This Thanksgiving: A Good Time to Be Grateful for Our Furry Friends  

By Gwenn Voelckers

Gwenn Voelckers and her dog Scout enjoying some leaf peeping at Harriet Hollister Park at the end of Canandaigua Lake.
Gwenn Voelckers and her dog Scout enjoying some leaf peeping at Harriet Hollister Park at the end of Canandaigua Lake.

As Thanksgiving approaches, we are reminded to slow down and set aside time to remember, reflect and be thankful. To be grateful. And to count our many blessings.

This year, in addition to being thankful for my good health, my dear friends and family, and some new opportunities to learn and grow, I am filled with a deep appreciation for Scout, my 3-year-old English springer spaniel. I named her after the feisty little girl in “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

Scout has enriched my life in immeasurable ways, and I can speak with enthusiasm about the joys of sharing my life and home with her. In doing so, I hope to inspire you — especially those of you who live alone — to give pet ownership serious consideration.

Thanks to Scout … I look forward to coming home and walking through my front door. No matter how stressful my day or how tired I might feel, I am filled with eager anticipation as I approach the entryway. My heart practically skips a beat.

When I step inside, I am greeted by a full-body wag and some cheerful yapping that always make me smile. After I take off my coat, Scout and I enter into our welcome-home ritual: she pokes her head through my knees and I rub her ears until her hunger kicks in (which takes less than two seconds).

It’s so good to be home!

Thanks to Scout … I get to experience — really experience — the outdoors and all the beauty, mystery and drama that the weather and our four seasons hold. Scout insists we walk, run or play outside multiple times a day — rain or shine (or snow!). I consider her my personal trainer par excellence.

While exercising Scout, I’ve witnessed breathtaking sunrises and sunsets. I’ve been soothed by the soft sound of raindrops on my umbrella. I’ve felt victorious against Nor’easters that threaten to rob me of my coat. And on crisp November days, I’ve been transported back to halcyon fall days in Ohio, where I grew up.

Would I, on my own, spend this much time outdoors? Not a chance. In the dark of night or in bad weather, the comforts of home and a warm bed would prevail. Think of how much I would miss!

Thanks to Scout … I know the nearly indescribable feelings of contentment and peace when she is snuggled up against me during my morning meditation. At my side, with her chin resting on my lap, our breathing begins to synchronize, in and out, in and out.

In these relaxed, mindful moments, I have no cares. No one can reach me. For a few precious minutes each day, the world has stopped, and it’s just me and my dog in blissful tranquility.

Thanks to Scout … I’ve met a wonderful and interesting assortment of dog lovers and their “best friends.”

On our afternoon walks along the Erie Canal, Scout and I regularly meet and greet fellow two- and four-legged walkers. Over the years, these acquaintances, some of whom have become friends, have turned our daily walking routine into a spirited and meaningful “canal connection.”     

When our paths cross, we exchange more than just passing pleasantries; we stop, chat and, mostly, laugh while our dogs get reacquainted and tangled in each other’s leash. I leave these encounters with a warm heart, so happy to be part of a community of devoted animal lovers.

Thanks to Scout … I’ve discovered my “inner parent” and am proud of her. Having no children, I used to wonder if I would have been a good mother and role model. Would I have been patient? Nurturing? Firm when needed? Calm in a crisis? Sacrificial?

Scout has given me a chance to explore and express my maternal side, and to cultivate my caretaking skills. My relationship with Scout has led to increased self-awareness. She has helped me discover and develop some essential, as well as some elusive, parts of myself.

Thanks to Scout … I now have a deeper appreciation for the messiness of life, and how much joy and humor can be generated by the chaos and clutter of a lovable pooch.

Scout reminds me that I’m not really in control, and that life can march along just fine, thank you, despite the disarray and dog hair that blows like tumbleweed through my home. It’s a good life lesson.

Thanks to Scout … I am happier living alone. She’s a second heartbeat in my home, a loving companion and a source of never-ending amusement. Even listening to her chew her food makes me chuckle!

We share a human-animal bond anchored in mutual adoration and unconditional love. For that special bond and blessing, I am grateful.

If you, too, enjoy the companionship of a dog or cat, let’s be thankful for the countless ways our furry friends expand and enhance our lives.

In their presence, every day can be Thanksgiving!

Gwenn Voelckers is the founder and facilitator of “Alone & Content” empowerment boot camps for women held throughout the year in Mendon. She is the author of “Alone and Content: Inspiring, empowering essays to help divorced and widowed women feel whole and complete on their own.” For information about her boot camp, to purchase her book, or invite her to speak call 585-624-7887, email gvoelckers@rochester.rr.com, or visit www.aloneandcontent.com

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