I put the finishing touches on the Christmas tree and stood back with the animals to admire it. We all instinctively tilted our heads slightly to the right in order to ‘straighten’ it.

‘What do you think guys?’ I asked.

‘It’s beeyoootiful!’ they concluded.

‘Are you sure Martha Stewart recommends attaching ornaments with duct tape?’ Alexis asked.

‘Martha Stewart does not have badly behaved cats and kittens,’ I replied.

‘Let’s follow her example,’ Alexis said.

‘Let’s not. Now, Alexis, why don’t you entertain the troops with a Christmas story while I make us some refreshments.’

I walked into the kitchen from where I watched as a potpourri of cats and dogs gathered around Alexis and the tree. It wasn’t exactly a Kodak moment, but it would do.

‘Please, Alexis,’ they chorused, ‘tell us about Christmas!’

‘Well,’ Alexis began, pleased with the opportunity to share her encyclopaedic knowledge, ‘Christmas is the birthday of Baby Jesus. Shortly before he was born a bright star appeared in the night sky and …’

‘What’s a star?’ Sassy the Maltese terrorist interrupted.

‘I’m a star,’ said Alexis.

‘Ohhh,’ the group nodded and pictured a glowing Basset in the sky.

‘Anyway, these Three Wise Guys saw the star and decided to follow it so they could bring gifts to the Baby Jesus …’

‘What kind of gifts?’ Danny the Dachshund inquired.

‘Err, well a package of bacon, a side of beef and a couple of roadkills,’ Alexis answered.

Winnie swooned at the thought of strangers bearing food.

‘So,’ Alexis began again, ‘the Three Wise Guys rode their camels day and night and …’

‘What’s a camel?’ Tina the Dalmatian asked.

‘It’s like a llama with humps,’ Alexis answered, beginning to look peeved. Of course nobody had a clue what a llama is.

‘Winnie and Daphne had surgery for bumps,’ someone else remembered.

Not  bumps – humps,’ Alexis sputtered.

‘Isn’t that what Daddy says the Beagle Boys do to visitors’ legs? Sadie the Sheltie asked.

‘NO!’ Alexis fumed.

Lovedaddy, lovedaddy, lovedaddy,’ Daphne announced.

‘Dearie, someone will be along with your medication in a moment,’ Alexis patted Daphne’s head. ‘Try to hold on. Now, if I may continue … it was a really long journey, because the Three Wise Guys got lost …’

‘Because they wouldn’t ask anybody for directions, like Daddy?’ Blaze the Labrador wondered.

LOVEDADDY, LOVEDADDY, LOVEDADDY’  Daphne said emphatically and then had to lie down from the effort.

Alexis gave her a very unChristmassy look and took a deep breath.

‘Possibly. Finally, they got to the town where Baby Jesus and his mother the Virgin Mary …’

‘What’s a virgin?’ the kittens asked in tandem.

‘It’s a lady who makes olive oil,’ Alexis explained.

I glanced at the bottle of ‘extra virgin olive oil’ on the kitchen counter and stuffed a dishtowel in my mouth.

‘What’s olive oil?’ the kittens demanded.

‘It keeps olives from squeaking,’ Alexis replied, ‘now pay attention! So, the baby’s mother and his father, Joseph – uh, well, Joseph wasn’t really the baby’s father.’

‘Ahhh,’ the group exchanged knowing looks.

‘Did AKC revoke their breeder’s license?’ Amadeus the Schnauzer asked logically.

‘No!’ Alexis roared. ‘Now listen up. They had the baby in a barn and he was wrapped in swaddling clothes.’

‘What?’ the group asked.

‘It’s some kind of flea protection,’ Alexis grumped. ‘IT’S NOT IMPORTANT!’

‘It’s hard to waddle when you’re swaddled,’ the Beagle Boys began to sing and do the ‘Bump’ with each other.

‘Teeheehee,’ the kittens chortled.

‘Stifle it!’ Alexis yelled. ‘So, the Three Wise Guys got to town and went straight to the mall, where they bought a Christmas tree with decorations and …’

‘Das is nict za vay vee do it Deutschland,’ Winnie commented.

‘Ja,’ Flash agreed, ‘Vee offen haf real candles on our Tannenbaum und …’

‘Yeah, well you also drive without speed limits – an entire country with a death wish,’ Alexis pronounced. ‘NOW, IF I MAY GO ON … Everyone arrived at the barn and began decorating …’

‘Like Daddy,’ Sergei the cat said, surveying the plastic splendour everywhere. Meanwhile the kittens argued over who could bring the treetop angel down with one leap, Danny the Dachshund wondered if he’d be allowed to pee on the tree, and Amadeus, who had secretly eaten some of the strung popcorn, was contemplating a bowel movement that our vet would talk about for years.

‘ …lovedaddy … lovedaddy …’ Daphne sighed in her sleep.

‘Whatever,’ Alexis snapped.  ‘And when it was all decorated, they had a party and this made the Baby Jesus very happy. It was then that he did something amazing.’

‘What?’ the group gasped in unison.

Alexis drew herself up to her full height for the announcement.

‘HE DROOLED.’

‘Ahhhhh,’ the crowd, especially the Bassets, murmured in appreciation.

It was then I realised how grateful the entire Semetic community must be that Alexis is not Jewish.

Permission from Jim Willis has kindly been given to publish this extract which has been taken from 'Pieces of my heart' by Jim Willis.

A Morning Kiss

A morning kiss, a discreet touch of his nose landing somewhere on the middle of my face.
Because his long white whiskers tickled, I began every day laughing.

Janet F Faure

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