I first published this article December 2007 in From the Horse’s Mouth magazine and have been sharing it yearly ever since. I hope you enjoy it.


The season of gift-giving is upon us. Some of us will frantically search for just the right gift, the gift that says just the right thing, expresses just the right emotion, the gift that shows us off in just the right light. We will plan and shop and prepare. We will spend far too much money and far too much energy and will end up feeling depleted and sad.

Others of us will give as little thought as possible to the chore of gift-buying and will speed down department store aisles mere days before our family gathering or our office gathering or the gathering at our place of worship, grabbing at whatever—they can always return it if they don’t like it—and paying extra for gift-wrapping. We will spend far too much money and far too much energy and will end up feeling depleted and sad.

Several years ago, a woman in one of my Reiki classes shared this story. The year before, she had been on vacation in Costa Rica and had been swept off the beach by a riptide. Her neck was broken in two places. She was told she might never walk again.

The woman, a successful groomer and dog sitter, always had a house full of dogs. She told of coming home from the hospital and being immobilized for weeks, her bed surrounded by dogs, both hers and other people’s. When her husband would come to check on her, he had to pick his way over and between the pack because they refused to move. She told us, her voice heavy with emotion, that she was certain it was the energy and love of these creatures that made it possible for her to walk again.

Later, with the aid of a walker, she was able to take daily walks to the corner. She would take several dogs with her. “They only needed one walk,” she said, laughing. “It took all day.” She took four at a time, two leashes in each hand, inching her way down the sidewalk. She said, “I would take a step, and they would take a step. I would stop to rest, and they would sit and wait. I would take another step, and they would take another step. I would stop, and they would sit.” The woman who was told she might never walk again told us she was soon able to walk on her own. What greater gift than this?

Giving is second nature to the creatures in our lives: the dog who teaches us about loyalty and unconditional love, the cat who teaches us about independence. Giving is second nature to the horse who hears our confessions and our prayers, who lets us bury our face in his strong, sweet neck, who nibbles our hair, who carries us on her strong back down a snowy trail, who looks us in the eye with fierce pride.

I think the animals have much to teach us about giving.

Perhaps this gift-giving season some of us will strike a better balance than we have in the past, taking our cue from the creatures in our lives. Perhaps we will fret less, enjoy each other more, give freely from our hearts.


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4 Replies to “Gifts”

  1. Hi Pam,

    What a wonderful story. I agree that animals have much teach us about giving.

    I agree that this season has become far too focused on material gifts–more stuff–that most of don’t really want and often can’t afford to buy. We’ve forgotten that the really valuable gifts have no price tag on them and can’t be found in a store. The gifts that are freely given from our heart–compassion, a shared smile or laugh, appreciation for those who are in our lives, etc–are always available to be shared every day–not just for a few weeks in December.

  2. Thanks Pam for this lovely reminder. Love, joy, peace within and radiated out to those around us the best gift of all.

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