A Holiday Bucket List for dogs - The National Canine Cancer Foundation

Christmastime . . .

For so many people, the holiday season brings with it feelings of hope, joy, peace, and a sense of family.  It is the time of year when people envision close-knit family gatherings around a bountiful table, mugs of hot cocoa with plenty of marshmallows, sitting on a comfy couch in front of a crackling fireplace, Christmas caroling with friends, sleigh rides, glowing candles in frosted windowpanes, and fuzzy canine companions sleeping soundly nearby.

For some of us, amidst all of the hustle and bustle of the season, we are simply praying for a Christmas miracle . . .

We are praying that our canine cancer warrior is cured.

We are praying that our canine cancer warrior lives a long, healthy life.

We are praying that our canine cancer warrior lives through Christmas this year.

We are praying that time will somehow slow down so that we can be with our beloved warriors for just a little bit longer.

Christmas time in these particular households may bring with it a mixture of joy and foreboding, joy that our pets are still with us and foreboding that our pets may not be with us much longer.  In most cases, we don’t really know when we will have to say farewell to them.  But, we do hope that we won’t have to associate future Christmases with the passing of our best friend.

If only our minds worked similarly to the minds of our canine friends, how much happier and less stressed we likely would be!  They sense all of the hustle and bustle that Christmas time brings to the household, and they sense all of our raw emotions (joy, anxiety, sadness, fear, anger, etc.), but they otherwise live “in the moment.”  Yes, they remember from past experiences, but they do not dwell on what the future may bring.  They are only concerned about the “here and now.”

It may be extremely difficult for us as dog-loving people to not dwell on what the future may hold for our canine cancer warriors.  But, for the sake of our dogs and their emotions, perhaps we need to take a page from their proverbial playbook and live in the moment with them.  Perhaps, especially at Christmas time, we need to slow down and soak in all of the goodness that surrounds our dogs.

People often talk about crossing things off of their “bucket lists” before they reach a certain age or before they die, things that they have always wanted to do or experience.  All over the world, people have started creating bucket lists for their dogs, as well, especially if their dogs have been diagnosed with a terminal illness.

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Perhaps, as “parents” of canine cancer warriors, we should attempt to channel all of our fears of the unknown during this holiday season – and beyond – into a productive form of energy so that we can treasure each and every moment with our best buddies.

Perhaps, we should start by creating a holiday “bucket list” for our dogs!

Now, we all know that each dog has his or her own unique personality, likes and dislikes, and physical limitations.  Thus, a bucket list created for one dog may be vastly different from another’s.  Just because your Labrador Retriever might enjoy going for a ride in a loud firetruck doesn’t mean that your friend’s Miniature Dachshund would!

If you are looking for some inspiration on what you might add to your buddy’s holiday bucket list, here are a few ideas:

  • photoshoot with Santa Claus
  • sending a letter to the North Pole on behalf of your dog
  • sending holiday cards with your dog’s picture on them
  • making dog-friendly Christmas cookies for him/her to enjoy
  • purchasing a special Christmas toy that you know your dog will love
  • letting your dog unwrap his/her own Christmas gifts
  • taking your dog caroling with you
  • taking your dog on a walk (or for a drive) to see all of the local Christmas lights
  • playing outside in the snow
  • going for a winter hike
  • taking part in an outdoor holiday play with your dog
  • organizing or taking part in a holiday dog parade
  • creating some “paw” paintings with dog-friendly paints
  • taking your dog with you to pick out a Christmas tree
  • wearing matching Christmas pajamas with your dog
  • creating an advent calendar for your dog
  • making a Christmas stocking for your dog and letting him/her pull items out of it on Christmas morning
  • cuddling with your dog and watching the lights from your Christmas tree glow

This list is by no means exhaustive but may jumpstart your minds into creating many more wonderful activities to share with your dogs.  Your dog’s holiday bucket list may help you focus on remaining “in the moment” with your best friend, rather than worrying about what tomorrow brings.

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A holiday bucket list for our dog is certainly not going to chase your fears away completely.  We are only human, and we love our dogs very, very much.  We often experience a great deal of anxiety and anticipatory grief when we are caregivers for dogs with a terminal form of cancer.  But, that same list will give us something joyful to focus on.  It is not simply a list of wonderful things for our dogs to experience.  Rather, it is a list of wonderful things that we can experience together.  Our dogs may live in the moment and enjoy all of those activities on that bucket list with every fiber of their being, but we will be able to treasure those same activities now and in our memories long after our best buddies have left us.

So, create that holiday bucket list for your dog and for you.  Treasure each moment you have with your best friend.  We never know what tomorrow is going to bring, no matter what our circumstances are.  Be “in the moment” with your best buddy as much as you possibly can, and make the most of your Christmas this year.

More of Dr. Kyle Stevenson’s articles:

Questions to Ask Your Veterinarian or Veterinary Oncologist About Your Dog’s Cancer Diagnosis

Which Dog Cancer Treatment Options Should I Choose For My Family?