For nearly a week, my wife, Susan, and I have vacationed in the pastoral shadow of Mount Hood, 42 miles south east of Portland. We’ve enjoyed the best of Oregon’s urban and rural worlds including the Pittock Mansion, the falls along the Columbia River gorge and the Timberline Lodge.
Breath-taking scenes to say the least, though we’ve been unable to fully absorb their grandeur. Something – or someone – has been missing: our baby girl, Lilly, the Boston terrier.
How ironic to have spent all this time as a fragmented family in one of the most dog-friendly regions of the country (though the $300 fine and threat of immediate expulsion from the time share where we are staying were formidable deterrents from smuggling Lilly in).
We’ve been separated from our girl but a few times since we adopted her two years ago. Of course, Lilly is in the completely capable, loving hands of her Uncle Alan who has faithfully provided text and photo updates daily. She “shakes” a bit when he takes her to work in the car, though she’s otherwise “just fine.” My wife and I are the neurotic ones in this family!
True, Lilly is happiest when were all together. Apparently, she’s not the only one.
Lilly completes our family in ways we are just beginning to understand. She slathers us with acceptance after a workday rife with second-guessing. She bounces like a buoy, tipping the scales in favor of a brisk walk over couch-hunkering. Out on the sidewalk, she is the shaman of scents, prompting us to pay more attention to our environs.
But there’s more.
For weeks before we departed for Oregon, Susan and I have been less-than-our best, physically. Somehow, this was bearable with Lilly in our midst. Because of her, we were confident enough in the trajectory of our improving health to make the trip. Sine we left, however, nagging symptoms remained (some getting worse). Science has shown a definitive connection between good health and the presence of pets in the home. I’m convinced that my wife and I will rebound – possibly free from pharmaceuticals – once Lilly does her welcome-back dance featuring several near-complete hand-stands.
In the meantime, Susan and I have cultivated extra patience with each other, a process made easier by having nurtured and trained Lilly during those tender months after she was rejected by her first human family.
Beholding all these wonders of the Northwest in the absence of Lilly is, I imagine, analogous to having attained my graduate degree in communication disorders and sciences, changing my career, landing my first art exhibit, writing a memoir and starting this website had my wife not been there to share those experiences. Wonderful accomplishments, yes – but somehow diminished by solitude.
Later tomorrow, the door of Uncle Alan’s SUV will fling open as he picks us up from Burbank Airport and our baby girl will fling herself into our arms, licking and “singing” as if there was no tomorrow. Susan and I have resolved that we will take at least ONE extended pet-friendly vacation per year from now on.
Anticipating the bath of Lilly’s unconditional love, I reconnect with gratitude for the family that I have. Barring aeronautic mishap, we WILL be reunited with our fur-baby tomorrow evening. Across this country, however, there are countless pet-loving families torn asunder by disease, “destiny” or despicable local “laws” preying on breed prejudice and often executed on the “testimony” of a neighborhood rival. For many of these families, “missing” may be an affliction without end.
Sometimes, a vacation means “getting away.” For Susan and me, this Oregon vacation has meant returning to everything that matters most.