Denise Etheridge Column Teaser

Pandemic surge fears aside, there’s another chaotic situation over which I have no control that has kept me up at night this Christmas holiday week. Their names are Tater, Luna, Hans, Gabby and Edward.

The first two critters are our sneaky and treat-obsessed cat and our high-strung dog that won’t leave her canine “cousin” alone. The last three are my daughter’s two dogs and genuine scaredy-cat.

My daughter, Rachel, and her husband, Paul, are a package deal when they make a long visit from Mobile, Alabama. Boarding is expensive and good pet-sitters are hard to find. So, the grand-pets are welcomed along with the grown children.

It’s like having a houseful of preschoolers. Not counting the actual human preschooler, my 3-year-old granddaughter, Vashti, who was on her best behavior. She knew there were presents hidden somewhere in her grandparents’ house, just waiting for her to unwrap them. Plus, spending time with Aunt Rachel and Uncle Paul at Meme and Pepe’s house was a rare treat. Vashti reminded them numerous times last Wednesday that Uncle Paul promised to play ball with her (he’s a football and soccer coach as well as an educator) and Aunt Rachel (the art teacher) would help her build a gingerbread house.

While the human young’un slept peacefully next to Aunt Rachel in the big spare bedroom, and Uncle Paul took the guest bed in the home office, we cranky old parents/grandparents in the master suite at the other side of the house got scant sleep.

It had nothing to do with the torn tendons in my husband’s left arm, or his swollen jaw swore from that morning’s root canal.

Nope, when the bedroom door first closed, Luna and Hans were separated. Then the whining began. They were reunited later that night.

The two youngish pups also whimpered to be let out during the night… at 12:30 a.m., 2 a.m., 3:30 a.m., 4 a.m., and 5 a.m. …until the alarm went off at 6 a.m. Needless to say, Meme and Pepe were grumpy and ready for 16 ounces of strong coffee when the day officially began.

I think my dog, Luna, was made nervous with all the company. Hans just wanted fresh air. And the geriatric dog, Gabby, was content to snooze on the dog bed until sunrise. Guess her arthritic meds kicked in and relaxed her.

The dogs weren’t the only wrinkle in our somewhat un-Hallmark-TV movie-like family gathering. The cats don’t particularly care for one another.

Tater is a small cat, just half Edward’s size. But she’s a bully nonetheless. Edward may howl when she picks on him but he’s a lover not a fighter, and so goes running when Tater confronts him.

Feeding time was a challenge. Luna gets an apoquel wrapped in cheese or meat for her skin allergies. Hans and Gabby get fish oil on their food. Tater is fed special, pricey canned cat food to help ease urinary tract issues. Edward needs his privacy when he eats. He’s fussy that way.

Oh, and never offer Gabby a dog biscuit unless you want to lose a digit. Rachel suggested we just throw a treat at her greedy grubber beagle/Jack Russell mix. The other two pooches are gentle, and so Vashti could offer them dog biscuits when they succeeded in behaving for a small amount of time.

I admit, I’ll gladly give up a little sleep and deal with a messy house just to have my children, grandchild and our pets together for good times at the holidays. So what if the tape on the packages has a little dog or cat hair stuck to it? Like one of my friends, a fellow animal lover, said, “If anyone asks, say it’s doggie glitter.”

Denise Etheridge is a staff writer for The Walton Tribune. Her email address is

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