Guest blog by Mary Dell Harrington, co-founder of the parenting blogGrown and Flown
It’s the beginning of 2014, which is a customary time to think about the brand new year and finalize a list of resolutions. Each year, by the time January 1 arrives, I have scribbled down a list of “be better-do-better” goals that, unfortunately, fade from memory as my attention turns to the next holiday on the calendar. This year my strategy is going to be different. I am making five resolutions with my two Labrador retrievers, Gus and Moose, as partners in hopes that they will be daily reminders to help keep me on track.
1. Increase my exercise. Every morning, regardless of the weather, I take Gus and Moose on a leash walk lasting no longer than 15 minutes. This year, I resolve to walk further, giving each of us a better daily workout.
2. Practice preventative health care. I wouldn’t dream of neglecting my dogs’ annual vaccinations. Now, as I make their vet appointments, I will also schedule my yearly doctors’ visits and not let my preventative health care lapse, either.
3. Cut back on snacks. Dropping a few pounds has made every one of my annual lists with paltry results to show. Reducing the human food we give our dogs as snacks while cutting back on my own grazing is a way I can be mindful of the harm overeating does to both canines and humans.
4. Help others. Moose and I are a certified Pet Partners animal therapy team and we visit patients at New York-Presbyterian Hospital weekly. I see the joy he brings with each session and resolve to do more to help others.
5. Express gratitude. Whenever they wag their tails, our two happy dogs elevate my mood, too. They inspire me and, though I lack a tail to wag, I have countless ways to express my appreciation for all the joy in my life, including the happiness brought to me through pet ownership.
Thanks, Gus and Moose, for the daily reminders of my 2014 resolutions. With you as my partners, I hope to be more successful in focusing on my goals all year long.
When I was a child, my sister and I hung up our Christmas stockings on the same wooden doorway in the dining room each year. Once our stockings were up, we’d place our dogs’ stockings right next to them. I continued the tradition with my own kids, so we hang our Mom and Dad stockings next to our daughters’ and son’s stockings, and then we begin the process of hanging the pets’ stockings. If you walk into our living room in December, you’ll see 10 stockings in total and you might think we have an enormous family; two of them are for each of the dogs and three are for each of the cats (shhh, the frog, fish and turtles don’t get their own stockings!)
It’s a little extra effort in a home when Santa comes to all the children and pets. Many a late Christmas Eves have been spent filling stockings with goodies, including toys, rawhides and catnip, but it has all been well worth the effort, partly because many Christmas mornings have been spent speculating what Django and Hayley thought of Santa since they are really the only ones in the house who knew for sure what he looked like in person. And then it’s off to inspect the stockings to see what Santa left behind for Hayley, Django, Baby, Lily and Cloe. The joy on the children’s faces is always a delight. I hope it is a lasting memory that they will keep and share with their own children one day.
Django was the last pet to get her own stocking after we adopted her in November 2010. We excitedly made room on the wall for our new pup as I recalled making a new stocking for each child and furry family member throughout the years.
Our dogs may not talk but they certainly provide comfort and love to all of us. From Hayley’s restorative bond with my daughter to Django’s insistence on lying with me (and sometimes on me) when she senses that I am down in the dumps, our dogs are a definite part of our family. We would be a different family without them. Yes, we’d have less fur and chores, but we’d also have a whole lot less love.
Wishing you and your family (human and furry) a wonderful and warm holiday season!