It was Leaving Day.
The truck was packed, the house was checked once, twice and three times by this lady (and The Chief). We had gas in the truck, she was running again, our bags were packed and…
our dog was nowhere to be found.
We called for her and called for her.
At times, especially when she is grumpy, it can take a few minutes for her to show up. But this? This was different. The truck was running and time was running away with it. We were on a mission to make it to the DMV before it closed at 4pm and every minute more pushed us farther away from that possibility.
Country DMV vs. City DMV? You choose but for us a one room, one person run DMV in the middle of nowhere is highly preferable to a multi-room, multi-station, many grumpy person situation in Anchorage. We wanted desperately to make it in time.
Cinda, on the other hand, free to operate without license or registration, was not on the same agenda and was proving to us just how serious we were when we had stated: “we won’t leave without you”.
And we wouldn’t. Sure, she’d stayed behind in Alaska for short jaunts while in the care of her Uncle before but today, this trip, this time, that was not the plan.
Finally, after many hoots and hollers and phone calls to her Uncles we heard another neighbor yell:
“She’s over here!”
We took the path between houses and headed in our neighbor’s direction. Her Uncle yelled too:
“Just saw her run by!”
The little stinker was going for it.
Just as I met her Uncle on the path he said what I thought was a joke:
“Little lady’s probably rolling in moose or something.”
Ha! Yea, that would be just like her.
Just then, she came racing around the corner all Who, Me? looks in her eyes. She gave a me a quick “hello” and then started in the direction home. We yelled “thank you” to the neighbor and her Uncle walked back with us (her brother in tow) to our house to say “goodbye” for the next few months.
Cinda trotted ahead, leading the pack.
We said our goodbyes and finally loaded up. I jumped in and The Chief loaded Miss Lou onto the bench seat with me where she swiftly commandeered nearly the entirety of the seating. The Chief and I finagled some room and off we went.
What is that smell?
I looked down and my sweet little daughter of a dog had a sheen to her like I’d never quite seen. She looked up at me, proud and smiling as I put it all together.
Her Uncle’s comment? Not much of a joke.
It was the end of moose season and dogs had been finding little bits and pieces throughout the week to steal and bury and rub against.
But, this was more than that. My little angel seemed to have found the gut stash.
I relayed her stench to The Chief who was far enough away and out his window not to receive the bounty of her find.
“Oh yeah, I bet she found some guts to roll in.”
Ah, the woods. The sweet smell of Winter approaching and…guts all over my dog and now all my lap (since, in her conquest of space/her rare moments of slightly snuggling, she had her upper half and offending head in my lap).
I almost threw up.
Typically, I’m pretty good with disgusting smells (a trait that’s come in handy out in the woods) but this was a whole mess of gross.
“Well, hey, she’s gotta put on her perfume. We are going to Town.”
Suddenly, my disgust went away as I burst out laughing. I looked down at our proud pup and she looked at both of us as if to say “Yeah, right? I smell damn good.”
The giggles this gave me were such a relief. Sure, we still had a journey to go but now, we were out of the house, out of the snares of leaving. We had left and the giggles had opened the gate to a new path. Sure, the stress of wondering what it was we had forgotten to do still lingered (and still does) but something shifted.
We were on our way.
40 minutes later (and two hello/goodbyes with friends on The Road) and we arrived at our friends’ house where our plants would live. And then, after saying our goodbyes and hellos, we were off (again).
We had just enough time to make it to the DMV and make it we did to receive permanent registration (no smog!) for our vehicle. The day was looking up. All we had ahead of us was trash drop-off and making it to our hotel.
A few hours later, we made it to the trash drop. I backed in and jumped into the bed, handing The Chief the yuck, one bag at a time. Thankfully, we had the foresight to pack the truck accordingly (recycling first, trash second) so that the trash would be accessible and the truck wouldn’t need to be repacked.
Another thing checked off the list. The load was getting lighter along with our moods and the stench of Cinda was becoming slightly less (especially since I was driving and she was propped up on The Chief).
Until, the turns kicked in.
The road was getting windy and Miss Lou shifted positions. She turned around to face me. The stench thickened. She alternated between putting her chin on the Overdrive shifter or in my lap. I said a brief goodbye to my pants until I could wash them. I reeked. We reeked. But I was getting used to it. Occasionally, strong wafts would overcome me but it was less and less puke inducing.
Until, she puked.
The windy roads must have been getting to her because she looked up at me and then looked down at the floor and upchucked all over her fuzzy white paws. The smell was offensive, to say the least and for the first time that smelly day, I thought I might actually follow suit all over myself (I’m not a puker but my stomach started doing gymnastics).
I pulled over as swiftly as possible and we started the clean-up process while trying not to create more of a mess ourselves.
