Giving the Holiday Gift of a Lifetime

By Qin Sun Stubis

America has always been a nation of optimism and hope. Throughout history, millions of immigrants flocked here from all over the world with empty pockets and big dreams. Many lived to achieve what they came for and all have contributed to this country’s best traits: fairness, optimism, and generosity.

Right now, following in our ancestors’ footsteps might be a wise way to get us out of this long and stubborn recession. After all, that same American spirit helped us to overcome the infamous Depression many years ago. Storms, whether meteorological or economic, eventually come to an end and we should not let them dampen our holiday cheer and positive outlook toward our future. In fact, the harder the year has been, the more we need to focus on positivity, hope, and the spirit of giving.

When times are lean, a thoughtful gesture goes a long way. Don’t forget that there are always people out there more desperate than you, be they neighbors, friends, or a furry creature in an animal shelter. By focusing our energy on their troubles, we learn the true meaning of courage and perseverance. So, when you plan your holiday giving this year, don’t forget to add them to your list. The most meaningful presents bought with compassion often have an impact on the recipients, long beyond the holidays.

For me, this year’s best gift-giver is Debbie Kandoll who gave an early holiday present to Military Working Dog Fara H341, a four-legged army heroine who worked two tours overseas in explosives detection to keep our soldiers safe. When she retired earlier this year, Fara’s adoptive handler, MA2 Logan McMichael, didn’t have the resources to get her back to America. Fara was facing a precarious future in a foreign land.

Debbie is the founder of Military Working Dog Adoptions, a charity that raises funds, arranges flights, and finds permanent homes for retired army dogs like Fara. When she learned about the courageous canine’s plight, Debbie not only raised the money for her return, but also solicited help from the American Humane Association–America’s oldest charity for children and animals–to work with the military to get the heroic hound back home in time for the holidays.

When they finally arrived at BWI airport, Fara and Debbie got a hearty welcome from American Humane Association staff members, supporters who had traveled there from five states, a global television crew from the Department of Defense, a documentary filmmaker, and uncounted cameras, and curious onlookers who happened to be there. I was there, too, witnessing Fara’s reunion with her handler, now her pal for life, MA2 Logan McMichael. Besides all the hugs, tears, and a bag of treats, Fara gratefully accepted her special holiday gift of a lifetime: a permanent home in Virginia where she’ll enjoy her everlasting happiness.

This year, as you search high and low for the perfect gift and that special someone who truly deserves it, don’t forget to add organizations like Military Working Dog Adoptions and the American Humane Association. They can help you to deliver a life-changing gift to someone desperately in need of it. To learn more, please go to and

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