How do dogs know that it's Christmas?
I could understand if the house was filled with kids, up at 5 a.m. and anxiously waiting to dig into their stockings. Any dog would pick up on the excitement and know, for sure, that something was different. Those days are long gone here and, while we are early birds, we actually slept somewhat longer than usual on Christmas morning. Well, I did. Carol was up at 4 baking a marzipan crumble to celebrate the day.
Ollie is a late riser, especially during these long winter nights. It takes a lot – food will do it – to get him off the couch before it’s light outside. He was up early Christmas morning.
With no kids or grandchildren visiting for the day, we hadn’t gone to extremes for Christmas. Carol had ordered a few things from the deluge of catalogs we get using my credit card and I had wrapped them and put them under the tree. She had found the boots I wanted and had them in two red bags – one for each boot.
We turned the lights on the tree and tuned into Christmas music. It was low key, certainly not the hyper activity that I’m sure was happening at the homes of our three kids. Later in the day we would visit my son Ted and his family for a late Christmas lunch, but for the moment this was like any other Sunday, only it was Monday.
Maybe that’s what alerted Ollie.
He found us in the kitchen preparing breakfast. Naturally, we wished him a merry Christmas – doesn’t every pet owner wish their dog, cat, bird, even the tropical fish, merry Christmas? Ollie’s ears perked up and he slowly waged his tail. He waited to see what was going to come next.
“You know I forgot to wrap his present,” Carol said, “I better go do that.”
She put down the cheese she had been grating for an omelet and headed toward the dining room. Ollie did something highly uncharacteristic. He started following her instead of remaining focused on the food.
“You better call him,” advised Carol.
Since when do animal presents have to be wrapped? And besides, why is it that we feel compelled to give them gifts?
Maybe it’s because they expect it and we don’t want to disappoint them.
Ollie remained by the kitchen door, ears cocked for any clue of what Carol was up to. He probably could hear the rustling of paper. Carol reappeared but she wasn’t carrying anything. Ollie wagged but clearly he was expecting something. After all this was Christmas.
We walked to the living room, Ollie following close behind. There under the tree wrapped in green tissue paper was something resembling a stick.
“No note?” I asked. She laughed. But Ollie knew. He pulled the gift from under the tree and tore at the wrapping. For an instant I thought he was more interested in the paper than the gift. There was no way this paper was going to be used again. He shredded it with delight, finally getting to the short section of rope with a handle at one end and an orange tennis ball at the other. This was the prize and he knew it. He pranced about flinging and catching the rope before settling down to chew on the tennis ball.
We looked at one another. Times haven’t changed that much. The kids get their presents first. Ollie watched our exchange from a corner of his eye, contented with his gift and not expecting anything more. We listened to the music enjoying watching Ollie before the whistle of the kettle reminded me we were in the midst of making breakfast.
Usually Ollie would be under our feet. Not now. He was still chewing.
We sat down to eat and then the thought occurred to me.
“Has he been out?” I asked.
“Come on Ollie, let’s go out,” I said. I hated to interrupt his Christmas, but I figured it was better than getting one of his gifts.