You’d think that after the great Christmas tree fiasco, Deb Emery wouldn’t be eager to honor her cats with pet ornaments.
But you’d be wrong. Emery is one of many animal lovers who decorate trees with ornaments depicting wild and not-so-wild creatures.
Emery’s tree incident happened almost 30 years ago, when she lived in Scottsbluff. She opened the door to her apartment and a single ornament rolled down the steps.
“I see tinsel and ornaments scattered everywhere. The tree lies on its side. Two cats run, tinsel falling from them as they make their escape to hide,” she said.
Those pets were in trouble, but she still celebrates them and her love for animals on her artificial tree each year. Emery, who now lives in Omaha, decorates her tree with a menagerie that includes cats and dogs, but also cows, reindeer and penguins.
Brenda Summerside’s tree is in honor of Milli, who has been known to catnap under the lower boughs.
Sue Volkmer, who has two retired show dogs, has a tree decorated in dog ornaments and bows made of black and white paw-print ribbons.
Cindy Doerr’s all-dogs tree displays her collection and that of her brother Andrew, who collects ornaments depicting Scooby-Doo, a cartoon Great Dane.
While trees with dog and cat themes aren’t new, trend watchers see Americans spending more on their pets each year, in the billions of dollars, according to the American Pet Products Association, headquartered in Greenwich, Conn.
Spending on dogs and cats grew from more than $28 billion in 2001 to nearly $51 billion in 2011.
Jeff Jorgensen, co-owner of Tannenbaum in the Old Market, said he’s seen an uptick. He said he has noticed that dog owners care more for breed-specific ornaments and cat owners seem more forgiving about the fewer number of specific cat-breed ornaments.
Before their surge in popularity, only six or seven breeds were represented on ornaments. That’s not true anymore.
“We have about 100 dog breeds (represented) in ornaments and maybe a dozen cat breeds,” Jorgensen said. “We’ve been finding a wider variety and so we’re carrying more of them.”
Impulse-buying is a factor, he said, referring to those times when people may not have been looking for an ornament but find one anyway or find a gift for a friend.
That’s the story behind many of the ornaments on Summerside’s cat-themed tree. Gifts from friends and family, souvenirs of vacations and quirky, interesting renditions of cats account for the more than 100 ornaments on the 7-foot tree in the great room of the Omaha home she shares with husband, Don.
They might seem to be all about Milli, a 13-year-old, long-haired gray tabby from the Nebraska Humane Society. But that’s not the case.
“When I was growing up on the farm,” Summerside said, “we couldn’t have a cat in the house.”
So she and her husband have always had a cat and a cat ornament collection that pre-dates Milli by many years.
A favorite is an unusual glazed pottery cat, a birthday gift from her sister. And there’s the Kitty Cucumber cat ornament series, a ceramic blue cat from friends in Phoenix, a cat decked out in holly and a Victorian-inspired ornament titled “Friendly Enemies” of two girls, each holding a puppy and kitten.
Doerr’s five dogs — two from shelters, two from foster homes and one from PetFinder, an online pet search site — said she was a one-dog owner until she started volunteering at the Nebraska Humane Society. In a month, she was up to two. Then there were three. And, with a permit that allows five dogs in the home within the Omaha city limits, she now has five.
“Over the years I have made, painted or bought ornaments for each of my dogs. I also collect Christmas ornaments when I travel, and many of those ornaments tend to be dogs as well,” she said.
“I’ve ended up with enough dog-themed ornaments that I can fill one tree completely.”
Doerr’s enthusiasm stems from a Rottweiler-mix named Kylie, who helped pick out second dog Rolly.
“I treat my dogs like kids. They each get an ornament every year. I paint their portrait on a ceramic ornament. Or in some way, hand-make an ornament for each of the five dogs.”
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