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  • Writer's pictureDiane L. Dunton

Family Comes in All Shapes and Sizes

Leila by DL Dunton Photography

Our beloved family member, Leila

Travelling for work not long ago, I enjoyed driving through numerous small towns in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. A quaint reflection on rural America, I found some of these towns’ main streets bustling with activity while others held mostly empty storefronts. Town boundary signs with descriptive slogans stood out as I passed from one town to the next. One in particular caught my eye. As I approached Groton, Vermont, I read: Welcome to Groton, where a small town is like a large family. Continuing my drive, I thought about this.

The mills and manufacturing that once helped New England’s cities and towns thrive have long been shuttered or relocated, leaving many of our young people with little recourse other than to seek employment outside the area. With so many families being separated geographically, today families are being formed in other ways and they don’t always include human-only members. How do we define family? What is family today? Who is part of our family?

My own family is a big one with five siblings, 15 nieces and nephews plus spouses, and 18 (I think) grandnieces and grandnephews. Even though most of us are in Maine, we all have busy lives and are not able to see one another very often. My own home has shrunk to my husband, our two precious dogs and me. One of my two daughters, my son-in-law and grandson live close by and for that I am grateful.

Three months ago we had to say goodbye to the eldest of our two dogs. The decision to let 14 ½ year-old Leila go was agonizing, but she was in so much pain that we knew it was the right decision to make. To me and my husband, our furry friends are beloved family members. We love them and they love us unconditionally. We take them with us wherever we go when possible. As the Town of Groton’s slogan asserts, we may be small but we are family just the same. Though we miss Leila, we are grateful for the many gifts she gave us over the years. Now she is over that rainbow bridge so many animal lovers imagine, and she’s playing like a puppy.


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