I'm sitting in the living room at the farm. In the room with me are Otter (Crow and Hudson's mother), Bee (Crow's litter sister), Stone (one of their nephews) and Spider (the newest member of the Hawk's Hunt crew, daughter of Rain, grand-daughter of Bee, great grand-daughter of Otter.) In the next room, there's Bird (Hudson's litter sister) and Badger. In the room next to that, are Cash, Rain, and Lark. And upstairs, Ruby and Monk are asleep in the bedroom. As you can see, I've given up trying to untangle the family relationships in my brain. However, with the exception of the Chabrador, Badger, all the dogs here are related, more or less closely, to Crow and Hud.
Additional house animals include the two parrots, the two tortoises, a kitten named Marco, and a couple of parakeets. I've already visited with the four horses and the two donkeys. Tomorrow morning, after I feed the dogs, I'll go up to the barn and visit with them again, as well as with the animals I haven't seen yet.
It wasn't the best trip up. First, I missed my exit off of route 80, and was zipping past the next exit, the last one at which I could turn around for miles, before I realized it. Instead of coming up 287, I ended up opting to go all the way to the Garden State Parkway, well east of where I needed to be, and taking that up to the NY Thruway. I probably lost less than a half an hour, but it felt like a lot. Then, when I stopped at a rest stop on the Thruway to get a cup of coffee, I came out to find a huge hole in my bumper. Bummer. No one had seen anything, and there was no point hanging around trying to get a report on record. I'll eat it, or I'll submit a collision claim. Not the way I wanted to start my vacation. And somehow, by going a steady 9 mph over the speed limit all the way, I managed to make up the time I'd lost missing the exit and got here in 4.5 hours.
When I got here, I met up with Wendy, who had been taking care of the tribe until my arrival. We went up to the barn and finished up a couple of chores and then went out to dinner. So, it wasn't until we returned from eating that I got to see all of the dogs.
I have a special relationship with Otter, but found her pissy and annoyed that Mom and Dad had gone off. She didn't want to eat the food with her meds in it, and she wasn't all that impressed that I was here when I first got here. When I got back from dinner, she had adjusted to the current reality, and she ate her meal for me. And then I started rotating through the groups of dogs, giving everyone their last potty trip and their bedtime snack.
When I got to Stone, all of the day was washed away - missed exits and bashed bumpers didn't matter any more at all. Stone cried and whimpered and sang. He pushed himself through my legs and arched his back, lifting me off my feet. He rubbed his head all over me and then he did it again. And he sang. And sang. And sang. And he gazed happily at me and sang again.
Needless to say, he defined my bed-buddy group.
The stars are bright. The air is icy cold. There's a frigid wind that stops the breath in your throat. We'll be in single digits tonight. But it's clean and sweet air, and right now, I can hear the coyotes singing, and Cash and Rain calling back their replies. Once in a while, I can hear a cow lowing. And all around me, the contented sighs and groans of happy, tired dogs.
Tomorrow will be busy for me, with long, brisk walks in the hemlock woods with four different groups of dogs. Shrimp, the donkey, will need to have her boots pulled off, and her legs brushed before the boots are replaced. Joey, the 32 year old thoroughbred, looks like he could stand a brushing. Sultan, the barn cat, will require a certain amount of affection, and I'll be forced to play with Marco, the kitten. I brought Smarties to treat the horses, donkeys, and the hogs. I'll be forced to be sure that they each get their share.
And will I mind? Mind this? No, for me this is almost heaven.