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Starring: Henry The Brave.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas and that means the house can suddenly look, smell and feel a wee bit odd for some of our pets.

Christmas trees may fill us with sparkle, but the sudden appearance of a twinkling alien object in a corner can fry a lot of dog and cat brains! Henry The Brave, (who lives with our Admin Manager and trainer, Claire, and her family) struggles with new things. Or anything slightly out of place. This is the boy who shouted at a cocoa tin because it had been left out on the counter...

So Claire takes things very slowly. She starts with a bare Christmas tree, which sits in its place for a day before she starts decking it with baubles. She used to have to do each bauble one at a time over several mornings, afternoons and evenings. But she can go a little faster these days.

In fact, Henry didn't bat an eye-lid at any of the festive frippery this year, because she's worked so carefully to desensitise him.

Older dogs can struggle with Christmas, especially if they're losing their sight. Parcels and trees in unexpected places can upskittle an oldie. Our sweet little old Lily has dementia and falls into and out of many things daily. Our house is now festooned with thick washable rugs to cushion the impact and to make it easier to wash out the inevitable wees that often come with dementia.

Puppies can be as wobbly as oldies - plus they're often fascinated by twinkly balls and tinsel. And they can't tell the difference between 'their' toys and anyone else's. Putting the tree on a table, or in a room where they can be supervised, limits the risk of a hasty trip to the vet from swallowing something. We also check that there are no parcels containing food because we used to put presents under the tree; but not since a tense moment with Moth a few years ago. He's a little chocoholic and can sniff out chocolate at 100 paces. Thankfully I caught him just as he was ripping open the parcel to get to the Green & Black's. And he should know: I share my Green & Black's with NO ONE...

Another thing that can be difficult for older dogs is sound. I've been interested in sound a lot lately. Two of our oldies are losing their hearing and respond to certain frequencies. Lily and Betty have been really disturbed by Archie and Mothy if either of the boys whine (another sign of getting old... Moth has never been a vocal dog, but has taken to randomly whining if he can't find Lily). High pitches seem to bother them and Lily flinched the other day when I was joyfully decking the boughs of holly at full la-la-la-la throttle. It seems that my singing is now deeply offensive... So I've made sure I keep the music turned down when she's around and I try not to join in. I suspect they're all vastly relieved.

Christmas can be a festive flurry, with changes in routine, new people coming and going and occasional stress. Some people can find Christmas difficult and any pet who is closely connected with their special person can also feel stressed. They're often like little emotional sponges and can feel very uneasy about all the changeable emotions over the festive period. Making sure that they get calm, sniffly walks and a daily Sniff Trail can go a long way to giving them an emotional break.

A lot of pets thrive on familiarity and routine, so all the comings and goings can unsettle them. If you have a dog like this, it's a good idea to keep to walking and feeding routines as much as possible and to give them a quiet place to get away from it all where they'll be undisturbed.

If anyone wants me, I'll be joining my little lot in the quiet-getting-away-from-it-all-place with a stash of chocolate. Which I won't be sharing.

Have a good one, with shame-free la-la-la-las and lots of sparkle!


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