laying in dirt is better than laying mud, right?  Even for a pup?…

So as Koda and Kloe lay in the dry dirt I snapped (clicked) a photo and they appeared to scowl at the camera (phone) as if to say, “We don’t know how long this spring-like weather will last. Please put the phone away and throw these balls for us”.  And so I did.

Two dogs, two balls, nowhere to go, and all day to get there.  After two months of snow and rain it doesn’t get better than that.


Scowl, scowl, scowl!

Swim Time At The Lake

It was almost as though the water took the weight of the world off my eight year old Kali.  Well, I guess in some ways it did because when you’re paddling and floating the water is absorbing much of your weight instead of your joints and bones.

And so it was for Kali this afternoon at the lake.

With summer winding down we wanted to get the girls back up to the lake for another romp in the water while the weather was still reasonably warm.  I’m sure they wouldn’t mind the cold freezing snow melt later this year but Holly and I would!  Kloe loves the water and we knew that she would have no problem getting in the deep stuff so we were prepared this time with the long 30 foot leash.   We’re not yet comfortable letting either of the dogs, especially our little dare devil Kloe, into the Lake without a “safety net”.

Kloe had a blast, as expected, swimming out to retrieve the sticks we threw in the water.   This was the first time she really had an opportunity to outright swim without her legs touching the bottom of the lake and it was fun to see her eyes when she realized she was floating and then started paddling.   She did get a little more reserved the deeper out she got.   This actually made me feel relieved because one, she knows her limits to a degree, and two, I wouldn’t have to reel her in like a Marlin.  On the other hand if squirrels could swim and happened to be in the lake all bets would be off and I’m pretty sure Kloe would hyperplane towards the dastardly swimming vermin.

But Kali was really the surprise star of the afternoon.

Kali had been hanging around in the shallow water as Kloe swam out to retrieve sticks.  We gave Kloe a break and put the long leash on Kali just for grins.   Before we knew it she was romping and stomping in the water.   I threw a stick as a joke but the joke was on me.  Kali dove into the water, swam out to the stick, grabbed it, and brought it back and dropped it.   I threw it again and she repeated the exercise.

So shame on me for underestimating my (aging) Golden Kali who seemed years younger as soon as her fur hit the water and her feet began to paddle.  Most days with Kali are a joy but today will stand out for many months to come.

She won’t get a lot of points for style or grace but I give her a 10.0 for effort and heart. Good girl old lady!


Let it fly in the breeze and get caught in the trees
Give a home to the fleas, in my hair
A home for fleas, a hive for the buzzing bees
A nest for birds, there ain’t no words
For the beauty, splendor, the wonder of my hair

– From Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical

The verse above from the 1967 Rock Musical “Hair” could have been written about Kali or any other Golden Retriever for that matter.  Kali’s hair is everywhere but that’s to be expected and accepted if you own a Golden.  There is no shortage of hair flying around the house, in the air, in the carpet, and in the corner and edges of the tiled rooms.  Especially this time of year when Kali’s body decides that two coats are a little much for the hot summer weather that will arrive soon.

I think Kali is a lot prettier when she has her full complement of two fluffy coats.  But, as I did last summer, I will probably take a lot of her undercoat off again this year with the undercoat rake.  It’s remarkable how much hair is  under there.  With only a few passes along her back and thighs I can take off a Smokey size bundle of hair.  I’ve joked about this but wouldn’t it be cool to find someone who could spin Kali’s hair into yarn and make a sweater for someone, or a blanket, or maybe one of those silly toilet paper covers that were popular in the sixties.  If you’re old enough to remember those covers congratulations. If you still have one in your bathroom please get rid of it immediately or risk arrest by the generation police.

It’s amazing how much hair is in the carpet.  We have an upright Eureka vacuum cleaner with a an easily accessible canister of about two quarts in volume.  With a pass through a few rooms the canister is full of Kali’s hair.  Should we be happy that we have such an effective vacuum cleaner or ashamed that we’ve allowed so much hair to accumulate over the past few days?

