Remembering Bailey

I was cleaning out some files today and came across a few small pages from a notebook that I immediately recognized.  The pages were dated 3/27/20o9 the day after Bailey, our first Golden Retriever, was put down.   The notes were made after my morning run (wow – I was still running back in “those days”) and recorded my experience during that particular run.

I’m transcribing the notes verbatim here (with a few clarifications in brackets) not as a way to say, “oh poor me – I still miss him so much” (although I do!) but because I know many Golden Kali followers may have lost a beloved pet at some point and probably have their own stories and experiences to share.  In the end what I experienced during this particular run was incredibly cathartic and helped with my grieving process.

By the way the trail I was running on is the trail that would five years later become Kali’s “Creek Trail” that we shared so many great times walking along before moving out of the area.

So here it is….

Went for a run along the golf course – normal path. Went all the ay to the end.  Felt very strong not he way out and for most the the run.  The conditioning is evident.  Should try to expand the distance over time = much of the challenge is mental.

I thought about Bailey throughout much of the run. I sobbed from time to time as I kept “seeing” him on the table [at the vet] getting the injection.  His eyes – I hope he knew as he went down forever that what we did was out of love.

On the way back [way back home on my run] I was in a pretty good zone.  An upbeat song was on the iPod and I was gliding along at a good clip.   I pictured Bailey running freely at full stride like he did from time to time after a cat in the neighborhood.  I saw him in a field of green with blue skies – much like the weather today.  It was like a daytime dream almost – maybe the endorphins (?)  but I was watching, not controlling the vision as you would with a thought. It was more like a dream…

I saw Bailey running, running and then he jumped up into my dad’s arms [my dad had passed away about 15 years before].  Bailey was so happy!  My dad was happy. I said out loud, “you found him! Bailey you found Papa [Papa is what my kids called my dad].  

I started crying and I was so happy. I was so happy for Bailey.  the “dream” started to fade a little but I could still see him and replayed it in my head several times the rest of the way home.  It was a good release and I hope it last and helps how lonely the house felt this morning.

To this day I still miss Bailey.  He was a birthday present for my son when he turned 10 and as the years passed when my son went to College Bailey and I became very close.  He was a great friend and companion at a time that my kids were growing and moving on with their lives.  My kids always came home but Bailey never actually left – he was always with me and remains so to this day.

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Bailey in his senior years.  To this day this picture remains the desktop image on my computer.

 

Walking

Since the week we brought Kali home a little over two years ago our walks along the creek trail and neighborhood was a special time for her and I.  Our bonding time.  Our golden  one on one time.  A time to talk about world events, to argue, and to simply appreciate one another’s company.

Since moving to the mountains the routine is different and I miss the walks.  I think Kali does too.

Don’t get me wrong.  We love our new home, the rural surroundings, the mountain air (for me) new smells (for Kali), the wildlife, and the slower pace of life.  But we miss our walks.

It’s not for lack of a trail or roads to walk that has kept us from our ritual.  Up here in the mountains the roads go on forever and sometimes there is nothing except trees and wildlife as far as the eye can see.  And dogs.  Off leash dogs.  Dogs protecting their land and owners.  This makes sense and is normal for a rural area like ours but it’s new ground for us “city folk”.

Back in the big city of Livemore (population 85,000 compared to Tuolumne population 1,780)  we almost never encountered an off leash dog.  So even with Kali’s anxiety with dogs I knew the situation would be under control between myself and the dog’s owner during our frequent encounters along the old creek trail.  In most cases Kali had become quite comfortable and uninterested as we passed other dogs walking as we passed without incident or a woof.

As things began settling down after our move I decided it was time to get back to our daily walks.  Kali and I headed off our property to a road that goes pretty much straight up hill.  OK, that’s good exercise for both of us I thought.  “Let’s go Kali”, and off we went.  When we got to the top of the hill I looked back and there was a big dog (who I had shoo’d off  our property a couple of times and he had run off timidly).   He or she was sitting at the bend watching us from about a city block away.  I watched the dog and he watched us.  Kali sniffed and smelled enjoying herself.  I waited to see if he would follow us. He didn’t.   This big black spotted dog just sat there and watched us as I contemplated what would happen when we headed back and had an encounter.  Would he sniff Kali hello?  Would Kali get anxious and bark or lunge?  Kali and I walked on and the dog sat watching us walk away.

