Feasts & Families

Sometimes you eat the turkey, sometimes you are the turkey. Sometimes you simultaneously exist in both states of being, as my human tells me when I sneak a slice of delicious fowl off the counter. I love this time of year, Thanksgiving time. And not just because of the ample turkey stealing opportunities. I love the cooler weather. I love romping through the fallen leaves. I love chasing the migratory geese that pass through the outlying fields of Annapolis, Maryland, and I especially love to roll in their droppings. (My human doesn’t love this predilection of mine, however. Lots of baths this time of year. Lots.) Paws down, though, the most amazing part of Thanksgiving time is family. My family is made up of my adopted relatives, great friends, and all those they love. We are comprised of humans, dogs, and a cat (a troublesome relative is always included in holiday festivities, right?) Even though I am not invited to actually sit at the Thanksgiving meal (my table manners do not meet my grandmother’s standards), our gathering creates a feeling of inclusion and unquestionable belonging. My family has changed over time. Though my earliest recollections of the farm in Georgia where I was born are not vivid, the memory remains of warmth, closeness, and my mom and playful, chunky siblings. Then one day my new family showed up. Of course, I wasn’t aware of this when a tall, friendly man came to the farm. He played with me, cuddled me, and started using a strange new word—Walter. In the man’s smiling excitement, he kept repeating this word, hugging me. I liked that the new word seemed to come with so much affection and attention. Walter. Suddenly, we left the farm. In a carrier without the smells of the farm or the comfort of my mother and siblings, I was frightened as I went on my first car ride, followed by the only plane trip of my life. The man, however, never left me, responding to my fearful whimpers with soothing pets and the repetition of the new word that I had already come to associate with security and belonging. “Walter, it’s ok. Walter.” And I believed him. We had already become family. Unconditional love, which is just another term for family, is incredible because doesn’t necessarily need time to develop. It just is. It can begin when you meet a new friend or when a new baby arrives in the world. It started the first time I met my human. But it is strengthened through time, loyalty, and shared experiences—like coming together for joyful and chaotic Thanksgiving festivities. (And forgiveness, especially for turkey transgressions.) In this season of celebrating togetherness and generosity, you may consider helping those without the gift of families. Volunteering or donating to your local animal shelter is an amazing way to do this! You may even consider bringing home a new member of your pack. Check out your local animal shelter or rescue group for all the ways you can make an impact! Click here to find animal welfare organizations near you! Enjoy your turkey, tofurkey (I’m not actually sure what this is and my human says I don’t want to find out), stuffing, and pies! But most importantly, I hope you enjoy those you are sharing holiday feast with! Wishing you and your family a tail-waggingly, wonderful Thanksgiving!! Walter