And then there’s the stairs.  The stairs are a little more challenging when it comes to vacuuming.  But wait (as they used to say in the infomercials for Ginsu Knives) there’s more!  Our upright vacuum comes with  the “Power Paw”.  This hand-held attachment is quite effective at picking up dog hair from the stairs.  It  has a rubber gasket along the underside to loosen the hair and a spinning rake to grab the hair and suck it into the two-quart canister.  And Eureka is all about pet safety.  I’m sure of this because the attachment comes with a  warning:  “Caution.  Not to be used on pets”.   Thank goodness for stopping me before I did something stupid like vacuuming Kali, or worse Smokey who could probably fit through the hose and go directly into the canister.  Tragedy avoided.  Now where did that hair dryer go?  I’m off to take a bath and want to use the hair dryer while I’m sitting in the tub…

By the way if you are old enough to remember the Ginsu Knives infomercials you’re almost as old as those readers now running to the bathroom to hide that silly toilet paper cover that their grandmother knitted for them in 1965.  But, if you were lucky enough to have purchased a set of those knives – congratulations – you’re one of about 3 million people who purchased them between 1978 and 1984 (according to Wikipedia who of course is never wrong so why shouldn’t your doctoral thesis on global warming be based on data found within those millions of wiki-pages?).

So yeah, hair. “Hair of the dog that bit you”, “lost by a hair”, “what a hairy ordeal”.  Or how about, “there was hair flying everywhere?”  Boom – that’s the one.  Kali’s hair is flying everywhere.

But far be it from us to cook up a harebrained scheme (sorry) to do something about it.  Because, after all it’s Kali hair flying around like thousands of little blessings landing on and around us all day long.


But wait - there's more!

But wait – there’s more!

In searching for this photo I was amazed at the plethora of pictures and apparent market for these knitted items.  I stand corrected for those of you who I've offended please accept my humble apologies.

In searching for a photo of the silly knitted TP covers I shouldn’t have been amazed (but I was) at the plethora of pictures, and apparent market, for these knitted items. For those of you who may have felt ashamed for still possessing one of these please accept my humble apologies. (But, I still do think they’re silly..)



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.



Forecast: Buzzed and Warm

What a transformation. In a matter of about an hour he went from “Tough Guy” to “Lamb Pie”.

Kali’s little bro’, Smokey got a LONG OVERDUE grooming this week.  Smokey had not had a grooming for quite some time and he needs one at least every 8 to 12 weeks.  Otherwise he quickly turns into one of those fuzzy slippers that my sister used to wear back in the sixties.  It’s an amazing transformation and this time it was even more striking.  Because we waited so long he had a lot of matting in his fur.   So this grooming turned out to be a more of a doggie buzz-cut.


Tough Guy Smokey

Tough Guy Smokey


Lamb Pie Smokey

Lamb Pie Smokey

It could be that I’m projecting my perceptions but Smokey seems a lot calmer and mild-mannered when he looks like a little lamb. Less barking and overall less small-dog syndrome.  Although the bleating does become rather annoying (sorry!)…

Another interesting dynamic is how Kali has related to Smokey after his grooming.  Smokey is usually the one who initiates play taunting Kali to chase him using tactics like nipping at her tail and running in circles under her nose.  But this time when Smokey came home from the grooming Kali seemed intrigued.  They always greet each other when one of them comes home but this time seemed different.  Kali approached Smokey with lots of sniffing and pushed her head against his little 11 pound body.  Then, like a unbridled pony her front legs went up in the air, her tail was wagging furiously, and with a big smile on her face she seemed to say, “Hey you’re cute and you smell really good; wanna play chase?”  And of course Smokey complied running in between furniture and under tables to get away only to re-emerge and launch his signature counter attack. It’s a good thing Kali is not a border collie or Smokey would be in for a long Spring.

And talk about transformation and Spring, we went from torrential downpours in the Bay Area causing flooding in many areas to sunny and warm Spring-like weather.  We’ll have temps in the low to mid-seventies throughout the weekend and into next week.  If only I could teach Kali how to caddy could multitask with a long walk while I also play golf.


There’s a pond along our walking trail with a lots of ducks, geese, and a variety of water fowl.  We’ve even seen a couple of blue heron’s.  Kali loves watching the birds and becomes especially animated when they land in the water as a flock or take back to the skies after we’ve come too close or Kali has let out a hearty woof.  Kali is a great walker and rarely tugs at the leash staying close to my side.  But as we get close to the duck pond she begins pulling and fully extends the slack in the leash while looking back at me as if to say, “Aren’t you coming?  There are birds over there in the water.  I’m a retriever; I’ve got a job to do”.

I think I’m supposed to go out there and “retrieve” one of those ducks, right?

It had been a long time since Kali and I had walked in warm weather.  Me in shorts and Kali in, well she still had two coats on but she didn’t seem to mind.  So on this Winter afternoon that felt a lot more like Spring we took an extra long route, visited the duck pond (did I have a choice?),  passed by the dog park without drama, and stopped to “smell the (figurative) roses”.  With no reason to rush home we took in the sights and smells and were very mindful our blessings on this glorious afternoon.

Sit Kali.  Sure why not.

Sit Kali. Sure why not.


Lie Down.  OK, glad to oblige.

