Thanksgiving has passed and we are officially into the Christmas season, a time of sharing, joy, and love. An 1800’s Christmas carol states, “Love came down at Christmas…” Subaru features an annual “share the love” event. We can take these thoughts of love and sharing and apply the principles all around us, including to pets. Whether our own, an animal belonging to a family member or friend, or even (and especially) the homeless creatures in our community and beyond – each and every pet needs the love, joy, and security of human companionship.
Sadly, many pets don't experience those positive principles. Instead, they are cramped into tiny cages at the hands of puppy millers – backyard breeders who only want to make money from the litters of puppies and kittens derived from unspayed/unneutered animals. Similar to assembly production lines, these dogs and cats are bred time and again for years on end, and are often unsocialized and in great need of medical care. Organizations such as National Mill Dog Rescue (NMDR) in Colorado Springs, Colorado make their mission of saving dogs from such horrible conditions and providing them the love and care they need, desire, and deserve. Recently, NMDR sent out volunteers to rescue dogs confined in deplorable conditions in several Midwestern states – the compassionate volunteers returned to Colorado with more than 60 dogs of varying breeds, including Shih Tzu, Yorkshire terrier, and German shepherd. Some lacked teeth and most were matted to the hilt. Several were very shy from lack of loving human contact while others responded with great joy and dancing after being rescued, bathed, and loved.
The meaning of Christmas is love and sharing. We can all step up to the plate in this regard, showering our human and animal neighbors with the love and compassion each living creature needs. Lives are changed by acts of love and compassion, and the lives of pet rescue and shelter workers and volunteers are positively impacted by care shown to them by community members.
My husband and I recently visited Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah. Open for more than 30 years, this amazing organization takes in dogs, cats, rabbits, horses, parrots, and other animals in need of rest, rehabilitation, and re-homing. They serve more than 1,800 different animals each year. Best Friends staff and volunteers conducted a massive rescue during Hurricane Katrina, and the organization was instrumental in saving the dogs Michael Vick and his cadre used for fighting. I volunteered at Cat World, taking kitties on leashed-walks and baby/cat buggy strolls. I played with and petted the cats – several simply wanted a lap to curl up in and receive loving strokes along the back and behind the ears. Petting an animal not only comforts them, but also helps relieve stress in people. As I sat with these cats, either in shade or under a canopy of blue sky and autumn sunlight, relaxation ensured for me and them. I can’t wait to return again to do more volunteer work!
A person doesn't have to travel hundreds of miles to make a difference in the lives of animals – we can help those at our local rescues and shelters, in our own homes, and the homes and neighborhoods of our friends and families. Let’s take this holiday season to do something to make a positive impact, a “share the love event,” bestowing compassion, kindness, joy, and care upon our fellow living beings. Share your gifts of time, talent, and treasure. Donations of food, supplies, and funds go a long way to help the rescues and shelters. Gifts of volunteerism speak volumes to organizations reaching out to the hurting and homeless and to those whom they serve. Walking the neighbor’s or grandparents dog, playing with a friend’s cat, or spending extra time with your own pets also rains blessings upon animals and people.
How can you share the love with pets and people this season? The ways are endless! My hope is we come together as a community to end animal cruelty, including mills, and unite to help homeless pets until there are no more unwanted, unloved furry companions.
On this Thanksgiving Day, I wanted to share a devotion from my book Devotions for Dog Lovers: Paws-ing for Time with God. May you and your family and friends, including your four-footeds, enjoy a blessed Thanksgiving!
Thankful for the Little Things
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name! Psalm 100:4
Willie dashes through the shrubbery and rocks, pursuing a bunny along the wooded trail. A dachshund, Willie is just doing what his ancestors did: chasing and in some cases capturing the rats and other intruders on the farm. Willie's family, my friends, know this behavior is normal for his breed. They live in a big city, so they take
Willie and their other doxie on runs through wooded park areas each weekend, allowing their dogs the opportunity to be... dogs! Willie and his canine companion weave through grasses and brush, zip along dirt trails, and sprint across rocky inclines, doing their doxie doggie dash as they search for rabbits and sniff for songbirds. And, each family member gets exercise in the process!
Willie knows these outings are special, and after a bunny chase or a short run through the woodland, he returns to his human family, looks up and wags his tail, as if thanking them for the opportunity to get outdoors, run, play, pursue, and be... himself! After a “good boy, Willie!” the little short-legged doxie dashes off again, sniffing and running like the dog he's meant to be.
After the outing and back in the car, Willie lays his cheek against his people's cheeks, once again as if saying “thank you.” It doesn't take much to make Willie happy, nor most other dogs for that matter: a warm shelter, a loving family, playtime, good food – all things we humans sometimes take for granted, but yet, many people around the world do not have. How thankful are we for our small yet important blessings?
If you have a house or apartment (a warm, dry place to live and sleep), a car in your driveway, and clean clothes in your closet, you have more material goods than many people in the world. If you make more than $10 a day, you have more money than nearly 80% of the people in the world. If you have food on your table and in your fridge, you're already eating better than almost one billion people in the world. If you can turn on the tap and get clean drinking water, you have more than nearly two billion people in the world. (Note: all statistics based on organizations including World Hunger Education Service and the United Nations.)
How thankful are we for these blessings? Do we, like Willie, run back to our Master and thank him? Or do we go through life taking things like food, clothing, and water for granted, grumbling about what we don't have and constantly asking for more? Let's be thankful, even for the small things!
“Father God, thank you for the multitude of blessings you bestow. Thank you for those things I take for granted: food, clothing, water, family, friends. Forgive me for my ungrateful heart and help me to remember that all good gifts come from you, even those that are small and seem insignificant. Help me to no longer take any good thing for granted. In Jesus' Name – Amen.”
November is Adopt-a-Senior Pet Month. Although many people don't "ooh" and "ahh" over older pets as do with kittens and puppies, there are many benefits to adopting an older cat or dog. Here are a few:
The number one reason people provide for giving up their pet is “I'm moving.” So, chances are the reason the pet is in need of a new home at it's older age has nothing to do with a behavior or other animal issue – it's simply the result of circumstances... and a human's decision.
There's a lot to celebrate about senior pets! Some of the most wonderful companion animals in need of new homes are older ones awaiting another chance to shower a family or individual with devotion, just as they did with their previous owner.
So the next time you have opportunity to provide a dog or cat with a home, please consider adopting an adult or senior pet. Like my husband and I, you, too, will know the joy of spending time with an adoring, mature four-footed friend and giving that animal a special, loving retirement home. Let's celebrate seniors and provide love and companionship to the older pets in need of adoption!
Gayle M. Irwin is a writer and public relations professional who volunteers with various animal rescue groups. She enjoys sharing her books and her passion for pets and the environment with others.