Reasons Why You’ll Love Your Dog More This Christmas
For months, maybe even years, I've neglected one of the most important things in my life: my dog.
I don't mean neglected in an abusive way, I'm just not the best pet owner. Even the way I got my dog would be frowned upon by most (shhhh, she's from a pet store). Since she was about two, I've slowly weaned myself out of having any responsibility for her staying alive whatsoever. My husband feeds her, walks her, takes her to the vet when she's sick. He's really the only one who pays attention to her anymore, and that's because I had a baby.
Maybe that's a cop-out, but it's the truth. I had a baby and I forgot about my dog. I barely say "hello" to her, let alone get down to her stubby little height and pet her. The only time, in fact, I talk to her is when I'm yelling at her for doing something wrong, and that's usually followed with "I hate you, Izzy!" That's right. The only time I talk to my dog is to unleash all of my life's frustrations on her. She's basically become my living, breathing, fur-covered verbal punching bag, because having a baby and working a full-time job and cooking and cleaning my house ALL in the same week is hard. And who better to take it all out on than this lame, lazy beast who can't talk back?
But my relationship with Izzy wasn't always like this. In fact, she used to be my baby. I would cuddle her and hug her so tightly in my arms, curled up with all four paws in her puppy face. I'd smell her and kiss her and tell her I love her. I would nap with her, play with her, walk her and feed her. I would care what room she was in. I would notice if she was in the house at all. I would want to speak her to all the time—in fact, as crazy as it sounds, sometimes when I was at work I would even wish she had a phone so I could call her and hear her "voice."
But that all changed as I got older, and life got a little more complicated with a little human in the mix.
Last Christmas I was pregnant, and thus began the slow descent of caring for my pet. I had already gotten out of ever walking her ("honey, I can't walk the dog...what if I trip and fall on the ice?") or feeding her (because bending over to put food in the bowl is hard when you have a bowling ball attached to your midsection) and my husband noticed a lump on her leg. We had her biopsied and while the vet could not be sure the lump was not cancerous, she also couldn't promise us it was. We decided this ambiguity was not worth the risk of losing this dog I had once loved as if I had reared her from my own self. So the week before Christmas, Izzy had surgery and had her lump taken out. And it was cancerous.
For the first time in a long time, I really appreciated and loved this animal so deeply again, my stomach hurt. We even held off on hosting Christmas Eve at our house in part because we were so worried about wanting her to be comfortable as she recuperated. I kissed her again, I spoke in baby talk to her again, and I held her in my arms like the old days.
And then Christmas passed, and I had the baby, and Izzy took a quick backseat again in my life, as most pets do when their owner procreates. But this backseat was even further back than it had ever been before, and Izzy's been in the back ever since.
This week, when I was out shopping, I got a call from my husband that Izzy was down for the count again, just days off from Christmas. My heart sunk as I waited to hear what was wrong, and then my rage raised once he told me why she was sick. The dumb animal licked some carpet cleaner and her head broke out in hives, her mouth swollen from ingesting whatever chemicals we could find to rid the rug of her acidic heave. The dog pukes on the rug, I clean the rug, the dog eats the clean, the dog pukes. Life really is full circle.
But pesky habits of pets aside, I'm actually glad my dog got sick this week. Am I glad for the $200 vet bill we paid just so that they could give her some Benadryl? Absolutely not. But Izzy getting sick has become a Christmas tradition, and that actually makes me happy, because just in time for the season, I'm back to loving this animal. Here's why that's good, and why you'll love your dog more on Christmas too:
Christmas is a Time for Giving...And It's Fun to Give to a Dog
Holiday shopping for family members has always been fun for me, but it's not really the same as shopping for a dog. With humans you have to question what they would like or want, and even when you think you know, you have doubt about whether that gift is the gift that you should be giving him/her.
But with a dog, you could literally give them a big ball of nothingness wrapped in wrapping paper and they would love it. Actually, just give them a roll of wrapping paper and they will love that even more.
Your vacuum won't, but you'll make your dog happy for at least 6 minutes.
Wrapping Paper is Fun for Dogs
Speaking of wrapping paper, it's really fun to watch a dog unwrap something. It's more fun if you only loosely wrap the gift, but seeing them tear through a present with their paws is almost mesmerizing.
These animals don't have opposable thumbs, so they pretty much have to rely on a paw-nose combo to dig their way through a neatly wrapped package and into a gift. Catch it on camera, and you've got viral internet gold.
You'll Need a Floor Cleaner After Christmas Eve
Dogs are a lot quieter than Shop Vacs and they require less electricity as well. With the amount of food that gets dropped on the floor on Christmas Eve at my house, I'm not sure if my vacuum could even handle the cleanup if not for a onceover from a slobbery mutt tongue first.
Another bonus here is that I don't have to feed her that night, since she eats enough off the floor.
To Keep Your Instagram Looking Holiday Fresh
After you've stuffed your face with Christmas ham and you're near pass-out on your cousin's couch, you'll be scrolling Instagram and seeing a theme of one of these two things: babies by the tree or dogs by the tree.
You're not going to want to be the Instagrammer of all your friends who posts neither.
Taking a photo of your dog celebrating the festivities is the perfect way to show the world you're a.) actually celebrating the holiday b.) alive and not in an eggnog-induced blackout and b.) still into your dog. Also, Santa's on Instagram and he needs to know if your dog has been naughty or nice, and posing quietly for a picture is very nice.
Because the Holidays Are Really About Celebrating the Ones You Love
I've been celebrating Hanukkah my whole life and Christmas only for the last decade or so, and I have always felt that the real meaning of the holiday season is about being with the ones you love. I mean, I might be wrong, but that's what it seems to be about in "Home Alone."
No matter what happens throughout the year, it seems as though right now everything sort of stops, and there is just time to look at who and what I love and think about what they mean to me. There are also all kinds of stories that come out of this time of year that make me think: stories of heartache and loss that make me wish so badly for peace for those suffering; stories of miracles that make me question all of existence; and stories of hope that even the most helpless beings will be able to smile about something this season.
The holidays, more than most other times of year, seem like the time to hug your loved ones a little tighter, to celebrate their roles in your life, and to promise that you'll continue to have as great if not a greater role in theirs. It's time to put down the iPad, shut off the TV and tell Siri to leave you alone and to engage in deep and meaningful conversations with the faces in front of you. It's a time to laugh about the silly things that are said, or the stupid Santa hats people wear. It's a time to cry about the people who are no longer with us and how different things would be if they were. It's a time to feel warmth in your soul, and not just from the fireplace crackling hot.
And all of this does not just apply to humans.
Izzy is 8 years old, which means I won't have many Hanukkahs, or Christmases, or as we call them, "Christmakkuhs," left with her, and I spent a lot of this year forgetting that fact. But Izzy getting sick this week, just like she did last year (only for a dumber reason), reminds me of that. That this heap of loving canine won't be around for forever, and that I should appreciate her more while she is.
If you have a dog you love and have been neglecting because you had a baby, you got a new job, you have been caring for someone, you have been too busy hitting the gym, or whatever else, celebrate what that pet means to you and how special they are in your life. And I will do that as well.
And maybe next year, I'll remember that I also have a whole other, additional dog at home too.