04/12/2012 12:54 pm ET Updated Jun 12, 2012

Home to the Animals

It is good to be home. Two completely amazing weeks in Tanzania but away from our dogs and cats -- even when surrounded by elephants and lions -- is a long time to be gone. Two of our three cats (Tsimmes and Ms. Stinky Louise) greeted us at the front door in their own sweet, silly and most un-lion-like fashion: one moment rolling on backs and the next rubbing up against our legs and suitcases. It was really quite fascinating to watch them approach those bags and our pant legs, ripe with smells they had never imagined. We found Isabelle a moment later, asleep on the bed (no surprise), responsive in her quiet way. This is our "she's not a brain surgeon" cat, and from her perspective, it's quite possible that our absence was no longer than a drive to the grocery store. From our point of view, however, it's been a long time since we had cat hugs.

Picking up the dogs was, as expected, loud and exuberant. Our big hairball Archie burst with excitement, looking and making sounds like Chewbacca the Wookie in the Star Wars films. His over-the-top explosion paled in comparison to Frida's greeting. She's our beagle-collie mix (our "bialy"), a bundle of enthusiasm. She's the sort of dog who greets you after a shower as if she feared you'd never see each other again, so this was quite a performance: Leaping, barking, leaping again, twirling and then full belly rubs and giant hugs and kisses all around, moaning with delight, and then back to the whole leap and bark routine again and again. Back in the embrace of them all. Yes, it's good to be home.

Home. Our first walk with the dogs around the neighborhood. No elephants, but a flock of cedar waxwings noisily perched on the bare branches, the orchids in our backyard in full flower and the male house finches obviously gearing up for their Spring courtship dances. This world is a beautiful place, made so by the animals.