Falling In Love With Koda

I’ve always taken for granted that I love all my girls desperately and without reservation.       So I caught myself by surprise recently when I was looking at Koda and realized that I had fallen in love with her.   Not at that moment, or even on that day.   But over the months I had fallen head over heals in love with the youngest of my three girls.

That’s not to say that I don’t love my other girls with equal passion.   I do.  But I realize now that the dynamics of adding a third dog placed more demands on the pack than I had anticipated.  Like children to some degree adding numbers to your family has an exponential effect.   One dog is like having one dog.  Two is like four and three is like nine.   Or at least that’s how it feels at times.  My love is bottomless so it’s not really a problem. They put more in my tank than take out…

Koda, now 21 months, joined our pack at four months old.  From the moment I brought her home it was clear that she was going to be a force to be reckoned with a handful.  She had tenacity both physically and vocally.  In play with her big sister Kloe – who outweighed her by almost 60 pounds at the time – Koda never backed down even when Kloe tried to tell her enough was enough.   When I told her I didn’t like something she was doing she would slink her body around puffing up her cheeks and letting out a stream of profanities vocalizations that sounds like “A rooo rooo rooo!”  If I were to  translate those sounds into words they would have to be written something like, “#@%&#*!!”.

Koda’s tenacity and determination was evident from day one.   The Golden K sits on five acres and the girls have designated fenced areas for their safety.  Koda quickly found that she could slip through the bars of a wrought iron gate that leads out of one of those fenced areas.   In some ways it was endearing because the only reason she wanted to escape was to be me with who at the time was doing some work in another part of the property.   I put chicken wire on the fence the next day to keep her from slipping through the bars.  No problem for Koda – she scaled the fence, again in an effort to follow me to where I was going.  There were several iterations of this as I experimented with various methods to keep her inside the safety zone.  With each escape she would come trotting up to me smiling as if to say, “I found you. I’m here.  I figured out how to scale the fence”, or “I missed you and I was able to slip under the bottom of the railing” and so on.

Koda was destructive at times chewing on furniture and finding her way to clothes, shoes, and other personal items.   Some of that’s on me of course but still Koda seemed to set new household records for finding her way to trouble.   The drip lines in the garden?  No matter how deep I buried them Koda found them.  Sprinkler heads? No problem. Apparently she knows how to twist them off the risers and with her jaw.   Last summer was dry and brown in the garden to say the least!

Koda Koda Koda!   The typical third child who believes the rules don’t apply to them.  But over the months this tenacious pup has fallen into line (mostly).    Through maturity and a lot of time and training on our part Koda has tempered her “enthusiasm” and is learning to respect the pack.  She and I recently completed intermediate obedience training with our local AKC group.  I was so happy and proud to see how eager she has become to learn and please me as her handler and as her dad.

Throughout much of last year Kloe was injured or recovering from her bi-lateral TPLO surgery.  During much of that time Koda was challenging the status quo and finding new ways to test our patience.  Much of our energy went into “managing” Koda and nursing Kloe back to health.  Plus Kali is getting on in years (almost 11) and sometimes needs special attention and help.  Distraction was definitely a theme for 2019!

I now realize that throughout these past and sometimes tumultuous 17 months I was falling in love with Koda.  Maybe it was the aforementioned distractions.   Maybe I simply took it for granted.  Certainly I didn’t expect this deepening of love to be a journey.   I don’t believe Koda will ever lose the tenacity she displayed from the moment she arrived home.   Nor do I want her to. I believe it will serve her well over the years even if at times it is a challenge for me.  In many ways it has helped me to be a better pup-parent.

As it turns out falling in love doesn’t happen over night.   It really is a journey and I’m  blessed to have Koda as my guide.

Koda then and now

 

 

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

 

 

 

Chewbacca

If you were expecting a post about Star Wars or the Millennium Falcon you will be disappointed.  If you were expecting a post about an adorable five month old Golden Retriever named Chewbacca you are in the right place.  Although the hair color is the same between the two aforementioned Chewbaccas, and they both go by the nickname “Chewie”, the similarities end there.

Chewie the pup came by The Golden K today for a meet and greet with my girls and will be back next month for an extended stay when we puppy sit while his mom is out of town.

Kali, as expected, was a little stand offish when Chewie arrived.  She barked a bit as if to say, “Who’s this whipper-snapper and what’s he doing in MY back yard?”  Kali is not a fan of change so when another dog enters her “space” it takes a while for her to adjust.  The same thing happened two years ago when we brought Kloe home at 9 weeks old.  Kali made it clear that she was not pleased but within an hour they were cooing, playing Tug-O-Dog, and spooning.  Today, Kloe eventually settled down and was accepting of Chewie especially when I assembled the trio for biscuits.  When Chewie returns in a few weeks I’m sure Kali will be a good pup-sitter and embrace the young Chewie just as she did with Kloe.

That is if Kloe gives her a chance!  Kloe was smitten with Chewie the moment he arrived.

