This was a good year. I’ll even go as far as to say it was a great one — that is, if happiness can be measured in milk, eggs, cheese and flans.

Yes, it’s been a wild, relentless ride through the ins and outs of backyard animal husbandry. Between that, the job, the writing and the kid’s puberty thing, my life is starting to resemble my credit cards at this time of year: Maxed out!

From pregnancy and kidding, to weaning and milking, the goat thing was special. The baby boys found homes and I surely do hope they didn’t end up in a stew, but I’m not checking to be sure (I’m pretty sure they didn’t). What’s even more surprising is that the cheese I’ve been aging is really starting to taste great lately. I think I have a knack for this!

On the chicken front, spring’s new batch of chicks turned out pretty and healthy. Too bad only two Ameraucana hens were left; after one got caught-by-dog, and the other two — the prettiest two — turned into roosters. My chicken cred even went up after I was asked to give a lecture on their welfare at Western U’s vet school and write for Chickens Magazine.

The dogs of 2010 put me through my paces, too. There was Ginger, who found her forever home after I sorted out her skin problems. She’s doing great –– all except for that cruciate ligament surgery she needed a couple of weeks ago. Then there was Pinky, who chased the chickens indefatigably. An Eveready Bunny, that one. She’s been homed, too.

Not so for Gaston, who through his kooky head trauma antics endeared himself not just to the people in my household but to the dogs too (a crucial point). His head is even coming around to straightforward normalcy. He’s a keeper.

Then there was Lazarus, the newest member and the least expected, in that he’s feline. Seeing as my son’s allergies and asthma were expected to preclude any such additions, it’s a bit surprising that Laz has made himself so comfy here.

Laz wears his collar well, prowls only immediately around the house, keeps far from the street, interacts positively with only one cat (Sylvester, a neutered feral who’s called my backyard his territory for five or so years now), and demands we play with him anytime we enter and exit the house. So far no wildlife has demonstrably succumbed to his feline wiles. I’ll keep you posted.

Vincent was a worry this year. Two spinal surgeries rendered him nearly non-ambulatory for a while. Thankfully, a second surgery earlier this month to remove a subarachnoid cyst on his spine has hit pay dirt. Though he at first appeared to be worse, he’s already better now than he’s been in months.

Our third, Slumdog, is on autopilot. Though his abnormal limb position has earned him an interdigital cyst, and we’ll be MRI-ing his head soon to check on his hydrocephalus, he’s otherwise keeping pace with his own version of "Abby Normal." Meanwhile, his rowdy goofiness serves as the perfect foil for the rest of the household’s zany doggedness.

Though this year’s been stressful and tiring at times (milking a goat twice a day without fail is a tough schedule for anyone to get used to), it’s been glorious, too. From hiking in Costa Rica and kayaking in the Keys to success in the kitchen and good health for my brood, I’m not about to complain.

Here’s hoping 2011 offers more of the same for us all.

Happy New Year!

Dr. Patty Khuly

Pic of the day: "Happy 2008!" by Onion