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2:14 PM Tue, Sept. 18th

Column: Pets truly give us more gifts than we realize

Bella is a 3-year-old female white-and-tan greyhound mix. Bella is very playful and is friendly toward other dogs. Bella would like to get some training. She also would like to be house-trained. Bella loves toys! If you would like to meet Bella or any of our other great pets, visit the Humane Society shelter or call 445-2666.

Chris Floyd/Courtesy photo

Bella is a 3-year-old female white-and-tan greyhound mix. Bella is very playful and is friendly toward other dogs. Bella would like to get some training. She also would like to be house-trained. Bella loves toys! If you would like to meet Bella or any of our other great pets, visit the Humane Society shelter or call 445-2666. Chris Floyd/Courtesy photo

Christmas morning is here. This is the one day of the year that we don't have to pry our children out of bed. They voluntarily rise early, and if your kids are like mine were when they were younger, it was usually a little before 5 a.m.

I miss the excitement in the house of young ones anxiously running to the tree to see what Santa Claus brought.

On the other hand, now that my home is filled with four-legged furry friends, I sure do appreciate the fact that Squirt has no idea when Santa comes and, like me, sees no reason to get out of a warm bed at 5 in the morning.

This got me to thinking: What other gifts from our companion animals do we take for granted?

I can remember one year, Dexter and Jake, our boxer and Labrador, gave Angela and I a new sofa for Christmas. Since they couldn't get the truck started to go pick one out for us, they figured the easiest thing to do was play tug-o-war with the cushions.

This was possibly the wildest game of tug-o-war they had ever played, and when we got home to see the results, we got to go right back out to buy a new sofa.

Then there was the year that we received the gift of getting to wrap all of the presents twice. If you buy your pets gifts, especially gifts that smell like bacon, don't wrap them and put them under the tree! Kids aren't the only ones who snoop - dogs don't even shake the boxes first!

If you have cats, I am sure you have experienced the joy of decorating the Christmas tree for a second and third time every year, or standing it up again, or retrieving a cat desperately clinging to the angel at the top, terrified to move. I think my favorite holiday gift from my cat was playing his favorite game: "See if you can find the bows I stole off of the presents!"

To a non-animal person, this might seem like a list of reasons not to have a pet. But the animal people out there know what I mean when I say that something as bad as our favorite sofa getting destroyed is a small price to pay for all of the joy we receive from our companion animals. (Besides, you should have seen how proud they were of successfully and totally destroying an entire couch. How could you be mad?)

I have taken the liberty of compiling a list of the top-10 gifts we receive from our pets. If I have left something off, please let me know.

10.) The joy of never having to go to the restroom alone - there will always be a paw poking under the door or a nose sniffing you out.

9.) The comfort of knowing that no matter how bad things are or how big of a mistake you made, there will always be someone there waiting to greet you and love you.

8.) A furry friend sitting next to you, hopefully as you read this (if you have a cat, he is likely trying to sit on the paper as you read).

7.) Endlessly reliable alarm clocks. They will never, ever forget when breakfast and dinner are, and will be eager to remind you.

6.) A companion who never judges you, and who believes in your ability to be a good person.

5.) Patience is one of the best gifts they give us. I mean, have you ever tried to teach a puppy the difference between "my shoes" and "your toys?"

4.) More pets! Animals are like a gateway drug to more animals! "If we can care for one animal in need," we start to think, "then why not two ... or three ... or seven!"

3.) They show us a world outside of ourselves. Anytime we get too caught up in our problems, all it takes is one look at that meowing face or that goofy dog look to know that things will be OK.

2.) A great way to meet people! It's one of their best gifts. Anyone who has a pet knows that everyone else with pets is ready with a thousand stories about the animals in their lives. Some of my best friends and I have met through our animals.

1.) And their greatest gift of all - they give us a reason to be better people. They deserve our best, and they let us rise up meet that challenge again and again.

I'm sure you have your own list. Like yours, mine could have gone on forever. But the most important thing to remember is their endless generosity, and how we owe them no less than what they give us. (And no, this doesn't give you an excuse to chew up their favorite things.)

Duane Adams, executive director of the Yavapai Humane Society, can be reached at 445-2666 or at dadams@yavapaihumane.org.