The years of the family pooch getting thrown outside on Christmas morning are but frigid, distant memories. Dogs have come out of the cold and become full-fledged members of the nuclear family unit. Unless you want to suffer those big, sad brown eyes, you'd better get moving. Get your dog a present—and, no, that tired milk bone in the TV cabinet is not going to suffice this year. Admist it, that dog is the center of your existence. Get him/her a gift befitting his standing.
*Soul soothers: Telltale signs of a stressed-out dog: fur loss, chewing on hindquarters, excessive trembling, and habitual tail chasing. Sometimes dogs need a little help relaxing . . . Pet Music ($15.99) is a three-hour CD set designed to soothe an animal's spirit. While calming music is surrounding your dog's aura, you might as well get busy spraying him with some New-Agey Aromatherapy Spritzer ($14). Choose from citrus, floral, or spice spritzers designed to "deodorize, repel insects, and soothe a dog's coat and spirit." Even if you don't believe in aromatherapy, the slim chance of your dog finding comfort in his inner being is well worth the 14 bucks. Both calming presents can be found and purchased on Big Dog Little Dog (www.bigdoglittledog.com, 1-888-883-BDLD).
*Fun stuff: Although throwing a tennis ball 200 times in two nights is good for the arm muscles, it can get a bit tedious (not to mention painful). Treat your dog and yourself to a Slingshot Tennis Ball Launcher ($32). This amazing tool can launch a ball 120 feet with virtually no effort on the thrower's part. However, if you intend to slingshot after dark (remember, it gets dark around 5pm now), you'd better get a Glo-Fetch ($7.25), because 120 feet is a long distance, and tennis balls can get expensive. Another top pick in the fun-stuff department is the Adventure Dog Gift Pack ($62-$69). It comes complete with collapsible trail dish, leash pack, collar, Powerbone (think Powerbar for dogs), and On the Trail With Your Canine Companion: A Comprehensive Guide for Dogs and People Who Love the Great Outdoors. Let your dog carry his own weight on your next camping trip; dogs like to be useful, really. (All of the above gifts are available at Big Dog Little Dog.)
*Treats: If you are one of those people who believe a gift isn't a gift if it isn't made at home, you can either knit your pal a coat, or take the easy route and bake him a big batch of biscuits. Dog bones, first and foremost, should look like bones, not people food. Culinary Store.com sells a tin of dog-bone cutters (www.culinarystore.com; $5.95) and CookieRecipe.com (www.cookierecipe.com) features a collection of dog-tested, dog-approved cookie recipes. A gift from the oven will elicit slobbery kisses from any puppy I've ever met, but will (doubtless) also provoke much mockery from your friends and family. A quick trip to Three Dog Bakery (1408 First, 343-8892) will nip (most of) the mockery in the bud and keep your dog basking in the sunshine of homemade treats.
*Puzzles: Whether or not your dog is a reincarnation of Albert Einstein, puzzles are a good source of entertainment. Get your dog the Buster Cube (www.sitstay.com; $17.95) and watch a vicious war between intellect and appetite commence. The cube is, in short, a food torture device—place your pooch's favorite treat into the Buster Cube's innards and watch as your pet works to solve the ultimate puzzle: How the hell do I get my food out?!? If the cube survives beyond the first 10 seconds, your dog will eventually (depending on her intellect) discover that when she rolls the cube a certain way, treats come tumbling forth. Fun! Fun! Fun!
*Car trips: Of course your dog likes to go everywhere with you, but your brand new Range Rover's leather seats won't withstand shedding dog fur, muddy paws, and canine incisors. The Seatcover, universal or custom fit (www.sitstay.com; $179.95-$189.95), is the answer to your dreams. These seat covers spread across the entire seat (and sometimes floor) to keep mud, sand, and whatever else your dog manages to drag into your car off your precious upholstery. Although this gift may ostensibly appear to be for you, every car ride that your dog is allowed to come on will be worth a thousand laudatory barks in his eyes.
*Books: A book cannot really be passed off as a gift for your dog. However, what I am about to recommend is the best book on the market for dog lovers. Forget training guides, breed expos鳬 or cheesy dog novels. Buy yourself (or dog lovers on your gift list, of course) some dog poetry. Unleashed: Poems by Writer's Dogs (Three Rivers Press, $10)has poems by Lynda Barry, John Irving, and Edward Albee; it's your ticket for pure, unadulterated pleasure.
Tammy Weisberger is the online assistant at Seattle Weekly.