It is Christmastime: a time of reminiscence for Christmastimes past, a time to be with family creating new memories. What better time of year to include a very important part of our families, our pets, in our activities during this season of joy and giving?
I have many memories of past Christmases with our family and our pets: hanging a stocking for our pets filled with treats and toys; giving them a rawhide chew in wrapping paper and letting the dogs rip open their "gift" on Christmas day. We would also include the barn pets in the celebration by taking a bag of carrots out for the horses as a special treat. After all the present opening, the whole family would either take a horseback ride or go cross country skiing. The dogs loved to come along on these family outings.
I remember one of these times in particular. We were all bundled up in our winter coats, hats, and mittens. The horses had a thick winter coat and riding on their backs helped keep us warm and comfortable. On our way back to the barn, large fluffy snowflakes were coming down all around us and it was the most peaceful and serene day. The snow was accumulating on the horses' backs and on the ground. The horses had to lift their feet high to prance through the soft blanket it was creating. It could have been a scene from a Christmas card. Another year I remember riding our horses out on Christmas Eve night up and down our road to enjoy all the neighbors' holiday decorations.
Dr. Frost’s dog, Jake, helps the family decorate the tree,
Some ideas for creating Christmas memories with your pets include having their picture taken with Santa Claus. Many times these events are organized as a fundraiser for local animal shelters. What better time to give to these organizations? If your pet is no longer with you, a donation made in honor of them is a nice way to give as well.
Look for other ways to give this time of year, such as a donation to the Dunkirk Pet Pantry. We have a box available in our office for donations to the Pet Pantry, otherwise they are located at 515 Central Ave. in Dunkirk.
We also continue to accept monetary donations for our Bigfoot fund which was set up to help provide the care for stray and injured pets. We will have gift baskets at the clinic to raffle off this year to benefit this fund.
What better way to help the shelters than by bringing home a pet for Christmas? Instead of looking for a purebred dog, look on Northern Chautauqua Canine Rescue site or adopt a dog or cat from the Lakeshore Humane Society, or other local shelters. There are many abandoned and stray pets that need a forever home!
Other activities to consider would be visiting your local senior citizens or special needs homes with your pets. Sing the residents Christmas carols, or bring them a gift from you and your pet. Get involved in a living Nativity through the community churches. Volunteer your house pets or your farm pets to be part of the Nativity. Get your children involved by having them write a letter to Santa for your pets. Let them shop for your pets and wrap a gift for them to give on Christmas Day. Include your pets in your family Christmas photos. Dress them for the occasion if they don't get too stressed wearing a Santa hat or reindeer antlers.
Finally, I am going to include the words from a book that is near and dear to my heart. My mother would read this book every year around Christmastime and it is a beautiful story of the animals remembering what Christmas is all about! I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas and enjoys this season by making special memories with your families and your pets.
"The Animals' Christmas Eve"
Little Golden Book, by Gale Wiersum and illustrated by Jim Robison
In the barn on Christmas Eve, after all the people leave,
The animals in voices low, remember Christmas long ago.
One small hen, upon her nest, softly clucks to all the rest:
"Little chicks, come gather near. A wondrous story you will hear."
Two white doves, on rafters high, coo a quiet lullaby:
"Long ago in manger hay, the little baby Jesus lay.
"Three wise men from far away, came to visit him one day,
For he was born, the doves recall, "to be the greatest king of all!"
Four brown horses in their stalls, snug within the stable walls,
Tell of his birth: "'Twas long foretold, by chosen men in days of old."
Five gray donkeys speak with pride, remembering one who gave a ride"
"Our brother donkey went with them, from Nazareth to Bethlehem."
Six spotted calves now nibble hay, like that on which the baby lay.
"They put him in a manger bed, so he could rest his sleepy head."
Seven goats, all black and white, describe the sky that holy night:
"A star appeared at early morn, to mark the place where he was born."
Eight nestling kittens lick their fur. They nod their heads and softly purr:
"And he was wrapped in swaddling clothes, to keep him warm from head to toes."
Nine woolly sheep, down from the hill, on Christmas Eve remember still:
"Shepherds heard the angels sing, praises to the newborn king."
Ten soft lambs say Jesus' name, "He was the Lamb of God who came.
He was the greatest gift of love, sent from his Father, God, above."
Eleven puppies listen well, in hopes that they, in turn, can tell
The Christmas story another year, for all the animals to hear.
Twelve chimes ring out from far away - the lovely bells of Christmas Day.
And every beast bows low its head, for one small babe in a manger bed.
Dr. Rebekah Frost is a veterinarian at the Dunkirk Animal Clinic. Send comments on this column to firstname.lastname@example.org