How will you celebrate the Holiday with your fine fur family?
Although at the time of writing this, the temperatures in NYC are still hovering in the mid 70s, Thanksgiving is just around the corner! I love this time of year and all the holidays that come with it – for me thanksgiving isn’t about colonialism and pilgrims, it’s about taking a day with my little chosen family.
I’m really looking forward to eating food with my partner, cuddling with our cats a little extra, taking our dogs on a long walk. Although those are things we do everyday, it always feels a little bit extra special on Thanksgiving.
I ran away/was kicked out for being queer when I was a teenager and I don’t have a relationship with the family that raised me. Like a lot of queer folks, for a long time holidays like Thanksgiving were painful and isolating. I didn’t have a family, and everything about the holiday felt like a reminder of everything that I had lost.
My feelings about thanksgiving (and all holidays for that matter) really shifted once I had a queer family of my own, where holidays transitioned from a time of stress and abuse and then later abandonment, to now where holidays where I could build my own traditions, and take joy in being together with the family that I have chosen and built.
As I think about how reclaiming holidays has impacted me, I can’t help but concentrate on the role my dogs play not only as key members of my chosen family, but the important role they play in my daily life. As an abused kid I had much closer relationships with dogs than with people, and although as an adult I’ve learned how to find and create my own community with other humans, the relationships that I have with dogs are some of the most important to me.
Not only are my dogs my companions, they are also are mindfulness teachers, who continuously inspire me to be present and to try to find joy in every moment.
I don’t meditate or do yoga, or run marathons or any of the other things that many queer folks I know say quiet their mind and bring them to a place of peace. Instead of spending my time doing any of those things, I play with my dogs, I teach them silly tricks (lots and lots of tricks), and we go for walks.
I’m the first to admit that I can be a little high strung, I live in NYC and I’m often busy working either out in the world at my day job, or sitting here at my computer writing, and yet most important to me is to prioritize time with my little family. I know that the more time I spend doing fun things with my dogs, the less stressed I am, and the more centered I feel.
In particular my youngest dog Charlotte who had a horrible start to life – being found starving on the streets of a small town with a litter of puppies, only to narrowly escape being gassed to death in an overcrowded shelter before she found her way into our home/family has taught me more than probably anyone else about finding the joy in every moment.
Charlotte has every reason to be wary and distrustful, but she isn’t. For Charlotte, every day is a great big adventure. She finds tremendous joy in everything from each of her (oh so many) toys, to rolling on her back on the carpeted area rug in our living room, to more extravagant things like vacations to the beach.
I have such admiration for the way Charlotte doesn’t take any moment for granted, for the way she loves my partner and I and her canine and feline siblings so fully and completely. I don’t think in the 4 years that Charlotte has been our baby has she ever had a day that wasn’t joyful.
She isn’t worried about if the next block will bring a sighting of a dog, or if it will rain tomorrow (both things she dislikes) instead she is fully present in this moment, and radiating a contagious joy. I’m someone who often is thinking ahead and she offers me a great reminder that sometimes I don’t need to worry about what lies ahead, I need to just enjoy the beauty of the present moment.
I love walking Charlotte in the morning, because it is such a grounding reminder of the intentionality, and presence and playfulness I want to bring to the rest of my day.
I’m not generally big fan of poetry, but there is a fantastic poem titled “Letter To My Dog: Exploring the Human Condition” by the brilliant queer poet Andrea Gibson (http://www.andreagibson.org/) that beautifully captures so many of the ways dogs touch our lives. This poem so eloquently reminds me of the importance of building human/canine family, and all of the unique ways that dogs not only bring joy into our lives, but lead us as their human guardians to question and examine the way we live our own lives. Check it out!
Happy Thanksgiving to all of you who celebrate, and I hope that this month, like every month, you find some extra joy and peace through spending time with your furry companions!
I’d love to hear about how your pets inspire you, and contribute to a practice of mindfulness or how you celebrate Thanksgiving with your furry family!