Willow Golden Retriever Achieves a New Level of Doggie Communication

September 21st, 2020

Willow golden retriever took doggie communication to new and higher level last night.

As she and I started our nightly walk toward the bedroom, we passed from the front hall into the bedroom wing and I closed the shutters behind me.

Willow looked me in the eye and turned back toward the shutters.  Right away I knew what she was telling me: “We left my favorite toy, Dinosaur, in the front hall.”  So, I opened the shutters and she lunged into the front hall to snatch Dinosaur and carry it to the bedroom for the night.

Willow is especially smart and she is as good a communicator as Jamie and Callie, if not better. I have worked hard to earn her trust and help her know that I will respond to her requests if I can understand them.

That mutual respect and trust has formed a very special bond, just like it did with Jamie and Callie before

A Moment with Marley

May 28th, 2018

It’s been 8 weeks since Callie left us and I’m still reminded of her almost every minute. Asking to go outside; sharing my fiber cookie or a bite of toast; going for walks; playing coffee ball; playing soccer; asking for scratches; on and on.

Yesterday I was sitting with a crowd of people at the weigh-in after the annual Lake Arrowhead fishing derby. (My partner Mark and I caught the most trout but our 5 largest didn’t weigh enough to win a trophy.) A cute young lady with a nice looking 8-year old golden retriever walked by. The Golden was wearing a black T-shirt. I admired the dog and asked the girl, “what’s his name?” She said, “Marley.” Immediately Marley seemed to single me out. He came close and aimed his beautiful eyes directly at mine in a deep but soft and gentle gaze. I lowered my hand and he put his head on my knee.

Marley seemed to understand how much I was missing Callie. His eyes said, “I know you’re still grieving and I know how much you love Callie. And she loves you. We dogs are about love.”

It was only a moment, but there was something very special about it. It was different from any other first-meeting I’ve had with a dog. In just a few seconds, Marley had connected with me and sent a very special message.

Thanks, Marley. Have a wonderful life of love.

Sad News After All These Years

April 11th, 2018

I have some really sad news to share with you. My love Callie Golden Retriever left us early in the morning of Sunday, April 1, 2018. Barbara and I took her to the animal emergency hospital Saturday night, because she was very lethargic. She was conscious and able to walk, but clearly stressed. The doctors found that she was bleeding internally, but they were unable to find the source of the bleeding to stop it. It turned out that a tumor had popped in her liver; there was nothing that could be done.

I started this blog in 2006 to talk about my book My Doggie Says: Messages from Jamie. This book was about my efforts to understand the communications of Jamie Golden Retriever, our beloved pet from 1994 until 2006.  I knew there were times when she was trying to tell me something, if only I could decipher her communication.  The book is a collection of photographs and fun interpretations of her messages.

When Jamie left us December, 2006, I didn’t think I could ever have such a #dogbonding relationship.  (BTW, I initiated the “dogbonding” hashtag in about 2008.)  But then Callie came along and proved me wrong.

One of the endorsements for My Doggie Says was written by Dr. Christine Omoto, Jamie’s vet. She said, “Everyone is going to want a dog like Jamie. But it will be another spirit, another life, another joy.”

Her message could not have been more prophetic about. Callie.   Callie was indeed another spirit, another life, another joy.  She brought incredible joy to our family every minute of every day but in many ways very different from Jamie.

Callie quickly became a great communicator.  I really believe that the “dog interpretation” skills I learned from Jamie reinforced Callie’s attempts to communicate.  And we both continued to improve, which led to a warm and beautiful relationship between us.

We watched Callie grow as a tiny puppy from a few days after her birth until she was eight weeks old and ready to move to her new home.  Her breeder had marked all the puppies with colored markers so we could tell them apart.  Callie was “Green Girl.”  She was pretty tiny, but she quickly learned how to take care of herself around her siblings.

