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Wednesday Nov 27, 2013

Giving Thanks for Work-Life Balance -- and the Dog

With the hectic schedules that we keep and the daily challenges we face, Thanksgiving presents a wonderful opportunity to pause and reflect on the things that are important.

One of the most important aspects of this holiday is that even if families are spread across the country, it is a time to gather, share a meal and give thanks. If face-to-face visits aren't possible, people often call or connect in other ways. And those connections are so important for recharging ourselves. 

I find myself remembering that one of the main areas of focus during our Scientific Assembly was finding balance in our lives. This is an excellent theme to remember during Thanksgiving, so here is a story I'd like to share.

My wife, Alex, and I have always had large dogs as part of our family. Sadly, we lost our last big black lab, Little Bear, in April.  This left us with a 17-year old cat and the world’s largest Yorkie.  Given the demands of an AAFP officer’s travel schedule, we decided that we wouldn't get a new puppy until my time on the Academy's Board of Directors ends in 2015.

Of course, you know what they say about best-laid plans. During a trip to the New Mexico AFP's chapter meeting, Alex and I fell in love with a malamute mix puppy and brought him home to Tennessee. He was able to fit in the pet carrier on Delta for just this one plane trip. He has since grown to 60 pounds at just 5 months of age.

New puppies bring additional responsibilities and even stress -- disrupted sleep schedule, need for frequent walks, lots of sudden play time, training, puppy class, socialization and so on. Not surprisingly, all of these things rather abruptly put into focus for me the critical need for balance. 

Despite all of the above, which is certainly disruptive and even exhausting at times, our puppy, named Chashush (which is Apache for Big Bear) has actually helped create some balance for me. Alex and I have made important and healthy changes in our lives at a time we thought we might be too stressed to do so. We are outside getting exercise again with walks in our beautiful neighborhood, seeing the wildlife -- such as deer, raccoons and turkeys -- that are out early in the morning and late in the evening in our area. I am learning to recognize I can’t work 24/7, even though -- as Alex would tell you -- I still try.

Given his size, we committed to socializing Chashush early and regularly. Addressing this need has led to spending more time with friends because we often have puppy play dates that involve dinner and catching up with those friends. The dog also has been a wonderful focus for the grandkids, who are getting to know another member of our extended family and helping teach him how to interact with children. 

We were not looking for a dog, and had, in fact, agreed not to get a new one during this hectic time in our lives. But it is remarkable what can happen when you hear a knock at the door and open it. I hope each of you will find time to open those doors that present opportunities to you, connect with friends and family (however you define them) who are important to you, and make them a part of your lives. This is definitely the time of year to do that on many levels. 

Alex and I wish you and your family a happy, powerful and recharging Thanksgiving. 

For news about the Academy and family medicine (and occasional updates about the dog) follow me on the AAFP President Facebook page.

Reid Blackwelder, M.D., is President of the AAFP.

Comments:

We lost our beautiful devoted Norwegian Elkhound this spring and were devastated. Luckily, the breeder of our last two elkhounds had a litter and we were able to have one of the males in late July. My husband spent many hours this summer caring for and training this feisty puppy. Now I am working on training him for the show ring (this is because we want to breed him and we have to show him to do this). It has been like having a new baby, but well worth it since it brings a new focus to our lives. Medicine has its good points, but it is not all there is to life. Thanks for sharing.

Posted by Michelle Storms on November 28, 2013 at 03:31 PM CST #

This is a wonderful story. Although I did not have a chance to meet with you during the Scientific Assembly, I met with some remarkable doctors, and truly came home inspired. Home for me is Leicester, United Kingdom (so I travelled some way to attend, & glad I did), where I practise family medicine and cardiology. Professor Frank Domino and Dr Vuk Tran were amongst the most inspiring speakers. We acquired a beautiful 9 week kitten just before I visited San Diego, and my wife, three children and I are endlessly fascinated by him. You're quite right - life is more than just work, it is about life itself. Keep up the great work, and great stories. AK

Posted by A-K Vania MBChB MRCP on December 02, 2013 at 12:01 PM CST #

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The opinions and views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the opinions and views of the American Academy of Family Physicians. This blog is not intended to provide medical, financial, or legal advice. All comments are moderated and will be removed if they violate our Terms of Use.