Thanksgiving is, in my humble opinion, the very best holiday of all. I’ve always viewed this time of year as an opportunity to eat and give thanks, in that order. Hey, don’t judge me. I’m a dog. What average terrier wouldn’t prioritize turkey over gratitude? (Does it count that I’ve always been grateful for the turkey?)

This year, however, my priorities are different. I find myself feeling extremely thankful and more than a little sentimental. This is the month that I’m stepping away from my favorite job as the Middleburg Eccentric’s canine columnist. It hardly seems possible that so much time has passed. It’s unimaginable that I’m facing retirement, and yet, here I am doing just that.

Our community looks a little different than it did when I started writing in 2003. As they say, however, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Businesses have come and gone. New buildings dot the landscape. Children have become adults. Yesterday’s puppies have gray muzzles now. Despite all of the changes, though, this extraordinary place still resonates with a defining love for animals, reverence for land, and respect for history.

It is not an overstatement to say that this part of Virginia is magical. For a dog, it’s Shangri-la. And while I’m not exactly sure what I’m going to do with my spare time in retirement, I plan to do it right here in this community I adore. The doghouse needs some work, so I’ll start with that. And obviously I’ll putter around the yard. Isabelle keeps fussing at me to take care of that infuriating squirrel, so I suppose I’ll finally have time to do that. Most of all, I think I’ll enjoy the peace and quiet of country life snuggled up with a soft toy in my cozy bed.

So it is that this Thanksgiving, I’m filled with gratitude. Thank you to the local heroes who adopt four-legged friends and support rescue. Thank you to those of you who have read this little column over the years. Thank you to my editor, Dee Dee Hubbard, for taking a chance on me when I was just a new pup in town. Most of all, thank you to the incredible people of this community for caring so much about animals, treating us with kindness, and giving us beautiful lives.

Whew. That’s a lot of gratitude! It’s probably okay to focus on the food part now, right?

Albert, a Jack Russell Terrier, was Chairman of the Board of Wylie Wagg, a shop for dogs, cats, and their people, with locations in VA and DC. On November 1, Kriser’s Natural Pet acquired Wylie Wagg.

P.S. My people asked me if they could add the following note: “It is with deepest appreciation that we recognize Wylie Wagg’s amazing customers for supporting our dream and giving us the best 14 years of our lives. It has been an absolute honor and privilege to serve you and your furry, funny, silly, loyal, loveable, wonderful pets. And while it has been very bittersweet to sell our beloved company, Kriser’s Natural Pet is a caring and health-focused new owner. We will miss all of you more than you can imagine. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts!”