We went farther up another steep road enjoying the scenery looking forward to the walk back home which would be presumably all down hill.  We hadn’t gone very far but for our first exploration it was good enough and we would be able to find our way back home without having to call Holly for a search and rescue.

As we turned a bend there was that dog still sitting and waiting for us.  Kali was oblivious but I was concerned about an encounter where even if the this dog was friendly he might react if Kali barked (which was highly likely given her new surroundings).  But this time when the dog saw Kali walk in his direction he ran off timidly as he done when I shoo’d him from our property.  Kali and I walked on down the hill and within another minute or two I heard barking come from the front of a house set back from the road.  This time the dog ran out towards us.  I kept walking and braced myself for an encounter.  The dog stopped short of the road, barked a few more times, and watched us move along.  I guess he or she had done their job protecting their pack and making sure no intruders stepped onto the property.   It was interesting that Kali was not fazed by the dog’s barking; in fact I don’t think she noticed because she was too interested in all the new smells around her.

So us city folk will have to adjust to the fact that most of the dogs in this area are free to roam on their properties without the oversight of their owners.  In fact Kali does too so what am I worrying about.  While Kali doesn’t wonder our 5 acres alone I have given her the freedom to be off leash when I’m out and about tending to outside household business.  We’re far off the road and Kali tends to stay close to me and around the house which gives me confidence that she is learning her limits and is uninterested in exploring beyond her safe zone.  Our backyard has expanded immensely and Kali has for the most part complied with the limits I’ve set for her and enjoys wondering within my sight and following me around.  So I guess were not much different than the dogs and owners.

I’ve never seen a dog on the main road that turns onto our little road so its seems these dogs know their boundaries, are certainly not strays, and are just used to living in the mountains where they can enjoy more freedom.  And because their dogs I’m sure most if not all are just as loving and friendly as Kali.   Maybe Kali and can bake some biscuits and take them to the “neighborhood” dogs, introduce ourselves, and put dad’s concerns to rest.

 

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That was one steep hill! Hey who’s that dog way back there watching us?

Farewell to the Creek Trail

It was the best of times it was the worst of times.  Wait I’m not Charles Dickens and for Kali and I it was only the best of times.  But in a way it is the tale of two cities, or towns as the case may be…

As it got closer to the day we would move I couldn’t help but think about the all the walks Kali and took along the creek trail that led to the duck pond.  We’d made that walk hundreds of times during the past two years.  And now we were taking our last walk along what had become a very special place to both of us.

We’d walk in 90 degrees and in 30 degrees; cloudy, sunny, and sometimes raining.  Almost every day we were out along the creek trail and knew it like the back of Kali’s paw.  We had long conversations, occasional disagreements, and sometimes we just walked in silence enjoying the sights, smells and each other’s company.  It was and is a relationship that transcends words.  A relationship that is about emotions and security.  A relatiohship that I value as much as even those most precious relationships with family and friends.

Our last walk along the creek trail was the day before the moving trucks arrived at our home in Livemore to take all our possessions to our new home in the mountains.  It was very melancholy.  The walk started out like any other:  Kali pooping as soon as we hit the trail, Kali smelling the same spots along the trail, and then peeing next to her favorite pee bush.   But by the time we reached the duck pond I became melancholy; perhaps even a little sad.  We stood at the pond in silence taking in the sights and sounds. There were so many things to do at home to get ready of the move and I was conflicted.  I didn’t want to leave our special spot but I knew there was way too much to do at home.  We stayed for anther few minutes,  I looked at Kali, gave her a hug and a kiss on the side of her snout and we headed back home for the last time.

Now in reflection as I sit here under the pines and oaks I know that that last walk home was not the end but the start.  A new start to a new adventure.  Kali, Holly, Kloe, and I.  There are not three other mammals I’d rather be on this journey with.

Thanks to the Creek Trail.  Thanks to the Duck Pond.  But mostly, thanks Kali for the opportunity to be on this journey with you.

We paused to reflect on the past two years and then moved onto the next phase of Golden Kali’s New Life In The Mountains

 

 

 

 

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!

 

Update on “the attack”

We were pleasantly surprised that Kali woke up feeling much better the morning after being attacked by the two Rottweilers. Although still stiff she was able to put weight on her hind leg that had been so sensitive the hight before.   We kept the vet appointment that afternoon and found out that she had a severely strained ligament.  All in all Kali was fortunate to have come away with only this strain given the 150 pounds of Rottweilers that pounced on her only 24 hours before.

