Nine days (count 'em -- NINE) whole days of just hubby and me doing what we wanted, when we wanted with no real agenda other than to hike the trails of Great Smoky Mountain National Park. No extended family with us. No human kids. No canines. No one else's itinerary.
Just Don and I. Wow. Way cool.
(Yes, I took this picture from the top of Clingman's Dome, the highest point in the national park.)
It's difficult to capture in words just how beautiful and majestic the Smokies are. All I can say is that you folks who live in Tennessee and North Caroline are truly blessed to have this national treasure at your doorsteps. Enjoy it!
This is the first time we've left all four dogs in a kennel at one time, and the first time we've ever left any of the them for this long.
The canine kiddos did fine while we were away. But BOY were they happy to see us. Even Ridge (who normally loves the kennel), was super affectionate when we got home.
They were so excited, I had to transport them only two at a time (couldn't handle all four dogs all wound up in the car at one time -- not safe for any of us).
Poor Ridge, who the kennel owners raved about the last time we left him there for two days eight months ago, was apparently really nervous for the first four or five days we were away (they told us he had diarrhea, wouldn't eat, and paced all the time). The kennel folks finally got him calmed down and he was fine for the rest of his stay.
But he seemed like a little lost soul when they brought him out to me.
And he's the one who's been most secure going to the kennel for a weekend (which we've only done once or twice a year since we've had him).
Usually the dogs go with us when we go away for a weekend (to the lake, mostly), or one of the human kids hangs here with them. They aren't apart from us much or for very long, nor we from them.
But this was out 25th anniversary, and we really wanted a vacation: a real vacation with no daily responsibilities.
We missed them, believe it or not. All of them (canine kids and human kids alike). I didn't think we would. But what I learned is that Don and I can truly celebrate being "us" and still miss our other loved ones. They are a part of "us" now, too.
It's so nice, now, to sit by the fire of our family room with Baxter or Elsie snuggled in our laps and Kenya or Ridge nestled at our feet. We enjoyed the wood-burning fireplace in our Smoky Mountain suite, but it wasn't the same. The canines complete the experience somehow, bringing a warmth and security all their own.
And it's sweet to eat lunch at the kitchen table with our four four-legged critters nearby.
Yes, we had a delightful time away; it's the best vacation I've ever had.
But it's good to be home.
'Til next time,