Amidst the hubbub of meal prep for Thanksgiving, aka food coma day, you may temporarily overlook the value of having a family dog, being busy and all. They like to be in the middle of all the action, so they are guaranteed to be underfoot, causing repeated shooing and sidestepping. Despite that, I’m about to remind you of how valuable your pooch can be at these times, especially at Thanksgiving.

First off, when you’re preparing the turkey, that little bag of weird bits hidden inside—you know, the pouch that makes your nose scrunch up—is the stuff of culinary heaven for your dog. My Thanksgiving prep includes a small pot on the back burner simmering the neck, heart and gizzards into a soupy delight. Pup saves the day by avoiding wastefulness.

Also in food preparation, invariably errant bits—minced onion, breadcrumbs, drips of whatever—will fall to the floor. Your pup is on high alert this day, standing at the ready like a dutiful servant should something like this occur. He will scoop it up and lick the floor clean every time. It’s almost as if he knows how hard you scrubbed in preparation for this day. How convenient and timesaving! Good dog.

“You may not want to recognize it, but exercise is just the ticket for the overindulged, both canine and human.”

If your guest list, like mine, includes people you might not know who have tagged along with family members, the household dog provides a very useful service: vetting their character. Who wants to break bread with sketchy guests, right? It’s a guarantee that every person crossing the threshold this day will get a thorough and likely invasive sniffing. And all that collected information will undergo a screening unique to every dog’s amazing olfactory system. The TSA has nothing on your dog. What does it mean? If the dog doesn’t like the smell of a person and acts standoffish, you can bet that they deserve a watchful eye. Detective Dog is a valuable family member indeed.

What about overeating—the main focus of this holiday? At some point, regardless of the weather, your dog will want to go for a walk. You may not want to recognize it, but exercise is just the ticket for the overindulged, both canine and human. Regardless of how much soporific tryptophan is coursing through your system, the dog needs a walk and so to the outdoors you must venture. Ten minutes of bundling up with jacket, gloves, hat and scarf with the dog prancing at your feet, and out you go, sideways snowstorm be damned. Another of the family dog’s good traits comes to light: Personal Trainer, the kind that observes no holidays and cuts no slack.

Cleaning up after such a large meal is a daunting task, but the family dog is ready to volunteer to make the work lighter. He is dedicated to the job, whether it’s eating every morsel of pan-dripping-covered kibble or gobbling up the plate scrapings, not to mention the neck/gizzard/heart bits he took off your hands, he will not give up until the clearing is complete. And he will never tire of leftovers. Long after the humans are ready to scream at one more plate of a repeat menu, the dog is a happy, lip-licking participant, ready to jump at the opportunity. Eager helper—that’s the dog.

Are kids part of the gathering? Pairing high-energy little people with outdoor-loving pups is the best of both worlds. No problem if the weather isn’t ideal. If it’s snowing, they can build a snowman together. Okay, this might be the only unhelpful part the dog will play since he is likely to steal the stick arms… repeatedly. But it will induce lots of squealing and chasing around the yard, so it’s not altogether a bad thing. If the dog loves playing fetch, it’s a good bet that the kids will tirelessly throw the ball for him. And all that high-pitched kid and dog noise will be outside, where it will irritate no one. When they’re all tuckered out, kids and dog, they’ll stagger back inside where it’s warm and perhaps get another helping of dessert. Maybe they’ll even share some with the dog. I know from experience that dogs love pumpkin pie and whipped cream. I would add Activities Director to the dog’s many useful jobs this holiday.

At the end of the day, when both human and canine participants are flat worn out, sprawled on the furniture like deflated balloons, the family dog will cuddle up, allowing you to languidly run your hands through his fur. Studies show that petting releases endorphins in both dogs and humans alike. What a lovely conclusion to the day—feeling a sense of happiness and contentment.

From beginning to end of this yearly Thanksgiving holiday, the family dog exhibits helpful tendencies that are both useful and entertaining. From preventing wastefulness to keeping the kitchen floor clean to detecting good or bad character to acting as a personal trainer to being the best eager helper to activities director to calming cuddler, the family pooch is an amazing asset. If you are lucky enough to have dogs in your life, not only should they never be taken for granted, they should be at the top of the list of things for which you are thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving, fellow dog lovers. May the day spark gratitude and appreciation for your many blessings, especially the dogs in your life.