Four Legged Friends: Giving Thanks

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This year, no one came for Thanksgiving with my mother except me. So I was a little down. She recently moved into a new place, and I thought it would have been nice to have some additional family, but everyone had other plans. So be it. After our meal, she went to take a nap, and I went home to my pets.

Susan with her greyhound, Buck

Susan with her greyhound, Buck

Animals do not know anything about or care about Thanksgiving. We stopped the traditional meal cooking long before I got Buck (who would have traveled with me if we were still doing the “trip to Grandma’s house”), and of course Nikita is only 5 months old so he doesn’t know much about much!

Still, they make me thankful every day. Their companionship, unfailingly good humor, and their joy in the simple things make me smile all the time.

Just this morning, when the alarm went off at 5 a.m. and I took Buck out, I saw that the grass was heavily frosted. It was cold out, and it was dark, but my flashlight made each little frost crystal shine like a diamond in the dark. It was just beautiful! So instead of being sad that I am apparently one of the few people in my complex who worked the day after Thanksgiving, I am grateful that I was up and awake to see such a beautiful, clear morning and a field of a million “diamonds.”

Thanksgivings were always fun in years past, and they always included our dogs. We had quite a pack at one point — a male and female English setter and two of their offspring (both males). The four of them were quite an impressive sight when they were all together. Family conversations tend to default to reminiscing about dogs of the past when we’re all together.

There was the year when our dog Jeb pulled the pumpkin pie off the counter and destroyed it, getting caught before he had a chance to eat it, but not before he had a chance to ruin it. And the next year? Did we learn not to leave the pie on the counter? No. But this time Jeb just slapped his paw onto the pie surface, leaving a very distinct paw print and walked away. And yes, we ate the pie anyway! If I know my Dad, he would have served that piece to himself.

Christmas was also fun with a house full of dogs. Jeb used to get wildly excited over holidays and packages and especially singing. And I do mean wildly! Running from one end of the house to the other, jumping up on Mom and Dad’s bed. He just loved singing. One year we awoke to find many of our wrapped Christmas presents torn open and strewn about. My parents were quick to assume it was me, but eventually believed me when I said it was the dog.

Each year Santa would leave a bag of carrots for our horses. That’s how we discovered dogs love carrots! I believe I went to the barn to feed the horses the day after Christmas and discovered a feed room with a dog in it, chomping away. Every year thereafter, the bag of carrots were for the horses and the dogs.

Growing up, our Christmas tree didn’t go up until Christmas Eve. The only reason we were given for that was because that is how my father’s family did it when he was a child. Now that I am on my own, I’ve gone the other way and I like to buy my tree right after Thanksgiving and put it up so I can enjoy it for a long time. This year, with a kitten in the house, I wasn’t going to get a tree, but my friends reminded me how much I’ve been enjoying having a tree of my own — and really, what is the worst possible thing that can happen with a tree and a kitten? The kitten knocks over the tree. But none of my ornaments are precious heirlooms, and the fun of watching and waiting to see what he might do — how can I miss that? It’s his first Christmas after all.

When life takes those rough turns that make us stressed, exhausted, and dare I say blue on the holidays, it can be hard to carry on with traditions. But it’s important to find reasons to have gratitude in our hearts, and what I have in my life that makes me most grateful are my pets. No matter what is going on in my life, no matter how awful my day was, and dare I admit it, even if I lose my temper at them — they are always there for me, always ready to give and receive affection, and even to make me feel like a good cook when they gobble up their food.

Later this season, when the snow is flying and I am still getting up to walk the dog at 5 a.m., I’m going to try to remember to be grateful for my dog, even as I snap on his leash and head out into the cold, dark morning. Instead of being grumpy about it, I’m going to choose to see diamonds on the field of frost, and I’m going to try to be like Buck and greet every single day like it’s a totally new adventure.

It was my father who taught me to love and respect all animals, and I’m so proud that he was able to pass that love on to my three nephews. They are all adults now, but the way they talk and think about their pets — it’s the Scheide way. Pets are not accessories; pets are family members. Take a moment this holiday season to consider what your animal friends bring into your life and family. Mine bring me great joy and comfort, and I cannot imagine life without them. From my little family to yours, best wishes for a merry Christmas or whatever holiday you chose to celebrate!

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avatar Posted by on Dec 1 2017. Filed under Featured Content, Opinion. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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