Sad News After All These Years

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.