It was a brave thing to do: renting our house out for a year. We’d heard horror stories from friends about nightmare renters, including one who somehow managed to sell the house out from under the owner. But we lucked out with good renters. The house required a lot of cleaning (handled by the property manager and covered by the deposit), but the place and our things were in good shape.
It took a while before the house felt like ours. It smelled different, and none of our things were in it. But we got help from our son and some friends, moving furniture up from the bedroom we’d used from storage, and after several days of unpacking, it started feeling right again. That first night back in our own bed was heavenly.
Gypsy had only been in a house a couple of times, and almost never went outside without a leash. The first time we brought her inside, she skulked around the edges of the living room like the very expanse of space was a threat. And when we let her outside, she made a beeline for the RV and pawed at Bessie’s door. But within hours, she was bravely exploring the endless possibilities within this new castle of a home. She examined each piece of furniture we moved, each box we unpacked, every comfy resting place, and laid claim to it all.
We kept Gypsy inside for the first few days, only letting her out on the deck or in the backyard when we were there to keep an eye on her. Once she seemed to understand the boundaries of her domain, we left sliding doors open, and she is still basking in her good fortune. To run across a yard without the tug of a leash, to scurry freely up a tree, to loll about in the shade of bushes, no longer tethered… this is the life a cat was meant to have. Last week, a neighbor watched Gypsy’s first encounter with a flock of wild turkeys. She lay flattened on the sidewalk as they strutted right by her, then in a rush of courage she chased two of them up onto our roof. We’re dreading her first kill, but she seems destined to be a huntress.
Two and a half weeks in, Gypsy could not be happier. She goes in and out the dog door at will but sticks close to home and comes running when I stand out on the deck and whistle. (She still kind of thinks she’s a dog.) She’s confident and relaxed and has stopped her psycho surprise attacks on us. In fact, she’s sweeter than ever. (But we still watch for that tell-tale tail switch.)
For Bailey, this has been one exciting reunion after another. The first day, she raced joyfully around her old house and yard, sniffing out renter dog smells and replacing them with her own. Each familiar person who drops by sends her into whiney ecstasy. She even remembers the mailman. When her best friend Bella came to visit, they raced like puppies around the house with big toothy smiles. And on walks, she pulls me to her favorite places, including the bank where she gets biscuits.
Bailey did great as a road dog. She eagerly checked out new places, loved getting to hike and run on beaches, and lay patiently on her bed whenever we drove. I think she liked the traveling life as much as we did. But, like us, once she got home, she remembered just how much she loved it.
Poor Bailey had to have surgery last week. She’d had three large cysts on her back for a couple of years, but just before we got home one got infected and opened up. After two rounds of antibiotics, our vet recommended removal of all three. She now looks like Frankendog, with a reverse Mohawk showcasing three giant stitched incisions. But hair grows, and she’s doing fine.
We have the best neighbors. Within hours of our arrival we were welcomed by two cute little munchkins who had grown almost beyond recognition. And our next door neighbor came over with fresh eggs from her suburban flock. Our friends Kathleen and Madison hurried down as soon as they saw us. One neighbor raced across the street to hug me as I was carrying in groceries. She’d followed the blog religiously and said she felt she really knew me now.
Whenever we were outside or walked the dog, more neighbors welcomed us home and asked about our trip. On July 4th, neighbors gathered in the cul-de-sac in front of Kathleen’s house and shot off fireworks while half a dozen little kids ran in frenzied circles. A younger generation has infused this block with energy in the last several years and although I’m still adjusting to being considered one of the elders, it’s made this neighborhood even greater.
Waking Up Annie
One of those great neighbors had housed my classic green Chevy pickup in her carport for the last 15 months. Like my Saab, Annie was reluctant to be roused. But after an hour of messing with jumper cables and pouring gas into the carburetor, she finally roared to life. We got a few days use out of her before I almost couldn’t stop at a stoplight. She’s in Joe’s Garage now, getting a bunch of work done. I can’t remember exactly what, because this is how my brain processes mechanic-talk: “Blah, blah, leaking fluid, blah, blah valve replacement, blah, blah, rotors, blah, blah, oil change, blah, blah $750.” Fortunately, I totally trust my mechanic of 20 years.
We got back into our house just in time to attend our friends baby’s birth. Kate was the “doula.” I was the photographer. There had been some concerns earlier about the baby’s size and the health of the placenta, so labor was induced a week early on the 20th. But the baby was great, mom was a champ, and everything went without a hitch. We were honored to be a part of this special event and so glad we were able to be there.