It’s been another fun holiday season with A.J.!
The first year A.J. joined our family, the few times we left him home alone we put a fence around the Christmas tree. The tree and all its ornaments survived nicely that year. That hasn’t always been the case since then, and this year was no different.
Many of the ornaments on our tree have been collected throughout the years and have special meaning as reminders and gifts from friends and family. Mixed in with the special ornaments are some easily-replaceable colored balls. Everything combined makes for what I think is a very pretty and special Christmas tree.
This year, a few days after the tree went up we were getting ready to go for a walk. A.J. tends to get a little excited when it’s walk time. He was dancing around and running back and forth when he brushed by the tree, knocking an ornament off. I was in the other room and heard it fall. I wasn’t worried, it sounded like one of the colored balls. But just as I rounded the corner to pick the ornament up, A.J. came rushing back…and stepped on it.
The ornament burst into a million pieces. I called A.J. over to get him out of the mess. After a quick check of his paws to make sure there was nothing that was going to cut him, I sent him outside so we could sweep and vacuum up the mess. But the ornament he broke wasn’t one of the colored balls. It was an ornament from my aunt and uncle who had come to visit us in our new home several years ago. They bought the ornament specifically because they thought it went so well with our home.
I was sad to lose the ornament, but glad A.J. didn’t hurt himself. It seems we just have to expect to sacrifice an ornament a year. The price you pay for having a happy, crazy springer.
A Christmas tree looks a little lonely without presents under it. Well, unless there’s a dog under it, which was the case quite often in our house. But dogs aside, once the tree is up it’s time to buy and wrap presents and place them under the tree. I was smart enough not to put any presents for A.J. under the tree early on. Unfortunately A.J. wasn’t aware of that.
When we get home from walks, no matter how long the walk was or how much time A.J. spent chasing squirrels in the park, when we come home he immediately grabs a toy and wants to play. This time, he grabbed a nicely wrapped pair of socks and stood there looking at me, happy as could be with his recent find.
The package escaped with only a small hole in the wrapping, and we found another toy to play with. He continued to want that package of socks until it was finally opened by the recipient and he realized it really wasn’t any fun after all.
We decided very late in the year to spend Christmas with my in-laws. A.J. usually goes to camp when we visit because his Grandma Lucy has a cat, and cats are very upsetting to A.J. But I was too late this year, and boarding was booked. Everyone has been telling me for years that “A.J. is a good dog, he’ll be fine.” I know my dog and didn’t believe this for a second, but this year I decided to give it a try.
We drove over Christmas day. A.J. sat calmly in the back seat for the 3 ½ hours it took to get to my brother-in-law’s house. The entire family was gathered there when we arrived: 20 adults, five children, two dogs, and tons of presents. We walked in, and A.J. was as happy as a dog can be.
Shortly after we arrived my sister-in-law asked me “Will A.J. use the doggie door?” I replied “He’s been in and out twice already.”
He did stick closely to me for a little while, but that was when I went to the kitchen to eat and he wanted to help me. Other than that he was all over the place. But he’s such a good boy, I hardly even noticed where he was and what he was doing most of the time.
One of the other dogs is an old, grouchy dachshund. Not a problem, A.J. gets along with everyone. When our nephew and his girlfriend were leaving, the girlfriend said to me “I’m so glad I finally got to meet A.J.!” I said “Did he come see you?” “Oh yes, we’re good friends.”
That’s my social butterfly, otherwise known as A.J. the Springer.
After presents we went to Grandma Lucy’s house, where we would be staying. With the cat.
I led A.J. into the house on his leash. He was so excited to be there he barely noticed the cat. But the cat noticed him, and headed straight out the pet door. The cat didn’t come in again until that night. It did, however, sit outside in front of the window. When A.J. saw it he almost knocked over the Christmas tree trying to get to it.
Throughout the day A.J. had a great time running in and out of the pet door. He’s very proud of himself when he can go in and out on his own, which he did repeatedly.
In the evening it got cold out and the cat got hungry, so she came walking into the house. A.J. jumped up, my brother-in-law grabbed the cat, and A.J. started growling and trying to grab the cat’s tail. The poor cat and his food went into the garage. But it was almost bedtime, so soon after that I took A.J. into the bedroom with me and shut the door, so the cat could spend the rest of the night in the house. First thing in the morning the cat went out again.
But we definitely settled the discussion as to whether or not sweet, well-behaved A.J. could hang out in the house with a cat.
The weekend after Christmas we drove up my parents’ house. A.J. loves it at their house. No dog door, but acres of woods and wonderful things to explore. Once again he was calm and quiet for the long drive, this time 1 ½ hours.
When we got there I noticed my mom had a giant bruise on her head. She acquired the bruise when she tripped in a parking lot the night before. She was out buying one last Christmas present – for A.J.
Grandma Dodi wound up with a concussion, and A.J. repaid her for her sacrifice by tearing into his present and demolishing his new toy in less than five minutes.
New Year’s Eve
We ended the year the same way we do every year since we moved to Portland: staying up all night listening to A.J. bark frantically at the illegal fireworks being set off all over the city. He actually did pretty well this year. I discovered I just need to stand guard all night.
When the fireworks started around 9 PM A.J. started barking and getting very stressed and upset. He kept running to the front door, then back to us, then to the front door. We’ve tried everything to calm him down when he gets like that, but nothing has worked. This time I tried something new. I got up and went to the door, looked out the window, then turned and told A.J. “It’s fine, I’ve got this.”
He stopped barking.
So I stood at the door for a while longer, looking out the window when the fireworks went off, and A.J. didn’t bark.
I knew I couldn’t stand at the door for the next four hours, so I found a spot on the stairs near the door to sit down. A.J. laid down next the me, and the two of us stayed there until after 1 AM when the fireworks finally died down. He was stressed, but stayed quiet, with only one outburst when the next door neighbors lit off some firecrackers.
We finally went to bed and had a restful night until 4 AM, when someone decided they had to celebrate the new year occurring somewhere out in the Pacific Ocean. But A.J. just jumped up onto the bed, I talked to him and petted him, and he stayed quiet.
All in all, not too bad.
End of the Year
It’s been quite a year. We got off to a rocky start this year, but A.J. is healthy and as happy as ever. Happy New Year to all of A.J.’s family and friends!