Our little ‘Stick has made himself right at home since returning to us yesterday morning. He’s chipper and obviously grateful to be back with his tribe in familiar surroundings. And we’re beyond thrilled to have him and his arsenal of antics in the mix once again.

This should be obvious, but I’ll just say it plainly — by the time Dipstick went under the knife on Wednesday, he was knocking on death’s door. The skill of a young veterinary surgeon and the care administered by her staff saved his life. Our gratitude is immeasurable.

I like to think he knows it, too. It sure looks that way to me.

All of us had a quiet and restful night. ‘Stick slept next to Scout on the floor at the foot of our bed and didn’t fuss about having to wear The Cone of Shame. When we can watch him we’ve been giving him brief reprieves from the device, and he seems to appreciate that.

With little to do yesterday other than stand watch over our recuperating pup, I got to thinking about how we’ve spent our time and energy since we rolled out of Arkansas nine weeks ago today. We claimed our “prize” in Glacier, sure, but we’ve covered a lot of ground on both sides of that moment.

It turns out that we devoted 30 days to Montana. By my calculations, between the motorhome and the Jeep we logged over 2,000 miles there. Those numbers gratified me.

When we cross the state line into Iowa next week we’ll have spent 37 days in South Dakota, 20 of those during our westbound leg and an additional four eastbound to deal with Dipstick’s condition. It looks like our mileage in this wonderful state will total something like 1,700, maybe a little more.

For the record — parts of four days in Nebraska, Iowa and Wyoming, five in Missouri.

The conclusion I draw from that mental exercise is that we did this right.

Past the analysis, however, lies the experience. Numbers might tell me that our average daily mileage was pretty low, but that also reflects our penchant for lingering in spots and immersing in local culture. Odometers don’t click at all while we watch a sunset or attend a street fair, and they don’t turn very fast when we’re guiding Mercy up a dirt road or meandering through farmland.

Our life out here is the life we’ve chosen. And we chose wisely, I believe, making memories that’ll last as long as we breathe.

What I don’t need numbers to tell me is that I’ve been changed by this endeavor. At my core, fundamentally, I’m still the same guy — my principles and my values are unaltered. But moment after unforgettable moment, shared with The Great Love of My Life, I’ve been transformed.

My American Life has been made richer, better and more complete by the experience. As Pirsig wrote, “You can sort of tell these things.”

Take care of yourselves, Patriots. Stay calm. Stay sharp. Stay free.

#WiseUp #LibertyOrDeath