Kloe has not been around a dog younger than her so I was anxious to see how she, now two years old, would play with a young pup a quarter her age and half her size.  When Kloe herself was a wee-young pup playing with Kali, Kali always used constraint and seem to instinctively know she could not use the full force of her size and mature skill set.  So I was pleased today to see Kloe exhibit similar constraint with Chewie.  When engaging with a dog she has not met before Kloe always assumes a non-threatening posture, usually in a attentive down position, waiting for the other dog to initiate play.  It was no different with Chewie.  Kloe seemed to immediately give Chewie the respect she shows older dogs and allowed him to get comfortable before assuming a puppy-pose and an invitation to play.

And play they did.  Keep away.  Chase.   Stick chewing and fetch.  Jumping, running and rolling.   So yeah – they were acting like a couple of dogs.

And I think those couple of dogs, and Kali too, are going to have a great time next month when Chewbacca comes back for an extended stay at The Golden K.

Chewbacca “Chewie”

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Kloe and Chewie acting like dogs

 

 

 

Boomer

On the day after we moved to the mountains I met a dog named Boomer.  This  dog sauntered up the long driveway to our house like he owned the place.  As a suburbanite transplant who just moved to a rural area I thought, “uh-oh” how many dogs run around freely in the surrounding areas that will be coming onto our property?”  I shooed Boomer away not knowing what to expect.  Would he charge?  Would he bark and take an aggressive stance?   But Boomer, who’s name I didn’t know at the time,  gave me a sad little look as he jogged back down the driveway and out of sight.

The next time I encountered Boomer was a few days later when I took Kali out for her first walk in our new “neighborhood”.  The neighborhood is comprised of mostly five acre parcels with an eclectic mix of homes,  many set back away from the road and out of sight.  As Kali and I walked and explored I noticed Boomer, whose name I still didn’t know,  following us but keeping his distance.   I posted it about it a the time expressing moderate concern about safety and how walks might be significantly different from our old creek trail in Livermore.    Boomer stopped when I looked back at him and he remained still as Kali and I moved on.   As we headed back home Boomer was still in the same place and as we got closer I realized it was the same dog that walked up our driveway a few days earlier.  As Kali and I passed by he kept his distance and eventually ran off with the same sad little look he gave when when he jogged down our driveway.

It turns out that Boomer is a very friendly and sweet dog.  With his black and white speckles and round body shape and short legs he looks like a cartoon dog.

 

Boomer the cartoon dog

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While there are many dogs in the area I’ve never seen another dog walking around freely like Boomer does.  Most families here have at least one dog, many have more, and they seem to fall into one of two categories.   One, they are like our girls who stay within fenced areas or inside the house. Or two, they roam their fenceless property freely and only occasionally come out to the edge of their property line as we walk by but not onto the road where we walk.  They seem to know their limits and what their job is.

With the exception of one or two instances I’ve never seen anyone else walk their dogs.  I can’t blame them as we live on a mountain and it’s usually uphill both ways….  But we walk our girls almost every day.  Often Boomer will join us skipping along in front by several yards and then scurrying back to wait while we catch up.  It used to concern me that Boomer was out and about by himself all the time; and without a collar.  But he seems very capable and comfortable and knows his limits.  I’ve never seen him near the main road where cars travel and he seems to know where everyone else lives and takes care to help them find their way.

On a recent walk Boomer led Kali and I back home.  He was a little ahead of us and he stopped in front of our gate that leads up to our property.  Boomer seemed to know that’s the gate we use to go back home from our walks although it is not the same gate we use when start our walk.  Boomer stopped and waited.  As we approached and headed into the gate he ran on up the hill back to his house, probably feeling satisfied that he got us home safely.   He is truly a great escort and I now laugh at how I could have been concerned the first day I saw this sweet guy saunter up our driveway who only wanted to welcome us to his neighborhood.

Boomer leading the way back home

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Boomer the real dog

 

 

Young Pups

Many canine breeds are good with children and Golden Retreivers are one of the best. The American Kennel Club places Goldens fourth after the Bulldog (1), Beagle (2), and the Newfoundland (3).  Labs at number 5 were right after Golden Retrievers.

When Kloe first joined our pack it took her a few days but she eventually engaged Kali in play.  All of 15 pounds when she came home Kloe would run full speed at Kali nipping at her ears and bouncing off Kali’s torso, hips and head.  It was warming to see Kali, at 60 pounds, play so gently with Kloe instinctively knowing that Kloe was obviously smaller but also a “baby”.  During tug-o-war Kali could have shaken the rope toy hard enough to launch Kloe into the air but she didn’t.  She would hold on lightly and allow Kloe to gain some ground.  Kloe would eventually tire, lie down on her belly,  and Kali would drag her along the carpet or kitchen tile for a ride.

A little over a year later its fun to watch Kloe, now at 80 pounds, approach her big sister much in the same way she did when she was just a bitty pup.

Kloe still blind sides Kali at full speed, often with a toy in her mouth, daring Kali to fight back as if Kali has a choice.  The difference now is that Kloe has a 20 pound advantage over Kali who has to go full strength as a matter of self preservation.  And some games never change. Often after several minutes of tug-o-war Kloe will lie flat on her stomach, front and back legs fully extended, and Kali drags her along the carpet and Kitchen tile.

