Riley, Sophie, and Bear, on my bed

Some days I can’t believe how lucky I am. Other days I think, “Dogs! That’s my bed! Where am I supposed to sit?!” Most days, both happen at once.

I have had good intentions of writing every day for the past several weeks. I have written… once. Maybe twice. In the grand scheme of things, though, I don’t feel unaccomplished. Sure, maybe my accomplishments were pretty minor: I got Bear to sit and show me her paws before jumping on the bed at least once out of every three times she tried, and I stayed totally cool when a stranger dog told Sophie she was being a brat at the beach (she was!), but those accomplishments probably count for just as much as words going nowhere.

I also — if I do say so myself — kicked ass in the “handy friend to have around” territory. The week before Thanksgiving, I went down to Santa Rosa with Suzanne so that she could have cataract surgery on one eye. She needed a driver to pick her up post-surgery, so she drove us down on Tuesday. We got grocery store sushi for lunch, took the dogs to a dog park, went to her pre-op appointment, and then had terrific Peruvian food for dinner. The next morning, we walked the dogs in a park near the eye doctor, then she went in for the surgery while the dogs and I waited in the parking lot. They wheeled her out by 10 or so.

I think both of us anticipated a fast snapback from the anesthesia, which was the kind where you stay awake, you just don’t remember the experience. Quick and efficient, right? Suzanne, however, did not snap back quite so quickly as expected. I have a toss-up between two favorite moments related to the not-quite-awake Suzanne.

The first was when, a couple hours after the surgery, sounding a little disconsolate, she said something like, “Everything’s blurry.” I said, somewhat tentatively because it felt like stating the obvious, “Um, but you’re wearing your glasses? I would have trouble seeing if I was wearing your glasses.” For at least the next ten minutes, she read all the street signs to me, awed by the miracle of sight, which was really fun.

The second actually happened the next day, when I was following GPS directions to Costco and said, “Okay, thank you, Liam,” to my Australian-male-voiced Apple Maps app, and she said, “Why is your GPS named Liam?” with sheer puzzlement in her voice. With an equivalent amount of puzzlement in my voice, I said, “Um, because you named him? Yesterday? Because you thought he needed a name? Do you not remember this??” She did not remember. I couldn’t tell you how many times we’d discussed it as we wandered around Santa Rosa post-surgery — shopping, finding parks to walk dogs, finding restaurants for lunch and dinner — but it was more than once. That anesthesia is good stuff.

On Thursday, Suzanne had her post-op appointment, and then we slowly headed home, plenty of stops along the way. On Saturday, she flew off to the UK for a long-awaited trip with her grandson, leaving me with three dogs, three cats, and a dozen chickens to care for. To be honest, I was not looking forward to it: I expected that having the two puppies together 24/7 was going to feel overwhelming, and be exhausting.

It was, in fact, worse than I’d imagined, because we — and I use that word fairly, this was a mutual decision — were total IDIOTS! I had blithely said, “Sure,” when the vet suggested Monday as a date for Riley to have his teeth cleaned, not even really noticing the “and have a mass removed from his chest” part of the conversation. I dropped him off at the vet that Monday morning and took the puppies to the beach, never even considering what it was going to be like to have a dog recovering from surgery with two puppies around. Poor Riley had just an awful week. I definitely get “handy friend to have around” points for the 45 minutes I spent trying to get blood out of Suzanne’s sofa the next day. Also for the rather excessive amounts of vomit clean-up over the next couple of days, although some of that was Sophie. But note to self: never schedule surgery for a dog when his real owner is going to be away. It made an already challenging week just so much harder.

The highlight of the week, though, was Thanksgiving dinner. I had put exactly zero thought into the fact that I’d be alone on a major holiday and figured it would just be a day like any other. Dogs, cats, chickens, maybe with a little added bonus grieving for my (estranged) son and my (deceased) mom, but just a day. However Mara, the awesome next-door neighbor, also realized I’d be alone on a major holiday and promptly invited me to join them. I had such a nice time. Was it the green bean casserole, giving me just the right amount of nostalgia? The gluten-free stuffing, gravy & dessert, making me feel like I could relax and eat safely? The good company, mostly family enjoying one another’s company, but a few other solo guests? All of the above, probably. Maybe with a little added, “I have escaped from the puppies!” and a lot of added, “And we get to socialize with groups of people again!” Obviously that was before news of the new variant started spreading, but on the day, no one was worrying about the pandemic. It was just a good meal with warm, friendly people. (Thank you, Mara!)

Suzanne came home from the UK Saturday night. Her plane was just slightly delayed, not quite enough to make me cry, but enough to get me to start writing mental horror stories as I circled the airport. Good imagination practice, right? All residents of the Mighty Small Farm are delighted to have her back. But despite her return, life still feels really busy. She’s not allowed to drive yet, so I’ve had places to go, things to do, excuses to not write. Next week we go back to Santa Rosa and she gets surgery on her other eye, and after that, things should settle down some. Maybe writing more will have to be a New Year’s resolution.

Meanwhile, I’m feeling pretty grateful for my life. Dogs, cats, chickens, friends and neighbors — and hey, hot running water, always worth appreciating. I didn’t spend my Thanksgiving week thinking about how much I had to be thankful for, but there’s so much, and I am.