I Give Birthday and Christmas Gifts in My Dog’s Name. What, You Don’t?


I don’t have a human child — I have a furry one, Riggins.  So it only seems fair for him to be included when I give gifts or send cards. It’s a point that my friends and family have learned to not just tolerate but also to embrace.

I’ve always felt like part of a duo. When introducing myself, it was often, “I’m Wendy of Wendy and [fill in blank of current BFF or boyfriend].” When Riggins came into my life, he bumped aside all the humans and became the “and” in my equation. Together we are “Wendy and Riggins.”

My favorite "Wendy and Riggins" holiday card. (Picture courtesy of Wendy Newell)
My favorite “Wendy and Riggins” holiday card. (Card design by Minted; card photo by Lori Fusaro)
A friend's son enjoys last year's Holiday Card signed "Love and Licks, Wendy and Riggins." (Photo by Tiffany Shuttleworth)
A friend’s son enjoys last year’s holiday card, signed “Love and Licks, Wendy and Riggins.” (Photo by Tiffany Shuttleworth)

Riggins, as my baby, has always been included in our holiday card pictures. Not only mine, but my parents’ cards, too. I’m not sure what people who read them think, but not a single member of my family questions whether Riggins is going to be included in the annual picture taking-marathon during Thanksgiving weekend that results in our family holiday photo. He is my family. Of course he is going to be part of the festive tradition.

Thanksgiving 2008 - Newell/Peugh Holiday Card. (Photo courtesy of Wendy Newell)
Our family’s Thanksgiving 2008 Newell/Peugh holiday card picture. (Photo courtesy Wendy Newell)

Once Riggins came into my life, it didn’t take me long to start signing birthday, holiday, and get well cards with our duo persona. If you received a card from my house, there is no doubt it was signed with love from Wendy and Riggins. I’d go to a party, hand over a birthday card to the guest of honor, and upon opening it they would say, “Thank you, Wendy.” An eyebrow raised by me would cause them to add a tentative “and Riggins.” Eventually it became second nature, and subtle egging on by me wasn’t necessary. Thank yous in both writing and in person were enthusiastically shared with my furry baby boy.

At some point, all donations were put in Riggins’ name. Whether it was supporting a fundraising 5K or the local elementary school, the name “Riggins Newell” would scroll by on the website donor list. It made me giggle, but it also gave me a way to donate to important causes without having a spotlight put on me. Of course, everyone knew it was me who put in the credit card information, but to those not in the know, it was a nice gentleman named Riggins who was being generous. My gentleman!

A donation to a friend's fundraiser by Riggins.
A donation to a friend’s fundraiser by Riggins.

As long as I can remember, Riggins has also always given his own birthday and holiday gifts to his family. When shopping for his grandparents on birthdays and grandparent’s day, many of Riggins’ presents to others would be themed to him. A lint roller for Papa or a Chuckit for Grandma so she could play in the yard with him.

Riggins' Papa models one of his Christmas presents from his granddog. (Photo by Wendy Newell)
Riggins’ Papa models a Christmas present from his granddog. (Photo by Wendy Newell)

For a while, when the gifts weren’t dog specific, I’d contemplate what would be labeled “from Riggins” and what would come specifically from me. Riggins usually gave the smaller of the two gifts, so the “best” one still said, “Love, Wendy.” This is the same struggle I’m told my mom and dad used to have over which present my sister and I got from Santa. My dad demanded that the best gift come from my mom and him, and my mother didn’t really see what the difference was.

When my mom’s logic finally kicked in, I figured out that I wasn’t really fooling anyone. It was pretty obvious that Riggins didn’t head to Target and purchase that Lego set on his own. It isn’t like Riggins is out pounding the pavement and bringing home the bacon. As the only money maker under our roof, it was clear that all gifts were actually from me. Once I accepted that, Riggins’ gifts became a little more generous. It caused him to earn him more enthusiastic thank you hugs from my niece and nephew — a gesture that always makes me smile.

Riggins' Halloween cards to his cousins. (Photo by Wendy Newell)
Riggins’ Halloween cards to his cousins. (Photo by Wendy Newell)

It may seem silly, even slightly crazy, to some to act as if your dog signed a card or sent a gift. To me, it makes perfect sense. Riggins isn’t just a member of my family, he is my baby boy. I can’t imagine leaving his name off a gift from our family. Although I realize it is hard for some people to accept, I appreciate it when they show enough understanding to thank Riggins or give him extra love on his own birthday.

Riggins don't eat your thank you card! (Photo by Wendy Newell)
Riggins, don’t eat your thank you card! (Photo by Wendy Newell)
The card not only held a thank you note but a sweet picture for Riggins' donation (Photo courtesy of Wendy Newell)
The card not only held a thank you note but a sweet picture for Riggins’ donation. (Photo courtesy of Wendy Newell)

I don’t hold it against those friends who can’t bring themselves to say “happy birthday” to a pup, and at this point there are very few people like that in my life. It’s just that I feel love and acceptance when someone does. The fact that friends and family wish Riggins a happy birthday on my Facebook page, mail him his own thank you card, or include a gift specifically for him beneath the Christmas tree brings me happiness.

Why shouldn’t he be included and get the same attention that other children do? Sure he is a dog, but he is MY dog and MY family!

Does your dog give and receive presents? What do your friends and family think about correspondences with a dog? Tell us in the comments!

Read more about Wendy and Riggins:

About the author: Wendy Newell is a former VP of Sales turned Grade A Dog Sitter. After years of stress, she decided to leave the world of “always be closing” to one of tail wags and licks. Wendy’s new career keeps her busy hiking, being a dog chauffeur, picking up poo, sacrificing her bed, and other fur-filled activities. Wendy and her dog, Riggins, take their always-changing pack of pups on adventures throughout the Los Angeles area, where they live together in a cozy, happy home. You can learn more about Wendy, Riggins, and their adventures on Facebook and Instagram.

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