As a veterinarian, I’m not the type to read a lot of animal books. After all, I live it. When Marley and Me came out, people raved about how I should read this best seller. As an avid reader, I wasn’t wowed — I gave it 2 out of 5 stars (After all, who wants to see a poorly behaved dog getting so much positive feedback?). Besides which, we veterinarians are used to euthanizing (sounds harsh, but true), so it wasn’t quite the tear-jerker everyone made it out to be … at least for a veterinarian.

A few months later, pet-loving friends encouraged me to try another dog book again, despite my previous disappointment. This time: The Art of Racing in the Rain. Not being a Nascar lover, I was a bit hesitant to pick this best-seller up, but was soon proved wrong. This well written book brought tears to my eyes. It’s not often we get to experience a story narrated by a dog.

So, I gave another pet book one more try: Inside of a Dog. While I wasn’t fascinated by the trivial facts about dogs in this book, I did enjoy the conclusion: let your dog sniff more on walks. Sounds silly, but the conclusion was legit…

In the frantic craziness of our lives, we often run around, brushing our pets casually aside. This is even true as a veterinarian, where I’m surrounded by pets all day. (I joke that veterinarian’s pets are the only ones that know the command "Go away." After a long day of working in the ER surrounded by sick pets, one doesn’t always want a dog jumping on you constantly, seeking attention.)

That said, as Thanksgiving approaches, we often reflect on what we are thankful for … and this is my reminder that we should extend our thankfulness to our four-legged friends, too.

When I reflect back on my days with JP, my only regret is this: not letting him sniff more. We humans get so caught up in the "busy-ness" of our lives, and are often tugging on dog leashes to hurry our more mellow companions along. I regret not taking longer, slower walks with him so JP’s schnoz could explore more. After all, a dog’s sense of smell is so much more intense than ours that they really enjoy the nasal stimulation from dog walks. It would have been my small way of thanking him for his years of loyalty and companionship. Yes, I’ve hiked hundreds (if not thousands) of miles with that dog … but wish I had a few more with him.

As Thanksgiving approaches, how are you going to express your thankfulness for your four-legged friend? Some ideas:

  • Let your dog sniff more; don’t rush the dog walk, and let him pace himself.
  • On a hot summer day, stop by DQ and get your dog a kiddy cone.
  • If your dog travels in the car well, consider taking a big, country drive once a month to visit a farther-away hiking trail than usual. Discover a safe, secure, off-leash dog park where your dog has the freedom to explore.
  • Splurge a little. While most restaurants and stores don’t welcome dogs, a once-a-month trip to a local pet store will allow your dog to sniff out his own toy (which you then have to buy).
  • Grow some catnip or wheat grass for your cat. Catnip, which is of the mint family, is highly invasive, and I don’t recommend planting it in the ground. That said, putting it in a garden window or large pot outside allows your cat to have some fresh herbal fun. Take the time to dry some so you have it all year round. Cats often cherish the variety of chewing on plants, and being that so many are poisonous, wheat grass provides a safe alternative to the periodic chewing treat.
  • Spend more time with your pet. Take that extra block around the park. Spend ten minutes a day teasing your cat with a laser pointer.
  • Lastly, spoil your pet. Yes, the occasional table scrap or licking of the dinner plate is actually OK. Just make sure it’s low-fat (no fat, skin or bones!) and non-toxic!

You don’t realize how short their time is until you lose them. So, how do you express how thankful you are for your pet this Thanksgiving season?

Dr. Justine Lee

Image: eurobanks / via Shutterstock