Friday, December 9, 2011

Obligations of a Pet at Christmastime

I don’t have a dog. Or a horse or a cat. Not even a turtle or a fish.

When I was a kid sans live companion animals, I collected figurines and stuffed animals to fill the void. Today I read about them.

My current read is Christmas Dogs: A Literary Companion, which opens with a litany of the unfortunate results of mixing dogs with Christmas—white puppies slobbering on the red bows tied ’round their necks that soon turn said white canines into pink ones, dogs who treat the indoor tree as an outdoor one, dogs intent on redecorating the tree.

My pooch never caused a problem at Christmas. She enjoyed herding us when we brought in the tree and when we took it out; she displayed rapt attention and excitement whenever we opened a present intended for her. Otherwise, she didn’t touch or eat or bother a thing. Perfect pooch.

One of our cats, on the other hand, made Christmas difficult every year of her too-short life. She licked and chewed the wrappings: paper and bows. She ripped them open if she hadn’t already eaten them. Not only did she make a mess and endanger her life, she also gave us a peek at our presents and spoiled the surprise I so love about Christmas morning. What’s more, my family’s gifts are as much about presentation as they are about appropriate giving. The paper and bows my imp of a cat destroyed were often handmade, impressive creations.

We were soon trained to keep all presents on tree boughs and atop the mantel, out of her reach. (Yes, I know she could have climbed the tree to reach the gifts hidden in it, but she chose not to for some reason. For that matter, she was such an incredible jumper she could easily have scaled the mantel and shoved every present to the floor. I was grateful in both cases that she exhibited restraint.)

Obviously, our pets’ perceptions of Christmas pageantry often differ from ours. Do you have a holiday memory or anecdote involving your animal companions? Won’t you please share it with Lull readers in the comments section?

I’ll leave you with a poem from one of my favorite children’s book authors.

Christmas Dog
from Falling Up by Shel Silverstein

Tonight’s my first night as a watchdog,

And here it is Christmas Eve.

The children are sleepin’ all cozy upstairs,

While I’m gu
ardin’ the stockin’s and tree.

What’s that now—footsteps on the rooftop?

Could it be a cat or a mouse?

Who’s this down the chimney?

A thief with a beard—
And a big sack for robbin’ the house?

I’m barkin’, I’m growlin’, I’m bitin’ his butt.

He howls and jumps back in his sleigh.

I scare his strange horses, they leap in the air.

I’ve frightened the whole bunch away.

Now the house is all peaceful and quiet again,
The stockin’s are safe as can be.

Won’t the kiddies be glad when they wake up tomorrow

And see how I’ve guarded the tree.

[Dog photo from A Usable Past.]

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