Gifts for Pets a Family Tradition


Houdini, our 12-year-old rez dog, communicates with his eyes. On Christmas morning Rusty presented him with a loosely wrapped present designed to practically fall open when he caught a whiff of the Greenies inside. As the cameras clicked, he started nosing around the package and his tail whirred like the blades of Huey chopper trying to lift off the roof of the American Embassy in Saigon. Then he suddenly pulled back, sat on his haunches, and gave me a pointed look.

“Wait a tick,” he said with his large, wet, brown-going-to-cataract-blue eyes. “Is this a trap? I remember just last week when you came into the room and I had just finished shredding that grocery bag in Speaker’s school backpack looking for a piece of fried chicken I smelled. Yeah, the bag was empty, but you shamed the hell out of me over my efforts. Don’t you remember? You said, ‘Ruh ruh ruh ruh ruh BAD DOG ruh ruh ruh ruh ruh BAD!'”

Of course I remembered the episode. Every paper item in Speaker’s pack, along with the plastic grocery bag that at one time had contained two chicken drumsticks, was shredded so completely it would have made Oliver North proud.

HoudiniUnderTree (2)

Oh, please let it be that squirrel carcass you took away from me last summer!

“And now,” Houdini continued, sharpening his gaze slightly, “you are putting another delicious treat wrapped in paper under my nose and telling me it’s OKAY to rip this one open?”

I nodded.

“Very well,” he said with his eyes. “I didn’t want there to be a misunderstanding. Merry Christmas to me!” He yipped once, and fell on the package like a zombie on a six pack of frontal lobes.

“Good dog!” said Rusty.

“He likes it!” said Speaker.

“He ate most of the paper,” said Barb, who usually picks up after Houdini on our walks. “That’s a lot of glitter.”

I think most families with pets include their critters in the gift-giving joy of Christmas. And it’s so fun to watch a dog try to figure out how to get through a layer of wrapping paper that’s thinner than campground toilet paper to get to the tasty treat within. It’s usually about two minutes of hilarious, desperate, bumbling and fumbling that reminds you of Kanye West trying to issue a sincere apology. Then the dog will inhale the treat, including the packaging, in about four seconds. Next!

If your pet is a cat, it goes a little differently. When you approach the cat with the little wrapped gift, she’ll regard you like she’s Sean Penn and you’re asking for an autograph. She might give the thing a cursory sniff, but then she’ll look away and narrow her eyes, delivering this imperious message: “Well, serf, what are you waiting for? That felt mouse isn’t going to unwrap itself. Chop chop.”

HoudiniStocking (2)

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care. And a foul stench.

The cat may actually stand up while you’re unwrapping her gift, the better to feign interest. “Oh, bravo,” she’ll say with her narrowed eyes. “A mass-produced bit of fluff that has been deemed interesting to cats by some lower-echelon marketing doofus in Square Corners, New Jersey. Well done, plebe. Now…LOOK AT MY ASS!”

I don’t understand people who actually buy and wrap presents for goldfish. But they’re out there. “Look, Cousteau,” they’ll say, waving a tiny square net in front of the fishbowl, trying to get the attention of the fish. “I got you a new net! Isn’t it pretty? It’s blue! It matches the gravel on the bottom of your bowl!” At this point the goldfish might actually come to the glass to see what the commotion is, and whether it includes the only object outside the bowl they care about the, the little yellow can of fish flakes. When they see it’s a net, they’ll turn to their gilded compatriots and release a tiny string of bubbles, which will mean, “Oh, joy. A new net. She bought me a new net to transport my dead, floating corpse to the toilet after she forgets to feed me for a week. Merry %&#$! Christmas to you too. Hey, motionless scuba diver, what do think about that?”

But what do you get for the pet who has everything? Let me answer that with another question: what pet doesn’t already have everything? They need food, water, occasional medical attention, and that’s about it. I don’t care if you have a horse that can count to twenty without taking her pants off, she’ll prefer an apple over anything from Apple. Your bunny might enjoy an extra ration of lettuce on Christmas morning, but he will not start dropping pellets uncontrollably over a bedazzled water spout. If your canary doesn’t already have a mirror in its cage, well, you don’t know much about canaries.

Let’s face it—when we give Christmas gifts to our pets, the gifts are really for us. In this case it really is better to give than to receive.

Especially if it’s fried chicken.

   Check out all of Bob Wire’s posts in his blog archive.


Have an off-white Christmas with Bob Wire.Think of it as Gonzo meets Hee Haw: Missoula honky tonker Bob Wire holds forth on a unique life filled with music, parenthood, drinking, sports, working, marriage, drinking, and just navigating the twisted wreckage of American culture. Plus occasional grooming tips. Like the best humor, it’s not for everyone. Sometimes silly, sometimes surreal, sometimes savage, Bob Wire demands that you possess a good sense of humor and an open mind.

Bob Wire has written more than 500 humor columns for a regional website over the last five years, and his writing has appeared in the Missoulian, the Missoula Independent, Montana Magazine, and his own Bob Wire Has a Point Blog. He is a prolific songwriter, and has recorded three CDs of original material with his Montana band, the Magnificent Bastards. His previous band, the Fencemenders, was a popular fixture at area clubs. They were voted Best Local Band twice by the Missoula Independent readers poll. Bob was voted the Trail 103.3/Missoulian Entertainer of the Year in 2007.

You can hear his music on his website, or download it at iTunes, Amazon, and other online music providers. Follow @Bob_Wire on Twitter.


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