We are having ten people for Thanksgiving dinner, a mix of family and new friends, and unfortunately my dogs are not quiet and relaxed when people arrive. Like many Dalmatians, they bark and bark and work up a storm around the visitors, acting like a bunch of wild animals.

Everyone invited will be overwhelmed as Breeze, Mac and Cody jump and howl and streak from room to room, investigating all the newcomers and letting them know who is boss. It will take a good ten minutes for them to calm down–too long for those who are not used to such behavior. It will undoubtedly be humiliating. How can I have such badly trained dogs? Why can’t they be like my ex-husband’s Golden Retriever, who gently greets you at the door with a sweetly wagging tail?

And so I am wondering if I should I shut them in their crates, this time in the garage, and banish them for the afternoon. Some people would say “certainly.” But I think to myself that, for better or worse, they are part of the family and deserve their slice of turkey. While we may give our kids a “time out,” we don’t make them stay in their rooms for the whole celebration.

All this makes me consider my own ability to accept their true nature without embarrassment. I know perfectly well that to bark and guard is ingrained in the breed: initially they were coach dogs who kept strangers at bay when their passengers arrived at the inn. Dalmatians are supposed to bark when people turn up. Tomorrow, the dogs will protect both my husband and me, as well as our home, when the doorbell rings. They are just doing their jobs.

It is important to me to try to live according to the four A’s of the needs of the heart: attention, affection, appreciation and acceptance. It appears that I am having difficulty with the fourth tenet of this kind of emotional intelligence with regard to both people and situations, as well as dogs.

And so, it is inevitable that I wonder whether I want to humiliate myself by putting everyone through the inevitable ruckus on Thanksgiving Day. Really, though, why can’t I just wait for the dogs to calm down, as they always do–and take pleasure when they eventually climb into all available laps and start washing everyone’s faces?

Unlike me, my dogs are great with the last “A.” They pass no verdicts on anyone. They offer up unconditional love and amiable affection for all. Dogs are humble enough to give thanks even for table scraps. Why can’t I be more like them and appreciate small and unexpected moments of pleasure?

Maybe this season, I won’t let the holidays drive me nuts, won’t spend too many days trying to find exactly the right Christmas gifts, won’t expect my tree to be trimmed to the utmost. Maybe this year, I can let Breeze, Cody and Mac teach me a thing or two about the miracle of acceptance. Maybe tomorrow, I’ll just open the front door and turn the wild animals loose.



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