Marty’s photo of the day #4613: My Christmas weekend so far: Deb (wife), Nellie (dog), and I live on a private gravel road in the mountains of Montana. We have three neighbors above us, and the climb to our houses on that road is steep and often icy in the winter. Our two newest neighbors are originally from a nearby Mormon polygamist community. To the best of my knowledge, the neighbors aren’t polygamist, but because of the social culture of the community, the traffic on our tiny road has increased at least 15 times over what it was before they moved here. I’m kind of used to the extra traffic now, but it still doesn’t seem fair that when the neighbors use the road 15+ times to every time Deb and I use it that all the labor required to maintain our road should remain equal.

My son and his family were coming to spend yesterday (Christmas Eve day) at our house, so my preparation started early Saturday morning. I had held out on hand-sanding the road, hoping one of the neighbors would take the initiative, but there is a reason why Deb and I drive all-wheel drive vehicles with studded tires. So on Saturday morning, I spread 40 big buckets of sand (well over a ton in total weight) on our hill in preparation for Christmas.

Then on Saturday, Nellie (who is recovering from TPLO “Doggie Tommy John” surgery on her left-rear leg) started peeing more than once on our leash walks. I had trouble falling asleep Saturday night, so at about 12:30 a.m. I took a sleeping pill. But before I could fall asleep, Nellie got me up—anxious for a walk in the woods—and she tried to pee every few steps. We went back to bed, but it was obvious that she wasn’t going to get better, and we were all going to be awake all night listening to her heavy panting. So at 1:30 a.m., I got up and drove Nellie to the emergency veterinarian clinic, which is located an hour north of us, in Missoula.

Because of the sleeping pill, I drove for about ten minutes and realized “this isn’t good,” so I pulled over and took a caffeine pill. That got me to Missoula okay. Well that, and realizing that I was driving the highway just after the Saturday night bars closed and had to assume everyone heading toward me was rip-snortin’ drunk.

I knew that Nellie had a bladder infection, because I took her to the same expensive emergency vet last winter for the same thing. Yeah, Nellie and I had a long conversation about her choice of weekends to get sick, when all the veterinarians in the Bitterroot Valley are closed. But the poor dog had to go through the miserable process of having a needle stuck into her bladder for a sanitary urine sample, so obviously it was worse for her than it was for me.

Nellie and I finally got home from the emergency vet at 5:30 in the morning. But, of course, neither of us could fall asleep. Nellie’s drugs had yet to begin working, and I was still wound up from all the caffeine and driving.

My son and his family showed up late in the morning. We had a nice Christmas, and by the time they left, there was no way I was going to fall asleep. So Deb, Nellie, and I watched a movie and ended up going to bed at about 10:00 p.m. Then, of course, I was “too tired” to fall asleep right away, but finally did so at about 11:00 p.m.

In all, I was awake for 40+ hours. And then, of course, when I woke up this morning, I could barely move as a result of spreading 40 big buckets of sand on the road when this all started.

The good news is that Nellie’s drugs took effect quickly, and since she was awake almost as long as I was, she slept between Deb and me last night and didn’t move. Now she’s back to normal. As for me, a very hot shower helped, and my back has loosened up enough that I can now touch my toes again. I will keep a heating pad on my back today as I finish yet another draft of my latest novel, “Barry and Beth.”

“Barry and Beth” is my eighth and most mainstream book yet (it’s about an elderly couple that goes on a hilarious crime spree), and I’m so excited that as of this afternoon it will finally be polished enough for Deb (who helped me come up with the plot over drinks on a hot summer night) to read it and give me feedback. Then the book will go through another three-to-five drafts before going out to the literary agents and publishing companies.

Today’s photo shows Nellie with another stick to add to her stick library (sticks she saves for us to play with when her leg is totally healed). Between the two bladder-infection trips to the emergency vet and her TPLO surgery, Nellie’s recent medical costs have exceeded $4,000.00, but she’s worth every last penny! I am fortunate to have such a great dog and amazing wife, so really, the above complaints are just minor bumps in life that become stories to tell.

Merry Whatever-It-Is you celebrate this time of year!