The day Callie arrived at our home in March, 2007, she saw an under-inflated rubber “soccer” ball in our backyard.   She ran to the other side of it and looked up at me as if to say, “OK, Fred, show me what you’ve got”. And she trapped the ball under her tiny tummy. This photo was in one of my first blogs about Callie.

Here is another early photo of Callie the soccer player:


Believe it or not, every evening that we were at our home—for the last 11 years and one month—weather permitting, Callie came to my office at home and invited me to play soccer.  If I was busy, she would wait patiently until I got up from my desk.  Then we would walk together into my bedroom and Callie would watch while I changed into my soccer shoes.  Then we proceeded to the back yard.  Callie looked back every few steps to make sure I was following.  Then, when we got to the ball, she looked back over her shoulder to make sure I picked it up.

At first, she just trapped the ball under her tummy like she did in the photo above.  But as she grew, she started to “bonk” the ball off her nose.  Her “bonks” made a loud noise and sent the ball flying.

Here’s a wonderful video of Callie playing soccer:

At the end of every soccer match, Callie would trap the ball under her tummy in a “keep away” move.  And then we would do four right and left “high fives.”

On the last day of her life, Callie came to get me to play soccer.  But she only had enough energy for one “bonk.”  I could tell something was very wrong, but I didn’t know yet what it was.

Like most golden retrievers, Callie had a great disposition.  She was very easy going, mellow and calm.  But beyond that, she was the most outgoing and social dog I’ve ever been around.  She loved to meet people and dogs.  Almost every person who saw her knew that she would be friendly and asked to pet her.  She was extremely extroverted with other dogs—large and small.  She was very submissive and never provoked an angry response in the other dog.  Even with small dogs, she would get low to the ground and try to keep her head below the other dog’s head so the smaller dog would not be intimidated.  She had lots of dog and people friends in our neighborhood, and she and Barbara saw many of them daily on their morning exercise walk.  She was always a hit when we walked in Lake Arrowhead village.  All the kids wanted to pet her.

We met many wonderful and friendly people and dogs because of Callie.

Callie had a never-ending list of amazing qualities.  She proved again that dogs love routine and ritual.  They like activities to be repetitive and predictable.  Here are some of the “rituals” that made her so much a part of our family:

  • Callie was an initiator; she often invited us to participate in an activity, and she was always finding ways to entertain herself.
  • Every evening, most mornings, and some night times, Callie presented herself beside our bed for “scratches,” which started with her head and ears and often turned into a full body massage.
  • Callie often “snorted” as if she wished she could make sounds like a human. One time, after she lost a close golden retriever friend, she sat down in my office with her paw on my leg and snorted for about 10 minutes, as if to share her grief with me.
  • Every morning, Callie greeted me by sitting down and asking for a nose-to-nose snuggle and “good morning” snorting conversation.
  • Every morning, Callie shared a tiny corner of my fiber cookie.
  • Every morning, Callie and Barbara went for a jog or a walk in our neighborhood. As part of their outing, they always sat on one of the big boulders in a landscaped area at the end of our street.  And then on the way home they shared a moment on a bench at the nearby golf course which honors a friend of mine.
  • She loved to hop into my car to go for errands, including picking up a takeaway bowl of soup for lunch at a nearby market.
  • The best thing about soup for lunch was getting to share the oyster crackers and lick the bowl after.
  • As if she learned from her agility champion parents, Callie would “tightrope” walk on every curb she could find; including some very narrow ones.
  • On their morning walk, Callie and Barbara often visited with as many as a dozen people and dog friends.
  • Callie loved to hike at Lake Arrowhead; it was another place to meet people and dogs.
  • When it was time to wind down in the evening, Callie would walk to our bedroom to retrieve one of her soft furry toys. Then she would “gum it” like a pacifier.
  • At Lake Arrowhead she loved to be on the outdoor decks; she learned to ask politely to be let outdoors and then to be let back indoors if the door was closed.
  • Every trip to Lake Arrowhead, Callie walked down the steep hillside of our property to help me set up my game camera. Then, on our last day, she went back with me to see if we captured any images of coyotes, bears, or bobcats (which we occasionally did).
  • Late every afternoon, Callie came to my office at home at invited me to go outside and play soccer; she had a specific look that only meant, “Hey, Fred, t’s time to play soccer.”
  • She could be incredibly persistent about starting our soccer or her morning walk. For our soccer game, she would wait patiently in my office or in the yard for over an hour, if necessary.
  • A few times when Callie and I walked outside for our soccer match, I forgot to pick up the ball. Callie always looked back over her shoulder to make sure I brought it along.
  • Callie had water bowls in several parts of the house. If any of them was low on water, she would find Barbara or me and ask politely for a top-up.
  • Callie loved to go for boat rides at Lake Arrowhead and she loved it when I fished. When I caught a bass, sometimes she would walk over and give it a lick before I threw it back.
  • Her favorite place to sit in the boat was at the very front of the box. If I was riding in the stern, she would come to get me and invite me to sit with her in the bow facing the wind.
  • Every morning, Callie shared a bowl of cereal with me in my office. She would get a bran flake or two, and then she would lick the yogurt from my bowl when I was finished.
  • At the end of every soccer game, we did “high fives.” Callie would sit down and reach way up with her left paw, then her right, then her left, and then her right.  Each high five was rewarded with a small puppy treat.

