This Thursday is Thanksgiving in the U.S., where people celebrate a four day weekend by getting together with friends and family and eating, eating, and eating.

With all that food, it sounds like the kind of holiday that would be ideal for a dog as well — at least from a human perspective. But there’s something about Thanksgiving that any dog would appreciate more than all of the turkey and fixings.

That something is being together with the pack, in the proper position and following the leaders. For a balanced dog, that is heaven. Having leaders and knowing their position means that a dog can just relax and be a dog and live in the moment.

But on this Thursday and every other day of the year, there are plenty of dogs that have no pack and no leaders. In far too many cases, they have no future. Some of them have been abandoned and are living on the streets. Others are crowded into shelters, where they may have other dogs around, but not a lot of time to receive human leadership.

The word “thanksgiving” is pretty straightforward in English — it means to give thanks, of course. In Spanish, the holiday is called “acción de gracias,” and the phrase is the same in many romance languages. Latin, French, Portuguese, Gallician, and Catalan all use their own version of this phrase, which means “action of thanks.”

Giving is an action as well, but that is a bit hidden in the English word. “Giving thanks” sounds like something you do with little effort. “Action of thanks” urges us to do something. So, for this holiday season, as you celebrate with family, take some time to do something for all those dogs without packs of their own.

It’s as simple as “ARF” — Adopt, Rescue, Foster. If you’re ready and financially able to take on a long-term commitment, consider bringing a new dog into your pack, then go to your local shelter to find your new pack member.

But remember, getting a new dog isn’t like buying a pair of shoes. You should never do it without careful planning and, unlike the shoes, you really shouldn’t return the dog if it doesn’t fit. There’s a reason that we use the phrase “forever home.”

If you’re not ready to adopt or know that you can’t provide that forever home, then consider fostering dogs. This will help the dog with its rehabilitation process so that it becomes more adoptable, and will give you experience with different dogs and different behaviors so that you can become a better Pack Leader. The challenge can be to not become too attached, but the reward is knowing that you have helped a dog find a good home.

Adoption and fostering both fall under the umbrella of rescue, but there are plenty of ways to help rescue dogs if you absolutely cannot bring one into your life. You can volunteer at a shelter or rescue organization, or donate money, time, or supplies. You can help educate people about the importance of spaying and neutering, and humane treatment of animals.

During my life, I have adopted and fostered many dogs, from my own pack at home to the numerous dogs that have passed through my Dog Psychology Center in the process of being rehabilitated. Some, like Daddy, were with me for years, while others were only around for a few weeks or months before going home. But all of them thanked me for what I did through their actions — by finding balance and becoming happy dogs.

As we give thanks this week for all the good things we have received, remember how many great things your dogs have given you — love, loyalty, companionship, and an education in how to stay in touch with your instinctual side. What better way to say thanks for that than to take action and improve the lives of more dogs?

Stay calm, and enjoy your dinner!


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