Pets on the Naughty List: Our Favorite Stories of Holiday Mishaps

Riker the dog
Liz Palika
Riker the Australian Shepherd is a well-behaved therapy dog — but even he couldn't resist a bowl full of Christmas cookies.

The Life of the Party

Holiday parties can turn even the best-behaved dog to the dark side — at least temporarily. Liz Palika, a dog trainer, discovered this truth one year at her annual Christmas party.

Her dog, Riker, an Australian Shepherd and a certified therapy dog, had a reputation for being well-behaved. During the party, Palika says, Riker and Palika's other dogs typically remained in a separate room, to keep them from getting under guests' feet — and to prevent them from being given too many goodies. “One year, though, a guest asked to see Riker, so I let him out. The guests petted him and made him feel special." Palika relaxed, trusting Riker to be his usual well-behaved self.

"Then, out of the corner of my eye," she says, "I saw his head swivel. He spotted the sugar cookies on the coffee table, and before I could say a word, my good dog who would never steal food dove headfirst into the bowl of cookies. He was gulping as fast as he could. When I grabbed his collar, his face came up covered with frosting and sugar and sprinkles. I admit I was laughing so hard I couldn’t say a word to him.”

Cats also like to get into the holiday spirit — but not necessarily by being the life of the party. And often, our cats seem to know exactly where they belong, even if they don’t exactly fit in. During the holidays, Debbie Phillips-Donaldson's cat, Deacon, likes to sleep right in the middle of the family’s manger set — because every stable needs a cat, right?

“I think Deacon is mainly attracted by the cheap fake-snow blankets of white felted stuff,” Phillips-Donaldson says.

Luckily, he has never broken or attempted to eat any of the painted ceramic pieces, which were handed down to the family by her husband's mother.

Joy to the World

Even when they’re being naughty, our pets bring us smiles and laughter. One of Palika’s most heartwarming moments came the year she fostered a litter of five kittens after Thanksgiving. Still younger than 8 weeks, they were small and timid, with a big need for some tender loving care.

Thinking that the kittens were too young to get into too much mischief, Palika had set up a live Christmas tree in her living room. She had it about half decorated when the phone rang and she left the room to take the call. When she returned, her three dogs were sitting in front of the tree, staring. Palika noticed that the branches were moving. She sat down to watch, too.

“The five tiny kittens may have been scared and skinny, but they had a great time in that tree,” Palika says. “They climbed up and down and all around inside the branches. Every once in a while a tiny black face with bright eyes would peek out."

While there are some serious potential dangers in letting kittens climb in the Christmas tree — theycould fall and hurt themselves, chew on electrical cords or ingest ornaments or tinsel — this moment of supervised mischief brought the kittens (and Palika) so much joy. "It was their Christmas present from me,” Palika says.

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