When I decided to quit my job and make my first cross-country trip, I could picture it perfectly: a mix of taking in beautiful mountain and water scenery, visiting monuments and museums, consuming unhealthy and fresh food alike, hiking through our national parks and walking through new cities. Transportation would be in my four-door sedan and accommodations in rented homes and motels. And right there, riding shotgun beside me, would be Reuban, my chocolate lab.
At less than a foot tall and under 25 pounds, Mr. Jackson might not seem like the powerhouse that he is in our family. His floppy ears and big brown eyes make him adorable, but it's the intelligence and sensitivity that are apparent through those eyes that have made him my constant, loyal and vital partner in caregiving for my parents over the past five years. As caregivers, we all need to build a caregiving team - no one can do this alone. But I couldn't have predicted the crucial role this four-legged team member would play. I can't imagine my caregiving journey without him.
Just like the rest of us, the magnificent thoroughbreds that will be running in the Kentucky Derby eventually will grow old. But unlike us, racehorses don't have Social Security, Medicare and 401(k) plans to rely on in their retirement years, and they don't have control over their own fate.
There is a place beyond imagination and beyond the rattle of the inner city, beyond the housing tracts of suburbia and even beyond the relatively distant semi-wilderness in areas around Los Angeles known informally as exurbia. We call that settlement of heavenly dreams Nowherebia.
As a kid growing up in Indianapolis, nothing excited me more than the thought of piling into the family station wagon for a trip to the big city: Chicago. Our favorite destination in the Windy City, hands down, was the Lincoln Park Zoo. There I would gaze in absolute wonderment at Bushman, the world-famous, fierce-visaged gorilla, who stood 6 foot 2 and weighed in at 550 pounds.
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