This is my very first holiday season with my dog Sam.
Sam was skin and bones when I adopted him a year ago from Brooklyn Animal Care and Control, with his ribs poking out and a very scared attitude toward people. For me, though, even though he was shaking when he first met me, it was love at first sight.
Sam was about a year old and seven months and approximately 10 pounds underweight when he came into my life last November through a picture posted on my Facebook wall online.
It was the final minutes of Sam's last night on "doggie death row," and my friend Dennis shared his picture. "If you're serious about really wanting to get a dog," Dennis wrote, "consider this little guy who's slated to be put down tomorrow if no one adopts him." Sam's eyes shined with the same love and silliness they shine at me with today, and while I never in a million years thought I would adopt a pitbull, I knew this was fate.
With minutes left on the clock, I put down the deposit to make Sam my own, and the next day I trekked from Manhattan to Brooklyn to meet my new best friend.
"You showed up," the woman at the Brooklyn shelter told me when I said I had come from Sam. "We're so glad you did."
That first night, after I took him home with me to Chelsea in my very own apartment, we collapsed in each other's arms. I wore my boots, my clothes, the lights were on, and I just sunk into a deep sleep, breathing in his hair and his breath and his little doggie snores, as he was so glad to be in a place he could call home.
That was one year ago.
And this year he's spending the holidays in that same home, on his same bed with new treats that I have gotten special just for him to show him how grateful I am for the unconditional love that he gives me every day.
My friend Alison once told me something that I think about almost every day. She said she once documented everything about how much she loved her dog: the way he smelled, the funny way he looked at her, the way his breath felt on her when he was sleeping.
I love this idea. Of course my list could be about 500,000 reasons long and that would just be the start, but for now, here are five reasons I am so grateful for my dog Sam this holiday season.
I took all these photos with my brand new Canon PowerShot SX280 HS. I've been a PowerShot user for years -- even lent my old one to xoVain! I love a lot of things about this camera for good doggie documentation.
There's built-in wifi so I could wirelessly transfer images to any social sites, and then the main one: simply gorgeous images because of the 12.1 megapixel, high-sensitivity sensor and Canon DIGIC 6 image processor. See how his doggie eyes have no redness? That's because there is improved low-light performance up to ISO 6400 and enhanced image quality. Not to mention the 20x optical zoom and 25mm wide-angle lens with Optical Image Stabilizer.
I hope you have as much fun looking at the pictures as I did taking them.
#1: My dog helps me smile at the little things in life.
I'm not a very patient person. Sometimes my brain gets very lost in text messages I have to send or articles I need to write or during the holidays, maybe even presents I need to buy or send. But not with my dog Sam. Sam looks at me with his squinting loving smile, and I can't help but lose my mind with excitement over whatever amazing new development he's uncovered around him. It's a fence! It's a bag on the street! It's the coolest thing ever! Yeah it is. Because Sam found it, that's why.
#2: My dog helps me slow down and appreciate New York.
I have a joke with some of my friends that whenever Sam stops and refuses to leave the front of a building or an odd door here and there, that he's discovered some rare gem that I need to uncover inside. "What's that, Sam? Is there a single man I need to meet inside? What's that, boy? He's employed and emotionally available? That's a good dog, that's a good dog!" Sam has led me to new parks and neighborhoods and picturesque streets I never would have wandered down were it not for his curiosity. I love him for it so much.
#3: My dog teaches me that adventure is everywhere.
Sometimes I get recognized for writing for xoJane, but I've actually had Sam get recognized several times, too. Once it was someone coming out of a subway station who said, "I know that dog! I love your dog!" and Sam's tail nearly wags itself off he gets so psyched. Truly, I could go to a pile of dirt with this dog, and he turns it into my new favorite story. Every time.
#4: My dog helps me get outside and experience nature.
I've been known to in the past stay inside my workplace or my home office for seeming days on end and get lost in a computer maze of emails and status updates and to-do lists. But this guy has no patience for that. Sam will literally come up to my laptop and close it down with his paw. He is done that more than once. He is so smart. I love it. And every time I take him outside, when I see the gorgeous changing colors of the leaves I'm so glad he has such better taste than I do. New York outside in winter is everything.
#5: My dog is love, and he reminds me to stay in touch with everyone else who I love in this world.
The coolest thing about my dog is probably how much he puts me in a state of joy, which makes me crave more joy in my life. When I send pictures to my friends and family of Sam, they want to know one thing: When am I coming to visit, and when do they get to meet him?
It's my big goal for the next few months of my life, I would say. Take my dog on a road trip around the country to head home to see my family in California -- and along the way, document even more reasons why every day is only filled with more reasons to be grateful.
What and who are you grateful for? And can you show it in a picture? Let's make each other's hearts swell with love, please.