A Very Macabre Christmas to You and Yours

Among the many things I inherited a love of from my mother, such as books and weird medical cases, are Christmas ornaments and crafting. Every Christmas since I was little, we would get an ornament in our stocking, and when I moved out, I took my collection with me. It’s a lovely way to have a little nostalgia every December when we set up the tree. I have done the same for my kids, so when they are older they can survey their pile of Tow Mater and Barbie ornaments the way I look over my Garfield collection and have a smile.

I do the same for the pets, but they don’t get a new one every year. When I get a new pet, they get a stocking and an ornament that first Christmas. Each year I put it on the tree and I can be either reminded of how glad I am to have them in my life, or have a smile as I remember them fondly and reminisce about what Christmas decorations they destroyed.

Mulan died on New Year’s Eve, 2008, a couple of months before I started the blog. My mother, still coming down off her post-Christmas rush, spotted a Golden Retriever ornament at a post-Christmas sale and snatched it up, with a brilliant idea: I will glue feathers on it and make Jessica a Mulan-angel ornament. She painstakingly crafted this piece, then set it aside for the year.

As you know if you’re a regular reader, 2009 was a banner year for me in terms of “death, the gift that keeps on giving.” By the time the holiday season arrived, my mother retrieved the ornament from storage and realized geez, I had a whole lot of pets disapparate over the following months. Not wanting anyone to feel left out- glue and feathers are cheap, after all- she hit the stores.

So here is the scene: Christmas morning, 2009. Smiling expectantly, she hands me a beautifully wrapped box, which I assume to be my yearly ornament. I open it.

A Commemorative Death Ornament. I pick it up, examine the wings, and start crying. Mom pats my shoulder sympathetically, allowing my emotions to wash over me. Then I realize I STILL HAVE TWO BOXES TO OPEN.

Mom hands me the second one hesitatingly. I take it apprehensively.

A “Merry Christmas! Sure do wish I could be there to enjoy a big bone, but I can’t, because I got lymphoma” ornament. Then I cried even more. By this point I’m pretty sure I don’t want to open the last box unless it contains something happier, like a razor blade and a packet of salt. Mom is chewing her lip, thinking perhaps this wasn’t the best idea. The kids are starting to notice something is wrong.

And so I take the last one, against my better judgment. I am hoping against hope it is a new Brody ornament.

Nope.

Let me remind you, at this point Callie had been missing for three months. I knew she was probably gone, but I was still hopeful that perhaps she was still alive. Mom, apparently, was not. This is the “Admit Defeat, your Cat Died” commemorative ornament.

I was not the only one laboring under such delusions. My kids, at the time 5 and 3, believed me when I said that Callie had probably run away and been taken in by kindly neighbors who just never saw the 500 fliers I stuck up around the neighborhood. So they saw this, saw me crying, put two and two together and said, “CALLIE’S DEAD??” And then they started crying too.

I had no answer for them, because I was in the kitchen, pouring Bailey’s into my morning coffee to offset the salty tears of my despair. I have no idea what my husband told them. My mother, by this point having realized the holes in her sentimental plan, had nothing to say except, “I also got you some chocolate.”

I laugh about it now, as I put them up next to my new Brody and Koa ornaments (sans feathers). But oh, that was a rough morning, down in infamy as the year my poor sweet, mortified mom realized the emotional impact of an ambush “sorry you lost 75% of your pets and oh yes, your cat did in fact die” on Christmas morning.

If you do the Christmas tree thing, do you have ornaments for your pets? What about special angel ones?

Filed: Blog, Cancer sucks, Musings, Picks of the Litter Tagged: , , , ,
  • Jessica Roberts

    I am so sorry, but that story is hilarious. It sounds exactly like something my mother would do, it really does. I truly feel your pain. :)

    I do pick up ornaments for the pets’ stockings (yes, they have them, OF COURSE), though it’s easier to find appropriate ornaments for some than others. The birds (chickens and parrot) are easy to buy for, since, for some reason, people think that those are very appropriate to put on trees. Cordy, the German shepherd chow chow mix, usually gets a dog bone or something to represent what she has decided to destroy that year (she’s getting a book ornament this year. sigh.). Kaylee, the shar pei, usually gets pig or hippo ornaments, since two of her nicknames are Piglet (or Piggly Wiggly) and the House Hippo.

    Oh, and I buy my husband a random ornament every year, too, though I do have to admit I put much less thought into his than the pets’. :)

    • http://www.pawcurious.com Dr. V

      Me shopping for the pets: hours of no, that shade of red doesn’t match Brody’s fur, that lab’s muzzle is too narrow, no, no, no.
      For husband: Football? Done.

      • Anonymous

        I spent 15 minutes last night comparing the tan markings of the Rottweiler ornaments so that they matched Cookie. LOL! I thought I was the only crazy one.

