Sickness has come into our house.

At first it was a small affair: The dog’s recurrent demodectic mange. A small infected patch. And then the patch began to swallow her and she was overrun with sores and scabs.  Our house smelled of decay and desperation. Then the dread set in.

But our girl fights her sinister infection. She takes her pills in great fistfuls of yogurt. She bears her cone, her frequent medicated front-yard baths, the couch embargo, weekly shots—without complaint. Her vet has given up the scary bad news voice. We’re spared.

Dread, however, is my frequent visitor.

I’m told this is a normal stage of grief, the worry. I fear every monster lurking in the shadows: infections, fast-moving vehicles, myself. Most mornings I must remind the latter that nothing terrible has happened yet that day. That nothing will. That I, and B, and those we love are well enough—and Magnolia gets better steadily, not worse. But it is exhausting, both for me and for the pair of them who catch me staring, welling up. My vigilance, I realize, will not prevent calamity. Everything and nothing lurks around the corner, just beyond the jurisdiction of my stress.

Still, we have to bar her from the furniture. We have to wash our hands each time we touch her. She’s gone very nearly bald. And there are unexpected rashes, aches, and agues of the human kind. My vigilance abides.

The good news is that fall has fallen. There are naked trees among the russets and the pines. Our backyard jungle thins. (The world outside is, also, very nearly bald.) I didn’t quite believe that it would happen, but it has: the winter chill. Mornings, our little cottage smells of porridge, cold, and brittle leaves. Evenings, we light our gas-log fire. We have a lot of hearth and home, and hope fends off the rest.


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