If you read My Doggie Says, you know that Jamie loved to jump off our boat dock at Lake Arrowhead and retrieve her floating Frisbee.  Well, Callie learned to swim when she was just a few months old, and she loved retrieving the Frisbee every bit as much as Jamie.  I have photos of both swimming toward shore with the Frisbee, and it’s hard to tell the difference between Jamie and Callie.

In an incredible bit of timing, our neighborhood magazine, Valmonte Life, featured Barbara and me and Callie on its cover for March, 2018.  The photographer captured some wonderful images of Callie, including the one on the cover, which was clearly chosen because Callie looked great and not because of me.

One of my favorite hobbies is photography, and I probably have thousands of images of Callie.  Part of my grieving therapy will be to create a Callie memory book.

On this blog and on Twitter or Facebook, when I learned that someone had lost a pet, I always recommended that they visit the Pet Loss list of poems:  http://www.petloss.com/poems/poems.htm  It has a wonderful collection of poems about pets and the pain of losing them.  I always suggested that people read Rudyard Kipling’s poem, “Dinah In Heaven.”  Now, I guess I need to recommend that to myself.  I will read it again.

I’m sorry it’s been so long since my last post.  I’ve been focused on my work and on writing a new book about high tech startup companies: The Fundable Startup: How Disruptive Companies Attract Capital.  It was published on February 6, 2018, by SelectBooks.  https://amzn.to/2q8fjdd  If you’re interested in startups, check it out.

I will probably continue to focus primarily on my high-tech life, but it’s been salving to look back at this blog.  Especially some of the early posts about the wonderful Callie.  It’s been a lovely trip down memory lane, and I will revisit it more often.

There is probably another golden retriever in my future, but not right away.



Callie Golden Retriever: “Hey, That’s My Crate You’re Messing With!”

October 15th, 2013

Callie Golden Retriever, even though she’s over 6 1/2 years old, still uses her training crates as a “special place” — a “home at home.”  She’s never locked in; totally free to come an go.  It’s mostly a place for her to keep a few toys and deposit a pair of dirty socks, if she finds some lying around the house.  But she also sleeps in the crate for a few hours every night.   There’s one crate at home and one at Lake Arrowhead, and she seems to treasure both equally.

The other day, I got a rare look inside Callie’s emotions.  Barbara and I were cleaning up our bedroom at Lake Arrowhead to prepare for a carpet cleaner to come in and steam-clean the carpets.  We weren’t quite sure what to do with Callie’s crate, but, after some deliberation, we decided to lift it up and put it on top of our bed — so it wouldn’t be in the way of the carpet-cleaners.

