"Presence" More Important than "Presents" to Dogs
Recently, my dear friend Jess stopped by for a cup of coconut coffee and to give me a much-needed haircut. We were talking about the arrival of the coming holiday season. We're both holiday crazies, loving the Christmas season but hating the attitude that so frequently accompanies it. This is supposed to be a season for family, sharing, loving, thankfulness, peace, togetherness, and worship.
Too frequently, it becomes a season for stress (financial and otherwise), competition ("My present's more fabulous than yours!" "I spent more money than you did!"), cutting people off in traffic, fights over the last Holiday Barbie on the shelves, trampling fellow shoppers in search of the best deal, and griping about waiting in long lines. Sadly, it is often a time when we attempt to demonstrate how much we love our friends, family, and dogs through how much money we spend on them. Something about that is just very yucky to me. Ironically, it just seems to cheapen our relationships.
The economy is not strong. Many people are struggling financially and making difficult decisions. The one decision that doesn't have to be nearly so difficult for the cash-strapped, hard working family, is wondering what to get the dog for Christmas. I'll clue you in on what every dog wants for Christmas, and it won't cost you a dime. Believe it or not, dogs don't know December 25th is a special day (or any other celebratory day or religious event). They want the same thing on Christmas and every other day of the year - the gift of your time.
When Jess was over the other day, she said to me that "presence" is so much more important than "presents." I think this is only too true and we get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holidays it's not uncommon to lose sight of this critical fact. I know that I am very busy and that Mokie would probably prefer to have more of my time in training sessions, adventures, walks, last runs at lure coursing before the snow arrives, or a play date with her friend Leila than a 15th Kong or 6th Nina Ottosson toy.
I understand that the holidays are busy. You likely have dinners to plan, guests to accommodate, decorating, cleaning, and shopping to do. If you have a moment to look at your dog's wish list, at the top you'll likely find, "Please spend time with me this Christmas. Let's do something fun together!" (I know many dogs are also secretly hoping for a fenced in yard this Christmas - I hope you get your wish, puppies!)
Things have been crazy around Maison de Lomonaco recently. I've been working hard and averaging about four hours of sleep a day, seven days a week, for some time now. I spend lots of time writing about dogs and training other people's dogs, and haven't spent as much training time with my own pups as I'd like. I've decided that deadlines are less important than relationships, and am making an effort to reward myself for all this hard work with what is for me a very potent reinforcement - having fun with the two dogs I love best. It's a gift to all of us.
Someday, I won't have Mokie or Cuba in my life anymore. I know when that day comes, I would give anything in my world for one more walk, one more training session, one more riotous game of fetch, tug, or hide and seek with my dog. In those painful moments of loss, I will likely never once think, "gee, I wished I bought my dog more stuff." This sentiment is only too real as I think of celebrating my first Christmas without my dad and without my beautiful angel boy Monte.
Toys, a new bed, expensive cookies, or a fancy collar are nice gestures and certainly will be appreciated by most dogs; but the best gift of all, at the holidays and throughout the year, is your time.