I’m not talking about the kids, either, though you might have assumed I wasn’t from the title. I’m talking about the animal diaspora that has gone along with my and my other half’s simultaneous tours in Iraq.

I miss my pets. I miss Lilly (the hundred plus pound lab/lap dog) and the way she absolutely destroys everything in the back yard. I miss my crazy ass cat Cookie who manages to sit on my lap despite the laptop. I miss Ms. Megan, our first puppy who hid under the couch and is the reason we had to get Robbie and then after he died, Lilly.

Ms. Megan has anxiety issues. When she was a puppy, she hated being alone. The neighbors said she would howl all day long until we got home. We ended up getting her her own puppy and she was perfectly happy afterwards. When Robbie was cruelly murdered (yes, he was actually murdered by some sick bastard who fed him antifreeze laced meat), Ms Megan went crazy once more. Six months out from deploying to Iraq, we started searching for another dog. It was either that or put her on anxiety meds. We opted for another dog.

Lilly fit in instantly, though we suspected she might have been part Greyhound because she was so skinny. Anyone who’s ever had a lab knows that didn’t last long. By the time we’d left her at my in law’s house, she was pushing ninety pounds. Thanks to my inlaws spoiling, the damn dog has topped 105 and growing.

And I’m grateful. I’m grateful that my husband’s parents took in our two dogs once again for over a year and treated them like their own (but seriously, the dogs are getting their feelings hurt: they are not sleeping on my furniture!). I’m grateful that my brother in law took two cats into his home and kept them well fed and happy (though Cookie is a little upset at the lack of hard liquor but that’s another post for another time).

I’m also glad that my mom got another dog this year because the thing my kids missed the most about going to Grammy’s (other than Mommy and Daddy of course) was all their pets. My kids have grown up in a zoo. Having a dog that’s taller than your head has probably impacted them but mostly in a good way. My kids love their animals and are really looking forward to rounding everyone up and driving home.

Over here in Iraq, there are no unit mascots (at least not on our base). I got in trouble for leaving milk out that a stray cat (who was incidentally incredibly friendly) happened to drink because we’re not supposed to feed the vectors. Strays are called vectors because they’re not vaccinated and can carry a whole slew of diseased harmful to soldiers.

Despite living out of a duffle bag and having to walk to the showers, the thing I missed was having a cat sleeping on my head, licking the pillow and purring in my ear. I miss the sound of claws on the wood floor. I don’t miss the rabbit sized hairballs but I’ll live. I miss the constant sense of well being, surrounded by my animals and my kids. The noise and clutter that makes a house a home or in my case a zoo. So as we get ready to get out of here, it’s not just a home I’m heading back to. I’m going back to life as usual, with the hassle, the noise and the absolute adoration of the household pets.

I’ll be busy, but I can’t wait.