Something I should explain.

Around the time that I was returning from England, my family hatched a plan to come see me over Labor Day weekend, since I wasn't in any shape to go visiting anyone, what with the revised article being due and classes beginning three weeks after my return. I think that it must have been just after my return that my brother called me and revealed the plan to bring our dog along to Ohio. You know a fair amount about this dog, if you've been reading here for a long time: she's fifteen, has had one ear removed, is totally deaf in the remaining ear, barks and howls when she sees people she loves showing each other affection (or when someone leaves without saying goodbye), and goes by many nicknames, including Stinkpot, Rodrigo, and Big Dummy. However, she no longer answers to these nicknames--because of the deafness, see. Now she only answers to hand gestures and physical contact.

In order to make nearly four hours of car travel with her bearable, my mother told the vet that she needed a couple of sedatives. "Just enough to knock her out for the ride there and then the ride back," she said. And so the vet dispensed a few pills, and on Saturday morning, my parents gave the dog one of them.

By the time they got halfway here, the dog's bones had dissolved, leaving my mother to have to drag her across a gas station parking lot during a pit stop for fuel and toilet breaks. When I went out to meet them upon their arrival here, they said, "We think we broke the dog." She was a big floppy periodically urinating mess; we arranged her on her dog bed and dragged said bed from the kitchen to the living room when we needed to change rooms.

Saturday evening, she was largely back to herself, wagging her tail, frisking around, cadging food from anyone and everyone, even barking at a small child; Sunday morning, after a night of collapsed sleep on my bed (cf. today's image, another from that night's series), she was entirely herself again.

Why put the dog through all this? Well: she's old, and she's so tightly bonded to my parents (even more than to my brother and me, since she doesn't see us daily) that she has started to get a bit despondent when they board her. In July, she lost something like ten pounds while at the kennel. Unless it's absolutely necessary, then, my parents don't want to leave her behind when they travel.

But my mother also knows that there's a chance I won't get home before Thanksgiving, and she knew that when I left for England, one of my sorrows was that the dog might not live to see my return. "What if she dies before Thanksgiving?" she thought to herself. And since I couldn't come to the dog, she set it up so that the dog would come to me--despite the difficulty of traveling with that good old goofball.

Nothing I've needed from her has ever proven too complicated or difficult for my mother to sort through and make possible. The dog is only the latest example, and so it's the one I'm using to tell her thank you, and happy birthday--because today is the anniversary of her arrival in the world, surely one of the luckiest days in my then-not-yet-existent little life. I love you, Mama. Welcome to your new year.