Wednesday, July 02, 2003

I'd arrived here the week before Thanksgiving. The closing on my property was difficult, protracted and stressful. On some level, I knew that you could love a peice of land, but I never really felt the full impact until I saw this 20 acre patch of mountainside. I found it the first day I was out looking and it spoke to me clearly. It said, "I'm home."

I'd spent my life traveling from place to place working in the entertainment business. First as a make-up and hair designer in film and television, then as a costume designer in theatre, and finally in television news. Choosing this sort of work is like joining the circus. It's crazy and fun and completely lacking in any sort of stability. I loved it when I was a twenty-something, but somewhere around the middle of my career I began to wonder what it would be like to call someplace "home". The concept of "home" was an abstraction to me, and I longed for it like some women long to hold a baby in their arms.

The first week went by in a daze. After two days of sleeping in front of the fireplace surrounded by dogs, my stuff arrived from South Carolina. Despite my careful weeding of furniture and things, it was evident that I had too much "stuff" for my house. Some of my antiques, big Victorian peices, were ill-suited for my new house. I bartered them for installation of my new, hideously expensive and gorgeous wood stove. I was sad to see them go, as they were things left to me by my mother. But I'd entered into a long-term relationship with the house and compromises had to be made.

By Thanksgiving I was still looking at boxes. I'd accomplished a great deal but still had a long ways to go. I was on a schedule. Certain things had to be done before the first snowfall...since the "solid sheet of ice" that I'd been told covered the road down the mountain would surely hamper my moving-in activities. Still, it was Thanksgiving...and I'd unpacked the I decided to take a break and make a traditional meal for me and my dog family.

Some people, I'm sure, feel a little sorry for me that I spend so many holidays in the company of dogs. I must seem like a dotty old maid. And I probably am. I'd been involved with cocker spaniel rescue for a few years. While helping to rehome a number of dogs, I'd adopted three bratty and completely incorrigible cockers that were now my responsibility. I'd also gotten a labrador retriever.

Shadow came to me from a postal worker who found him rummaging through trash behind a supermarket. He's my squirrel dog and the pack leader. Hi-Lite came from Texas where he spent two weeks in a veterinary ICU for neglect issues. Fat Buddy came to me two days before he was to be put to sleep for pemphigus folliacious...we had a long hard road bringing him back to health. Aegis...the lab...I got as a puppy and trained to help me around the house, do WETT dog work and retrieving. They really are my immediate family.

The dogs were really delighted with the new place. It had woods, brambles and hills that spoke to the cocker's instincts of flushing game. There's a pond and a creek to satisfy Aegis' need for water. Fat Buddy was the only one a bit disappointed by the set-up. He's not a rural dog. Despite losing 20 pounds since coming into my care, he still has a fat dog mentality. He's had to find new, inventive ways of stealing snacks. He tried hiking down to Ronnie and Joanne's to steal their dog and cat food, but after a few of these excursions decided it was just too much exercise. The trash and dog food were now in bear proof containers on the porches...and were now Fat Buddy proof as well. Poor little guy would plop down on his broad butt and bark at the food containers, as if they would magically open to his canine "open sesame" act.

For Thanksgiving I cooked a turkey, made sweet potato bourbon souffle, fresh black-eyed peas with ham hock, collards with pigtails and biscuits with gravy. As usual, I made enough for a small army. Fat Buddy successfully stole two sticks of butter and each time I chased him around the kitchen table like a 1950's lecherous boss after the nimble secretary. While I was thus distracted, Hi-Lite scored an almost full bag of mini-marshmallows and Aegis was about to do "paws up" on the stove to sample the gravy. Dogs make atrocious dinner least my dogs do.

I fixed everyone a plate and we said a blessing. At least I said a blessing while they all drooled. They snarfed theirs down as quickly as possible so they could beg me for mine. We cleaned up together and watched some TV in front of the fire, then made an early night of it.

It was a wonderful first Thanksgiving with my dog family. Don't feel sorry for me, please. While others were dealing with human family squabbles, drunk relatives and surly teenagers...I was cooking to an attentive audience that hung on my every word, loved everything I prepared, asked for seconds and thirds, and never once questioned my choice of TV programming. What's not to be thankful for?


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