Pets Have a Permanent Place at Thanksgiving

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I know some pretty smart and skilled people.

At work, my speech pathology team helps breathe words from the lips (or computer screens) of people whose brains and mouths have failed them. Certain friends and members of my family know how to mobilize charitable organizations toward the most honorable goals. My wife unlocks vaults holding the treasure maps within the hearts of people who’ve lost their emotional fortunes.

And then there’s our dog, Lilly, the Boston terrier.

Lilly can retrieve her toys by name and find the hidden treat in a “shell game.” But there’s one “trick” she’s mastered that I am only sometimes able to perform:

She can let go.

Early on, we taught her how to “drop” her toy of choice during tug-of-war - and how to “leave it” - even in the heat of playful passion. We wanted her to learn that fun has it’s limits; there’s a time to dive in and a time to step out.

This has not always been easy for her (or us). There are plenty of times when she wants to initiate or continue play when my wife, Susan, and I are just not available. She appears to sulk for a bit when we gently tell her, “Not now, baby.” or “All done.”

We all need to deal with disappointment now and then, but Lilly seems to rebound from it faster than anyone I know. Only moments after being told, “No,” Lilly will often find another favorite toy, fling it over her shoulder, dash after and pounce on it and amuse herself to no end.

I could have done well to turn my attention elsewhere a few weeks ago when a personal event did not turn out how I wanted. Rather than “dropping” and “leaving it,” I grasped my end of disappointment and tugged even harder, making my wife, our dog, and me miserable.

Solace was not found in the wisdom of ancient Greek philosophers or the great minds of The Enlightenment. It was found through our Lilly who reminded me that the greatest source of unhappiness always lies in my wanting people and circumstances to be other than what they are.

For Thanksgiving - and all my future days - I’ve decided to “drop it” - and smile in the presence of “what is.”

Thank you, Lilly, my emotionally intelligent mentor.