Girl Kissing Dog SilhouetteFor many of us, Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on all we have to be thankful for. Family, friends, our health, and prosperity are all common sources of gratitude, but for those of us fortunate enough to be pet owners, another blessing to be counted is our four-legged and feathered friends.

While we all have our individual reasons to be thankful for our pets, one of the greatest things that makes pet ownership so rewarding is how thankful our pets are for us. The unbridled joy they have to see us again, whether we’ve been gone five minutes or five days, can’t help but make us feel good. And, of course, the excitement and appreciation they show for being fed the same food every single day is not something we’re likely to get from our families.

Many studies have proven that having a pet helps us feel better, stay healthier, and live longer lives. But for many of us, one of the most poignant aspects of pet ownership is that loving and wanting the best for our furry beasts helps us learn to be unselfish.

Here are a few examples…

  • Forgiveness – If one of our friends were to borrow and lose our favorite handbag or pair of shoes, it would put a bit of a strain on the relationship. But, when our pup or kitty destroys our shoes or couch cushions we manage to find a way to forgive them. Even when this behavior happens repeatedly we remind ourselves that whatever has been destroyed is just stuff, and nowhere near as important as the relationship we share with our pets.
  • Sharing – What our cats, dogs, birds, and horses mostly want is for us to share a little time with them. A moment for an ear scratch, a snuggle on the couch, or a little fetch with a favorite toy means the world to them. Our cats certainly wouldn’t object to us sharing a little tuna either. For children in particular, learning to ungrudgingly share space, attention, and even food can be an invaluable lesson, too.
  • Living in the Moment – It’s always RIGHT NOW for our animals. They don’t live in the past or worry about the future, they take the time to smell the flowers (and eat them, too). Every treat may be the only treat ever, and every walk may be the best walk ever. We can learn a lot about the importance of a good snuggle or a roll in the grass without worrying about the time or whether our clothes will get dirty.
  • Share Your Feelings – Have you ever felt happy or sad, or just wanted to yell for no reason, but have kept it tucked away for fear of being spurned? Our dogs wag away when they feel good and our cats yowl at the top of their lungs when unhappy. We care far too much for proprietary behavior to follow suit, but it would do us good to follow our pets’ example and let loose more often.
  • Unconditional Love – Our critters love us for exactly who we are at that moment; grumpy, sleepy, chatty, or sad. No matter how we are feeling, they want our attention just the same and treat us like we are the most wonderful people in the universe.
  • Snuggles – While it could be argued that snuggling and learning to share space is an important skill, what really counts is that snuggles and warm furry tummies are just about the happiest thing in the world and certainly a gift to be thankful for!

This holiday season let’s try to be the people our pets think we are… We’ll all be a little better for it.