The rest of the four-hour drive was a constant alternation of puke smell, gut smell and giggles. Cinda looked only slightly less impressed with herself, perhaps rethinking moose guts as a treat before a long bumpy ride but certainly not as a perfume and The Chief and I thought up new jokes about Cinda and her new Town attitude.
We stopped at the last little look of nature for a walk before descending into the hustle and bustle just before sunset.
An hour later and finally, we had made it.
Anchorage, the Big City.
We settled in with a pizza (one of the first things people mention when they get excited for Town) and our books and eventually settled into sleep.
The next day was the day of errands.
We started early with a check-up for The Chief to see how his sinus surgery was holding up (very well) and then headed for recycling. The recycling in Alaska is like nothing I’ve ever seen (and I’m from California). My hours of separating were only partially triumphant. We arrived and realized that I hadn’t separated plastics. We left those for last and I held fast in the bed of the truck handing The Chief the otherwise organized bags of bottles and cans and aluminum. A girlfriend (also in Town) came to meet us to say “goodbye” and also marveled at the extreme organization of the place. Paper, cardboard, plastics 1s, 2s, 5s etc. and on and on and on. Finally, we found the Holy Grail of recycle town: a 1s and 2s bin! Our plastics were almost all 1s and 2s and so the process gained speed once again.
Another thing off the list!
Finally it was off to Cinda’s vet appointment to get her O.K. to fly. An hour and a few hundred dollars later and we were certified and ready. The day was coming to a close and so we met up with a neighbor in Town and headed to the movies (another major Town excitement).
The next day was a last-minute whirlwind of repacking the now empty (minus the barrels) truck, eating pancakes (oh, how’d that get in there) and…laundry. The Chief actually started the process while I went off for an appointment of my own (eyebrows, oh my!) and a few hours later, after folding and sorting that which we wanted to bring versus that which would stay the next two months in the truck waiting for us, and we were done. We made a few last minute purchases (like a new crate for the Lou and copies of the truck keys since having one was just asking for a lock-out) and then, the wait.
We were in the homestretch. Our flight was at midnight and we had a few hours left to let the pup run free before putting her on the plane. We headed to another friend’s house where another neighbor met us (we were all flying together) and it was a woods reunion filled with dinner and a family walk to the park. The perfect send-off. And then, just when on any other night we would have said our goodbyes and headed home, we said our goodbyes and instead started a whole new day.
Off to the airport.
We all crammed into the truck (even more of a squeeze with three people and a dog) and made our way to the car drop-off.
From there it was on. We pulled up and hurriedly unloaded two months of goods and gear for three people and a pup, rushed onto the shuttle and headed to the airport. We were in good time but the anxiety of travel started to set in. Cinda’s eyes widened as we stepped into the hustle and bustle of the airport.
30 minutes of checking her in and $110 (2 bottles of water to tape to her kennel and passage on the plane) later and we were forcing our Lou into the kennel. It is never a good feeling, shoving her in there while she splays out in every way possible to avoid it. Major puppy eyes looked out at us as we said our “see you soons”. This time we were leaving without her, but (we hoped) she would be following behind.
Finally, post-security and gate finding, we were all loaded up. Three kids from the woods and a ticket to show that Cinda had made it on too (which we could only hope was true).
Ah, the red-eye.
Hours later, after maybe 30 minutes collectively of quality sleep, we landed in L.A.
L.A.? Doesn’t make much sense to me either, but the only reasonable flights we could find to our part of Northern California went first down to L.A. and then back North to STS. An hour later, at 6am, after almost missing our flight, we walked the outside stairs into the plane. After a few stressful minutes we received Cinda’s proof of being on the plane and we were off.
No sleep and a few hours later and we were there. The Chief went to meet the friend picking us all up and our neighbor and I waited for luggage and Lou.
I thought she was going to lose her mind, yelping and hollering.
Thankfully, my bags had come off prior to her and thankfully I had packed my knife so we could undo the zip ties keeping her in her cage and set her free. We ran outside to see her Dad as our neighbor laughed and told us to “go ahead” as he handled all 8 pieces of luggage.
She was overjoyed, as were we. We had made it.
We loaded up the little truck meant for three people not four and a dog and drove Alaska style to our destination: breakfast.
Three days of traveling and it was finally time to settle (at least for a few days until we moved again to our house sitting spot).
We ate and enjoyed and marveled at the enormous strawberries on each of our plates that were merely there for garnish.
In Alaska you’d be lucky to get a sprig of parsley. Never a strawberry. In Alaska, strawberries are like gold nuggets. You don’t just throw them on a plate.
We had made it, to the land of plenty, to the bountiful land I’d grown up in.
Strawberries as garnish for breakfast.
It’s good to be back.