On Saturday, I found myself in heaven on earth, surrounded by thousands of wagging tails and wet noses; a heaven I can visit every year, right before Thanksgiving. While The National Dog Show is broadcast on Thanksgiving Day, it actually takes place the weekend before, just outside of Philadelphia. Do you think I’d miss such an epic gathering of pooches? Does a Golden shed? Does a St. Bernard drool?
What better way to usher in Thanksgiving week than with dogs, dogs and more dogs? After all, our canine friends model a gratitude that leads to true happiness. They are enormously grateful for the little things, all wiggling butts and wagging tails over your arrival home, or an old toy. They don’t compare what they have to others, thankful instead for every kibble and belly rub they receive, not expecting more or worrying about what’s to come.
As thoughts turn to gratitude this time of the year, we feel especially thankful for our family and friends. But as I wandered through the convention center filled with dogs of every size, shape and color, I was reminded of the variety of people who bring all sorts of blessings into our lives. The dogs in the show are organized into groups according to their purpose and I couldn’t help but be struck that those groups can remind us of the many people who bless our lives every day.
The Herding Group
We are all familiar with the collies and sheepdogs that keep livestock in the herd where they belong, but they also remind us to be thankful for those who bring us together. You know, the people who organize birthday outings, throw annual neighborhood block parties and are the first with a casserole for new parents or the bereaved. They are the community builders and their gregarious nature helps those of us more “socially-challenged” connect.
The Toy Group
Good things come in small packages, right? These adorable pint-sized pooches bred for companionship bring to mind the folks that enrich our lives simply by making us smile. What would life be without the entertainers, the artists, even the class clowns, who bring beauty to the world and a little relief from the daily grind?
The Terrier Group
These dogs are driven. Often hard-headed, they have a single minded nose for their prey and they won’t stop til they succeed. And don’t we need those people in our life who kick us in the tush, who tenaciously encourage us to keep our standards high and achieve our goals? They might bark a lot, but they push us to great things—and do it with an infectious joy!
The Hound Group
These are an inscrutable bunch, all outsized ears and noses, the better for seeing and smelling. They remind us to be thankful for those in the world who feel more, see more. These are the saints among us, religious or lay, who see suffering in the world more acutely and work to relieve it. These are the spiritual leaders and the poets, those who’s often quiet demeanor belies a depth of understanding out of the reach of most of us.
The Working Group
What would we do without police dogs sniffing out bombs and bad guys or St. Bernards rescuing stranded hikers (carrying brandy, no less)? From our earliest days, we have been blessed by canine companions whose assistance has enabled us to work beyond our human abilities. And likewise we are blessed by the people in our world who labor to keep us safe. We give thanks for those who run into burning buildings, who patrol our streets and who wear the uniform of the US armed forces. Like the canines that kept watch while ancient man slept around the fire, these brave souls maintain the vigilance that keeps the wolf from our door.
The Non-Sporting Group
The oddballs of the dog world. This is where the hairless Xoloitzcuintli and the Standard Poodle with a ridiculous haircut coexist. And we need oddballs, too. Whether it’s Uncle Bob with his conspiracy theories, the off-beat girl who wears a tutu to class or those with special challenges, these are the people whose differences grow our empathy, and sometimes our patience. And, like a dog without hair, they just make the world more interesting.
The Sporting Group
Whether retriever or pointer or spaniel, these dogs will be at your side in the field tirelessly, in any weather, then happily snore next to you on the couch as their muzzles fade to grey. These steadfast companions remind us to thank God for those loyal friends who have been at our side through life’s treats and life’s trials. Those who stood beside us at the altar as we married and stood behind us at our parents’ graves. The ones who know us as well as we know ourselves.
And so I am grateful for you, my dear golden retriever of a friend, blond and loyal, for being at my side for all these years.
Have a blessed (and fur-filled) Thanksgiving!