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I am  preparing for Thanksgiving today…cooking, collecting fine china bowls, making sure there’s enough filtered water, clearing space for company and plumping up the sofa cushions. And that’s just for the four-legged guests. This year, there will be one dog for every half a person. Seven people, four dogs. I have a horrible feeling it will feel like seven dogs and four people.

Although this will be the first Thanksgiving without Poochie, we have rounded up enough canine guests to more than fill the void (not in my heart, but you work with what you’ve got).

As I preside at my table wearing my felt turkey bonnet with red wattles and bright yellow dangling legs, our festive meal may look more like the Barnyard Capers than Pilgrim’s Progress. We’ll have Elvis, The Coonhound, with big, bulgy alligator eyes and snout grazing the table as he wills his crippled legs to keep him propped up to catch any foodstuffs that might accidentally fall his way. Mr. Pants, Crazy D’s new puppy, will be bouncing and yipping as only a puppy can. The Pig, L’il Sis’s beagle and Top Bitch (by her own estimation), will be sulking as she reclines on the silk pillows of the couch, visibly disdainful of the proceedings and the attention the other dogs are receiving. Jewel, the perfectly trained, Best Houseguest Ever, will stand demurely (or as demurely as a huge hound almost as tall as I am CAN stand) and respectfully off to the side. She is poise itself, hopeful for treats but never stooping so low as to beg or push herself on the other guests.

We strive for diversity at our table — in the human guests as well as the canines. But our version of diversity is a bit different. We differentiate not by colour, ethnicity or religion, but by eating habits. We welcome meat eaters, vegans, vegetarians, gluten intolerant, dairy intolerant, guests with mysterious rashes, guests with food-induced migraines, guests with sugar rage and if Gill were here, someone suffering from Crohn’s disease. I’d love to invite our Jewish friend, but I’m afraid Kosher cooking would be my final undoing.

As you might deduce, our table overfloweth with many, many different options. There will be three versions of stuffing: one in the turkey made with regular bread and butter, one made with regular bread and butter and cooked outside of the turkey, another with gluten-free bread and a special vegan margarine that is found at a select number of stores in this city. One needs a trail of breadcrumbs– preferably non-gluten– to find it. But no sacrifice, no effort is too great.

No Thanksgiving meal is complete without the guest of honour, the turkey itself. This is the one time of the year when I break the budget (well, except when I see a great pair of shoes) by ordering a fresh, organic, free-range, spa-pampered bird. I think it makes a statement that this bird, who lived a better life than I, is the one to end up on a platter. Some of us are just stronger…and tougher. And I pay a lot to make sure this bird is not tough. The turkey is so expensive I have threatened that I will have it delivered in a chauffeur-driven car…but since Gill won’t be here to see it, it’s not quite as much fun to make a big show of it.

Since the vegans will spurn the bird, I must come up with a splashy main course for them. Enter ‘The Loaf’, a cashew-pumpkin-carrot loaf that has been my saviour for years. It looks festive when baked in a bundt-like pan and filled with a spicy cranberry-orange-apple-ginger curry sauce. But for those who would eschew the sauce, we have two other kinds of cranberry relish. These are both plainly labelled with ‘Danger–Sugar Overdose’ signs.

Vegetables are plain — no butter on the beans, no milk or butter in the potatoes. Until they reached the age of majority, my kids thought ‘mashed potatoes’ were dry, riced spud nuggets in a bowl. When Gill came home from a friend’s house raving about her mom’s creamy, garlicky mashed potatoes, I was forced to ‘fess up. We still eat them plain, but at least now we have truth in advertising.

Dessert will include plain apple pie made with regular wheat flour and no sugar, apple crisp made with sugar, healthy flakes, non gluten flour and the precious margarine, and a sour cream-brown sugar topped apple pie. Oh, and there will be toppings: homemade whipped cream, edible oil product topping, goat’s milk ice cream, and for those able to throw all caution to the winds, aged cheddar cheese.

I know the dinner will be fun — fun that will quickly degenerate into chaos, with people and animals battling over the food. Then again, our guests don’t come here expecting Martha Stewart and Miss Manners to be hosting.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

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