Winter brings out the cozy in my girls. All for one and one for all. Mi
casa coat tu casa coat. Any coat port in a storm. You get the idea…
Winter rules means all bets off, grab a partner, and get cozy.
Winter brings out the cozy in my girls. All for one and one for all. Mi
casa coat tu casa coat. Any coat port in a storm. You get the idea…
Winter rules means all bets off, grab a partner, and get cozy.
Today is Koda’s gotcha day. Or maybe it’s mine…. I’m not sure who got who but we’ve got each other now. After two years our (almost) two and half year old Golden Retriever puppy has finally begun growing out of puppyhood and into… well whatever comes next.
Like many other things Holly and I do we decided to rescue Koda
on kind of a whim after Holly gave into my obsession with looking at Golden Retriever puppies on Facebook and Instagram. And also my incessant nagging about how we needed another dog. Sitting after dinner or at breakfast or anywhere else when I would see a picture of a puppy and say, “Look a puppy!” Or, “We need a puppy; Kali’s getting old and Koda needs an active playmate”. Or… “Can we please please please please please get another puppy?”. I may have exaggerated the “pleases” but you get the idea. I was begging!
So one night when I showed Holly a picture of a puppy on the facebook page of the rescue group all my girls have come from she says, “Michael if you want another puppy, get one.” Holly and I almost always make big decisions together but in this case I really wanted a pup and Holly was reticent. She must have thought it would be better to have a puppy in her face than my laptop or iPad with pictures of puppies in her face. I called the rescue group organizer and said I was in. The next day I drove to pick up my sweet sweet Koda and the rest, as they say,
is history was a lot harder than I had planned.
Koda totally changed the dynamics of the pack. She was, and still is, tenacious, fearless, and had mouth on her that would make your English Mastiff blush! She was four months old when we rescued her. When I brought her home she was intimidated by Kloe and Kali for about 3 minutes. She tried to take charge and they kind of let her. At the time I thought she’d be the alpha by the time she was six months old. Kali was nine at the time and slowing down. Kloe was two and not quite ready to be the mother authority figure. Kloe also has such a gentle demeanor she let Koda walk all over her at first. They eventually worked it out – sometime around last week 🙂 – and Koda has grown into a l
ovely young lady loving dog full of piss and vinegar. I wouldn’t change a thing!
Happy Gotcha Day Koda, Koda Koda Koda, Kodachrome, Kode-red, Suger Pie Honey Bunches of Oats, Suger Beets. And all of the other goofy names I have for you. You have made me better at being a doggie parent and probably a better human being too. But dogs have a way of doing that to us uprights, don’t they?
After Koda joined our pack a couple of years ago someone asked me why I had three dogs. I said, “because my wife won’t let me have four”. Boom – Rim shot! I wasn’t the one who thought of that answer. I had seen it somewhere else; maybe on a tee-shirt or a Facebook meme. But I am pretty sure that if I seriously suggested getting a fourth pup my wife would present me with an ultimatum. That’s not to say that Holly doesn’t love our three girls as much as I do or that I want another dog. I’ve also had the question about what it’s like to have more than one dog, or as in my case, three.
Having more than one dog definitely has it’s merits: An obvious one is that they provide companionship and security to each other when Holly and I aren’t around. More selfishly is how great I feel when my three girls are nearby and laying together fast asleep with parts of each other’s bodies on one another. Ahhh…peace.
But there are plenty things that could be considered downsides: Three times the cost of food, vet bills, pet insurance, and toys. And the exponential affect of poop. Or as I say, poop squared. I’m convinced that having three dogs yields enough poop for nine dogs!
Like with human siblings there are times that my three girls are not barking off the same woof sheet. Koda is maturing and more often she will acquiesce to the flow of the family, wait her turn, or just give me some space with one of her sisters. But for much of her first two years she
wanted demanded the attention of the entire pack during all waking hours. She initiated commandeered rough play from her two older sisters – Koda and Kali – throughout much of the day. Whether they wanted to play or not.
When Kali joined the pack at five years old it was just her. Most of my routines revolved around her. Our walks to the Creek Trail, play time, cuddle time and so on. I have to admit I miss the times that it was just Kali and I. We established an ever lasting bond that has transcended the passing of time and addition of siblings. But now at 11 years, Kali has slowed down significantly and mostly sleeps the day away. Often there are activities when she has to be left behind. Like morning walks or an excursion beyond The Golden K like a trip to the lake. That makes me a little sad.
