If you’ve read any recent posts, you are probably beginning to recognize that Christmas is a very important event at our house. It begins with the collection of toys for Christmas gifts, sometimes as the opportunity presents itself, and sometimes as the season grows closer and the just-right toy hasn’t appeared yet. Last year it was difficult to find good noise-makers, like the talking hand puppets from a year or two before. There was a lovely bright green monkey with long arms that slid through each side, making both a good dangly toy and a tug-of-war toy for Jade. She seems to like the green ones. She was the “green girl” in her litter, which is how her name arrived, and for her first Christmas, she got several green toys. One of her favorites is still in the toy box, a green reindeer with dangly legs, missing the two rear legs which also serve as toys. She likes the ones that multiply. Another favorite of hers is a Vege-tales toy from Target, a green cucumber that makes good sounds. That was from two years ago, and it is pretty close to worn out except that the noisemaker works very well still.

This year, I found another green cucumber, but as past history dictates, replacements aren’t as good as the original. We will see what Jade thinks about this. I also found an ear of corn toy at a dog show that has nubbly yellow fabric where the kernels would be. This weekend we had a road trip to celebrate the first round of Christmas, and she quickly found the toy stash and pulled two of the new green toys out. In my experience, the Newfs sometimes have color preferences. Parker likes most colors, but since he loved his Barneys, his god-mother sent him a purple singing toy. It didn’t take more than a few seconds for him to find the switch and begin some rythmic sounds. Then he tried the other hands and feet, apparently looking for more switches.

Yesterday at the Post Office, I saw a cute little Chirstmas tree with lights that sings “Rockin Around the Christmas Tree.” The clerk said that she got it at Toys R Us, and that it was on sale. Of course, that was one of the first stops for yesterday’s Joplin errands. Instead of giving this to the dogs, I sat it on the table and played the music for them. Jade, of course, thought that this was HER toy because (no doubt) it was green!  We danced and sang and after a happy while, we stopped and had dinner.  (Also a favorite here!)

Toy shopping for Newfs is almost as much fun as the unwrapping of the presents.

There is another preliminary activity for Christmas, and that is the taking of the Christmas photos for the preparation of the Christmas letter.  This isn’t nearly as easy as the toy-shopping.  It begins with selecting the location, then choosing any props and grooming the Newfs.  Images involve multiple expressions – people and Newfs, and all should be looking toward the camera, or at least at something in particular, with an expression of interest, a smile, or something besides bored, yawning, eyes closed, etc.  And, the direction of the gaze should be such that the red eye factor isn’t bad.  All this and chins should be wiped and hair should be mostly lying normally.  I remember using about 7 rolls of film one year before there were digital cameras to get one with a very bored puppy!  The good thing about digital cameras is the number of photos that you can take in a short time and the ability to review those almost as quickly.  Still, getting the just-right photo can take some time.  Meanwhile, someone must keep the dogs from getting bored.

We usually take a toss item to get the dogs to focus ahead, then use the multiple-shot feature of the camera to find one where their combined focus is good and everyone is smiling with eyes open.  Last year, we made the mistake of taking a toy as a toss item, and after a few attempts with sequential shots of Parker going for the toy, we used keys instead.  <g>

This year, our travel schedule was tight, and an opportunity presented itself, so only the Newfs were in the Christmas photo.  There was an arbor entrance to the park that was still covered with the green leaves of the Wisteria vines in late November.  In the background was a light pole with Christmas decoration.  It almost made a wreath shape with the dogs in the center, if the grooming table were a little taller.  I set up two grooming tables side-by-side, covered those with a red throw and began taking pictures.  There were a few other background options nearby also.

Now toys are ready for wrapping and the Christmas letter is finished.  Just 5 more days to go!

Merry Christmas to all!  May the joy and love that we share on Christmas be yours all the year through.


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