Oh, I know everyone says Christmas is for children but I think it’s best for dogs.
I’ve raised two daughters and, like everyone, have favorite memories of Christmases past. Like when my eldest was four and she was so excited to see Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Nutcracker for the first time that she literally could not stay in her seat. Unable to contain herself during the performance, she leaned over and whispered into my ear, “May I join in?” And then there was the year that my husband gave our youngest daughter her favorite gift — a soft brown teddy bear wearing a red ribbon. Her eyes lit up with love at first sight and that bear became her very best toy and lifelong friend. Teddy is well-travelled, has been to Europe and back and still has a special place in our now grown up daughter’s house.
But, if I’m honest, I mostly remember the stress of Christmastime with young children. Must find the perfect toy, or face that let down look on Christmas morning; must attend way too many concerts, Christmas plays and events and, just when a parent needs to relax, school’s out! And sometimes there are snow storms which happen on the day before school’s out and school is cancelled and last-minute shopping is now impossible.
Consider, instead, Christmas with dogs. One year, our family was literally going in four different directions on the Saturday before Christmas and, in all the chaos, the front door was left ajar. When we arrived home in the early evening, there was our Golden Retriever, Maddy, lying on the front porch just waiting patiently for our return. I’ll never forget the joy I felt to see Maddy wagging her tail as we approached. I sometimes wonder what she did all those hours alone — did she roam around the neighborhood chasing squirrels, or hit up the neighbors for dog treats? None of the neighbors mentioned it, and Maddy could not tell me. But she made it clear where she wanted to be — with us!
And dogs like to decorate. Maddy loved hanging out with us in the yard of our old house while we cut boughs from the cedar tree for garlands. She let us put a Santa hat on her head and would just lie in the driveway and chew on the branches we threw her way, while we stood on ladders pruning away. And this year, my amazing dog Phoebe (the smartest dog I’ve ever had) clearly expressed her interest in getting those Christmas decorations up. I’d been dragging my feet, not feeling the Christmas spirit until last week when she, on her morning walk with my husband, picked up, carried home and proudly dropped this sign at my feet:
After a good laugh, I made my way to the garage and dragged out those large plastic bins filled with lights, hand-made ornaments the girls made when they were little, decorative gifts from good friends and somewhere, usually at the bottom, the darned lights. Half of which, of course, are always defective and require a trip to get some replacements.
Last weekend we went to several Christmas parties. At one, my friend who has a beautiful (large) Bernese Mountain dog named Cleo and a beautifully decorated (not so large) house invited many friends and their dogs to attend. At one point there were five dogs and over thirty people. Initially I got a little nervous every time one of those big dogs walked past the Christmas tree with tail high and wagging, or approached the appetizers for a sniff (not one dog helped her or himself), after a glass of wine, we all laughed at the impromptu wrestling match happening right in the entryway when Cleo’s sister arrived. Eventually, the dogs made their way out the doggie door and into the big backyard playground and the guests went back to their conversations.
Contrast that to another party I went to at my neighbor’s house where their small dog, banned from the festivities, spent the party time alone in an upstairs bedroom. I only realized the dog had been locked away when, standing in the entry hall with a lull in the conversation, I heard the little dog flinging herself, again and again, at the closed door upstairs, and punctuating those body slams with pitiful yelps. She just wanted to join the party! It made me feel bad.
Christmas at our house now includes our dog and our kids’ dogs. Everyone (dogs and kids) sleep over on Christmas Eve and ideally have a romp on beach together and then spend most of Christmas day in a big puppy pile by the fire with everyone they love nearby. What could be better?
So now that the house is decorated (thanks Phoebe), the stockings are hung by the chimney with care, gift (books!) are wrapped and we’re awaiting the arrival of family, I wish you all a happy Christmastime. And remember to spend some quality time with your dogs — they don’t require anything besides love and your company.
And a very Merry Christmas to my favorite canines: Phoebe, Olive, Ducky and Lyuba: