My little guy, Moxie, was born on a Thanksgiving day much like this one. It was five years back, in a plush living room in Fresno; he was the largest pup and only boy of a Frankie Valli-themed litter. He was christened “Sierravue Kennels’ Walk Like a Man,” with the call name “Walker.”
I like to think about what a scene it must have been: That turkey dinner interrupted, our (extremely responsible) breeder and a doggie midwife on hands and knees bringing four wiggly little Italian Greyhounds into the world. That mess of placenta and umbilical cords on a floor covered in blankets, while guests clinked silverware and spread butter on rolls in the next room.
Mox arrived on Earth to the smell of roast turkey and mashed potatoes, to the sound of “pass the gravy boat!” — a pack animal born into the time of year when a human pack is most tightly knit. And so when my own family re-creates the scene every year, I know he is right at home amidst the chaos. He has his own little Thanksgiving meal — some white turkey meat and unbuttered yams or potato — and we always make time to open his presents before the human festivities begin. Last year, he got a toy shaped like a present that sang “Happy birthday to you,” in a Chipmunk voice, and he went bananas trying to kill the little sound box within it. We heard the song going off every three minutes into our meal, until it was silenced by a mighty chomp of sighthound incisors.
This year, as Mox opens his presents in front of my friends and family, I’m reflecting on him. A little over a month ago, I wrote about how my partner of seven years and I were parting ways, and how I wasn’t certain I would have Moxie in my life post-split. Today, I know I get to keep my little boy with me, and the relief and gratitude I feel has me writing this with tears in my eyes.
I never had a dog growing up. My parents pled asthma and gave me every small animal imaginable, and I pined away for the love of a dog, collecting porcelain canine figurines to make up the deficit. Mox was my very first pup, and ever since the first night we spent together — me, flat on the kitchen floor; he, sleeping tangled in my hair — we’ve been intertwined in a way I can only compare to some of my deepest, dearest friendships. Whenever we are parted (indeed, I spent all of last week away from him in New York on business) and then reunited, he gives me such a scolding; whining and crying and dancing, then leaping onto the sofa to throw his arms around my neck as best he can manage with paws and kiss my face.
Every year on Thanksgiving, I remind myself of how fortunate I am to have Mox in my life. This year, I am grateful I get to buy him presents to unwrap at all. And that I get to tell him “no!” when he begs at the dinner table. And that I get to laugh when he flirts with his visiting aunt and when he bullies his uncles into throwing his squeaky toys across the room for him to catch. And that I get to take a walk with him in the autumn cold, or put him in one of his many sweaters and watch him challenge other dogs to a race at the park. And that I get to climb into bed at night and stick my cold feet into his warm belly and feel him kick back in annoyance. (I’m the worst; thank goodness he is the best to make up for it!)
It’s because of Moxie that I thought to apply for a job at Dogster four years ago at all. I often tell people how 2009 was the year I got my first dog, my first dog tattoo (I now have four), and my job here in rapid succession and in that order. Not everyone gets to do what they love, and I’ve been able to come to work every day and sit across some of the biggest pet lovers I know. Sometimes it’s stressful (you wouldn’t believe what goes on at a pair of pet publications behind the scenes), but dear god, am I grateful. Even on the crappiest days, I have the best team any editor could ask for. We take turns being manic, but ultimately love each other like a dysfunctional-yet-perfect little family unit. And we get to churn out stories about pets while working in a dog-friendly office in San Francisco, one of my favorite cities on earth.
This year has thrown me for loop after loop on a personal and professional level. Next week I get to fly back to New York to collect a “rising star” in media award from min, an industry org. that recognizes talent under 30 (among a variety of other distinctions) annually. I can’t tell you how humbled I am to be on their shortlist, and for my peers to nod at the strides we’ve taken in the editorial department here at Dogster and Catster with our magazines, which we launched just a little over a year ago. I remember when our editorial team was just Managing Editor Vicky Walker and myself, putting out fires and churning out 12 items a day across the sites without an extra hand. I’m grateful for the struggle, for every frustrating meeting I ever walked out of, and for every bit of feedback that’s hit my inbox over the past four years.
But mostly for Mox, who sat next to me through it all, and let me cry into his fur on the hard days, and danced with me like a wild thing on the best ones. Today, I’m grateful for his bright eyes and expressive eyebrows. For the white socks on his feet and the white tips on his nose and tail. For his sense of humor and the way he’s always happy to see me, even when I feel like the most miserable creature on the planet. And I’m grateful for all of you sitting here and reading this when you could be stuffing your face with pie and turkey. Thank you for reading Dogster. It means a lot. Now, please get back to those buttered rolls, and let’s all raise a glass to our dogs.
Also, tell me: What are you grateful for this year?
About the Author: Janine is your typical annoying Aries overachiever with nine human siblings and a soft spot for sighthounds. She is a tattoo collector, tea drinker, and unabashedly into marshmallows and cheesy musicals. Janine believes responsible breeders exist — her dog is from one. She runs the show as editor-in-chief of Dogster and Catster.