Thursday, December 13, 2007

Christmas Lessons from Labs #2 - Gifts, Part Two

1. Give with the recipient in mind (and it needs to be an accurate perception of the recipient; NOT who or what we wish they were or want them to be).

You can tell in this picture how thrilled Baxter was by his Christmas collar three years ago. :l)

This year, with how intelligent our Lab kids are here, I could probably make a case for giving them the latest season of House on DVD (they do look at the TV now and then) or a Backpacker magazine subscription (they love hiking, the outdoors, and shredding glossy periodical pages). I could even give them a book on Basic Obedience Training (they do love to work!) :o) But I'll resist the urge and get them what they would enjoy (like treat-stuffed kongs) instead.

Now, this idea of thinking about the recipient may sound obvious. BUT, we've all been on the receiving end of a gift someone wanted to give who clearly gave little thought to who they were giving it to or how we would receive it (I'm thinking about a mounted singing trout given to someone who just wants peace and quiet, or of a husband giving his wife a vacuum cleaner or diet cookbook).

There is, however, always room for surprises! ;o)

2. Reality check: Sometimes the wrapping really is more fun. Okay. Who of us hasn't received a gift with heart-thumping anticipation over what it might contain only to discover what it really contained was far less exciting (like the mounted singing trout from #1 above). I think of Ridge shredding stuffed toys to find squeaker mechanisms (yesterday's video): what seems so exciting to him, when unwrapped, turns out to be anticlimactic, at best.

Need a human illustration? Just think of two-year-olds tearing through packages, finding what's inside, and then playing with wrapping paper, empty boxes, and ribbons because the trimmings are far more fun.

That's just the way of it with gifts. Sometimes they're home-runs, sometimes they're foul balls, and sometimes they're just plain duds. It's all part of the experience. There's no need to take a disappointing gift personally (as either giver or receiver). The gift itself contains the hidden gift of hope-filled anticipation-- a gift all by itself. If nothing less, we can treasure the process.

3. Food is always good. Here's real wisdom from our gang: when in doubt...give edible gifts (hehe). Yummies are never duds (well, except maybe fruitcake). ;o)

4. Presence means more than presents. Our canine kids relish being with us; as far as they're concerned, there's nothing like snuggling, resting near, or playing with their humans. Oh, sure, on Christmas morning we can make them happy and keep them busy in another room with a bone or two, but it doesn't last long. It's a momentary distraction at best. What they really want is to be in the middle of it all, with us. They want to be included (that's Baxter as puppy opening his present with us Christmas morning five years ago). Is that really too much to ask?

5. It's the not the what as much as the who. Well, okay. With Labs, maybe it really is the what (our gang doesn't care who hands them the treat biscuits, as long as they get the treat biscuits).

But I do vaguely recall back in 1996, while we relocated to France for three months, we arranged for a house sitter to move in with our then two Labs, Stoney and Strider. Stoney, being more people oriented, didn't care about the what. She wanted her humans. Period. She wanted them home now. She stopped eating. She got sick. She grew depressed and lethargic.

No amount of what (treats, food, walks, work, exercise) could replace her need for her who. (Yes, that's the old Stoney girl in photo on right.)

Maybe it depends on the recipient (see #1 above). And if I really think about it, even our gang today (Baxter, Strider, Elsie, Kenya, and Pinot) wouldn't trade who for what any day of the week.

I wouldn't either.

'Til next time,


Lucy The Great Dane said...

Great post. I wish more people rewarded their pets just by being there instead of giving all sorts of stuff they probably do not need.

Joan said...


I couldn't agree more. Nothing breaks my heart like seeing dogs, especially Labs, chained outdoors away from their people. It doesn't matter if they have a boatload of toys within reach; what they really want is human companionship.

In my mind (my bias is showing here), if people don't have time to invest with their animals, especially with people-needy Labs (and Labs are people-needy by nature -- it's not a fault; it's what endears them to us so), they shouldn't own them. Period. If they want an animal, bypass Labs and get an independent-by-nature cat instead.

Thanks for the comment!