I wanted to take a break from the training bent I have been on recently and take a minute to talk about how I found a new family, just by buying a dog.

This is the best time of year to be thankful, to be grateful, even though most people aren’t. Tied up and strung out in the bustle of getting the perfect Christmas present, I think many of us tend to forget just why we are looking for that perfect present in the first place. It isn’t really self-interest that turns us all into grouchy, grabby, grumpy people this time of year. It’s because we want to do all that we can to show our friends and family how much we love them, like God did by sending us the best present of all – His Son. Somehow, through the American condition, we have equated the biggest, best, shiniest present with conveying to the people we love just how much we love them, and if we fail in buying that present, then we feel that we have somehow failed that particular person. I know I feel that way. I have been attempting to get a particular present for Joe since the holiday season started, and I still haven’t found it. It’s on back order for weeks on Amazon, and all the stores have sold out within hours. Tonight, I will brave going to the second largest mall in America to try again, two days before Christmas.

But you know what? When I took a step back and looked at the situation, I realized that if I don’t find it, I don’t find it. Joe isn’t going to love me any less for not finding it, and I am not going to love him any less. I take a deep breath and sigh and try not to cry. It will be okay.

Interestingly, the people who taught me that were people I haven’t even met in person (although I have to give my mom some credit, she has told me to stop shopping several dozen times this season). But the best Christmas presents for me this year came in the form of the Christmas spirit when it wasn’t even Christmas.

Everyone always talks about how we should preserve the holiday spirit all year round. It’s a nice goal, but so is peace on earth and ending hunger. Nice, but everyone knows in the back of his or her mind that it is unobtainable, so eventually, when the tree is taken down and the wrapping is shoved into bags and thrown away, people forget about the holiday spirit and go back to the same old self-interest, the same constant repetition of “I” and “me”.

The Omorrow pack is an anomaly in that regard. They never seem to lose the holiday spirit. Everyone is constantly providing loving support, a shoulder to cry on or someone to laugh with. No one in this pack seems to say “What about me?” when someone else is hurting.

Honestly, I got more Christmas cards this year from members of the pack than I did from friends or family. Joe’s best friend of nearly a decade didn’t send us a Christmas card because his wife doesn’t like me, but in one day, we got three cards from pack members. And when I read them, I sat on the couch and cried, not because I was sad, but because I felt so truly blessed to have been included in all these special and wonderful lives not my own.

That holiday spirit isn’t limited to Christmas though, not with Omorrow. All year round, I have gotten phone calls, text messages, emails, just checking up, just to say hi, to tell me they were thinking about me or one of my dogs, to talk, to laugh, to cry, to whine about training or to discuss canine health. I have gotten calls from people who said, “Hey, I saw this thing that I thought might interest you” and calls from people to say, “This really neat thing happened to me and my dog and I thought you would be the perfect person to tell.”

When I lived and breathed horses, horse people always used to say that dog people were very weird and generally, I agreed with them. Now that I think back, I just think we horse people were not engaging with the right dog people.

Now that I have the Omorrow pack, and Rhonda, in my life, I can’t imagine a world without it. The only calls I don’t screen are ones from the pack. I get so excited when I see someone from the pack calling that I will drop just about anything to sit and chat with them. Mainly, it’s because of the way this incredible family has pulled together in times of tragedy, times like our awful October and times like now. It’s in times of tragedy that true character shows through, and the true character of this pack is a family of people with the utmost capacity to be self-sacrificing and truly altruistic in others’ times of need.

It’s a clan that I’m incredibly honored to be a part of. As much as I suffer with those of us who have lost a loved one this year, both four-legged and two-legged, I also celebrate in all the joys, the small triumphs. When people at work show me pictures of their children or grandchildren, I smile and tell them how cute they are, but I don’t feel it. Meanwhile, I grin and get small butterflies every time I see a new picture of a dog on the Omorrow site. I love watching them all grow and change and seeing the joy they bring my new family. They each have their distinct personalities which seem so in tune with the owners that I feel that I know half of you just because I feel I know your dog.

I love the fact that everyone is centered around Rhonda, who, instead of feeling that she is owed her celebrity (even though she is, for breeding such wonderful creatures and just being a great person all around) is instead, truly humbled by the reverence she is given. I love that I can jump online and ask a question about canine health and get a three page response from Robert (even though sometimes I have to space the information out for my brain to absorb it), or I can always find a laugh from Ms. Kimberly. I love that Chelsea and Kelly always have great dog/owner stories from work, and Kyrie never ceases to amaze me with the goofy faces she can capture on film. Everyone of you is truly special to me, and I wanted to thank you all, this Christmas season, and every day, for being such wonderful people and accepting me with all of my human flaws and weaknesses.

I especially want to thank Rhonda, for the 19 thousandth time. We love Shelby, she is a mutant, but she is the best mutant that ever was. And we love you, for picking up the phone when I call to worry about dog food or ears, or any of the other ridiculous things I manage to worry about. We love you for not leaving us in the dark or in silence when we lost Dusty. We love you for just being you. And we will always be there for you, no matter what, just like you have been for us.

Merry Christmas everybody, I hope you all have a truly blessed one!