Pets and Christmas trees have long been a dangerous combination. When I was a kid, I can remember watching one of our cats climb the just-cut spruce tree in our living room; I think she thought the tree had been placed there for her benefit. When you are a little kid, and not the person who has to mop up all the water, it's exciting to watch a cat climb to the top of tree that is swaying back and forth dangerously. It's possible that my parents did not find the toppling Christmas tree as entertaining as we kids did, because after that, my father began tying wires to the top of every Christmas tree and attaching the wires to curtain rods or screws in the wall. I had at least one high school friend who mocked the wires lashing the tree into position, which he said gave the impression we were preparing for a natural disaster rather than a holiday party. Our parties always had kind of a Poseidon Adventure theme going on.
Peripatetic Polar Bear reports that having a Christmas tree has helped her discern the religious leanings of her cats. I don't think I've ever been patient enough with pets to take note of their spiritual practices. (Is there any religion that encourages peeing in annoying places? If so, I've got a bunch of disciples here.) I do think Christmas trees can cause bizarre behavior among all kinds of creatures. We had this dog when I was growing up — a black lab, well, a mutt really, but he was partly black lab — whose only skill was barking at anything and everything. On television shows, wild barking always means a smart dog is alerting you to something terrible ("Timmy has fallen down the well again!"), but in real life, some dogs just bark all the time. Anyhow, this dog was so excited by the Christmas tree that he actually ate a glowing red light bulb. He chomped right down on it. Surprisingly, it did not hurt him the least, although it did short out a whole string of lights.
When I was about ten, I decided one year I was going to have my own little Christmas tree in the bedroom I shared with my baby sister. So on a hot day in August, I wandered the fields up at my parents' camp until I found a white pine seedling just the right size, which I dug up, put in a big pot, and lugged half a mile or so back to camp, where I kept it in the shade until I could pack it in the back of the car to come home with us. That fall, I kept the little tree in my room, on top of a chest of drawers, and watered it every week. At the beginning of December, I decorated the tree with a string of little lights and some little tiny ornaments. I can still remember how pretty it was.
After Christmas, I took all the little ornaments off the tree, but continued to care for it. In the spring, I decided it was time to plant my tree outdoors. I was so proud of having a tree that would keep on growing; even then, I had environmentalist leanings. I lugged the pot out to the backyard, setting it down near the horse paddock while I found a shovel and went to dig a hole in a spot that needed a pine tree. While I dug, I thought fondly of how someday I would point this tree out to my own children and tell them the story of how it had been my own little Christmas tree.
Once the hole was dug, I went back to get the tree — and it was gone! Our horse, an appaloosa that loved to eat, had put her head through the fence, grabbed the carefully nurtured little tree with her teeth, and eaten the whole thing in a couple of gulps.