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Pets still need attention during holiday season

With the bustle of holiday activity, it's easy to ignore a pet. A friend confessed that she once put her dog outside, intending it to be for only a few minutes. After an hour of mingling with her visitors, she remembered her pup. She found a shivering little ball of fur at the door waiting to come inside.

The rules for Rover change at holiday time: "Get away from that tree!" If a live evergreen is suddenly brought inside the house, a dog must be confused why the usual sniffs are suddenly off-limits.

What's worse, there are many foods that are unattended and tempting to an unsupervised animal. These goodies are placed on coffee tables at our pets' eye level, a perfect location for the shortest guest in the room to snatch.

Reading about holiday safety, I learned that holiday plants, tinsel and baking products, including chocolate and raisins, can make a dog sick. Even ornaments may be a tempting treat. My cousin's dog ate fake birds off her tree and pooped feathers for a week.

Articles can offer tips, but my best lesson came from my dog,Nadine. One afternoon, our kitchen was the hub of holiday cookie baking. Nadine flirted at my feet. She brought in her favorite toy and dropped it. I tossed the rubber ring into the next room to keep her out. Who wants dog hair in their cookies?

Once again, that cold nose nuzzled my skirt, but my floured hand sprinkled her as I waved her away. Then she stared at me with that pleading Labrador look.

"Poor thing. See that tucked-down tail and sad eyes," my husband said. His remark added to our guilt, but he wasn't free to join in her game either. Nadine shook off the flour "storm" that had stuck to her black fur and disappeared into another room.

Within minutes, cinnamon and vanilla perfumed our kitchen. I pulled out the first tray of cookies and placed them on the table. Then I heard a loud crunching sound. While my back was turned, Nadine had swiped several cookies off the cooling tray. I caught her by the collar and made her sit.

"No, girl," I said in a firm tone. Just like a child's cry for attention, Nadine's mischievous behavior announced her boredom.

While the next batch of cookies was in the oven, it was a good chance to wrap gifts. Nadine didn't think so -- she pulled her leash off its hook and brought it to me. On other days, Nadine's routine included a brisk walk and grooming session. Now, the demands of the season took important time from her health and appearance. I returned her leash to the hook and pointed to her bed.

When the timer rang, I took the cookies out and Nadine showed up again. She appeared as regularly as the spirits in "A Christmas Carol." Dragging her well-loved blanket through the kitchen, she hoped that I would chase her. She knew the rules of our favorite game. When I didn't, her head drooped as she slunk away.

"That does it," I said. My guilt smothered me. With a dog treat as a peace offering, I looked for her. Checking the living room, I noticed the fake tree in the corner, and smiled. Nadine was sprawled under the tree, so I sat on the floor with her. All 60 pounds of her bounced over to sit on my lap, which made me laugh.

It was the first time I had laughed that day. Her gift to me fit perfectly, was suitable for my age and I didn't have to return it. The real meaning of the season, I learned from my best pal, is spending time together.

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