Dr. Brenda sent us home with some muscle relaxers and pain medicine (for Kali not us) and instructions to apply cold therapy along her back muscles and heat therapy to the ligament a few times a day and to perform frequent massages to the ligament.  Talk about doggie day-spa! Kali is a great patient and of course loves the extra attention she has been getting.

After a few days off we’re back on the trail and Kali is doing just fine.  In fact, now that the golf course is closed we’ve gone off trail for some of our daily walks taking advantage of the open fairways to let Kali romp and explore.

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

Blazing New Trails

The neighborhood was all a twitter as the engines rolled in with sirens and hoses.  One after another the engines kept coming and more and more firemen hit the trail.

You know you live in a quiet neighborhood when the biggest event in recent history is five or six fire vehicles pulling onto your street to douse a small fire.  But, it could have been a much larger fire – lord knows the elements are prime for a huge blaze – but our guys took care of business quickly and efficiently.

The trail head to Kali’s creek trail begins at the end of the block.  After over a year of walking the trail almost daily Kali knows the trail like the back of her paw.  Pretty much the same sights, same smells, and same neighbors out for strolls with the dogs, a bike ride or a jog.  Hit the trail head, stop for a quick poop (Kali not me), wrap around the golf course, bark -if antagonized – at a couple yap-yap dogs through a fence in a trailside home, on to the duck pond, a quick jaunt past the dog park (past being the operative term here since Kali is not ready to go in yet), and then we head home.  It’s our routine.

So it was of some personal interest to Kali and I when we heard the fire engines and saw that they were converging at the trail head from both sides of the creek to address a fire that had started in the brush.  One of the fire fighters told me that the fire had been started by someone throwing a flare into the creek.  I hate to assume it was kids who did it but boredom in suburbia after two months of summer vacation is the likely circumstance for someone to “see what would happen”.

We’re in the middle of a mini-heat wave and the temps were in the low 100’s yesterday and will remain so for another couple of days.  So on top of an already drought-ridden landscape the high temps and moderate winds make anywhere in this area prime for a major fire with little effort on mother nature’s part of any one stupid enough to throw a burning cigarette – of flare – into a wooded area. Fortunately, the fire was put out quickly with minimal impact to the creek and no harm to any of the surrounding homes.

I’ve always been fascinated with fire fighting.  When I was five years old I told my mother I wanted to be a fireman.  To this day I wish I had gone into that line of work and don’t have a reason or excuse for why I didn’t.  When I see news stories about fires this time of year, homes in danger, and acres and acres ablaze I feel compelled to drive to the area to see what I can do to help.  “Give me a shovel. Here, I’ll help move that hose….. “.  “Stay out of the way old man.  If you wanted to be a fire fighter you should have done so years ago when you were in your prime!”.  Sigh….  “OK, I’ll just watch from here but let me know if you need anything.  I’ve got a real cool dog – you want to meet her later? Maybe she could ride in the engine next to you.”

The Trail Head

Gaining access at the trail head

Crews Converging

“Let’s roll boys! We’ve got a fire to put out before the game comes on back at the fire house….”

I guess this is one way to get the water level back up in the creek....

I guess this is one way to get the water level back up in the creek….

All is well again at the creek

All is well again at the creek

I have few if any regrets in my life but not being a fire fighter may be one.  And if I had been I guess I’d be adopting Dalmatians instead of Golden Retrievers, right?  NOT!  I can guarantee you that If I was a fire fighter my Golden Kali would be riding and smiling along side of me in Engine No. 7 and helping to keep her community safe.

Our Duck Pond

It’s not the greatest pond in the world.  It’s not even the greatest pond in town.  But it is our adopted pond; our “Duck Pond”.  It’s come to represent the special time Kali and I have, usually early in the morning, when the air is cool and the ducks are still sleeping in their nests (until Kali arrives and gives a woof or two).  It reminds me of how fortunate we are to live in an area that is safe, prosperous, and pretty.   But mostly it reminds of how often I didn’t stop to appreciate our neighborhood creek and ponds until Kali got here last year and we began our morning ritual of walking and “smelling the roses”.

So this morning I took this “pano” shot shot with my iPhone that  provides a 180 degree perspective (what did we do before our phones only made calls?!?) that captures the usual turn-around point of our early morning treks, our walks, and our bonding time; me and my Golden Kali.

Kali's Duck Pond

Kali’s Duck Pond

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.

-Peace

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