Until recently Kloe had not been around any young pups and I wondered how she would act if she was.  At only fifteen months does she possess the same instincts that seven year old Kali demonstrated with her baby sister a year ago?  Kloe has always had just one speed during play: 11 of on a scale of 10.  Through training and to some degree maturity (did I just use the word maturity in a sentence with Kloe?!?) Kloe is calmer around people when she first meets them.  It’s hard for her but she is learning what’s expected and keeps all her feet on the ground while wagging her butt feverishly.  Usually there is a thought bubble over her head that says, “Hi!  I love you!  Do you see me?  I am really really glad you are here!   Do you see me?  Did I tell you I love you?”

The young pup that Kloe met recently was not of the canine persuasion.  It was a human pup baby.  Perri is the granddaughter of our friends Marty and Jen.  We were at Marty and Jen’s for a BBQ when Perri was introduced to Kloe.  Kloe was very interested and saw that this was a person who just happened to be very small and very young.  In fact Kloe and Perri are just about the same age.   Kloe probably instinctively knew she had an advantage in most major categories:

  • Age – tie
  • Agility – Kloe major advantage
  • Intelligence – Kloe slight advantage
  • Weight – Kloe Super major advantage
  • Cute factor – Tie with the smallest of tie breakers going to Kloe  (full disclosure:   Perri’s parents and Grandparents were not consulted for the rating of this category)

Kloe laid at grandpa Marty’s feet while he held Perri in his lap.  She was fascinated and so very calm as she watched Perri’s every move.  I believe that with any dog, and I mean any dog, one must be very cautious with babies and they should not be allowed on the ground with the dog nearby until both parties – dog owner and parent/grandparent – are sure it’s safe.

So was the case with Kloe and Perri.   Perri was eventually allowed to sit on the ground near Kloe.   Our 80 pound bundle of energy 11 on scale of 10 “puppy” laid there calmly next to Perri and just hung out with “the baby” and let her do her thing.

But just for good measure, and so Perri knew that she loved her, Kloe gave Perri a little kiss on her nose, captured in the video below.

Take that Bulldog, Beagle, and Newfoundlanders!

Young Pups Kloe and Perri

 

Good Citizens

“The family that obeys together stays together”.   At least that’s what we say around the Golden K.  OK, we might not actually say that but maybe we’ll start.

Earlier this Spring Kloe participated in an obedience training program conducted by a local group affiliated with the American Kennel Club.  Since the time Kloe was a pup Holly (mostly) and I had been working 1:1 with Kloe using the training skills we learned from a private trainer we hired when Kali first arrived from Taiwan.  We felt Kloe needed more socialization and structure so Holly enrolled her in the program.  Kali had been getting a little sloppy I had become sloppy with Kali so I decided to enroll her too so that we could all go through the program as a united pack.  The family that trains together remains together.  Maybe we’ll start using that phrase too…

Both girls flew through the program with flying colors.   Eventually…

When we arrived for the first session our “girls” entered the building with guns-a-blazing!  They announced their arrival with a lot of robust barking.  Kali: “Who are all these dogs and why don’t they run away when I bark at them?” Kloe:  “Who are all these dogs and why won’t you let me off my leash so I can go play with them?”  All the other dogs: “Who are those two loud mouths?”

After a couple of weeks both girls settled in, Kloe realized she was there to work and gave Holly her full attention for most of the 55 minute sessions. Kali was the star pupil.  I wasn’t surprised.  Most of the other dogs were pretty young because this is the class that is intended to follow the Puppy class.  At eight years old Kali was the the Geriatric Granny of the class but I was none the less proud of her. The trainers and other owners watched and smiled as Kali pranced around the room listing to and responding to my every command.  In Kali’s mind a command, regardless of who it is directed at, means a treat is not far away which has made her very trainable.

At the conclusion of the seven week course the trainer told us about an upcoming AKC Good Citizens Certification test that would be available for the members of the class.  This test is comprised of ten behaviors the dog has to demonstrate.  They are relatively basic behaviors such as sit, heel, stay, etc.  They are also tested on distractions, walking through an area crowded with people, and so on.  They must score 10 out of 10 in order to be certified.  AND, there can be no treats used or on the owners body while they are being tested.  Rutt Roh…!!

So last Sunday Kali and drove to Jamestown to take the test.  I was a little apprehensive because Kali still gets a little anxious when new dogs are around.  Kali on the other hand was Kool, Kalm, and Kollected and when it was her turn performed all ten behaviors without issue (and notably with out treats).

Kali will always be my precious Golden Kali with or without any certificates or awards.  On the one hand this test was not a big deal and changes nothing.  On the other hand this test reinforced, at least to me, three years of development anD growth for Kali and I as a team.  So I will mail the paperwork to get the official certificate from the AKC to commemorate Kali’s accomplishment.  It will be framed and proudly hung in a place of distinction at the Golden K.  For me it will mean a lot.  For Kali it may only serve as a reminder of the day she did everything asked of her, on command and as described in the AKC good citizen manual,  without receiving one treat.

This ribbon will have to do until the official certificate arrives.  I wonder where I can buy a golden frame?….

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