Being grateful for all things Zoom — both meetings and ‘zoomies’

By Julie Castle

The great thing about having dogs and cats in our lives is that, for them, every day is a holiday, every treat is the best thing ever and every time you return home, it’s the most exciting thing that has ever happened. Gratitude comes easily to them.

It is a blessing to be able to give them the safety and protection that allows that spontaneous gratitude. Whether it’s your dog friends doing “zoomies,” squealing with delight and dancing in place, or your cat friends curling around your legs with happy purrs, our pets remind us to be in the moment. They remind us to celebrate the good things in our lives, even when the world around us seems to have come loose from its moorings.

For us humans, gratitude doesn’t always come so easily. When times are particularly challenging, not only can it be hard to find the light at the end of the tunnel, it can feel wrong to stop and be grateful. It can seem insensitive. But being grateful isn’t being insensitive to pain. To nurture the small candle flickering in the darkness isn’t to deny the dark. It’s an acknowledgement that what we focus on is what truly grows.

And that’s what this Thanksgiving holiday is all about. For so many of us, Thanksgiving won’t include a large family gathering this year, but it will, I hope, include the furry members of your family. This year, it’s more important than ever to focus on the thankful aspect of the holiday.

Truly, there is always something to be thankful for.

First and foremost, I’m grateful to everyone who is helping to make the world a better place for the animals. That includes our shelter partners, volunteers, members and supporters, network and coalition partners, grassroots advocacy teams and everybody on the front lines of lifesaving. In a year with so many unknowns, you all stepped up in every conceivable way. And not under a COVID-19 equivocation, but at levels that would be amazing under the best of circumstances. It gives me confidence that we are still on track and will achieve no-kill for the animals nationwide by 2025.

I’m grateful for what I get to do in life. I get to help save the animals who we all love. And as CEO of Best Friends, I get to do it with the most intelligent, dedicated, caring, hardworking and kind group of people I’ve ever met. In virtually every conversation I have during the course of the day, someone says something brilliant and wonderful. Never “We can’t do that” and always “Let’s see how we can make it work.”

If you’ve come to the Sanctuary and met the people here (or perhaps you’ve met them in your part of the country), then you know what I mean. This sense of kindness expands way beyond our staff — it really defines our entire Best Friends community. And I am so thankful to be part of it.

This year, I’m also grateful for the Sanctuary — perhaps more than ever. Some of you may not know this, but Angel Canyon and the Sanctuary could have been lost to a mining operation last year. Among other things, the mine would have been based right next to the Sanctuary, depleting our water supply and threatening the health and safety of the animals.

We couldn’t let that happen. So, I worked with an incredible team of people to save this stunning place, which saves the lives of so many pets, and which I know is a home-away-from-home and a place of inspiration for so many of you. The Sanctuary is now protected forever, and I can never adequately express my gratitude for that.

Finally, I’d like to express my gratitude for what brings us all together, in this moment and always: the animals. I am so thankful to every animal who has touched my life, and there have been many. (Right now, my dog Stanley is smiling at me with the silliest underbite you’ve ever seen.) I’m always amazed by their unconditional love, their capacity for joy, their innate connection to our deepest emotions, and so much more. They constantly remind me why I’m so lucky to have them by my side, and why the work we’re doing to save their lives is worth our lifelong dedication.

I am grateful for you. And I hope that in the midst of so much difficulty, you too are able to take a moment to be happy. To bask in what’s good. Because taking a moment for gratitude isn’t selfish or insensitive. It’s the act of nurturing a candle’s flame. And that flame is what will guide us all forward.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Julie Castle


Best Friends Animal Society