If normal is defined by the company you keep, then I'm in serious trouble. I share my home with two giant dogs, a calico cat, and a free-roaming sulcata tortoise named Socrates, or So-Crates if you are a fan of Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. Socrates currently sports a bright orange feeding tube, a result of surgery to remove an obstruction from his cloaca (look it up on your smart phone) that cost me a quarter of my annual income. Outside, there are four barn cats, two mini horses, eight full size horses, and an ornery goat named Shadow. There is one lonely rooster, who used to be king of his flock until a fox came through and all of the hens mysterious disappeared. The fox's defense? They tasted, well, like chicken.
I live in an equestrian community, so my neighbors see nothing strange about my living arrangements. Most of my time is spent with horse people, whom I suspect are just as crazy as I am, but in various stages of denial. If you are lucky enough to have money, you can use the term eccentric, but I'm not in that tax bracket.
I'm thinking about all of this as I sit in the lobby of an upcale animal clinic located at least twenty-five miles from the nearest barn. It's not easy to find a veterinary surgeon board-certified in exotics, even in a circus town like Sarasota. Socrates, wrapped in a bright blue beach towel, is perched on my lap. He is staring intently at a large flat screen tv mounted on the wall in front of us. It's tuned to an episode of HGTV. We are here for his post-op appointment.
To, my left, trying hard not to look at me, is an immaculately dressed woman carrying a small fluffy dog in a designer handbag that perfectly matches her outfit. I suspect that is not a coincidence. She smells clean and fresh and floral. Her hair is styled, her make-up perfect, and her nails are recently manicured. I'm guessing she owns an iron. I don't own an iron. If I did, it would be in use as a door stop.
By contrast, I smell like sunscreen, sweat, and fly spray. I can't remember if I've brushed my hair today. As always, it's pulled back into a messy ponytail which combines my sun-bleached tresses with several random strands of hay. My make-up, consists of eye-liner, lipstick, and mascara, which even on a good day is far from perfect. I suspect on this day, it leaves much to be desired. My hands are colored green and purple from Koppertox and gentian violet. I don't have any nails to manicure.
I am not immaculate, still by my standards, I'd consider myself relatively clean. I'm dressed in a previously white t-shirt promoting an equine transport company. There are carrot slobber stains on one shoulder and unidentified stains in front. The pockets of my riding pants bulge with horse treats. I have on two different size shoes, a result of being stepped on not once but twice by a 1200 lb gelding which left me with a couple of broken toes. The swelling has already gone down dramatically, so I'm hoping this is just a temporary wardrobe malfunction.
"Ms. Abbattista?" The receptionist steps out from behind her desk and motions for me to follow her. I stand, lift up Socrates, and catch the eye of the lady to my left.
"I have horses," I say in explanation for my attire.
She smiles, and nods knowingly.
By horse standards, I'm perfectly ok.