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Forty Years with Birds and Dogs 

Dogs and Christmas

Dogs know it's that time again. When the Christmas tree lights go on and the packages appear, they are eager to be in the living room. They smell everything--the candles, the ornaments, every package--and they know which one is theirs. But this year I made a mistake.

Even if we must be gone for the holiday, we set up a tree and have Christmas together--DeeDee and Scooter and Don and I. The tradition goes back to the first Christmas I remember. I had just turned three the month before. Pa and Ma got us up early and handed us a string to pull. The other end of the string was attached to a small waddling ball of brown and blond fur with snow white feet and legs. Boots we called her, a shepherd mix from the local shelter--the dog that defined our early childhood. She loved Christmas as much as Poncho, the black and white shepherd that defined my daughters' childhood.

This Christmas DeeDee and Scooter were more alert to the promises wrapped in bright paper. They waited as patiently as they could near the tree, but they were unusually persistent in sniffing out the packages, unusually eager to get their personal packages unwrapped, and unusually disappointed when the plain rolls of cowhide appeared. It took some persuading before they finally settled down to chew their presents. Then my mistake came clear. Since my son-in-law didn't do tangerines, his stocking contained a package of turkey pastrami.

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