Parking lots were filled, malls were crowded and the Cladis family could not have been happier to stay away from the post-Thanksgiving shopping rush.
Instead of shopping, as tradition has it, the Cladis family drives about an hour and a half to a special cut-your-own Christmas Tree Farm each year. It’s an all day affair trekking through fields full of various types, shapes and sizes of trees until the “perfect” tree is selected. It’s customary for the Cladis kids to choose the tallest possible tree that will fit into our living room. Dr. and Mrs. Cladis generally share a moment of panic and their faces are filled with horror the moment they realize the agreed upon tree is nearly 5 feet wide and 13 feet tall. This is one of my favorite parts of the holidays and as a new member of the Cladis clan, Captain Kody joined us this year in our annual hunt for the perfect Christmas tree.
The Friday after Thanksgiving was a cloudy, slightly windy day, but Kody’s all-natural caramel fluff sweater was more than enough to keep him warm. When we arrived at the Christmas tree farm, scarves tightened and gloves secure, Kody was very excited. New smells? Lots of trees? New people to meet? An entire day outdoors? What could be better for Kody? We were convinced that he would be one well-entertained pup all day long. I guess for Kody, a forest of tall pine trees is a very intimidating sight. When we first started walking around, Kody cowered at each tree we passed and as my Dad likes to say, “suctioned himself to the ground,” to thwart our efforts to pull him along any further. To Kody, the trees were these giant, unassuming, yet overbearing strangers and no growl, bark or yelp he produced was making them back disappear.
So, the first part of our search was spent encouraging Kody and introducing him to an overwhelming army of large, prickly trees. He was not amused, but eventually concluded that there was no significant risk of attack and he decided that it was a good idea if he lead us through the forest. So he proceeded and then he just decided to run around, get dirty and have fun. He met other dogs romping around with their families and at last decided it would be OK for him to do the same. My sister reminded me that he’s only 8 months old – every new experience can be a scary or life-threatening one! I am sure I probably cried at the Christmas Tree Farm when I was 8 months old, too. Next year, we are relatively certain the initial tree farm trauma will have passed and Kody’s fears will have dissipated. Hopefully, then we won’t have to spend a good portion of the day assuring him that large pine trees are not out to get him.
Once we finally selected our tree, we had to cut it down, which I thought would really scare Kody. But for this part, Kody, surprisingly, was very excited. How could he be scared of trees that in our neighborhood he usually pees on, but when you pull out a giant handsaw, it’s no problem? His tail was wagging the entire time we worked to get the tree to the ground. Kody barked, howled and growled leaning forwards and backwards as though rooting for our victorious efforts. When the large, wintergreen-colored Frasier Fur tree came down, Kody was startled at first and then ran a few victory laps around it as though we had successfully killed our prey. He was oh, so proud! My brother and Dad hoisted the tree above their heads to take it for wrapping and Kody marched alongside them wagging his tail as though he were taking all of the credit for the kill.
After we warmed up with some delicious hot cocoa from the barn at the farm, a tuckered out Kody eagerly jumped in the car and slept all the way home. Though I now wonder how contented he will be when our “kill” is standing once again in our home – a beacon full of lights, ornaments and candy canes. I hope he doesn’t try to pee on it. Oh, dear. It seems Captain Kody’s first Christmas might prove to be a little less enjoyable than I originally thought.