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Junior Mint and the meaning of Thanksgiving

  • Written by Eric North aka “The Happiness Warrior”



For as long as I can remember, Thanksgiving was one of my favorite holidays of the year. Most prominently it reminds me of my grandparents and the guidance and wisdom they shared on the holidays and summers when we were together. They were the only adults in my life that I felt safe and reassured with and were constants throughout my childhood. Those are memories that I will always hold close, but sadly they are gone with only memories to remind us of their importance.

As the years went by, Thanksgiving continued to be a family time when we all came together. Most of them were heartwarming and we were united, but over the years things changed, people passed away, and we became more distant and apart.

As emotional as the holidays can be, it's also when we realize who matters the most and who always lets us down. As I grow older I realize that family is defined by the people who we value the highest and feel the most connected.

Now more than ever in this vastly changed world of ours it is more important to remember why we’re here and the happiness that comes when we live in the now without need for guilt or remorse. We will always have memories of those long gone and the lessons they taught us. It’s also a time to be fully aware of who’s still with us and our gratitude for their place in our lives.

Last year, I experienced the holidays from a very different perspective. I was temporarily disabled from a bloody and battered bicycle accident the month before and was home recovering from a lengthy surgery to reattach both of my quadriceps. This was compounded by other painful other injuries that would have to wait until my legs regained their strength and I was mobile once again.

I knew without a doubt that it was my attitude that would set my course. Healing began on the day of my surgery. My mindset was focused on renewal and emerging from my recovery only stronger and better than ever before!

One morning a few days after my operation, I was feeling proud and happy about how well I was doing on my crutches. As I moved through the house with a degree of competence, I heard a thump and an ear-piercing scream. The most heart-wrenching sound of a dog in pain.

My beloved and somewhat emotionally troubled rescue pit bull Junior (or Junior “Mint”) had tumbled down the stairs and broke his leg. It was a moment of sheer terror and I rushed to his side forgetting my crutches. I felt the urgent rush of adrenalin that was needed, but I was physically unable to bend over to help him and felt a moment of helplessness. Luckily help was near and he was rushed to the nearby emergency veterinarian. All I could do was feel his suffering.

We waited for hours to hear his status and finally got the call.  He would be home in a couple of days and his limb would be amputated. He would survive the surgery, but the diagnosis was heartbreaking. He had a bone sarcoma, which would someday spread to his lung. My poor little pup who had such a hard beginning to his start in life would be coming home. Hs life greatly changed and lived through a new perspective.

Two long days later Junior, my hero came home. He had charmed everyone in the hospital and hopped through the front door with his tail held high in search of a tearful hug. My brave and powerful pit bull was now missing a leg, but his affection and loyalty were the same. His happy face and fast wagging tail told the Thanksgiving story we needed. He had a long way to go before he’d be well, but we were thankful and reunited with love.

The next few weeks Junior and I bonded in our recovery. He was my constant companion and my moral compass in everything in life. He taught me many lessons in patience and love. Junior was the saddest and most dejected dog in the kennel when we adapted him and his ability to trust and love despite his beginning could overcome any obstacle.

Over the next couple of weeks, we shared our struggles with mobility, and both became stronger and acted as one. We healed together and spent many hours quietly holding each other processing our emotions and fears. I’ve always thought of my dogs as spiritual guides and Junior was the shining light in my purpose and healing.

Thanksgiving was bitter-sweet that year, we were sad, happy, and mostly full of love. There was no family dinner, and I was confined to the house. While my healing progressed. Junior began to become comfortable with his disability and began his chemo sessions. For a little while on that Thanksgiving all was well and I was grateful for my small family and our love for each other. All that mattered was there before me and all that I loved.

As The Happiness Warrior, I’ve always believed that happiness is an attitude that we can live by and project. Despite everything, I believe that Junior was happy. We gave thanks for each new day, and we remembered and relived our happy memories of the past.

This year Junior isn’t with us, and his spirit will always be missed. A new dog has come to share our home and create his own story. Life goes on but we are always thankful for both the good and the bad.
Thanksgiving is a day to be present and express gratitude and acceptance. It’s a day to exist and be aware of our right to experience happiness. Why not live this way every day and put our fears to rest?

ON THE RIGHT PATH?

I’ve always believed that in our tragedies and troubles, we can often find our peace. Somewhere in the darkest hours there will always be a light guiding us upwards through the spiral. When we ignore the teachings we are ignoring the blessings. Gratitude and thankfulness for the gift of life is how we should celebrate. The present is what matters and the future we imagine might never exist. Listen to your inner voice and know that you have wisdom. The path is always right before us when we are able to believe in ourselves and know what makes us good.

FORGIVENESS IS GIVING THANKS

When we are truly giving thanks we are also forgiving and setting our lives up for more happiness. Let it out, stop holding it in, and ask yourself if your perceptions are just fears and emotions?

The power of words is in their beauty to heal. Is hurting someone else only hurting ourselves? Forgive and live in the present. Rise above petty disagreements and see others for their potential.  We have the power to change and adapt. We can learn to see things with a new perspective and create more self-awareness. Forgiveness is a gift that costs so little and can do so much. Be thankful for what makes you unique.

We all have the ability to grow, learn, and change. The attitude we choose sets our path and brightens our journey. Just one second and a poor decision can make a huge impact on our lives. Why make life hard and unforgiving when we always know the right choice?

LOYALTY AND LOVE

No one can ever feel love or be in love unless we are honest with ourselves. Love is a gift that has many meanings but love in its purest form is the love that comes when we are loyal and true. The love that comes when we would do anything for another without hesitation or fear. Loyalty is the love that we need so much and is so often missing in our lives. Love is something we all need so desperately at times that we forget its purpose. Love is something to be thankful for on any day of the year, but it is always more real when it comes from within.

Junior and I had the gift of loyalty which helped our healing process. Together we were able to conquer challenges and find more happiness in our greatly changed lives. We never gave up on each other and we were thankful every day that we had together.

BE THANKFUL EVERYDAY

We all want to be thankful or at least give the appearance of gratitude and thankfulness at this time of year. It can be something we hold close and live by every day or it can be fleeting, and we revert to our old ways. Happiness is elusive when we are blind to the reality of our lives and unwilling or unable to see the big picture and gain self-awareness.

The holidays can be emotional and difficult for many of us. It’s never too late to make new choices and attitudes to a happier place. As usual in life, the only thing holding us back is ourselves. Each day is a chance to be better and each year is a chance to be greater than the last. Be thankful for your place in the world and continue making it a better place.  Thanksgiving is a day for all of us to reflect and remember, it’s a day to forgive and a day to show love. In these darker days of winter, it’s up to us to be the light.


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