Lie Down. OK, glad to oblige.

The Lighted Angel Ritual

Kali was disappointed. She tried not to let on but I could see it in her eyes. “This is it?”, she seemed to say. “This is the big deal?”

In a recent post I mentioned a fall ritual that involved setting up a lighted Angel in front of our house to mark the beginning of the holidays. This year, as with most, the ritual took place the day before Thanksgiving. The ritual has been greatly streamlined over the years from strands and strands of of lights and yard decorations to a simple lighted Angel. The children are all adults now and only one still lives at home. The first year that there was an absence of lights on the house and just the angel one of my boys was home for a visit. He asked me about the lights; why weren’t they up? What about tradition? I invited him to go into the shed to dig out the box of lights and yard ornaments, get the ladders out, and get to work. He said something like, “the angel looks nice”. And that was that.

So on Wednesday Kali and I headed out to the shed to get the angel, check her lights, and get her positioned and secured in front of the house. In my romantic version of this ritual the day is cold and damp, the skies are dark with rain threatening, the shed is on the “back 40” requiring a pre-dawn start in order to finish the job by sundown, and a flask full of brandy is in my hip pocket for purposes of warmth and motivation.

The "back 40" (in my mind)

The “back 40” (in my mind)

It’s fun to romanticize about a cold and harsh fall ritual with a lighted angel but in the spirit of honesty here is what really went down this year with Kali and the lighted angel ritual.

Kali and I head to the shed to get the angel. The shed is not on the Back 40. We don’t have a Back 40. I don’t think I have ever been on a Back 40… the shed sits about 30 feet from the front yard and is easily accessed from the backyard. It’s 2:00 pm, the sky is clear and blue with no rain forecast for at least a week. The outside temperature is 74 degrees. I consider getting some brandy but opt for a beer instead. After all, it’s 74 degrees out and with the low sun feels more like 80! Kali is already suspecting that I misled her. She was really looking forward to the Back 40…

I didn't sign up for this...

I didn’t sign up for this…

OK, so Kali has the stakes and hammer and we set off to secure that angel in place. But wait, it’s 74 degrees and the rose bushes think it’s spring. We’ll need to do a little pruning first.

I didn't sign up for this either

I didn’t sign up for this either

Kali’s endurance (interest) is less than anticipated so she needs a break. She opts to take the break on the “Front 0.16”.

Union dog taking her "15 minutes"

Union dog taking her “15 minutes”

The Angel is finally secured, my beer is empty, and Kali of course proudly accepts thanks for a job well done.

I did it all by myself - where's my brandy?

I did it all by myself – where’s my brandy?

Later that night Kali invites Smokey out to see the fruits of all her hard work.

I look good under lights don't I?

I look good under lights don’t I?

Kali and Smokey chilin' in the mild evening air

Kali and Smokey chilin’ in the mild evening air

And yes Kali, this is the big deal.

Hot Fun In The Summer Time

We’ve had triple digit weather for the past few days.  With the severe drought and water rationing much of my typically lush backyard is dry, dying, or dead.   I’m a hot weather person who prefers 95 degrees over 75.   So, other than the drought and dead or dying trees and plants it’s all good.  Kali seems to enjoy the hot weather too.  In fact she chooses to sleep in the hot sun versus the cool shade even when it’s 90 as it is now while I sit outside writing this blog.  There’s plenty of shade all around her and Kali chooses to sleep in the spot getting the sun.

90 Degrees and Kali chooses the sun over the shade?  Better get out the sun block....

90 Degrees and Kali chooses the sun over the shade? Better get out the sun block….

Recently we went to the park and did some long leash training.   With the 30 foot leash I was able to move far away from Kali and she was just great at staying engaged and following commands as I moved around within about a 30 foot perimeter.  After a while I began to run  – back and forth – Kali followed so nicely by my side consistently checking with my eyes to see if she was doing well (and if she would get a treat).  She got a pretty good workout and when we returned home, this time she chose the cool flowers to sleep in and not the sun.

Good girl Kali, ever so attentive during training

Good girl Kali, ever so attentive during training


Back home cooling down in the shade

Back home cooling down in the shade

IMG_1634 IMG_1638

Since Kali arrived in May it’s been very warm and dry almost every day.  With a little luck California will get plenty of rain this fall and winter.  As much as I dislike the cold and wet we need the rain.  Kali and I will have to adjust our routine to account for wet trails,  cold days, and not much hot sun to sleep in.

When Winter arrives  I’ll be complaining  as I do every year longing for summer once again.   But knowing Kalas Marie she will take everything in stride – wet coat, cold ground, muddy paws and all.