Thanksgiving with Dog People


In my family, thanksgiving was always the big annual holiday.  We always had the usual family, friends, and food, but also lots of extended family – which includes dogs – and lots of dog-walks in the day and music at night.

Happily, my sisters and I have carried on the tradition. My sister Susan has driven over from Colorado – no small feat – and dinner itself is being hosted by our other sister Pamela, who moved with her husband and their dogs to my town about a year and a half ago when her husband retired.

Sue is a little sad; she’s brought her (adult) daughter’s little long-haired Chihuahua, Riot, who is heading to a new home. Her daughter, like so many young adults, adopted the dog in her last year in college, but hasn’t found the time to properly care for and exercise the cute little dog while working to support herself “in the real world.” The inevitable house-training and problem barking ensued, and my niece actually had to move twice because her roommates were unhappy with the dog. She started leaving the dog more and more with my sister, who likes dogs but does not actually want to own one. My sister has felt sorry for Riot, but also resentful of being “stuck” with her so much, and pressed her daughter to rehome Riot, for Riot’s sake. 

The last time my sister visited here, we had breakfast with a friend of mine, who told Sue she knew someone who was looking for just the right little dog to join her family. Many months later, after innumerable texts, photos, and yesterday, an in-person interview, Riot is going to live in a new home here in my town, with a super nice older couple who live on a large piece of property where they farm oranges with their extended family. After all the time she’s spent with Riot, my sister is sad to see the dog leave, but she’s glad the cute little dog will have a more consistent, solid family with people who are always home and who LOVE dogs.

No one could love dogs more than my other sister, Pam. She and her husband have three: Daisy, a little rescue Jack Russell Terrier-mix; Dinah, one of my former fosters, a Chihuahua/Dachshund-mix; and Bo, a scruffy Schnauzer-mix. Last year, writing a blog post, I mentioned that Bo was about 10 years old. Some months ago, Bo’s original owner came to my sister’s house for dinner and to visit the dog, whom she left with my sister about four or five years ago, when her life was in turmoil. Pam was telling her about a series of small strokes that Bo had suffered; each one leaves him a little less sharp, but he’s still eating well, pottying outside appropriately, and going for (slow) walks with the “pack” each day. Pam said, “He’s still doing good for a 10-year-old dog!” The former owner said, “Pam, he’s 16!” She recounted the math:  She got the dog as a puppy for her son’s 10th birthday, and that son is 26 now… Well, Bo is getting a lot more respect now.

Out of respect to Pam’s much-more-senior-than-we-knew-dog, my own dogs (9-year-old Otto and 1-year-old Woody) and my guest dogs who will be in town will spend the actual Thanksgiving dinner-time at my house, or my office/house. My son is coming with his hound, Cole, and Woody will be overjoyed to have the chance to play fast and rough with his . . . cousin? uncle? I won’t try to describe that dog relationship in human terms; I’m no good at genealogy, ha ha.

Also hanging out at my house, but not for much longer, is Rosie, the five-month-old presumed Shepherd-mix, whom I’ve been working with daily for a few weeks, getting her ready for life with my sister-in-law and her 7-year-old daughter, Ava. Rosie is going to be Ava’s first “own” dog, and I’m going to have to hand it to myself on making a great match.

I spotted Rosie in my local shelter’s kennels, and snapped her up the day she became available for adoption. She’s super friendly, happy to meet any dog or person with a wag, confident without being over-bold, and doesn’t seem to have any odd fears or phobias. She’s been in the accelerated class and learning fast what she may and may not chew on, and where she may and may not potty, and getting straight A’s. She walks more nicely on a leash than my dogs – perhaps because I’ve been working her more on the skill than I do with my dogs, hmmmm. She actually looks like a nice little obedience dog, walking smartly at my side looking up at me for clues as to when to stop and plop fast down into a sit. She spent six days with Ava and her mom when I was traveling for a conference, and bonded quickly with them. When I picked her up again when I got back, for more training, Ava’s mom texted me and said how much they missed her, immediately. They are taking her home for good the day after Thanksgiving, and I know she’s going to help that family feel a little more joyful, a little fuller, in the absence of my brother and his dog (both of who passed two years ago).

A rescue Boxer, also named Rosie, is one of our guest dogs; she belongs to my husband’s brother and his wife, who will join us for a few days of feasting and hiking with dogs. During one of last Thanksgiving’s hikes, my sister-in-law took a great photo of their Rosie and my Otto, and submitted it to a Boxer rescue group for their annual fundraising calendar. Otto and Rosie are the September 2017 dogs!

I’m hoping for more great photos from this year’s hikes.

Joining us at the table on Thanksgiving day will be my friend Leonora and her husband. Leonora owns Samson, Woody’s tiny best friend, as well as two senior dogs. My friends and Samson will join us on our Thanksgiving day hike, but the seniors’ hiking days are over, alas. We’ll save them some turkey, instead. Leonora is currently fostering two adorable pit-mix puppies, about 7 weeks old now, for our local shelter.

Also fostering puppies for our shelter is my new friend Mary, who posted an ad on a neighborhood site a couple months ago looking for a playmate for her 1-year-old pit-mix dog, Izzy, and found me. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, she’ll have to tell me in a few weeks. On one hand, we’ve been taking lots of great hikes together with all of our dogs (she also owns a tiny Chihuahua/terrier-mix), but on the other hand, there’s this: When she asked me if there is anything she can ever help with at the shelter, I promptly set her up with a litter of five Lab-mix puppies, about 5 or 6 weeks old, to foster until they are old enough to be spayed/neutered and adopted. For now, she’s enjoying the wealth of puppy breath, and the puppy poop has not yet overwhelmed her, so I don’t think she’ll be shooting daggers at me across my sister’s Thanksgiving table.

I’ll be toting my camera on our walks, and visiting all the foster pups. I hope you all get out for a nice walk with your dogs, too! I’ll make a post on the WDJ Facebook page, and ask you to upload your Thanksgiving Day dog-walk photos there. Then we can all share how thankful we are to share our lives with dogs!