I love coming home after even just a few hours away. There is something special about being greeted by happy dogs, hungry pigs, and curious alpacas.
The dogs got a reprieve from the groomer’s today. The road conditions this morning still sounded pretty dicey and while I was confident my vehicle could handle it, I didn’t want to risk having an idiot with summer tires and a summertime attitude plow into me when I was carrying my four best buddies. So instead, I left the dogs at home and decided to run some errands locally, stocking up for the next blast of winter. My drive down the hill confirmed I had made the right decision. People with mush for brains (no doubt, frozen and thawed) were going above the speed limit and hitting the brakes ten feet before the intersection – then sliding right on through.
After four hours of shopping, banking, and stocking up on hay, alpaca feed and shavings (FOUR HOURS???? How can anyone shop for four hours and not buy a single Christmas present? For that matter, how can anyone shop for four hours and not leave this small community???), I arrive home exhausted, back aching, feet and hands cold.
The first thing I notice as I pull into the driveway is - NO SNOW! In my absence, my neighbour from two doors down has been over with his plow. Not only was the driveway clear, but so was the parking area and the stretch from the back door to the pasture gate. Bless him! There are no neighbours like country neighbours.
I unlock the back door and four dogs come bounding out. First is Oliver. Oliver is a hoot – he races to the corner of the barn, has a loooooong pee and then he races back to me, twirling in circles, racing around and around me in joyous abandon, jumping and bouncing like the energizer bunny. What a happy dog!
Next is Sadie. She does the silent bark – snapping her teeth together as she opens and closes her mouth, which as near as I can figure is her approximation of human conversation. She does this on two occasions – when I come home after more than a couple of hours away, and when she thinks it is dinner time and I am not making any movement towards the kitchen. I am positive she is talking to me.
Third out is Charley. She wags her tail, and trots off toward the pasture gate in anticipation of a walk. If I ignore her, she comes back and tries to herd me over to the gate with her body, her head nudging repeatedly at my hand or my knee, her whole body blocking mine if I try to head in any other direction. The joys of living with border collies…..
And last out the door is Belle. Belle always tries to be first out the door, but she gets bowled over by the other three. By the time she rights herself (barking all the while, of course) the others are long gone. And so she daintly steps outside with all the poise a bowled-over Princess can muster, and quietly, unobtrusively, tiptoes along the far side of the car to do her business before joining the rest of us at the pasture gate.
Meanwhile, the piggies have heard the vehicle and ventured into their yard on the off chance that I might be about to throw something tasty over the fence. When no goodies appear, they begin their squealing and squeaking and grunting and oinking, snouties up in the air, knowing I can’t resist those little faces and will make the dogs wait while I go into the the barn to set out their feed.
By the time I return to the pasture gate, Martin is hanging his head over the fence, peering around to see if I am about to bring him some fresh hay and some grain. I am – plus a bucket of warm water, and a half an apple finely sliced. As I put his feed in his bowl, he reaches his long neck over my shoulder to make sure I do it just right – grains in the white bowl, apple pieces in the black bowl (he doesn’t like them mixed together), warm water in the pail, hay in the manger.
Finally the dogs and I head off down the field. Oliver thinks frozen poop will make a tasty appetizer before dinner; Sadie and Charley lie down flat on their bellies every ten paces whining “mommmmmmmm…there’s ice balls in our paws!!”, and Belle turns around after 20 paces to head back to the house. She would like a warm sweater for Christmas to keep her scrawny little body from feeling chilled in weather like this.
Feeding, fresh air, and foolishness finished, we all head back indoors just as the Christmas lights in the yard come on and cast their multi colours across the snow. Allie, the cat, has heard the canine commotion and comes running, checking that I have remembered to pick up the one and only treat she thinks is worthy of her attention – Temptations. I toss her a couple, and give each of the dogs their daily treat from their doggy advent calendar, before kicking off my boots and finding my warm slippers.
There’s time for a glass of single malt Scotch and a quick read before unpacking the groceries and preparing dinner.
Coming home is.....coming home. And when you have four furry canines, a feline, twelve pigs and an alpaca, coming home is a celebration. They are family. And home is, quite simply, the best place on earth.