Well, friends, it’s official. I have graduated from the ranks of poor food pickers, carbohydrate-phobics, and those who would shriek at the sight of a calorie! This Thanksgiving warrior stood atop that bathroom scale before her holiday meal, read the steady measurement of 134.6, then girded herself with the breastplate of felled fowl, the belt of peachy pie, and the helm of determination. The after weight? 140.1. I’ve never been so proud.
But what made this Thanksgiving truly great was the Big Pot of Crazy that goes by the simple name, family. We’ve got your rednecks, your artists, some scientifically minded, others obsessed with the pH scale of soil for next year’s crop, and a persnickety, adoring old man. Even my 17 year old dog, Skeeter, joined us this year. Nothing’s so odd as watching your ancient, Alzheimer’s stricken canine friend run into walls thinking they’re doors, or spinning in circles for reasons still unknown.
But the Thanksgiving spirit runs rampant in our family, and in a way, poor old Skeeter became a warrior again, too. While walking on rickety chicken-like legs outside, her snuffling nose caught a tantalizing whiff. Before my sister knew it, off she sprinted with the strength of a jackal toward a lounging cat. The cat, not waiting around for the geriatric terrier to reach it, slipped into an old shed by means of a smallish hole in the wooden wall. Skeeter was undaunted. She wriggled in after it, barked a little (an admittedly pathetic sounding woof!), then fell silent. My sister went in after her, sure the dog had gone all paralytic again, or something worse. And there, in the pitch black shed, was Skeeter, stuck behind an old chair, confused but still dazzled by excitement. Her prey had gotten away, but good ol’ Skeeter felt alive again.
Having Skeeter in a strange house has also been entertaining. Being partially blind and completely deaf, she has a system for walking. She’ll walk the same route, under tables, between desks and couches, several times. She’s finally lost her marbles, I found myself thinking. But no, there’s method to her madness–within a day, she had the layout of the house memorized, and only trips over stairs and chairlegs occasionally.
Throughout her amazingly long life, she’s been a bit Han Solo-ish…did she really need us, or were we, in some twist of plot, the backup, the wookie whose words are nothing but gobbledygook (real word) like Chewie’s?
And so, like a true quadrupedal adventurer, following was tortuous–instead, she’d bound off on her own quests. This led to a rattle snake bite on the nose (complete with snout swollen past her eyes) and a near run-in with a bear. We once witnessed her streaking across the plain with a coyote on her heels–Dad then took off after the coyote, waving a large stick over his head.
Then one day, back when she was a fresh faced seven year old, she vanished. Convinced she had kicked the bucket in some far off field, we found her three days later, ten miles from home, covered with dirt (undoubtedly from some rabbit burrow she had gotten stuck in). She’s limped home every time, nails torn off, a little bloody, but happy. How she’s survived as long as she has, I’ll never know. But let it be known that Skeeter was a real scrapper. In her retirement years, however, she’s toned this life of danger and espionage way down in favor of naps in the sun and naps in the shade, naps in the house and naps on the porch. I found her napping beneath my desk once, her head pillowed on my sneaker, her paws folded up beneath her.
I can still remember tormenting my faithful friend with roller blades. At the ripe age of six, my sister and I would chase that poor dog all over the house. Thankfully, she forgave us.
But poor ol’ Skeeter has been going down-hill fast. I guess that’s not hard to imagine, at her advanced age. And as the years have passed, I’ve found that owning a dog is depressingly like watching a dog movie. Old Yeller? Marley and Me? Disgustingly realistic endings. I’ve had a lot of goldfish die on me, but my dog? Say it ain’t so! I’d rather lose a hand.
So here’s to you, Skeeter old pal, my faithful friend. We grew up together, and we’re still together. You never cease to make me smile. May we have at least another Thanksgiving together.