Human/Animal Bond

Giving Thanks for our Pets

The VetzInsight team thought this year would be a good time to voice our reasons for being thankful about our own pets.

November 25, 2020 (published)

2020 has been a particularly tough year, and sometimes it's been hard to find what we're grateful for in our lives. The VetzInsight team decided that it would be a good time to voice our reasons for being thankful about our own pets: the animals we love, the antics that make us laugh, the cuddles that make a tough day or year immensely better. Focusing on what we're grateful for this year isn't hard when we think about our pets.

Dr. Tony Johnson, Writer
My family has had dogs, cats, and birds all along, but now we have guinea pigs! The best thing about this is that I found out just how dedicated/stubborn my 8-year-old daughter, Gloria, is. When the idea first arose, she became obsessed. Normally, one or two rounds of "No" or "We'll think about it" would be enough but not this time. I didn't know what to expect. Were they smelly? Bitey? Would our cats and dogs want to eat them? Did they stay up all night and piggy party in their little enclosure? She researched guinea pigs relentlessly. I'm only slightly surprised that she didn't come up with a PowerPoint presentation. Gloria is such a responsible kid that we believed her, and she wore us down/won us over with her earnestness and dedication. She celebrated by doing the most energetic happy dance I have ever seen.

Only two days in, they've won me over. They look like the Porgs from The Last Jedi, and I'm hoping that Chewbacca won't find out we have them. They also don't seem to have the nervousness that I have seen in other rodents and rabbits; they are pretty chill and last night were content to sit with us in bed and read stories. I'm pleased as punch with them and proud that my daughter has the verve to keep fighting for something she strongly believes in, even if right now it's only adopting something that has whiskers and tiny, tiny toes. I think that verve will serve her well when the time comes and she has to take a stand on something big.

Gloria holds Cammy the cavy after her determined and successful campaign to bring two guinea pigs into the family. Photo by Dr. Tony Johnson.

Tamara Rees, Illustrator
Thanks for my two small furry family members. Hugo and Lilly are the bunny gang making us all laugh with follow the leader hijinks, buddy ear grooming and whiskery bunny kisses. Lilly had some challenges over the last six months, first with treatment for heart failure and then having a leg removed because of bone cancer. Much thanks to the veterinary students and resident DVM’s at the UCD School of Veterinary Medicine for taking care of Lilly through her treatments. I greatly admire my millennial daughter Katrina for her determination to bring Lilly back to health as she organized Lilly's multiple medicines and physical therapy. Sadly, Lilly passed on just before Thanksgiving, but the joy of life a little black and white bunny showed those last days gave everyone in the house a little sunshine.

Lily (left) and Hugo pose for a glamour shot. Photo by Tamara Rees.

Dr. Teri Oursler, Writer
Jackson, thank you for protecting me from all of the blowing leaves, golfers walking by, and UPS drivers. Your diligence at barking is especially nice during Zoom meetings! You have also done an ultra-fine job of keeping the cats off the bed, out of the cat bed in front of the fireplace, and off the sunbeam on the couch. Maybe you could learn to share?

Rocky, thank you for being a needy cat at 1 a.m. after the earthquake. It is so good of you to show me when your cat dish is nearing empty, but I think we need to define empty; just because you can see some speck of the bottom, starvation is not imminent. I also need to thank you for all of the ‘ab games’ we play when I am making the bed. Yours are now nicely toned! Mine, not so much.

Kilolo, thank you for keeping Rocky in line. It is so good of you to swat him for daring to come upstairs to bed when you are not quite ready. Bedtime hissing is so soothing. To both cats, who believe they can disguise themselves as paperweights, kicking away any papers bugging your feet is not so helpful to me or your disguise.

And to all three of you, I really appreciate your company on my morning commute, all 16 stairs, with racing cats and sleeping dogs. What would I do without all of you to make me laugh?

Kilolo prepares to pass Jackson on the steps. Photo by Dr. Teri Ann Oursler.

Amanda McWreath, Veterinary Student
Today (and every day) I am thankful for animals. I realize that's a pretty unoriginal statement coming from a veterinary student, but I can't even begin to imagine a world without them. Big or small, fur or feathers, domestic or wild; I am grateful for every single opportunity that I get to give back to them just a small portion of the life that they give to me.

As for my own critters...I don't know what I did to deserve them, but I am so grateful that we stumbled into each other's lives. They are my favorite hellos, my hardest goodbyes, and the very best part of every day in-between. This year I am especially grateful for extra time together, full bowls, and happy tails.

Daisy, Dixie and Lou take over the big bed. Photo by Amanda McWreath.

Dr. Jennifer Woolf, Writer
One of my cats was the stereotypical perfect boyfriend: very handsome but not too bright. Boyfriend had beautiful orange tints to his brown tabby striping and gorgeous green eyes. But man, did he get himself into some goofy situations. In our house, we typically keep our toilet lids down. On this particular occasion, I had just lifted it getting ready to clean it when he came tearing into the bathroom, jumped up to the toilet, and skidded right into the bowl. On another, similar occasion, I had just opened the (thankfully cold) oven door to shift the racks when he again came tearing around the corner and jumped on the open door. I always looked for him before ever opening the oven door again. He was also known to jump down behind the washer and dryer, and then cry pitifully until someone came to rescue him as he couldn’t figure out how to get back out. Not that that would stop him from doing it again the next day. All beauty and no brains. But very loved nevertheless. Our family misses him; he died from cancer a few years ago. At Thanksgiving, I’ll take a moment to remember him and my other furry companions, current and past, for they all hold a special place in our hearts.