Regardless of age, distractions, or personalities there is one activity where The Girls are in lock step. Meal time! When breakfast and dinner preparation begin they work in harmony to
get under my feet supervise and root me on. As I lift the filled bowls from the counter they move as a single unit to the designated feeding area. Their moves are so aligned and focused you’d think that Bob Fosse had choreographed it! Once bowls are on the ground they sit without prompting, collectively look adoringly in my eyes stare impatiently while waiting for the release to their bowls. Teamwork at it’s finest!
My Girls have distinct personalities and priorities. They were never as evident as one day shortly after Koda joined the pack as a four month old puppy. For potty training and other reasons we used gates to make sure Koda stayed in the kitchen and could not wonder too far out of our site. One afternoon The Girls were all in the kitchen as I was busy going in and out for various reasons. To get out of and back into the kitchen I would need to step over one of the gates. As went to step over the gate my shoe got stuck at the top and I fell taking the gate down with me. My knee landed hard on the gate and I laid there sightly crumbled on the ground. Here is where the The Girl’s priorities were on full display.
It all happened quickly. As I laid on the ground in a bit of pain The Girls all rushed to my side. But for different reasons.
Koda was first and in a flash threw her body on mine. Her tail was wagging fast, her tongue was out, and she was very excited to see me on the floor. Surely this was play time! Kloe is very sensitive and intuitive. She knew immediately that I was in pain and came to my side to comfort me. As I lay there trying to fight Koda off, Kloe sat by my side leaning into my body with a concerned look on her face. And then there was Kali; last to arrive but no less passionate (about her priority). Most dogs – especially Goldens – are food motivated. If there are levels of food motivation from one to 10 Kali would be at least 500. These days she struggles to get up from a down position because of her bad hips. Often times I have to help her up. But if there is food involved Kali springs up like Tigger of Winnie The Pooh fame and is first in line.
So on this day as I lay there on the ground with the full weight of Kloe’s 75 pounds leaning into me and Koda’s paws and tongue in my face, here comes Kali. And what does Kali do? She sticks sticks her snout into my pocket because she knows that there are usually treats there.
When Kali first
joined established our pack six years ago as a rescue from Tawain she was estimated to be five-years old. We didn’t have the pleasure of seeing her grow up from puppy-hood. We didn’t get to see her as that roly-poly ball of fur tripping over her own feet or bouncing off a ledge that was too tall to scale. There are no memories of her at that gawky teen-ager stage. We met Kali as an adult. A mature dog who already had a lifetime of stories to tell if she only could.
Kloe and Koda came to us as puppies; Kloe at nine weeks and Koda at 4 months. We have the memories (and plethora of pictures) of them going through various stages of puppy. Golden Retrievers are slow to mature and they maintain much of that playful puppy personality until around three years old. Many keep their puppish traits into old age. Kloe, now four and a half, has been a full fledged adult for well over a year. Koda at just over two is starting to outgrow some of her puppy-ness but she has a way to go… I do hope that they are true to their breed and always have some of those goofy playful traits that are so endearing.
A day, four months, a minute, six years. Just time, right? And what do dogs know about time?… I used to think that time is man-made and under our control. And I suppose the manner that we measure time is of our own doing. But really time is something we can’t control. Whether it’s measured with man-made tools like clocks and calendars. Or with nature like the cycles of the moons, colors of the seasons, or the rings of a giant sequoia tree (when measured with man-made tools) that can be over 2,500 years old. The passing of time is inevitable, the effects of that passing of time is undeniable and reflected in our bodies. And also in the bodies of our dogs.
We estimate Kali to be 11. But we really don’t know anything about her life before she was rescued in Taiwan and sent to us in the U.S. Maybe she is only eight and seems older due to a very hard life as a stray in Taiwan. Or perhaps she is 14 which would be well above average life-span for her breed.
Or maybe it doesn’t matter because what does Kali know about time anyway. She only knows “now”.
“Now” is getting harder for Kali. Time has caught up with her mind. Sometime she looks confused. Time has caught up with her senses. She has foggy eyes and is hard of hearing. Time has caught up with her legs that are no longer very steady and especially wobbly on smooth surfaces. She has always had a passionate appetite and is always ready for a meal or a snack. That’s a reassuring sign.
Kali mostly sleeps now, and is doing just that by my side as I write this post. It’s typical for a senior dog to snooze away the majority of the day. I feel that Kali has earned the right to do that. There are occasional flashes of energy. Like when she gallops (in-spite of her bad legs) across the driveway to my office in the morning. When I see that goofy looking trot it fills I laugh out loud. It fills my heart with joy when I see some of the puppy traits she once had. She is especially spry at meal time when she dances like Snoopy from Charles Schultz’s “Peanuts”.
