Okay, the photo is of a chicken not a turkey, but still, it’s a roasted poultry item.
I love Thanksgiving. How could I not? The culture has collectively given all of us permission to over indulge and it is the beginning of a chance to slow down, reflect and . . . eat some more.
But most of all, I love Thanksgiving because it is a holiday whose very title focuses on what is important: The giving of thanks. It’s good for us. I do it every week in my journal, and sometimes, lucky me, I get to do it here.
This year, it doesn’t feel like enough to just give thanks. I am compelled to turn my thanks into action. I may have my complaints, but I am a very, very lucky person, and I am compelled to do what I can to help others. Here’s my list of actions I am committed to taking before the end of the year. I’d love to hear yours.
IT’S ALL ABOUT YOU, Maggie (and Jim, and Tootsie . . .): I am going to give every member of my household their very own special day. Granted, Maggie and Tootsie live lives better than most humans in the world, but still, I can give them their ideal day as best I can. Maggie’s will be a long, long off leash walk, working sheep twice doing just the parts she loves best, a belly rub that lasts so long my arm gets sore, and, oh yeah, ice cream. Tootsie’s will be food, food and food, albeit carefully managed during the day to avoid intestinal distress (sadly, cat shit will not on the menu, even though it is Tootsie’s favorite). Jim–well, that’s for him to decide.
Another great shot from Steve Dahlgren.
I just love the idea of committing to having the ones that I love and live with know that they are the sum total of my ‘to do’ list that day. What about you? What would your dogs love to do for the better part of a day?
HELPING OTHERS: We all know how many dogs and cats there are out there who are in distress. Perhaps they have no home, or they have little food, they are terrified of the world and no one knows how to help them. We all do what we can, and this year I am going to take multiple boxes of my books to my local shelter, the Dane County Humane Society, and to one I’ve worked with a lot, the Wisconsin Humane Society. I’ve heard from some shelters that handing out Love Has No Age Limit, about bringing a new dog into your home, has decreased the rate of returns and the numbers of calls on behavior help lines. I’ll send lots of Fastidious Feline and Way to Go books too, housebreaking always being a major factor in whether a dog or cat stays in a home.
There are so, so many ways we can help the people who help dogs and cats year round. A few of us can adopt, some can volunteer, some can donate money or books or food or bedding–but they need us, and what a wonderful way to thank them for all that they do.
THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE: There are a lot of people working their tails off behind the scenes to keep our lives running. Along with those who serve in the military, there are legions of people working in government, both local and national, that quietly toil to keep us safe and our lives functioning. I’m in a group that meets once a week to write postcards to those who influence policy. Although, as you know, I assiduously keep politics out of my public life, I mention it here because we often write thanking people who have done good things. The power of positive reinforcement, right?
I hereby am committing to writing thank you letters to a wide range of people, from dear friends to people I’ve never met. That’ll be part of how I spend my time the day after Thanksgiving. I am also going to write a thank you letter to myself. Have you ever done that? It’s a wonderful thing to do. Who doesn’t love getting a letter or note in the mail, almost hidden by the stacks of unwanted catalogs and bills? It’s like finding that perfect shell on the beach among the dead sea weed and gravel.
WHAT ABOUT YOU? How are you going to turn your thanks into action? (A point of unrequested advice: If you do decide to “turn thanks into action,” I strongly advise you, no beg you, to put it on your calendar now. I am a poster child for “committing” to something that I end up not doing because life gets in the way. And then I feel bad and guilty and awful. So, don’t commit to anything you aren’t really going to do, and schedule it now, as in NOW, so that it really happens. I’d write more, but I need to get out my calendar and start scheduling . . .
I look forward to hearing your ideas, which will no doubt inspire me and others. Which leads to my last action, thanking you:
THANK YOU, READERS. I’d write you all a personal note card if I could. Really, I would. I tell people all the time how much I love the readers of this blog, but I don’t tell you enough. I swear I have the smartest, most articulate, thoughtful readers of any blog anywhere. Okay, perhaps I haven’t read all the blogs in the world, but . . . Thanks. Truly. Truly Truly.
MEANWHILE, back on the farm: Here’s a drone video taken by Steve Dahlgren of Maggie and I moving the sheep through a gate, and then working together to split the group into two. There’s so much to see here–in particular how smart sheep really are. I want to move the sheep through a gate at the top corner of your screen (out of sight at the beginning of the video). Watch how the sheep use the bushes to make it harder for Maggie to get where she needs to be in order to move them in that direction.
Another thing to note is that Maggie lies down several times, which is not because I asked her too. Maggie does this too much (the opposite of most sheepdogs, whose owners have to work constantly to get their dogs to stop when told), and we are working hard on it. I’m doing all I can to keep her on her feet. It’s going well, but it will always be something that is inherent to who Maggie is. That said, she does a lovely job of doing what needs to be done here. This is a trivial exercise, simple every day work at the farm, and nothing approaching the challenge of an actual competition, but it’s really fun to see it from above!
Here’s a still shot from Steve of the entire flock. The three matriarchs are in the center, Meryl Sheep (second from left in the front), Lady Godiva and Lady Baa Baa by her side. These girls rock, and they know it.
Chris from Boise says
Thanksgiving is hands-down my favorite day of the year.
