I love the Christmas holidays. However, like many others, I sometimes struggle to avoid them feeling like one long TO DO list from hell, instead of the celebration of love and light that they can be.
The trick for me is to intentional every day. What makes me happy? What makes the people and other animals that I love happy? One of the things that makes me happy is giving gifts. I’m sure it’s less altruistic than selfish–an excuse to buy cool things without feeling guilty–but it makes me happy.
At the same time, I have no interest in spreading around stuff for the sake of stuff, and filling up the earth and water with yet more pollution. It makes me happy to find ways to give gifts in a thoughtful way, and it makes me happy to have a conversation with you all about how to do that for the dog lovers in our circle. I’ll give you some of my ideas; I’ll love hearing yours.
Every year I COOK CHRISTMAS PRESENTS for my friends for that great happy landfill that lives in our stomachs. I make a killer Butternut Squash Soup, home made baugette rolls, pumpkin or carrot bread, and I help Jim with his famous, best-ever-every-one-wants-them, Christmas cookies. And if they have dogs, bonus for me. I get to make them home made dog treats. My favorite dog treat cookbook is The Ultimate Dog Treat Cookbook by Palika and Cummings. (Chicken and Sweet Potato? Yum.)
What about a custom PHOTOGRAPH of your friend’s dog? Maybe you have a good one you could frame and surprise them with. Or put it onto a coffee mug? Or give them a gift certificate to a good professional photographer, one that you’ve researched and know does a good job with dogs.
SUBSCRIPTIONS TO MAGAZINES are another good idea. Granted, the paper gets recycled if you buy the print version, but paper can be recycled after all, and one can always pass on one’s copy to someone else. (Or donate it to rescues and shelters, my favorite idea.) My absolute favorite dog magazine is The Bark, hands down, no competition. I say that, as some of you know, having written their behavior column for well on fourteen years. I make no pretense of objectivity here–I know the founders and editors, and I love the magazine’s combination of science-based information and fine writing. I still get the print version. I spend hours on a computer every day, and I still love the physicality of real books and magazines. Here is this month’s cover:
Another fantastic subscription would be one to the Whole Dog Journal. It does a great job evaluating dog food (they even go to the manufacturer’s plants) and other health-related topics. I pretty much wouldn’t leave home without it.
OFFER TO DOG SIT. Granted, this is a big present, and only something that some of us with flexible schedules could offer. But what a wonderful gift to a good friend! “You go do something well-deserved and heavenly, and count on me to take care of your dog.” This is especially welcome to people who have dogs with issues. If you are a good friend and know dogs, they can count on you to 1) not get bitten, 2) avoid dog fights and 3) clean up vomit or feces as if it were nothing. Potentially best present ever?
BUY THEM AN EXPERIENCE. It’s all about the experience now, right? Your knowledge of your friend and your imagination is your only limit. How about a weekend dog sledding (you dog sit their dogs of course!) Okay, maybe not a good idea for those of you in Georgia or Arizona. But you could pay for a weekend seminar on canine behavior, or sheep herding, or tracking or… you get the idea.
BOOKS. Well, hey. I’m an author, what can I say? Books may be “stuff,” but I still love them for all that they add to our lives. A good place to look for great dog-related books is with my friends at Dogwise. They have an entire section on “Gifts for Newbies” that is a great place to look for friends with a new dog. And there’s always the package I put together called “The Classics”, six books that have stood the test of time and are still as relevant today as the day they were published. (Full disclosure, she says scuffing her shoe: One of them is mine, The Other End of the Leash.)
One book I’m thinking about getting myself is Mind Games for Dogs. At the moment it is still reasonable weather for working sheep. (Cold yes, but not too slippery and much better than hot for me and Maggie.) But that is not going to last long. It’s barely into December, and it is guaranteed that we will have days in the future that are well below zero, or too icy to be safe, or both. I could use a few new ideas for tricks to teach the Border Collies.
If you are stuck, you can always give a GIFT CERTIFICATE to your favorite local pet store. Who doesn’t need something for their dogs, from food to toys to bedding? You could even go to the meat department of your local market–why not wrap up a chuck roast for Chuck?
Those are just a few ideas to get us started. I’m looking forward to stoking the fire, brewing some Earl Grey tea, and getting inspired by your favorite gifts to give or receive. (Or not. Go ahead and whinge about presents you got that you didn’t want. I won’t tell Santa.)
MEANWHILE, back on the farm: If anyone has seen the sun lately could you remind me what it looks like? Color? Shape? I don’t remember. But we did get a sprinkling of snow on Sunday, which does perk up our surroundings. But life is still a study in black, brown and grey.
Here’s a photo of the woods above the barn. No, I didn’t take it in black and white.
Ah, a sprinkle of color! Even a plastic orange cone looks good in weather like this.
Willie would like me to put down the damn camera, thank you, and play with him.