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'Twas the Night Before... Emily Rieman

'Twas the Night Before...

This season, don’t leave Fido out in the cold. Here are some tips and treats for a doggone good holiday that’ll have your furry pal and his four-legged friends howling for joy.
Written by Cathy Herholdt; Photography by Emily Rieman

If your home is like most, there are plenty of creatures stirring the night before Christmas. In fact, Christmas Eve has all the excitement of Christmas, plus a huge dose of anticipation and even some stress for those hosting holiday gatherings.

Dogs can pick up on this and exhibit stress of their own, or become overly excited by the giant tree covered with potential toys that has been brought into their home and the extra guests ringing the doorbell all evening long.

To make this night a fun, festive one for two- and four-legged friends and family members, here are some suggestions for a doggone good time.

Entertainment. A reading of the original “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” is a tradition in many homes. This year consider adding an alternative. Gather the kids—and dogs—around for “A Dog’s Night Before Christmas” (1996, $5.99, available at Borders.com) by Sue Carabine. In this illustrated children’s book, Santa gets stuck and buried in the snow, and the only one who can save him is Bojangles, the trusty Saint Bernard.

An inspiring story for all ages is the newly published “Nubs: The True Story of a Mutt, a Marine & a Miracle” (hardcover, November, 2009) by award-winning Seattle author Kirby Larson and co-author Mary Nethery. “Nubs” is the story of an abandoned and abused Iraqi dog of war that befriended Marine Maj. Brian Dennis, who was training Iraqi solders at an outpost where the dog often searched for food. Maj. Dennis gave him the name “Nubs” because his ears had been cut off in an effort to make him more aggressive.

The book includes photographs of Nubs in Iraq, and tells the story of his amazing journey across 70 miles of dessert in the winter to find Dennis, and eventually his new home in San Diego. This heart-warming story will make everyone smile this holiday season. “Nubs” is available online and at local retailers and would make a great gift for dog lovers too.

If a movie is in order after Christmas Eve dinner, “The 12 Dogs of Christmas,” (available on DVD at WalMart, Target or 12dogsofchristmas.com) by Academy Award winning director Keith Merrill, will entertain kids, grown ups and may even hold the attention of canine viewers—between naps, of course. In order to strike down an evil mayor’s ‘no-dogs’ law in her town, 12-year-old Emma brings together a group of schoolmates, grown-ups and adorable dogs of all shapes and sizes in a spectacular holiday pageant.

Treats for all. It wouldn’t be a holiday in America without plenty of food, and four-legged family members shouldn’t be left out. In order to avoid any illegal nibbling on human fare (and a possible upset stomach on Christmas day), provide some flavorful dog treats too.

Seattle-based Wet-Noses.com offers all organic holiday-themed treats for pups exclusively this time of year, including Apple Pie treats, made with Washington apples, molasses, ginger and cinnamon, and Sweet Potato Pie—home-baked goodness with roasted sweet potatoes and organic rye and oat flour—both in fun Christmas packaging.

Petit Four Legs (petitfourlegs.com) leaves no paw print with their holiday dog treats in eco-friendly packaging, giving dog owners a “green” option for gift-giving to their pets. New this year are gingerbread men, handmade with organic ingredients from local farms (see page 17 for more details), and Hanukkah coins—a treat that resembles the popular Hanukkah ‘gelt’ for humans. Both treats are available at boutique pet stores and online.

Your dog may never realize his dream of catching one of Santa’s reindeer, but you can give him the next best thing. QT Dog has an inovative alternative to livestock bones, Antlerz. Deer antlers that have been shed naturally, collected and cleaned, Antlerz are 100% natural and cruelty-free. Lasting longer than regular bones, they don’t chip or splinter. Available in different sizes from small to “monster,” Antlerz can be found at Urban Dogs in Bellevue, Wash. or qtdog.com/antlerz.htm.

Dogs love getting gifts too. Surprise your pup with a gift under the tree, or a paw-print stocking by the fire filled with goodies (we found one for $18 at prudenceoctavia.etsy.com). Petsmart.com has Snowman fleece pajamas for dogs ($11.99) for a cozy evening with the family, as well as a red and green striped cable knit sweater ($16.99) to wear on Christmas day. Another sweater that’s festive, yet not overdone, is the classic argyle sweater from EastSide Collection. In pullover style and made with machine washable acrylic, this is a sweater your dog can be proud of. $12.99 and up at petkaboodle.com.

For a Hanukkah gift, Zanies has a plush menorah squeaky chew toy to keep your hintele occupied for hours ($6.99, petkaboodle.com). Or, for big dogs that want a tough toy with no silly squeakers, Zanies also makes a rope knot chew toy in festive holiday colors ($7.99 and up at petkaboodle.com). Even the most pacifist dogs like to play tug of war, but if your dog is being a little naughty, he can switch sides. A tennis ball tug toy has “nice” printed on one end and “naughty” on the other—you decide which side he’s on ($4.99 at petkaboodle.com).

Dog-themed décor. Last, but not least, if trimming the tree is part of your family’s tradition on Christmas Eve, why not make it a dog-themed tree this year? Search for doggie ornaments while you’re out shopping (for the perfect pooch-themed ornaments, turn to page 16), or have kids string garland with dog-shaped cutouts. Don’t go overboard with any decorations that could be seen (or smelled) as treats by your dog, however, or you could give the famous poem’s line “there arose such a clatter” a whole new meaning this year.

However you celebrate this holiday season with your loved ones, Happy Christmas (or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa) to all, and to all a goodnight!

Shop for great holiday gifts for dogs and lovers at the CityDog Shop.
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