“Finally!” Hattie, my 14-year-old human sister, said as she levered her stiff body out of the van. The rest of the family, both two- and four-legged, echoed her sentiment.
After all the humans had extricated themselves from the van, Hattie, Pinky, and Joey released Rex, Kotty, and me from our crates. We all stood there for a few minutes taking in the Tahoe forest and the lake glittering in the distance—ah such freedom!
“George, I love this place, but I just wish it was closer.” Mom paused before continuing. “But just smell that air. Look at that sky and the forest. This is truly a sensual feast.” Taking a deep breath, she raised her arms to the sky and stretched. “You know what I am thankful for? It is this pristine place, where we can celebrate Thanksgiving in our very own cabin.”
“We are blessed.” Dad smiled as he opened up the back of the van. “But hey, troops! The van is not going to empty itself. Everyone, let’s get this done in record time. Joey, you take Marcy for a little walk, then join us.”
“Yes, sir!” Mom said, saluting, and we all scattered.
Joey (a truly excellent boy of nine years who actually understands what I say) and I headed toward the forest surrounding the house. One of my favorite things about Tahoe is exploring the territorial markings of the forest animals. I could barely get in any distance, my nose was so busy, and I had to ration the supply of my own special scent. This was a cornucopia of odors, including raccoon, deer, coyote, rodents, and uh-oh!—the familiar stench of bear.
“Marcy! Watch where you’re going! You almost stepped in that pile of bear poop. I thought they were hibernating by now.”
“I did, too,” I murmured. “And that pile looks disturbingly fresh.”
“Wait until I tell everyone. Pinky will probably freak out,” Joey said delightedly.
Pinky, who is eleven, is our sister. She is devoted to Kotty. Need I say more?
Just then, Dad’s voice cut through the clear air. “Joey, get back here and help!” I could tell he had reached the stage where the tenth trip up the sixteen steps to the front deck—where he had to juggle whatever he was holding to open the gate—was beginning to wear on his nerves and muscles. The gate was kept closed to keep the wanted creatures in and the unwanted creatures out.
When we arrived back at the van, Joey slipped his hand through the loop of my leash, grabbed a bag, and followed Dad up the steps. Balancing a heavy bag on his hip, Dad unlatched the gate. As it swung open, the bottom of his bag gave way, and with a loud clatter, cans of cranberry sauce, pumpkin, olives, and other revolting human Thanksgiving necessities rolled frantically down the steps as if to escape their eventual consumption.
“George, are you okay? What was that awful noise?” Mom had appeared in the doorway of the house.
“What moron put all the canned goods in one bag?” Dad said crankily shaking the torn bag for emphasis.
“I’m the ‘moron,’ George, and I don’t think that’s a very good word for a teacher to use. Do you need help?”
“Oh,” Dad said in a small voice. “Well, Joey has the last bag.”
“I just thought it would be easier to put the canned items away if they were in one bag.” Mom’s eyes were mild with a hint of laughter. “You know, it sounded like a herd of stampeding deer.” And she looked at him in that special way. “Come on, I’ll help you pick the cans up.”
I looked up at Dad, and he had a goofy smile on his face. They were both oblivious to Joey and I, who were standing to one side on steps two and three, where we had taken refuge when the cans had started their downward descent.
“Dad, could you move? This bag is getting heavy?” Joey asked.
Later that evening, we all surrounded a fire crackling in the wood stove. I was on my Pendleton blanket, dozing. Joey was sprawled on the rug beside me. My feline siblings were sleeping in their preferred human’s laps. A row of empty cocoa cups sat on the table. There was a general feeling of peace and contentment.
“George, do you still want to deep-fry the turkey?” Mom asked.
“Sure do. I borrowed the turkey fryer from Sam, and I have his special recipe. I brought up three gallons of peanut oil. Deep-fried turkey takes a lot less time to cook, so we need to factor that in to our activities tomorrow.”
“That’s lovely—the schedule will be more flexible. Our annual Thanksgiving hike this year will be through the forest, down to the lake. Don’t forget, everybody: be sure to write down what you are thankful for on a paper leaf and put it on your plate so we can read them before our feast, which should be around three o’clock. We will probably need another walk after dinner,” Mom laughed softly, and everyone silently agreed.
Into this peaceful moment, Joey dropped his announcement. “Marcy and I saw bear scat in the forest behind the house.” Pausing, he added ominously, “And it was fresh.”
To be continued …