Well, Callie freaked out — in a cute way.  First she did a deep “bow”  (a stress-reducer).  Then she jumped up in the air and spun around in a circle.  After that, she ran to me, stood up on her hind legs, and put her front paws on my shoulders — looking for a big hug.  She was obviously puzzled that we had lifted her crate, and she seemed to be looking for reassurance that everything was OK.

It was really a very special, revealing moment.  Dogs don’t always express their feelings, but Callie sure let us know that her crate is her special place and she wasn’t too thrilled to have us messing with it.

Callie and Bandit Enjoy a Visit

July 17th, 2013


Callie Golden Retriever is an amazingly social dog — probably more social than any other dog I’ve had.  She has lots of people friends and doggie friends, and she just loves to make new friends.   She isn’t indiscriminate in picking her friends.  She has a strong sense for which people and dogs will work for her.  For example, she generally avoids poodles, who don’t seem to care too much about Golden Retrievers.  But a Golden Retriever puppy that looks like Callie?  Perfect!  Bandit is about six months old and very calm for a puppy.  She and Callie had a wonderful visit at the Lake Arrowhead Village.  Which, by the way, is a great place to socialize dogs.  Bandit’s mom brings her to the village several times a week, just so Bandit can meet other dogs.  How smart is that?  Good #dogbonding and good doggie socializing.  Don’t forget the #dogbonding conversation on Twitter!


Mary Collister of “Woofpackgoodies.com” on the “My Doggie Says…” Show

June 15th, 2013

Mary Collister, the founder of woofpackgoodies.com, is passionate about helping rescue organizations and providing dog toys that will enrich the lives of dogs.  A portion of every purchase goes to support one of seventy five rescue organizations, and the number of supported rescue groups is growing rapidly.  In this interview on the “My Doggie Says…” show, Mary describes the very creative woofpackgoodies.com web site and some of the ways that dog toys can add joy to a dog’s life.  Mary also talks about her work with rescue groups and the challenges of getting a new business up and running.

Don’t miss this podcast:

Wings of Rescue

April 24th, 2013

My friend, Frank Singer, is a serious pilot.  For years, he’s flown doctors into villages in Mexico where medical assistance was needed.  The other day, he told me about his new project — flying rescue dogs to no-kill shelters; in this case, in Phoenix.  Last week, Frank had sixty canine passengers on his flight.

For information about the program, click here:  Wings of Rescue

Here are some photos from Frank’s flight:


























































How Smart Are Dogs — Really?

March 22nd, 2013

One of the themes of the “My Doggie Says…” show has been “the intelligence of dogs.”  One guest, for example, was Stanley Coren, author of “The Intelligence of Dogs.”  But I’ve always found these conversations a little unsettling. Here’s the interview with Stanley.

The scientists keep saying, “Dogs really aren’t very smart.”  I wonder, though, if they are applying the right measures.  Obviously, dogs can’t take an IQ test — which deals with language.  But they sure do some clever things.  I have a difficult time believing that Callie Golden Retriever has the same intelligence level (whatever that means) as a two-year-old child.

Well, Brian Hare and Dognition to the rescue.  For the past two weeks, Barbara and I have been spending a few minutes every evening running Callie through a battery of tests developed my Dognition.  Here’s how Dognition describes the tests:

“You begin the Dognition Experience by playing a series of science-based games that will reveal your dog’s unique abilities. This knowledge is the first step in creating an even stronger connection with your dog — a connection that can help you be the best owner you can be for your furry friend.”

So far, we haven’t received any results on Callie’s testing, but the games have been fun, and we’re looking forward to seeing the first results.  Stay tuned!

David Frei, Co-Host of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, on the “My Doggie Says…” Show

February 13th, 2013

Here is David Frei, co-host of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, on the “My Doggie Says… Show.”

Glynis McCants on the “My Doggie Says…” Show

January 30th, 2013