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ANN BAILEY: Family, horses, dogs and cats make me thrice blessed fourfold

According to superstition, bad things come in threes. In my family, though, three seems to be a lucky number. We have four sets of threes that we consider to be good fortune and that enriches our lives.

Ann Bailey
Ann Bailey

According to superstition, bad things come in threes. In my family, though, three seems to be a lucky number. We have four sets of threes that we consider to be good fortune and that enriches our lives.

In keeping with the spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday, I am feeling grateful for my blessings and would like to share them.

The most important set of threes for which my husband, Brian, and I give thanks is our three children. They make us laugh, challenge us and show us what is important in life. Their resilience in the face of adversity amazes us and their kindness inspires us to be the best people we can be. They also have a way of putting life in perspective with just a few words.

My favorite recent example of the succinct way children can sum up things was when Brian, and I were in Roger Maris Cancer Center in Fargo earlier this month waiting for our 6-year-old daughter, Ellen's chemotherapy treatment and spinal tap. She was passing the time drawing pictures when she looked up from her notepad and said, "Mom, can we go to the gift shop when I'm done?"

I replied that I couldn't think of one thing that we needed to which she said: "Mom, needing is for grown-ups. Wanting is for kids."

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Needless to say, we took her to the gift shop where she picked out a Scooby Doo mug.

After I thought about it, I decided that, given the treatments Ellen has endured the past year and a half, that her want should be fulfilled. Because Ellen is so soldier-like about her treatments and rarely complains about her cancer, it's easy to forget that she's 6 years old. Her words of wisdom were the perfect reminder.

Three times three

The other three sets of threes that are an important part of our family's life are of the four-legged variety; dogs, horses, and soon, cats.

Horses have been a part of my life since I was born and I can't imagine life without them. I don't know if three qualifies as a herd, but it's a good, manageable number of horses for a family with two working parents to own.

Zammie, Isabel and Freda are a friendly and amicable trio. Though, time permits them from being ridden as much as we'd like, they are gentle and willing, when we do saddle them up. Freda, somewhere in her late teens, is especially calm and tolerates rides from people who are novices. She follows me docilely as we walk around the farm yard so I don't have to lead her, and that makes the child on her back feel like a veteran cowboy or cowgirl.

Isabel, age 6, has a little more spring to her step when I'm giving kids rides, so depending on their experience level, I keep a hand on the reins when I'm walking beside her. That's OK with the kids because Isabel is 16 hands (5 feet, 4 inches) and it's a long way down to the ground.

Zammie is the peppiest of the trio so I'm the one who rides her. She's a lot like the horse of my brother's that I learned to ride on, so I'm not phased by her desire to run and her ability to make lightning-quick moves if she seems something to shy at.

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The bad and the good

Speaking of lightning quick moves, Maggie, the naughtiest of our three yellow dogs, can be like quicksilver when she's grabbing food. Her insatiable appetite and desire for fun constantly keeps our family on our toes and she is a test of our patience -- or lack of it. Maggie's extremely gentle and loyal nature, though, redeems her and keeps me from following through on my threats to find her a good home.

Minnie, the oldest and wiser of the yellow Labs, is the antithesis of Maggie. Minnie's quiet, friendly and obedient nature makes her the perfect farm dog. I often shake my head in wonderment that she was a stray that someone likely abandoned.

Rosebud, the youngest and the only Golden Retriever in the pack is sweet, loving and, occasionally, mischievous. Several of Ellen's stuffed animals are gutless and several times Rosebud has made her (tooth) marks on our wooden furniture. However, Rosebud's loyalty and love for Ellen offsets her impish ways.

Our dogs, like the members of our human family, each have distinct personalities and we've learned to love them, quirks and imperfections and all. After all, isn't that what family is all about?

Feline friends

The smallest soon-to-be threesome in our family is our housecats. Jessie and Smokey, our two current cats, will be joined soon by my mom's cat, Tiny. My mom is going to spend the winter in town and the apartment where she will be living doesn't allow pets.

Ellen is ecstatic that we will be Tiny's foster home for the next few months. She has been lobbying for another kitty for about a year. It only makes sense to her that if we have three horses and three dogs, we should have three cats, too. Now she feels like we've scored a hat trick.

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While some people might think that, especially, our animal threesomes are triple trouble. I see having them, and my children in my life, as being thrice blessed fourfold. Add to that my gratefulness for my husband, mom, brothers, sister, extended families and friends, and I have a multitude of reasons to be thankful on Thanksgiving and every day.

May all of your days, and especially, Thursday, be filled with reasons to count your blessings.

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