Dr. Christy Corp-Minamiji, Writer
One of my earliest memories is of sitting on a bed while my father wrapped white gauze around the hand I’d waffled on a floor radiator in our tiny, elderly house. Our Brittany spaniel nudged at my knee as a I sobbed. “See, Charlie wants to make you feel better,” my parents said.

Charlie was followed by Aureus, a golden retriever who loved to snatch pieces of pancake out of mid-air and recoiled in canine horror the time she realized that in her breakfast frenzy she’d grabbed not just the pancake, but my arm nearly to the elbow. Even Goldie, my mare who would buck me off just for giggles would pause and stand protectively over me until I got back up from the ground – then she’d beat a hasty retreat. I have been snuggled by cats: Izzy the otherwise malevolent Himalayan, Bandersnatch, my college Maine Coon, and Mystic the oblivious tortoiseshell – while my body was wracked with cramps or fever; Bandy would very helpfully lick my nose as well (not so great when I had a cold.)

Jasmine, our German shepherd, adopted while I was in veterinary school, patiently and gently taught each of my children to walk and allowed them to bedeck her with hats and scarves.

“You okay?” Nikolai the cockatoo asks when I cough. “Sorry,” he apologized after accidentally nipping my finger.

Cricket, my late friend Caroline’s former service dog, would let both of us know when Caroline was growing exhausted and it was time for a visit to end by walking to the door and then laying his head on her knee and repeating as many times as it took for the clueless humans to figure it out.

When I look back on the pets and animals who have blessed my life, so many more than I can list here, I am most grateful that they have taught and remind me to care – to check in, to apologize, to be present, to be aware of others.

Photo courtesy of Christy Corp-Minamiji

Dr. Nathan Mueller, Writer
Our dogs are the icing on the cake of life. Now, I’m not a big fan of cake because it’s too dry, but the icing is a completely different story. Like the icing, our dogs help make each day a little sweeter and more palatable. I couldn’t be more thankful for all their little distractions that lighten the mood, and help us relax, laugh, and enjoy life a little more. By either following us around with their toys to remind us it’s never a bad time to play fetch or surprising us with new games, they’re always keeping us entertained. Above all, they teach us how to better love our friends and family by giving their love to us unconditionally – well, if you don’t count the small price of two hearty meals a day, and a couple of small boneless bites of lean turkey on Thanksgiving!

Other dogs make fun of Spike, not for his radar ears, but for his culinary delight about earthworms. Photo by Dr. Nathan Mueller.

Phyllis DeGioia, Editor of VetzInsight
My pets make me laugh no matter what what mood I'm in, and no person does that for me. Pets do it no matter what crummy thing has happened that day, no matter what the circumstances. Zita absolutely excels at it, more so than most: she throws her toys up in the air so she can catch them herself and runs around squeaking and tossing and tossing and squeaking. Sometimes the stuffie lands on the dinner table, narrowly missing a plate. Outside, I will throw a ball for her because it's her favorite way to play, but after chasing it three or four times and obsessively dropping it at my feet for more, more, more, suddenly there will be an imperceptible shift in the universe and she forgets all about it, trotting off to some unseen curiousity. She lounges on her back like some kind of Roman courtesan, eyeing everyone in sight; she's a love-the-one-you're-with kind of girl, especially if you have popcorn. Her "please share your food" stare is worthy of an Oscar nomination as her desperation for a t-r-e-a-t ratchets up notch by notch. She guards the house and car, pre-rinses the silverware and dishes in the dishwasher, protects me in the bathroom (you never know when something untoward could occur), and keeps my boyfriend's pillow warm when he gets up at night. He calls her a subatomic particle; I call her mine.

Zita helps out in the kitchen by pre-rinsing items before the dishwasher is run. Photo by Phyllis DeGioia

Carla Burris, Writer
I am thankful for all the dogs in my life that have been mellow members of the family -- content to be lapdogs during Netflix binges, footwarmers in bed, and finders of sunny spots for basking -- and then go completely mental with zoomie attacks. Phantom has been a wonderful pandemic roommate.

Phantom the chaser of the invisible

Laura Schwartz, Writer
I'm pretty sure I've been a crazy cat person since birth! I can't think of any time in my life when my family didn't include at least one cat. I'm so thankful for my little furry friends because they just bring so much joy to every single day. I love the intense looks on their little faces when they're really getting into playtime with a favorite toy. Watching them sleep, stretched out on a sunny window sill or curled up in a basket of freshly dried laundry brings me a feeling of peace and comfort that's hard to describe. I've passed my love of cats on to my son and also converted my dog-loving husband -- I think he spoils them even more than I do!

Lilly naps in a favorite spot. Photo by Laura Schwartz

Charlotte Waack, Writer
I am thankful for all of the pets that have shared their lives with me in the past, and my current sidekicks, Owen the Corgi and Simon Cowell Kitty. I am also thankful for the many dogs and cats I have helped along the way in my career as a veterinary technician.

I have written about Owen, my Welsh Pembroke Corgi, for VetzInsight and some of the traits that are not desirable in dog ownership. Even though he is protective of his toys, has food-guarding issues, and barks at leaves falling, I would not trade him for any other dog. Through this pandemic, he has been my constant companion. He has a bed in my office where he sleeps during the day. He has six tennis balls in there that he loves to squeak during Zoom meetings. He alerts me to every car that drives down our gravel road. But I am so thankful that Owen helped me with my grief this summer when we lost our 14-year-old Australian Shepherd. Owen's daily zoomies brought a smile to my face. His obsession with playing soccer warmed my heart. Cuddling next to me on the couch made me feel loved still, and his stumpy little legs running across the yard brought a laugh to lighten sad days. Owen is my clown, my cuddle-bug, my defender from the UPS man, and most of all a great companion that I am thankful to have in my life.


Why are you grateful for your pets? Remind yourself this Thanksgiving.

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