With Thanksgiving just around the corner, we’re taking a moment to make a list of what we are thankful for this year. Working on The Bark for the past 16 years, we’ve been afforded a unique view into the world of dogs, and the people who care for them. A lot has changed, but some of the best things about dogs never seems to.
1. The spirit of volunteerism. The dog community is a compassionate, supportive network of people who foster, donate, fundraise, advocate and share their love with animals who need it. Through a million small and large acts of kindness and with a sense of responsibility—they make a difference.
2. Dog-friendliness is being embraced. A generation ago, dogs’ access to public and shared spaces was very limited. “No dogs allowed” signs were the norm. Thankfully, these are fewer today, and a conscious effort to welcome dogs in parks, businesses and at social events is growing in popularity.
3. Government oversight of pet food. After hundreds of deaths from tainted pet food and treats, and countless recalls of foreign-source and domestically-produced product—we can look forward to new regulations that will impose safety and health requirements to the $21 billion pet food industry. Our pets deserve nothing less.
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4. Science is offering new insights. The number of important studies and research that impact our understanding of dogs is at an all-time high. From the dog genome project to studies of the canine mind and senses, these creative investigations into what makes dogs tick is contributing to real, practical improvements in how dogs live in our society.
5. The inspiration of fine writing and art. Some of today’s best writers and thinkers are exploring the rich subject of dogs—from poet Mary Oliver to psychologist Alexandra Horowitz and novelist Ann Patchett—the wealth of words expressing life with dogs is our good fortune. Visual artists like Lucian Freud, David Hockney and Elliot Erwitt contribute their own language.
6. More choice than ever. Gone are the days when Ken-L-Ration and Milkbones ruled supreme. Today, dogs have their choice of organic, wheat-free, freeze-dried, reconstituted, bison, duck, raw, home-cooked and every combination imaginable. The expansion of selection has touched every corner of pet products … there are more dog beds, more toys, more everything to address every need and fancy.
7. Health options are evolving. A similar broadening of veterinary care is occurring, new techniques and medical innovations provide us with more options … holistic treatments, non-invasive procedures and, often, a level of care that can rival our own. The growth of pet health insurance is an idea whose time may have arrived.
8. The impact of canine behavior on everything—from training to unwanted pets. Understanding how dogs think and feel is key to living with them in harmony. It’s such a simple premise, but the plethora of misguided theories can do more harm than good. Fortunately, the truth has a way of rising to the top, and our understanding of canine cognition and behavior will help us solve some of the biggest challenges we face in the pet community.
9. Dogs’ roles in society are growing. Dogs love it when they have a job to do. For many, that means a real task to perform, and as a society, we’re expanding the job pool—assistance and therapy dogs, tracking and law enforcement, conservation and wildlife control, plus traditional duties of herding, hunting and companionship. The value of doing good work is immeasurable.
10. The essence of dogs. Whether it’s their never-ending enthusiasm to embrace a walk or their attentive demeanor as they accompany us through our day—dogs are great company. The bond is unique, and at its best, brings out something special in both of us, encouraging a fresh view of the world.