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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(www.facebook.com).

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

Posted at 08:09AM Nov 27, 2013 by Reid Blackwelder, M.D.

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