Thursday, December 25, 2008

Another Christmas Blog, with Animals

If this holiday season, and specifically this day, lack for anything due to These Troubled Times it is certainly not blog postings about this holiday season or specifically this day. So I'll apologize for that right away. I know I apologize a lot on this blog, but any blog post that doesn't contain either an apology or a raft of useful facts probably misses a basic understanding of the transaction we are involved in right now.

Now is sort of an odd place to be at the moment. This morning was different. Waking to the smell of coffee, the sound of a crackling fire and the view from my window of a lazy snow falling over an already blanketed Victorian neighborhood was nice, if, lets face it, a bit much. (Currier and Ives...?)
There was coffee and newspapers and general good cheer. This was important, as last night had ended with frayed nerves held fast with excess wine and an uneasy hope.

Which brings us to animals and holidays. This is where the smarm starts coming. If there is anything we need less than another holiday blog post, it is the selfsame regarding dressed up pets and their gifts. I'll grant you that. But though Henry had an elf hat this year and has had photos of such traded with other pets suffering similar indignities, his participation in my holiday means something beyond that, even if I don't know yet quite what it is.

Yesterday morning I was eating cereal and looking out into the living room where Henry had planted himself on the carpet. He looked good, I thought. Youthful for an 11 year-old sonofabitch. For some reason it occurred to me in that exact moment wasn't going to be here forever and whatever days he has left we should enjoy. Hours later the household received a call that Dido, A.'s diabetic cat, age 15, had begun to seizure during the drive over from Milwaukee. A. was panicked and distraught, her sole companion for 15 years in serious medical trouble late on Christmas Eve. It was decided we'd drive the 90 miles or so out to where she was and try and see what we could do. The long and short of it is we found an emergency animal hospital still open a few towns away and got her there. (Never, by the way, let anyone make fun of you for having an iphone or blackberry. It is the rare circumstance you really need those smartphone abilities, but when you do, you do, and it is pretty remarkable what one person can do with two smartphones while another person drives.)
Once under professional care, Dido stabilized somewhat, her pulse and glucose actually readable on the hospital's equipment. She was to be kept overnight and we to await a call in the morning.

Two hours later we walked into, of course, the large holiday dinner party A. was en route to when the whole thing started. It was a bit more sedate than planned, but Dido's stronger vital signs and the clearly concerned and competent care she was receiving allowed the event to end on a note very close to jolly. Henry helped by wearing an elf hat, snarfing dropped snacks in a way that those who do not live with a dog find endearing, and howling whenever anyone celebrated a parlor game victory. I was not surprised.

I have successfully resisted, until recently, the dress-up part of Henry for the Holidays, but he has always been an integral part of my season. He plays in the snow, we walk together to get groceries for parties and meals, he "helps" with wrapping. He is my companion during this time, as he is always. Many Thanksgivings, Christmases, he was my only one, and it was enough. I realized this morning in the shower (why is it always the shower, or at 4am, or on a subway platform that my mind starts working?) that not only is it this way with most people and their animals, it has always been that way. It is no accident the Nativity Scene includes animals. Whether one believes the story or not, surely it would ring less true without their witness. Another story about Romans. But a stable of reverent animals? That's gravitas. I've tried to remember, as well, a creation myth off the top of my head that does not include an animal, that does not ascribe the very existence of our world to our special relationship with certain animals. India perhaps? Not sure, but they sure made up for it later...

Those questions give me something to think about now, back to this odd Now, looking out at a living room full of piles of wrapping paper and smaller piles of what the paper once hid, but still-wrapped presents too, and no people, and mugs of cold coffee and the unkempt stack of gift boxes abandoned by those who used to be here but left quickly, summoned by the phone call we were all pretending we were not expecting. It is an odd Now. In the Now where you are, maybe it isn't too late on this particular day to shake one's head a bit, straighten the shoulders, let the stress of family and travel and weather and gifts and baking slough right off those shoulders and onto the floor, where if you are lucky, some four-legged beastie will snarf it up in a way that your visitors will find endearing. And now would be a good time to lean over and scratch or pet or rub or pat them, (God knows they've got their preferences....) and understand that they will not be here every Christmas, and that we need to enjoy them while we've got them around.

A new Now. I'm done talking on the phone, and Henry is here. My companion. And in a minute, he'll pad after me into the living room and keep me company as we find one of those empty boxes big enough to hold all Dido's presents, and her silly stocking, and all the love and great memories she shared with those people driving home right now without her.


  1. I got a new kitten in April. I was looking forward to spending this holiday with her. But unfortunately just before thanksgiving she passed away from a mysterious illness. It is very sad as this January it will be two years since I lost my other kitty who was my companion for 15 years.

    Your blog today is kind of appropriate to what I am going through right now. Thank you. I hope that you really enjoy your time with your wonderful dog!!


  2. Don, thank you for this poignant post.

    My fuzzy beastie, Seuss, is eleven. I'm thankful every day for the snuggles and purrs he provides; life would be much emptier without him.

    Pat Henry for me, and give him an extra treat to snarf.

  3. This, when read in conjunction with all the other "Christmas blogs" creates a fully-drawn image of what the holidays are to different people.


  4. My sister-in-law's new dog, Casie, a rescued Golden Retriever, has instantly been accepted as a part of the family. When we were buying gifts for the family, it was just understood that we were buying for her too, same as we were buying for my niece and nephew. She has been a source of love, peace and distraction during a very difficult time in their lives. My kids are clamoring for a dog, and Casie almost has me convinced.

  5. Well timed Don...from my point of view. I just read this today after having my cat die this morning. Well said.