Another holiday meal prepared without incident. It wasn’t easy. It never is. For some reason, when I cook, both of our dogs plant themselves in the kitchen. I am not that messy when I cook. Oh sure, a few crumbs hit the floor, but these dogs are well fed. I worry that I might spill something hot on one of them or perhaps trip over them injuring both of us.

Gracie, our Boston terrier, enjoys being between me and the counter or the stove. Often she is stretched across the toes of my shoes. If I am wearing my slippers and go to step away, my feet leave, but my slippers stay.

Holly, our mixed breed “red dog,” plops herself down right in the middle of the floor. Our kitchen is not large. Whenever I move from stove to sink to refrigerator, I have to step over Holly. She is blind in one eye and nearly deaf. Rather than inconvenience her, I inconvenience myself by managing.

Holiday meals are a big deal to me. I like to carry on the traditions that have been in my family for generations, using many of the same recipes my mother used. It is one of the ways I keep my mother’s memory alive. For Easter, I cooked around the dogs for two days. After maneuvering around the pups for several hours, they annoyed me. I was tempted to shut them out of the kitchen. Reaching over Gracie to stir the pots on the stove and avoiding Holly’s sprawled out posture, asking one of them to move every time I needed to open a cupboard door irked me. I had so many things to accomplish in so little time.

Then I remembered – Gracie and Holly are companion dogs. We expect nothing more from them than companionship.

Just four months ago, at Christmas, my husband, Doug, was so sick and debilitated from Dandy-Walker syndrome, I felt certain we would never spend another holiday together in our home. It was the worst holiday of my life. In February, he underwent brain surgery and has made a miraculous comeback. I have hope for his recovery and our life together for the first time in over a year.

How many days and nights in the past year have Holly and Gracie sat at my feet and let me weep when there was no one else around to whom I could pour out my soul? How many hours has Gracie lain on the blanket under my desk while I have committed my thoughts to paper? How much time has Holly spent sprawled on the floor half-way between my office and the bedroom where Doug is sleeping, so she can keep her one good eye on both of us?

Doug was in the hospital for three weeks. During his hospitalization Holly and Gracie waited home for me. What a comfort it was to come home every night after being gone 10 to 12 hours and find them here. To know, when I finally lay my exhausted body down for the night, Gracie would be curled up, snoring by my side and Holly on the floor next to the bed. Unlike many of the people in my life who ran from the unknown of my husband’s condition, Holly and Gracie were reliable and dependable sources of comfort.

We rescued Holly nearly 13 years ago. She did like many rescued dogs — showed her gratitude with unwavering loyalty, unquestioning commitment and unconditional love. Supposedly, she is Doug’s dog and Gracie is mine. But you know what? They are both welcome in my kitchen. I’ll just keep working around them.


Karen R. Hessen is a retired mail carrier who lives in Seaside and Forest Grove. She may be reached at karenwrites@frontier.com. To have your own animal tales considered for publication in “Out of the Ark,” contact Karen at the email address above.

 

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