        • Jessica Roberts

          I’ve gotta say, I feel much better about that now. :)

      • Claygreys8

        Long time reader here Dr V. I hope you don’t mind me posting this, but it is topical and I promise not to post about it again if you do remove it.

        For the past 7 years, I’ve been making custom ornaments of pets for this exact reason. I have greyhounds, and aside from the ‘encyclopedia’ style ornaments (you know, exactly right stance, generic personality) I couldn’t find ornaments I liked. So I took matters into my own hands – literally! Using polymer clay and my own two hands, I sculpt ornaments & statues of pets based on photos. My site http://www.claygreys.com, which links to my Etsy page, is kind of bare right now since it’s REALLY close to Christmas for new orders.

        • http://www.pawcurious.com Dr. V

          Those are really cute!! And you could do, say, a rat?

        • Claygreys8

          I can! I can pretty much do any animal I can get a picture of. I’ve done ferrets, rats, hedgehogs, tortoise and am working on a horse right now.

          One of the things people love is that I give them the opportunity to dictate what their ornament looks like. So if your dog has a favorite toy I can usually sculpt it and include it in the ornament. Or if your cat had an unusual way of sitting, I can pose her sitting that way.

        • Claygreys8

          OH – and I forgot to mention that I do mixes as well as pure breeds!

        • http://lifeofthechefswife.blogspot.com Tabitha

          COOL!!

      • Claygreys8

        Long time reader here Dr V. I hope you don’t mind me posting this, but it is topical and I promise not to post about it again if you do remove it.

        For the past 7 years, I’ve been making custom ornaments of pets for this exact reason. I have greyhounds, and aside from the ‘encyclopedia’ style ornaments (you know, exactly right stance, generic personality) I couldn’t find ornaments I liked. So I took matters into my own hands – literally! Using polymer clay and my own two hands, I sculpt ornaments & statues of pets based on photos. My site http://www.claygreys.com, which links to my Etsy page, is kind of bare right now since it’s REALLY close to Christmas for new orders.

  • http://lifeofthechefswife.blogspot.com Tabitha

    I have not been able to find a Rat one for Mindy. I look every year but I only find mice, and she was very clearly a Rat. I do have a special one for Teaspoon, which is the cat I left with my mom when I moved out. The other guys dont have special christmas anything, because they get the WHOLE TREE to play with. We only use plastic decorations so if they fall or get batted around its no big deal. George does have a tree skirt that he like to lay on. They get gifts though, every year.

    • Leigh

      We have a Christmas store in San Diego that has every ornament you could imagine. I found a life-like chimpanzee ornament there (so random!), so they might have a rat! I tried to look online, but their search engine is lame. Give them a call, I bet they would have one, or know where you can find one… http://www.citylightscollectibles.com

      • http://www.pawcurious.com Dr. V

        I love City Lights! They have CHIMP ORNAMENTS??

        • Leigh

          Yes! At least they did a few years ago. Man, their search engine is awful, you can’t find what you want. But I live about 3 miles from there. Hopefully this weekend I could stop in there and look… (’cause you live in North County, right? A little farther than me!! lol.)

        • http://www.pawcurious.com Dr. V

          I’m in East County- pretty close, actually. I can swing by this weekend. :)

      • Nanarama

        I went to the City Lights website. The search engine is terrible, but…if you’ve ever seen ‘Dinner for Schmucks’ with Steve Carrell, check out the Wee Forest Folk ornaments. They look like his taxidermied friends.

    • http://www.pawcurious.com Dr. V

      Hmm. There has to be someone out there who can find you a white rat ornament.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1363015727 Michelle Cotton

    I don’t have ornaments, because it just never occured to me. I do have stockings for all of my pets, past and present. I simply can’t bring myself to get rid of the stockings of my past pets. I keep them with all the Christmas decorations and lovingly look at them when I pull them out. I don’t put them up, but they are there.

    • http://www.pawcurious.com Dr. V

      I do the same thing. I can’t toss them.

  • trix

    I am so, so sorry for the fact that this made me laugh as hard as I did. It totally sounds like something my mother would do.

    • http://www.pawcurious.com Dr. V

      Don’t be sorry, I laughed when I opened the boxes this year. I love my mom. :)

  • http://www.the7msnranch.com The 7msn Ranch

    My new favorite post of all time. Had me sobbing and laughing hysterically at the same time. Quite a feat. Now I’m wondering if your mother reads your blog and what she’s thinking.

    • http://www.pawcurious.com Dr. V

      She doesn’t, which is the only reason I wrote this. And ANYONE WHO KNOWS HER BETTER KEEP THEIR MOUTHS SHUT. lol

  • Anonymous

    I would get an ornament every year for Blade. In fact they hang prominently at the top of the tree. Some even are personalized with his name. His stocking I still hang but Cookie didn’t inherit it. And I just bought her an ornament this year. Her very own that she doesn’t have to share. :) It will go with her ornament of her paw print (that I’ve had sitting on my bookshelf since Blade passed and haven’t been able to do).

