Saturday, November 29, 2008
A Thanksgiving Story
I love the Thanksgiving holiday. For me it‘s about remembering and making transparent the blessings in our life, and it is a time for family. Finding all four of us under the same roof for any length of time is becoming more and more rare as the kids get older and develop lives of their own outside the family. We had a lovely day and wonderful dinner with 15 of us around the table.
My story is one of love and devotion, of family, of going the extra mile, and of heart.
I finished the preparations for dinner about 11 and my sister-in-law called and asked if I still wanted to go for a walk around the property. I took off down the hill to my parent’s house to meet Cindi and her good friend Kim. Kim wanted a walking tour of the property, and I was happy to oblige. It was a beautiful day, sunny and unseasonably warm for this time of year.
We took off across the lower pasture and walked toward the far pond. The grass in the fields has that winter amber glow. Delicate, green, fern-like plants are hiding beneath the pasture grasses. We passed between the ponds and headed into the woods onto one of the many trails that we have cut through the deep woods for running and hiking. We wound our way through the woods along the stream that cuts through the property along sections of hand-built stacked limestone fence that marks the edge of my parent’s land. After about 30 minutes of hiking up, we emerged out of the woods to pasture land that we call “top of the world”. Top of the world is a section of open pasture, half brome grass and half native Kansas prairie grasses. It sits above the rest of the property and is ringed by woods. In a few minutes we walked to the highest point and surveyed the land and the surroundings. From top of the world you can see my parent’s house, the barn, and our house up on the opposite hill. It’s a beautiful vista. We continued our walk to the other side of the top of the world pasture and about a ¼ mile away I turned to look and I thought a saw a deer back on the crest. It was definitely an animal, brown. I assumed it was a deer. I walked closer to get a better view and past the woods that partially obstructed my view. Together we figured out that it wasn’t a deer, but a dog. We could clearly see the wagging tail. The 3 of us were walking with my mom’s lab, Rusty. I said, let’s get going so Rusty won’t follow that dog. I assumed it was a stray wandering the property. So we took off back into the woods, down the old, blackberry patch road to the other side of the property. We walked for a few minutes and Kim turned around and said, “what’s that?” She heard something crunching the leaves behind her. And there, right behind her, was the dog we had seen earlier.
It wasn’t a stray at all. It was my lab, Fudge. We were all shocked. You have to understand, Fudge is a 13 ½ year old lab. She has severe arthritis in her hips and she struggles with stairs and a walk around the block is a big day for her. Evidently, right after I took off down the hill, my hubby decided to go for a run. In her youth, Fudge ran with Steve for miles and miles. They were running partners for many years. If she wasn’t running with him, she was walking with me. These days when he takes off for a run he usually runs with her for about 100 feet or so and then she stops and watches him run. She knows her limitations. That morning, Steve did the same thing. He let her out and she ran with him for a bit and stopped. He assumed that she would go back to the house and wait for him to return. He was wrong.
Fudge had other ideas. She had seen me take off from the house for my walk and knew Steve was gone running and she was bound and determined not to be left behind. I don’t know what route she took or how she got to us, but she got there and considering she left some time after we did and caught up with us she didn’t dawdle. She put her nose to the ground and sniffed and located me on the 110 acre property. She approached us with her tail wagging and her head held high. She was where she belonged.
We were on the farthest point of the property away from the house and there was no short way, or for that matter, easy way home. She had no choice but to do the rest of the walk with us in order to get home. At that point I didn’t know if she would make it. I thought for a moment that this would be the way she would want to go. It was a fleeting thought. I really didn’t want to go there.
She plugged along like a trooper, through the woods, up and down ravines, over fields and back home. Her back legs gave out a couple of times and she stumbled, but she never stopped, she never gave up. She even led the way, tail wagging above the tall grass, each of us, cheering her on at the difficult points of the route.
We reached my parent's house and she made a beeline for Rusty’s water bowl, drank a few sips, then found his bed and gingerly and stiffly lay down. I called Steve and asked him to come down with the car so she didn’t have to hike up the 1/8 of a mile hill that is our driveway. He came and we lifted her into the back of the car for the ride up. She was relieved, but a bit insulted at the same time.
She spent the remainder of the day cuddled on her bed strategically located between the living room and kitchen so that she could keep an eye on the festivities. She received lots of attention throughout the day and evening as cousins and aunts and uncles sat by her bed stroking her ears and rubbing her tummy, marveling at the physical feat she had accomplished that morning.
Fudge is a member of our family. She lives to be with us. She had the desire, the need, and the heart to do what she did that morning despite her physical limitations.
She’s still hurting today. She had trouble getting up and down the steps to get outside this morning. She’s limping on one of her front legs. We are doing what we can to make her comfortable. Scooby snacks seem to help. I slept on the couch last night so she wouldn’t have to make the climb up to the bedroom. I’m sure it will take her a long time to recover. I have a feeling if you asked her, she’d say it was all worth it. My baby has heart and loves her family. We love her too.