Flunking Sainthood

Flunking Sainthood



Today is the first major holiday of my life that I will spend entirely alone. The good news is that I have plenty of fine books to read, and the house is warm and peaceful.

The bad news is that I stayed home from our family gathering in D.C. because our dog, Onyx, has been in the hospital all week. I am bringing him home today, and will nurse him the best I can all weekend. He has not eaten in days and has to be on fluids. After a number of (obscenely expensive) tests, the doctors still don’t know what’s wrong with him. Since his symptoms are both digestive and neurological — and since we have been doing a small kitchen renovation in our 1925 house — the prime suspect is now lead poisoning. If that’s the case, the damage already done to his system may be irreversible. We are heartbroken. He is the best and kindest dog I’ve ever known.


So there is a lot to be depressed about today — my pet may be dying; and I am alone and eating mashed potatoes from a plastic package. I am trying to play the Pollyanna game and practice gratitude for all the things I do have, like access to great veterinary care and a host of wonderful friends and family. Even mashed potatoes from a plastic package are a lot better than having no food at all on this day.

I tell myself these things, yet I don’t feel particularly grateful in my heart. I want my dog to be well and jumping up on me when I enter the house. I want my family all together.

This morning I read a wonderful blog post by my friend Sam Barry, who is having some troubles of his own this holiday. I learned from the post that his wife had to go into emergency surgery this weekend. Everything has been upended. I hope you’ll read the whole post, because it’s beautiful, but here is one part that captures perfectly what I am feeling:


When I am really thankful—when the belief that I am in control of the future is shown to be make-believe— the fear that drives the obsession with control recedes in importance, like a game I don’t want to play anymore. I am in awe of the amazing people who have touched my life, changing me forever.  Through them I am connected to a multitude around the world and across generations.

Amen to that. I pray you are having a joyous Thanksgiving.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Laurie Maffly-Kipp

    Your writings have brought me such pleasure and food for thought that I can’t help but reach back to you today. I’m so, so sorry about Onyx; I have had several wonderful dogs and I can only imagine how difficult and sad this is for you. I will be saying a prayer for canine healing, for peace of mind for you, and for comfort in coming days. Be well and share lots of hugs with Onyx.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Kirk

    Lonely holidays are sad and beautiful. But so are super models.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Janice Powers

    Dear Jana,

    My heart goes out to you and your family. Oh, how we love our pets. They seem to see into our souls like no person can. I pray for Onxy’s health and well-being.

    Thank you for sharing so much of yourself with your readers. You’ve helped me in my own spiritual quests. For that, I am grateful.


    Janice Powers

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment OmaMel

    I am truly sorry about Onyx and about your solitary Thanksgiving. Thank-you for your thoughts and for sharing Sam’s blog post. Both gave me a lot to be thankful for and to think about.

  • Jana Riess

    Thank you all so much. Onyx is hanging in there and I managed to get him to succumb to a little turkey. He’s still not drinking anything, but I have him on IV fluids twice a day. It is still touch and go, but I have to be grateful that he’s cuddled up next to me right now. I’ll try to make myself believe that is enough for the moment.

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