    I also have a very special ornament of a Rottie pup with angel wings and a ball that someone special *coughYOUcough* gave me when I visited. Most of the year it sits on my nightstand but every Christmas it joins the others. :)

    • http://www.pawcurious.com Dr. V

      What can I say? Old habits die hard. It’s genetic.

      • Anonymous

        It’s a good habit to have, my friend.

    • janitabean

      My dog’s name was Blade. I’ve never met another one. He was a Lab,Rott,Chow mix and I’m tearing up thinking about him. A real sweetheart.

      • Anonymous

        Awwww, my Blade was the only one I’ve known and he was a Rottie. :) I hope our Blades are playing together. What inspired you to name yours Blade? Mine was after the comic book character (and also the movie with Wesley Snipes)

        • janitabean

          He was my stepsons dog and he named him. Not sure where he got the name. When he moved he couldn’t keep him so I took him. If our Blades are together, I’m sure they are playing. Blade loved other animals and people.

  • Bklingler

    I also have the tradition of getting my daughter a new orament each year and I try to tie it into something that happened in her life that year. Well, the year she fell in love with a rock climber I searched high and low and found a rock climber ornament. She was so sure they were getting married and this was the one. Of course, you know what happened. Two years later, she can now hang it on the tree without crying. I learned a important lesson that year.

    • http://www.pawcurious.com Dr. V

      Oh no! She could always, you know, accidentally “drop” it. LOL!

    • http://www.pawcurious.com Dr. V

      Oh no! She could always, you know, accidentally “drop” it. LOL!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tammy-Barker/1198646597 Tammy Barker

    Talk about feeling emotional while I was reading this! I’d tear up and then laugh because of the way you told the story. I’m sorry to hear what your family endured but sure pleased to see you can look back w/ a smile.

    • http://www.pawcurious.com Dr. V

      It was horrible at the time but my mom did it with such love I can’t help but feel happy (now).

    • http://www.pawcurious.com Dr. V

      It was horrible at the time but my mom did it with such love I can’t help but feel happy (now).

  • Leigh

    We didn’t set out to do it, but we always have the “dead zone” on our tree. A photo frame ornament of each dead grandmother, then ornments belonging to dead dog, cat and bird. We cry every time we hang them, but then the rest of the season it tends to be comforting. Kind of macabre, but comforting. Lol.

    • http://www.pawcurious.com Dr. V

      We do too. I have a tea set for my grandmother, and a Dunkin Donuts ornament to remember my grandfather- who went there every morning. I actually think it’s really nice.

    • http://www.pawcurious.com Dr. V

      We do too. I have a tea set for my grandmother, and a Dunkin Donuts ornament to remember my grandfather- who went there every morning. I actually think it’s really nice.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kristyn.hone Kristyn Hone

    My husband has given me an ornament every year for Christmas. When the year marked a new furry arrival to our house, the ornament would reflect that. Some times the ornaments are secretly purchased during a Summer outing we shared and held on to until the holidays. Sometimes the ornaments are fancy silver and gold engraved things and sometimes, when money has been tight, they are simple things perhaps even freebies that have come our way. But for each year there is an ornament, and I love taking them out one by one during the holidays and seeing the chronical of our life together. The first ornament hung in a place of honor by itself, then as time went on they filled a garland, and now they cover our little Christmas tree pretty well. I can’t wait until the year I have to get a bigger tree just to hold these ornaments.

    • http://www.pawcurious.com Dr. V

      We had to upgrade our tree size to accomodate all ours!

  • http://www.facebook.com/kristyn.hone Kristyn Hone

    My husband has given me an ornament every year for Christmas. When the year marked a new furry arrival to our house, the ornament would reflect that. Some times the ornaments are secretly purchased during a Summer outing we shared and held on to until the holidays. Sometimes the ornaments are fancy silver and gold engraved things and sometimes, when money has been tight, they are simple things perhaps even freebies that have come our way. But for each year there is an ornament, and I love taking them out one by one during the holidays and seeing the chronical of our life together. The first ornament hung in a place of honor by itself, then as time went on they filled a garland, and now they cover our little Christmas tree pretty well. I can’t wait until the year I have to get a bigger tree just to hold these ornaments.

  • Lea Maxwell

    I had a pair of ornaments for my lab and rottweiler and sat together perfectly–they looked JUST LIKE the two of them. The rottie passed in september–so finding them when we unpacked the ornaments turned on the floodworks. But, it was a comfort setting them up in a little corner, like they’re still together.

    • http://www.pawcurious.com Dr. V

      It’s hard, especially when you’re not expecting it. But also bittersweet.

