This last week I passed a friend and her young son while taking Kloe (my dog) for her morning walk. We paused to chat, from a distance of over six feet apart of course, and immediately Joey the son began to excitedly recite what was on his Santa List. After listening for a few minutes about Joey’s ambitiously long list, we said our goodbyes. Then as Kloe and I headed for the nearby park, I couldn’t help but feel grateful that my little girl has never developed the habit of making a Christmas List. Of course, even if she did, it would likely be far different than the vast majority of young children in the U.S. Would you agree?
I’ll bet there’s no surprise that Thom and I view Christmas quite differently from many others. Years ago we gave up giving presents to ourselves or our friends and family. It isn’t that we can’t afford to do that, thank goodness. It is instead the conscious choice to take the holiday emphasis off “getting” and instead make it more about the feeling. We aren’t always popular among family members, but we’ve never regretted the decision. And yes, we do celebrate—just not with presents.
All those thoughts about lists and presents got me thinking about how dogs, or any pet, would likely offer some advice about the holidays that might be useful for us humans. And let’s face it, 2020 offers its own unique twist. With that in mind, here is my imagined list of what Kloe would put on her list. And perhaps not surprisingly, I’m guessing that what she wants for Christmas isn’t much different than what we all want and really need.
- Spending quality time on demand with those close to her. I doubt I have to tell any pet owner that the single most important thing to any of them—yes even cats—is quality time with their humans. Kloe is a bit particular about when, and with whom, she wants to cuddle with and doesn’t like being held. And yes, like humans, all pets are different with different needs. But research shows that in order to stay healthy, happy and sane, we all need quality time with those closest to us.
- Always being included. It doesn’t really matter where we go—it’s pretty obvious that Kloe thinks the pack needs to stay together at all times. If she had her druthers, she would stay glued to us 24-7 and I’m guessing she can’t imagine why we wouldn’t want that as well. Being included. We all want/need to believe our presence matters.
- Having her boundaries honored. Boundaries are important and Kloe is very clear about hers. Even with other dogs, she lets others know when touching or sniffing her is acceptable and when it isn’t. Plus, she never seems to feel guilt or the need to live up to anyone else’s opinion of her choices. Kloe can teach me a lot about boundaries.
- Sticking with her routine. Like most pets, Kloe loves her routines and is visibly unhappy when we don’t stick with them. She gets up just about the same time every morning, lays in the sun while I do my journaling, expects her walk soon thereafter, and so forth. She knows what to do when it’s time for meditation and loves it when it’s time to snuggle on the couch in front of the fireplace after dinner. I can’t help but believe that while many of us love adventure, we also like to have a degree of certainty in our lives that we can count on happening. 2021 will be no different.
- Staying active and taking daily (or more) walks. I’m not sure whether Kloe needs her walk more than I need mine, but the day just doesn’t seem right if we don’t. Of course, I think Kloe could walk much further than I typically do because after all, until lunch time the only other thing happening is a nap. The lesson of course is that we would all do well to keep moving, stay active, and find some way to move our bodies as a gift to ourselves in the days ahead. Oh, and take plenty of naps in between.
- Stopping to sniff the flowers along the way. Okay, as far as Kloe is concerned it doesn’t need to be flowers. Besides, it isn’t the fragrance of the flowers she is after. But what she reminds me to do is to pause, take your time, and enjoy the journey.
- Morning massages on demand. The ecstasy on Kloe’s face is obvious when Thom gives her a morning massage. It is also evidence that most of us crave the touch of another. Whether it’s a loved one, a pet or a family member, receiving caring touches is one of the often-overlooked needs that makes our lives work. Maybe this should be on everyone’s list?
- Confident our meals will be on time. Kloe has never gone to bed hungry but I doubt every child in the world can say the same. While it is easy to take this one for granted, I am certain that having this assured in our lives is one of the greatest gifts we can receive.
- I’ll have what you’re having. This is one thing Kloe will NOT be getting for Christmas. Just because certain food looks good (especially when Thom and I are eating it), that doesn’t mean she should eat it. She does however get a few chosen treats on a regular basis.
- Peace in the home leads to peace in the world. While it doesn’t happen often, if Thom and I raise our voices toward one another—even if it is to just discuss something vigorously—Kloe crouches and leaves the room. I’ll bet human children do the same. Yelling, anger, frustration, disagreement or vocal unhappiness is a contagion that disrupts the peace in any location. I’m guessing peace in the home and around the world should be on everyone’s list this Christmas.
I could probably come up with more things that Kloe likes to put on her list, but overall it is a reminder that it is the simple things on most days that make for a good life. Sure 2020 has been hard on many people, and it isn’t over yet. But as Kloe reminds me, it is likely SMART to remember that merely having food to eat, a warm and safe place to sleep, and people who love and care for us is the fulfillment of very satisfying gift list. I think Santa would agree.