Purr-fect Holiday

By Chandra Orr

September 5, 2008 5 min read

PURR-FECT HOLIDAY

Why Christmas is going to the dogs (and cats)

Chandra Orr

Creators News Service

Sadie must have made Santa's list for good girls. A stocking of her own, presents piled high, Christmas cookies ... and a trip to the groomer?

Looks like Christmas is going to the dogs.

"Sadie was my first dog, so I really went all out," Jessica Neal of Memphis, Tenn., said. "She was showered with gifts. She got a special holiday collar, a grooming for the occasion and her own special Christmas cookies."

Like any member of the family, the miniature schnauzer spent her first Christmas surrounded by loving aunts, uncles and grandparents who lavished her with praise and presents -- and she wasn't the only one.

"The holidays are about connection, family, emotion and trying to reconnect with the things that make us human. For a lot of people, that includes their pets," Chris Cutter, communications manager for the International Fund for Animal Welfare, said.

"More than ever, pets are an extension of the core family," said Tamela Terry, president of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals/Humane Society in Prince George's County, Maryland. "The traditional family is smaller and not so traditional, so there's room for pets to play a bigger role. And, the fact is, studies have shown that the more energy and time we put into our pets, the more we value them and the better we take care of them."

And take care of them we do. This year alone, Americans will spend an estimated $43 billion on their pets, according to the American Pet Products Manufacturer's Association, a nonprofit trade group. Pet stores routinely offer holiday-themed doggie spa packages, photos with Santa and an endless array of holiday toys and treats to tempt even the most discriminating animal.

But canines aren't just celebrating Christmas. Jewish families are increasingly eager to include their pets in the holiday festivities with puppy yarmulkes and kosher bone and bagel toys to help their hounds honor Hanukkah.

"Our customers consider their pets to be just another member of the family, so it comes as no surprise that they would want to include them in family and religious celebrations. Many even celebrate their pup's 'Bark Mitzvah,'" Sara Schwimmer, founder and president of online retailer PopJudaica.com, said.

Looking for new ways to make merry with your pampered pooch? Here are a few ideas:

* Include your pet in this year's Christmas card. Better yet, let them design it. "Two years ago, we let two of our adoptable animals design our holiday card," Terry said. "We put their paws in red and green nontoxic paint and let them decorate a blank piece of butcher paper. We photographed the result and made a great holiday card."

* Treat your dog to a treat. A trip to Three Dog Bakery won't disappoint. Featuring freshly baked all-natural dog biscuits, the gourmet bakery has more than 35 retail locations nationwide. The walk-in bakeries are completely dog-friendly and have become a hotspot for canine meet-and-greets. Visit www.threedog.com for locations.

* Indulge in a day at the doggie spa. Last year, PETCO offered a Warm Gingerbread Vanilla grooming package, complete with festively scented shampoo and, for the adventurous, sparkling red and green nail polish. Visit www.petco.com for this year's offerings.

* Host a canine Christmas party with pet-friendly treats, party favors and playthings. "This is one of the coolest traditions I've seen of late," Terry said, citing a local pet sitter who hosts an annual party for pets. "This allows the pet owners to stay out as late as they want without feeling like they're neglecting their pet -- and the pet gets to have a little party of its own."

"Food, treats, toys -- what could be better? Pets don't keep calendars or know it's the holidays, but they value the experience," Cutter said. "Curling up in front of the fire with a purring cat or a dog lying on your lap is all the proof one needs."

Note: PETCO is all caps. Prince George's County is possessive.

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