How the Hen House Turns: Dogs At Christmas

How the Hen House Turns:
Dogs at Christmas
Column by Carolyn A. (Cary) Neeper, Ph. D.

An early memory at age three—a rope to pull on Christmas morning with my older brother. In waddled a small furball of brown and white, and Boots became part of our lives until I was a junior in high school. Our adventures on 40 acres in Hayward, California began.

In the late 50s, Skates, a golden shepherd mix with a long torso, happily shared Christmas with husband Don and me on Breese Terrace in Madison, Wisc. In those days we celebrated with her beside the tree on Christmas morning. In 1962, however she needed a good dose of assurance and special treats, for the three-month-old baby had taken away some of our undivided attention.

Poncho, the black and white “Santa Fe shepherd” we adopted after Skates died, got lost in our memory amidst the attention received by all the other animals—Turkey One, chickens, rabbits and a skunk named Streak.

Most memorable these days is the joy expressed by DeeDee and Scooter—our 2000-fire orphaned heeler-pointers—when the Christmas tree went up. As presents appeared under the tree, they would sniff every package and soon learned to zero in on the ones for them. They also respected the ritual—wait until the morning when gooey rolls appeared in the living room by the tree. Then they could “open” their smelly gifts.

It’s not that dogs understand the history or meaning attached to the holiday, it’s that they remember from year to year the special preparations and the extra treats associated with the shiny tree that appears when the snow covers the ground. It’s enough to add a bit of joy to our celebration of love.

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