Hanukkah doesn’t typically receive the same kind of ostentatious mass-media coverage as the month-long flurry of activity centered on Christmas. Although Hanukkah has been gaining steam in the public consciousness over the last 40 years, it’s easy for a dog in a Jewish household to feel a bit neglected amidst the pomp of the winter holiday season. Look at this friendly pooch, watching the public Santa-filled festivities at a quiet remove.
Hanukkah observances, both sacred and secular, tend to be more intimate affairs, shared with family and friends. Hanukkah’s traditions are just as rich, and feature elements in common with Christmas, including home decorations, meals, and gift-giving. And, really, what holiday would be complete without fire? While you’re entertaining guests after sunset for eight days, beginning in 2014 (or 5775 in the Hebrew calendar) on December 16, here are some tips to keep your dog out of mischief.
The principal icon of Hanukkah is the menorah, a candelabrum with nine lights. The first night of Hanukkah sees two candles lit. Each subsequent evening, another is kindled, until all nine are burning bright. Whether your menorah features standard candles, an oil-burning lamp light, or is powered by electricity, if you’ve got a dog in the house, you have a chance for an accidental conflagration.
Dogs aren’t like cats, who leap regularly onto any available space at any given moment, so finding a safe and secure spot for the menorah is a relatively easy and important first precaution. If you follow the practice of keeping the flames lit for half an hour, restricting your dog to a comfortable room with a favored toy to occupy her is another option. An electric menorah should have a cord guard to prevent the dog from chewing or otherwise damaging it.
During the eight evenings, you may prepare traditional Hanukkah taste treats to share among your family and guests. Latkes, fried or deep-fried potato pancakes, are a standard Hanukkah dish. Fried foods of any kind are not salutary for dogs. If your latke recipe calls for onions and garlic, it’s even less healthy for your dog, and potentially toxic.
For dessert during Hanukkah, you may also serve the sweet delight of sufganiyot, fried or deep-fried doughnuts, stuffed with rich and creamy fillings such as strawberry jelly and coated in powdered sugar. Even though a strawberry with its leaves removed is a treat your dog may enjoy on occasion, everything else about sufganiyot, including the preparation, makes it a doggie no-no.
If you or your kids are giving the dreidel a whirl during Hanukkah, you may want to consider keeping the dog at arm’s length. Just like any other game featuring small components, a dreidel left lying around, or spinning on the floor, might attract the attention of a curious dog. Dogs have been known to ingest rubber ducks and skewers, so I’d give very good odds that more than a few dreidels have found homes in canine digestive tracts through the years.
The same goes for markers and tokens used during gameplay. Be they actual coins, or, worse yet for dogs, raisins or chocolate gelt wrapped in foil, any of these can cause health concerns for dogs, so be watchful while the fun and games are in progress. If your Hanukkah traditions involve the exchange of gifts, a nice chew toy or dog-safe treat will keep your dogs occupied and out of trouble.
Hanukkah, like Christmas, has become a time for increasingly elaborate home decorations. Even that emblem of the secular holiday, the Christmas tree, has been adapted and repurposed in the form of the Hanukkah bush and tree. As dog and tree aficionados can attest, anything new inside the home is going to be a source of interest for your canine companions. A tree or bush should be secured in place to avoid getting knocked over and taking everything down around it. Decorations — on the tree, bush, or the walls of your home — should be hung well out of a dog’s reach.
Holiday decoration not only means adorning the home, but increasingly, the dog as well. No matter what we’re celebrating, there’s nothing I find more festive than a dog wearing little clothes. Fortunately, Hanukkah-themed costumes for dogs are not only simpler, but more dignified, on the whole, than any other seasonal puppy apparel. Just see to it that while your dog is trying to figure out why he’s got a yarmulke on his head and how best to remove it, he doesn’t get tangled up in his tallit!
Steering the dogs clear of the menorah and keeping them away from all the delicious meals and amusing games may lead to your dog’s exclusion during traditional Hanukkah observances. Add to this that we as dog owners are generally dashing around town, traveling, or attending work and office parties, and it can be tough to be a dog during the most festive time of the human year.
The eight-day celebration of Hanukkah is a time to gather with friends and family and reflect on themes of perseverance, community, and charity. Since dogs are such important parts of our family, it seems only right that we include them in our plans. Does your dog howl along when you sing Hanukkah songs? Is the dog remembered in the gift-giving? Let us know how you involve your dogs in Hanukkah, and please share your memories and photos in the comments!
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