  • Kristen

    Awww. I love this post! So funny and sad but so true!
    We always got an ornament each Christmas growing up, and now I have my collection for my tree. I also make it a point to get an ornament each year for each of my boys and the plan is to give them their collection when they have homes of their own. We also have pet ornaments. Actually I only bought one, a yellow cat ornament that I bought 14 years ago for my Truman. The other animal ornaments were gifted to us. In 2010, we lost our sweet Abbie dog and the cat of my heart, Molly. A couple weeks after Molly died, I found silver angel dog and cat ornaments that I loved and had them engraved. Makes me tear up thinking about it! I think I’ll still be sad getting out the ‘living’ pet ornaments and the ‘angel’ pet ornaments this year, but I like that they still have a place in our Christmas celebration!

    • http://www.pawcurious.com Dr. V

      It’s nice, I actually do like having those remembrances.

  • Susi

    You’re one of the few writers who can make me laugh. Hey, that’s MY job.

    • http://www.pawcurious.com Dr. V

      And you do it well!

  • Lisa W

    Oh bless her heart! Such good intentions turning out so wrong!

    Right before Christmas 2008, I ordered a silver ornament that was an angel with a dog at her feet. Engraved on one of her wings is “I watch over you.” It stayed in the box and I didn’t use it that year, and quite frankly I completely forgot about it. As you know, 2009 was no picnic for me either, having lost Bailey. I found the ornament again at Christmas, cried a lot, and put it on the tree. During the year, it hangs from a picture of Bailey on my mantel.

    I also have three red satin ball ornaments with green paw prints on them. Hope I can find another one if I add another furry family member in the future!

    • http://www.pawcurious.com Dr. V

      Yes, 2009 was a banner garbage year all around. But it got better. :)

  • Pauley James

    I almost peed my pants at work while reading this. It is a very sweet tradition though.

    • http://www.pawcurious.com Dr. V

      I’m glad I have them. Now.

  • Abby’s Mom

    My late cat Nala used to love to sit under the Christmas tree. She even dyed her white belly pink one year sitting on a new tree skirt. We have a photo-frame ornament with a picture of her under the tree. We got it while she was still with us, but now it’s nice to have to think of her with the tree still. My current cat Abby has her very own personalized ornament that my Dad got her for her first Christmas with the family.

    • http://www.pawcurious.com Dr. V

      Aw, she loved your tree skirt. :) Ours is covered in black fur.

  • Rebecca

    My family has done the same for me- I have a nice collection of ballet and Disney Princess ornaments. Every year I get a new one, and I know it sounds cheesy, but I decided to get an ornament for my dachshund that I got last year. It’s her second Christmas with me, and since we just moved out I figured it would be nice to decorate OUR tree… but I also ordered an ornament for my Brittany Spaniel who passed last November (leading me to get the Ween). He was my first real dog- MY dog, not the family dog- that I adopted when he was 12, and I feel a need to commemorate him in some way… but there will not be feathers!!!

    • http://www.pawcurious.com Dr. V

      Obviously I don’t think it’s cheesy! My tree is covered in them!

  • Vonny

    Your poor mum! And poor you! I bring in a potted cactus to be my Christmas tree, since it is summer here. Never occurred to me to get a dog-specific ornament, although my dog always gets a holiday oriented toy as her present. However, I am now inspired to find an ornament that can be hers alone and that we both can enjoy hopefully for a lot of years yet.

    Apropos of none of the above, Night of the Living Dead is on tv shortly so I willl be making sure the dog is by my side while I get scared silly.

    • http://www.pawcurious.com Dr. V

      Night of the Living Dead! I can’t do those movies.

  • JaneK

    it sounds like something from a Vacation movie! I laughed out loud when I saw the pics of the ornaments that had intended good but resulted in tears. I think it was the feathers…. a plain ornament wouldn’t have drawn such emotion. And really, I know it wasn’t funny then but since you said you laugh about it now…. I felt permission :)

    I have a 4 year old, so we are heading down the road of homemade ornaments with handprints….

    • http://www.pawcurious.com Dr. V

      The feathers definitely pushed it over the edge!

  • Nurse_Shell

    When we were kids we made handprints in clay for our parents each year for either Christmas or Mother’s/Father’s day, usually painted gold. One Christmas when I was young and in my first place I got the idea that I should make clay pawprints of my fur-babies to hang on my tree. They looked super-cool that year and for several years after. However, over time the clay has begun to deterioriate and I cannot bear to lose those precious pawprints! So they are wrapped in bubble-wrap and no longer adorn the tree. I still shed tears each year when I see them. This year I was blind-sided by a huge onslaught of sobs when I unwrapped the photo ornaments I have of my kids through the years! I raised 4 kids (one is a step) and 3 of the 4 are now adults and hanging up photo reminders of days gone by just slammed me this year! *sniff, sniff*