I love this time of year of pumpkin spice lattes, autumnal leaves, cozy blankets, and wood burning fires. Of course, living in Florida, we only get the pumpkin spice, but I do love seeing pictures on my social media feed of everything else and daydreaming about snuggling up in front of the fireplace in my pjs and wooly socks. It’s a time for me to slow down as we approach the end of the year, consider the dawn of a new season, and offer gratitude to those who have walked with me on this trip around the sun. Clearly, 2020 has been a rollercoaster of a year, and the past couple of weeks have been no exception.

As I write this, we are being impacted by the outer edges of yet another tropical storm. My pastures, paddocks, and classroom are currently flooded, and my property now could be considered to have a lakeside view. Covid-19 cases are spiking to an all-time high of over 100,000 cases a day in the US. Uncertainty continues to loom in terms of unemployment, and the political leadership of my adopted country is as yet to be officially decided. Regardless of your political views, I think it’s fair to say that the 2020 US Presidential election resulted in us collectively holding our breath on a global scale. And while some people are beginning to exhale, many are still fighting to be heard on both sides of the political divide.

So, I’m not entirely sure what pulled us to take the plunge to add another member to our family in amongst all this chaos, but we did last weekend. Enter Grace. A one year old cattle dog, bluetick coonhound, Weimaraner mix with boundless energy and no basic puppy training in place. She is sweet, intelligent, and endlessly forgiving. In the space of 3 weeks, Grace had been owner surrendered to a shelter, moved to a foster home for a week, and then adopted to her forever home with us. True to her name, she handled these transitions with grace, humility, and gratitude. She has adapted to her new surroundings with ease, seemingly open hearted to these strangers in her life, curious and playful with her adopted fur siblings, and is already proving to be a loyal companion. Her willingness to trust others is in stark contrast to the skepticism and hostility that I have witnessed (and been guilty of) in the polarized world that we exist in. In watching Grace adjust to her new environment, I realized that what I was witnessing is vital to any hopes for our collective healing.

As the leaves begin to fall, we can learn to let go of what no longer serves us. As we transition from one political season to another, we need to dig deep for grace and humility. As Grace steps into her new relationships, she can heal from her past and embrace her future. As she gazes up at me with her tiger eyes, full of innocent wonder, I become aware of how I had lost sight of my willingness to take the risk to trust others. I become aware of the need for humility, to acknowledge that we are all inextricably connected, and that all relationships need effort from both sides.

There is nothing more heartwarming than the gratitude emanating from a rescue dog’s eyes. When I look at Gracie, I can feel my heart joining hers in gratitude for all those who have helped me on my journey, to survive and thrive. This Thanksgiving season, I am especially grateful to the efforts that friends have made to remain connected through this time of social distancing and isolation. I’m grateful for friends who model grace and humility while holding opposing views. I’m grateful for neighbors who become friends and friends who have become family. I’m grateful that despite the curveball of Covid-19 and everything else 2020 is throwing at us, we are learning to become more resilient in the face of constant change. Most of all, I’m grateful for all the members of our HERD community who are on this journey with me. May this season of Thanksgiving bring you all moments of grace and gratitude.


Executive Director