So yeah, TIME.
“Lost time is never found again” – Benjamin Franklin
“Time is the most valuable thing a man can spend” – Theophrastus
“Time waits for no one” – Folklore
However time is measured – with clocks, the phases of the moon, or a lazy summer day – I hope to have much more of it with Kali by my side.
“All we have to do is decide what to do with the time that is given us”. – J.R.R. Tolkien
KALI: YESTERDAY AND TODAY
“Nala” before America
Kali doesn’t get out to often these days. At ten and a half she prefers instead to sleep much of the day and inside the house given the choice. After all these years she’s earned it. Until recently Kloe was also house bound for much of the year due to her injury and then post surgery recovery period. So for several months it’s mostly been just Koda who gets to get out of the house and accompany us on various errands and car rides.
Kloe is mostly cleared now for normal activities after her surgery so she has been getting out and walking more and coming along for various excursions. Today we decided to head out to a favorite spot of ours to get our growler filled with apple cider and to enjoy the relatively mild day. Our routine, now that Kloe is back on her feet so to speak, is to take the “red girls” with us when we go out and about. Red girls being Kloe and Koda. Kali, the blondie or cream girl, typically stays behind content to sleep in peace without her sisters (or us) milling around and interrupting her daytime slumbers.
So we “geared” Kloe and Koda up with their harnesses and leashes, filled our pockets with treats, and headed towards the door to leave. As I glanced back at Kali she flashed me sad eyes as if to say, “Can I go? I promise not to be any trouble and I’ll do my best to keep up with the younger Red Girls as we walk around even though my legs aren’t as strong as they used to be. Can I go?”
I smiled at Kali and then hollered down to Holly who had already gone down the stairs to the garage, “Road trip! Kali’s coming along.”
And for the first time in a long time we packed up all three girls into the car and headed out for a road trip with Kali and her posse. It sure felt great to all be together on a short trip to one of our favorite places on a beautiful Fall day with our beautiful girls!
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)….
Life changes just a little bit when a puppy joins your pack.
On one hand things really shouldn’t change too much when you already have two other dogs that already dictate the flow of household. On the other hand when those two dogs are two and a half and nine years old it’s a little bit like bringing a new born home just after all your existing kids are out of diapers.
Kali, the nine year old and Kloe the two and a half year old are pretty self sufficient and respectful of the house and our belongings. When Koda – the puppy – came home the dog gates went up, regular trips outside for house breaking began again, sleeping in became a thing of the past, and all shoes and slippers had to be put away when they weren’t on our feet. Is it hectic? Duh! Is it worth the disruption to the pack? Absolutely!
Little Koda, now five and a half months old and 36 pounds is tenacious with attitude.
This is not a great combination when we need an immediate behavior correction. But I think in the long run it will serve her well once she learns how to pick her battles. She is quite vocal tells us in no uncertain terms that she is not pleased to know that she cannot jump on visitors or the furniture. A little yelp or “Roo roo roo” as she begrudgingly adheres to our request to behave is not uncommon.
For now (and hopefully not forever) Koda is binary. She is either on or off. When on, her energy level is 11 on a scale of 10. During play Kloe will wrap her entire mouth around Koda’s head to demonstrate her dominence and deliver a lesson. Koda will momentarily acquiesce to Kloe’s reminder of who is bigger and stronger before immediately striking back with her own gnashing teeth never for a moment acknowledging the 45 pound advantage Kloe has on her. Kloe does shoulder rolls landing on Koda like a greco wrestler pinning her down only for Koda to reemerge and perform the same move on Kloe.
Much to Koda’s chagrin Kali is not interested in any type of play with her. At nine years old and visibly much slower than she was only a year ago Kali prefers sleeping to almost all activities other than eating. I’ve seen Koda sneak attack a sleeping Kali landing on her back and riding her like a bronco as Kali gets up trying to toss her off while she moves off to another corner of the room to sleep. Koda used to sass back Kali just like she does to us when being told no. “Yelp! Roo roo roo…! Play with me…” To Koda’s credit she now (mostly) understands that Kali is the big sister she sleeps next to when she is in the off position. Kloe, although sometimes a reluctant participant, is the big sister used for rough play when Koda is in the on position.
It’s striking how the dynamics of a family can change so dramatically when that
newborn baby puppy comes home. I think it rocked Kali and Kloe’s world a bit to have a new little sister that seems to get more attention and more treats. I’ve been caught off guard from time to time realizing that Koda is not Kloe and training may be more challenging and that different techniques may need to be deployed. These pups are not plug and play. But I like it that way. Like people, dogs are unique and don’t fit into the same mold as the previous puppy. Life would be boring if all of your dogs had the same personality and demeanor. It might be easier but so much less “fun”.