A friend just tonight told us what her church has done for Thanksgiving. Somehow the pastor found out that Idahoans had outstanding medical debt of $1.5 million dollars that had been sent to collections. She also learned that this debt could be bought out for a measly $15,000! So – they raised $15,000 and a whole lot of people in Idaho are about to hear that their medical debts have been wiped clear. I intend to find out the mechanics of this and spread the word, and to contribute to this effort for next year’s medical debt pay-off.
I really like your idea of writing letters thanking public servants for all the good things that they do. As you say: positive reinforcement!
We give the dogs their special days at least once a week: day-long off-leash rambles in our foothills. We’re so fortunate to have great trails and dogs that have excellent trail manners.
In the video, I was fascinated not only at your brilliant sheep, but also at Maggie’s shift at 1:02 of just a couple of feet to the right that completely changed the flock’s mind about the gate. Speaking of brilliant sheep, did you see the fascinating IAABC article on sheep/human behavior that Nannette Morgan posted a month ago, “https://fall2019.iaabcjournal.org/what-dog-behavior-doesnt-teach/”?
Happy Thanksgiving to all!
Beth Sears says
Great blog. Love the idea of donating books to the animal shelter and really enjoyed an aerial view of Maggie working sheep.
Mary Kaplan says
Great piece, Thank You !
Elizabeth Dougherty says
Happy Thanksgiving to you! I discovered your blog when our family was having a really difficult dog year. Things have righted on the dog front, and now I continue to read your posts for your humor, wisdom, and perspective, in addition to dog info. I don’t leave comments nearly as often as I think them, so I decided I would start my own Thanksgiving but saying thank you for your insightful writing. Thank you!!!!
Amazing video. Maybe the trials should start offering it as an option. I’m sure it would really help with the lessons learned afterwards.
I’m thankful for you and your dogs and all the lessons you teach me. Thank you
Adrienne K. says
I am most grateful today that President Trump signed the Animal Cruelty Bill. Thank you President Trump. That is a gift to all animals and to those who love and care for them. This should have happened decades ago. Now let’s give law enforcement what they need to make the law work.
Aww, thanks Elizabeth!
Such lucky dogs Chris! It’s getting harder and harder to find safe (ie, no hunting or trapping) areas to walk dogs off leash around here, but luckily we do still have some. I’ll bet Maggie would love your foothills though. And thanks for the reminder about the brilliant article on IAABC about sheep behavior. I agree that it’s great!
Rebecca Rice says
Just curious: why don’t the sheep want to go through the gate?
I’m thankful for farm sanctuaries, no-kill shelters and the vegan movement. No animal whether it be a dog or cat or a pig, cow or turkey should be subjected to suffering and death before their natural time. I am thankful for my dog and all the wild critters that inhabit the forest around my house. I am thankful that there are people in the world who cherish all animals and see them as sentient beings who experience fear, grief and loneliness and are also capable of experiencing joy, happiness and love.
Sheep are never comfortable being in a confined space, even if just for a moment. In addition, the rest of the flock is in the other direction, and acts like a magnet. Make sense?
Brèagha and Me says
Thanksgiving is one of the few times per year my family can all (well, almost all) be together in the same place. It can get a bit loud, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Getting to spend time with family is always a blessing. And that includes the dogs! I will get to hang out with my brother’s passel of dogs – two terriers, a GSP, a Pyrenees, and a Lurcher – as well as our own two. Fortunately there will be plenty of room for the dogs (all 7 of them) and space to play outside. 🙂
I’m sure you’ve seen it but I just watched Old Dog on Amazon about Paul Sorenson. What an amazing man. Especially since it seems he was one of the first to use more humane ways to train sheep. I loved his instruction about not petting a dog but just holding your hand on its back to feel its muscle tension. My favorite quote tho was from a different farmer saying that they don’t so much have a breed of dog they use as much as a type of dog. What a wonderful way to think of working dogs. These dogs are called huntaway dogs and have the markings of a Swiss Mountain Dog but come in all shapes and sizes. Really made me appreciate once again the magic of working dogs. Maggie and you are awesome out there!
I thank you also, Trish. Your strength, grace and dignity is an inspiration. You are my bright star for the approach to these next few years. Which admittedly scare me a little.
Loved the video!!!!!
Lovely sentiments and a great inspiration!
But I’m most taken by the photo to Tootsie looking with disdain on your critique of her dietary choices. 🙂
I LOVED the drone video. It made what’s actually happening much more clear than either prose (even yours) or even video shot at eye level. I’ve never seen herding IRL–I’m an Obedience geek–and this made it much easier to understand. Would love to see it for other dog sports as well. So cool.
And a happy Thanksgiving to everyone. I’ll be working–but it’s double time, so I’m good with that.
Barb Stanek says
Thanks for the drone videos. Yea, Maggie and Trish!
I’m thankful I have the ability, and privilege, to think about gratitude. It’s a complicated question these days, and I will suffice it to say I am thankful for you, your knowledge, grace, and humor. And for this community of deep thinkers on all things dog.
I am also thankful I can access exciting information such as Dogor: https://www.thesun.co.uk/tech/10419756/frozen-puppy-whiskers-nose-siberia/
Possibly the world’s oldest dog kept intact by permafrost. Results are still incoming on it’s DNA. I’m still not clear (or maybe sure is a better word) if dogs actually descended from wolves or if it was a much more tenuous thread.
I loved the drone video. So great to watch the dance between Maggie and the flock. I could see what they were trying to do, and her responses were subtly magnificent. You can’t get this point of view from the ground. So cool.
I loved the video. Such fun!