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Why Thanksgiving Is My Dog’s Favorite Holiday

What's not to love about Thanksgiving? For Riggins (and me, too!) it's full of food, family, and fun.

Wendy Newell  |  Nov 25th 2015


Riggins, my 10-year-old German Shorthair Pointer mix, is a pretty easy dog to please, but the holiday season combines everything he loves: family, food, naps, and special Mommy time. What exactly about this time of year has earned such a special place in Riggins’ heart? Let me count the ways with Thanksgiving!

1. Road trip

Road trip with mom! (Photo by Wendy Newell)

Road trip! (Photo by Wendy Newell)

Riggins has always been great in the car. He seems to know that it will lead him to a great adventure. Thanksgiving with my family is spent at my sister’s house in a small town just outside of Yosemite, California. It’s a beautiful area that requires a boring four-and-a-half-hour drive up the center of the state. Boring for me. Riggins LOVES it.

If it’s just the two of us on the road, he happily lies down in the backseat, buckled up for safety, and we cruise down the road. We stop to eat at this cute little pit stop on the way up. Riggins and I sit on the edge of the outdoor seating, I get a soda in a mason jug — that’s how this cute pit stop serves drinks — and he gets a bowl of water. I usually share my meal with him, unless I’m hungry and then he gets his own hamburger patty! There is nothing better than a Mommy-and-me picnic to kick off the weekend.

ROAD TRIP! (Photo by Wendy Newell)

Time for a nap. (Photo by Wendy Newell)

If we are driving up with my folks, Riggins is even happier. He gets to lie on the bed in the motorhome, with either my mom or I cuddled up next to him. Cuddled up next to one of us, zooming down the highway, on the way to the best weekend of the year is his idea of heaven.

2. Family

Riggins with his family. (Photo by Doris Newell)

Riggins with his family. (Photo by Doris Newell)

Riggins loves his pack and would like nothing more than if every human he loved lived together, preferably sleeping in the same room, or better yet, the same bed. My sister, brother-in-law, niece, nephew, mom, and dad are Riggins’ people. When we get into my sister’s small town, Riggins knows what is coming and starts wiggling around in his seat and whimpering, wishing us to get there faster.

The nights at my sister’s house are spent patrolling. He will start in the living room and then come into my niece’s room, where I am, checking on everyone else along the way. Now and then, he will leave the bed to do another round of checks. By the morning, I’m kicked out of bed so he can snuggle with my niece, who comes in early in the morning for that very reason.

3. Food

Riggins sneaks under the Thanksgiving table. (Photo by Wendy Newell)

Riggins sneaks a treat under the Thanksgiving table. (Photo by Wendy Newell)

The fastest way to Riggins’ heart is through his stomach! On one of our first Thanksgivings with Riggins, my mom begged me to keep him outside. Civilized people just don’t allow dogs at the family dinner table. It didn’t happen. Riggins made such a racket I let him in so he could sit next to my chair. My sister’s in-laws, people who believe dogs should be treated like dogs, just had to learn to be okay with the fact that Riggins wasn’t just a dog but my baby!

Riggins at the Thanksgiving table -- where he belongs (photo by Christy Newell)

Riggins at the Thanksgiving table — where he belongs. (Photo by Christy Newell)

Of course, once at the dinner table Riggins is sneaked food. After I give him a couple pieces of turkey, Riggins realizes he has tapped me out as a source and makes his way to my dad. Riggins’ grandpa is always good for a treat or two, especially if Riggins plays his cards right and sticks his head under my dad’s arm to make him laugh and melt at that cute puppy face! Of course, if all else fails, he can just steal my niece’s food when she isn’t looking.

Then there is the take-home doggie bag. My dad carefully strips the turkey and makes Riggins a to-go bag of delicious leftovers.

4. Naps

Cuddled up next to his human nephew and aunt. (Photo by Wendy Newell)

Cuddled up next to his human nephew and aunt. (Photo by Wendy Newell)

When Riggins was young, I use to make him go running with me every morning. Even with the chance to see a deer, chase a squirrel, and spend quality time with me, Riggins hated the early-morning exercise routine. My brother-in-law would openly tease Riggins about it as he sat comfy at the dining room table sipping his coffee.

Now that Riggins is too old to run, his mornings on the Thanksgiving weekend are a dream! He gets to mosey from my niece’s bedroom to the sofa, where he jumps up, curls up against whichever human is there, and takes a little snooze. He doesn’t even flinch when I grab his doggie cousin to do the run with me instead. In fact, he may even look up under his eyelids and think, “Sucker!”

5. Fun outings

Butterfly Creek Winery (Photo by Wendy Newell)

Riggins and me at Butterfly Creek Winery. (Photo courtesy Wendy Newell)

One of our Thanksgiving weekend traditions is to head to a local family-owned winery called Butterfly Creek. It’s one of our favorite outings. He gets to run free on the grounds, through beautiful autumn leaves, while I drink wine. Of course, we both enjoy the cheese and cracker picnic that our family brings.

It honestly can’t get any better!

Running through the leaves with his human cousin and uncle. (Photo by Wendy Newell)

Running through the leaves with his human cousin and uncle. (Photo by Wendy Newell)

When we get home from the long Thanksgiving weekend, I’m always happy to sleep in my own bed and kick back on my own sofa, once again master of the remote. Not Riggins. Every year, Riggins goes through a post-Thanksgiving funk. For a couple days, he will pout and sulk, missing the rest of his family. Lucky for him, Christmas is just a few weeks away!

Does your dog celebrate Thanksgiving with your family? What does she like about the holiday? Let us know in the comments!

Read more about Wendy’s life with Riggins:

About the author: Wendy Newell is a former VP of Sales turned Grade A Dog Sitter. After years of stress, she decided to leave the world of “always be closing” to one of tail wags and licks. Wendy’s new career keeps her busy hiking, being a dog chauffeur, picking up poo, sacrificing her bed, and other fur-filled activities. Wendy and her dog, Riggins, take their always-changing pack of pups on adventures throughout the Los Angeles area, where they live together in a cozy, happy home. You can learn more about Wendy, Riggins, and their adventures on Facebook and Instagram.