Holiday Traditions With Dogs
This weekend I spent considerable time transforming this…
into our annual Christmas Card. The finished product does not very much resemble the original. This required all the best photo editing skills I’ve accumulated through work on this very blog.
I do this every year. Not so much the editing, but the card. I’ve done it every year for nigh on 7 years or more. I’d have to pull out all the cards to count. I love these cards as documents of our life with pack o’ mutts. The conversations behind such and such year’s idea. The pictures taken in our former house vs. the new. The years we managed to include a transient resident. Our friends and family love them (so they say). Although, it may put us firmly in ‘crazy dog people’ category. I’m ok with that. Yes, I have 6 (or so) dogs! Look how damn cute they are!
This process had humble beginnings.
A slightly blurry, impromptu group shot, snapped on a couch they weren’t supposed to be on. I don’t think Rocco was even officially part of our family then. A foster dog interloper, who apparently knew what was up while we were still on the fence.
Over the years, we got better.
Oh, the humanity. Yet, I’ve never put them in Elf Hats, Reindeer Antlers, or the like. My dogs have never met Santa. I always consider it during my brainstorming process. Even I have my limits.
I love the tradition. Let me repeat that. I love the tradition. An important reminder. Because I find the process nerve wracking. Every. Year. My dogs are well versed at this. They know the drill. As do I. Still, it is incredibly difficult to get 6 ADD canine faces looking the appropriate direction, in some semblance of order for long enough to take a damn picture. Let alone come up with a composition ever so slightly different than last year’s. Minus costumes, 5 or 6 dogs only have so many versions of ‘sit there and look cute’.
This is to say, if you are amazed with these pictures, don’t be. It involves plenty of this…
Bribery. Failed attempts. In spades.
The Dogs or Dollars Guide to taking a group picture:
1. A really, really, really good wait. (Another reason why it’s on my list of top 5 behaviors).
2. Really, really, really, really good treats to reinforce that wait. We bust out the organic hot dogs or the turkey breast.
3. Plenty of time. Start early! If you are planning to make this a Holiday Card start the process right after Thanksgiving, if not right before. It can take several rounds to get THE picture.
4. Patience. Every year one of my dogs will not cooperate. Often Jaime. This year Abbey. It’s always someone. Someday I will learn to roll with it. Now I just expect it, and refer to item #3.
5. A hidden squeaky toy. To be pulled out at the last second for the all important attention grab. Hold it next to the camera, so it looks like your dogs are at rapt attention. (They won’t be.) A solid repertoire of obnoxious noises you don’t often make also helps.
6. Don’t be afraid of photo editing. I’ve come to rely on this more and more in recent years. Probably the most this year. I should have cultivated these skills years ago.
Since I subject my dogs and my family to this yearly song and dance, one might suspect me of being a present wrapping, dog stocking, anthropomorphizing Holiday aficionado. I’m not. My dogs don’t have presents under the tree. The generic paw print stockings on the mantle are for decoration only. There is no canine Christmas feast. Not that I’m judging if you do. My dogs have just never shown a particular proclivity for the Christmas Spirit. So they’ll get a new bed this month (that I’ve been itching to buy anyway), delivered with little pomp, circumstance and nary a ribbon in sight. Christmas Eve or Christmas proper will find them temporarily awash in Himalayan Dog Chews, a chew they don’t often get. My motivations there are also selfish. I’m buying myself a quiet Holiday. Christmas evening usually involves a dog walk as a good excuse to digest and look at lights. And uhm,… yep. That’s it. Dogs are done.
During this Season, I take the opportunity to impose my dogs on others (via the Postal Service). However, I don’t impose the Season on my dogs. Our traditions are undoubtably going to change (along with everything else). As our last year with ‘this family’, I’m questioning those traditions. What do I want to keep? What will I let go? I know I’ll always keep these pictures. If my photography skills hold out, they’ll include a baby in the future. I’m happy with the gifts our dogs receive (and don’t). How will that evolve?
Do you have Holiday Traditions that involve your pets? How and why do you include them in your Holiday?