So is it hectic? You bet. Is it worth it? Absolutely!
So yeah, life changes just a little bit when a puppy joins your pack.
For two and a half years Kloe was the “baby”. The youngest of two pups in the house. As she grew from 16 to 80 pounds she remained the baby in the overall pecking order of the pack. Kali welcomed and embraced Kloe from the start and played a big role in Kloe’s successful assimilation into the pack. Kloe looked up to her big sister and would run to her when scared, cuddle with her when sleepy or cold, and was always subservient to her Kali, although Kali only showed love and never any attempt to dominate or control Kloe.
Golden’s Retriever’s are a breed that retain a puppy-like personality for a long time. Many never totally lose the playful and whimsical demeanor that puppies exhibit. With the recent arrival of the new “baby” Koda it’s been interesting to watch Kloe quickly evolve into a more senior member of the pack. An adult member of the pack. In fact Kloe has become the protector of the Golden K Pack.
Besides there being a puppy in the house there is another dynamic that is contributing to this emerging maturity in Kloe. Kali, once very vibrant and alert, is aging. At nine and a half she sleeps most of the day and has lost some of her vibrance. The sparkle in her eyes is fading. She walks slower often needing to be coaxed along the way when out for our short excursions.
Although there has never been an true four-legged alpha in our pack if there was one Kloe would be it. Kali is old and slowing. Koda is young and immature. At 80 pounds Kloe is large for a Female Golden retriever. She is bigger, stronger, faster, more alert, and has keener senses than Kali and Koda. It seems to me that she instinctively realizes this especially now within the context of living with a smaller puppy and a weaker senior. This is not to say that Kloe does, or has any interest in, physically dominating either of her sisters. Although she does seem to take some pleasure of throwing Koda down on the ground or wrapping her entire jaw around Koda’s head when Koda doesn’t get “the message” that enough is enough… But that’s another subject and post about “Kloe the Teacher” for another day.
So now Kloe is the protector. Where Kali once took the lead in calling out perceived danger or intruders Kloe takes the lead. I see Kloe alert and viggilent at times outside while her sisters sleep in the sun. If there’s a need to sound the alarm she does so and leads the charge running while her muscles ripple through her body like a thoroughbred horse. Kali hangs back offering high pitched barks of encouragement and Koda bounces along side of Kloe trying keep up not really knowing what’s happening or where they’re going.
Maybe it’s just me projecting but in Kloe I see a more mature and wiser dog. Kloe will always have a fun and spirited side to her. She will always go to Kloeville; that figurative place when she lies on her back and stares up at nothing in particular. She will always throw her shoulder on the ground and wriggle her way between my legs with her butt up in the air and then roll on her back and push off with her legs doing her version of the doggie-back-stroke. But there has been a change.
It seems to me that Kloe now realizes that her stature in the pack is different. She realizes that there are two weaker members of the pack that make her stand out physically and in some ways mentally. Kloe relates to Holly and I in different ways now that Koda is here. If Kloe observes Koda doing something that is not allowed Kloe looks to Holly or I to correct her. As much as Koda tries to engage Kali in play Kali has no interest in rough housing with her and if engaged tries to get out of the fray. Recently I watched that dynamic unfold when Kali became annoyed after Koda ran to her and jumped on her head trying to play. Kloe came running over put herself between Koda and Kali and wrapped her jaw around Koda’s leg to move her way from Kali as if to say, “leave it”.
In some ways it’s sad to see my “little” baby Kloe grow up into adult hood. But it’s also warming and makes me proud to watch that 16 pound nine-week old pup we brought home two and a half years ago mature into a fine young lady. And lately I’m sure I see something different in Kloe’s eyes. I see less wonderment of the world around her and more of a familiarity with that world and her role in it as a leader of our pack.
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.
As I helped my Golden Kali with her aging hips onto the couch I cuddled her. We were alone in the family room while Holly cleaned up after dinner. Puppy Kloe was still sleeping under the dinner table.
As Kali settled onto the couch I whispered out loud into her ear. “I love you Kali, more than you can ever comprehend”.
Kali looked at me with sleepy eyes and it hit me. I paused for a moment and then I said, again out loud, “Wait – maybe you love me more than I can ever comprehend”.
And so it was. Another moment, another day, and another lesson I’ve learned from my Golden Kali.
My Golden Kali The Master Teacher.