By the time this is printed, all of Santa Paws’ gifts will be fetched and every opened box will have a cat using it as an ambush spot. In my house, Sophie will have completed her first year as the official representative of Christmas Holiday Animal Outreach Services (CHAOS).
In case you’re wondering, being an agent of CHAOS is a big deal. It’s open to all species, so competition is fierce. Previous officeholders in our family include Little John (gerbil), Tiger (cat), Zora (dog) and Iggy (iguana). Gonzo (dog) held the post the longest; His death in March capped an 18-plus year career as a CHAOS agent.
It’s not easy serving CHAOS. First of all, there’s a uniform involved. For some, it’s a pair of fuzzy antlers or a collar with bells attached. Every agent hates wearing the uniform, but it’s an important part of the job. Which leads us to the big question I’m sure you’re eager to have answered.
What in the world does a representative of CHAOS do?
It’s pretty simple, really. CHAOS agents take all of the frustrations of being a pet during the holiday season — ie humans not petting them enough, a failed opportunity for a treat, not sharing the ham, etc. — and channel them into one, unforgettable prank or act of defiance during a get-together.
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The agent’s purpose is to make sure the humans refocus their attention back on the pet instead of the shiny, new thing some other human gave them. Because the agent is wearing the hated uniform that all of the humans find so cute, they are granted blanket immunity for whatever they do.
Ever wake up on Christmas morning to find one side of the tree’s ornaments shattered on the floor among shreds of wrapping paper? That was Tiger’s first prank. Her coup de grace came two years later. A business colleague of my dad sent him a side of smoked salmon from Minnesota for a Christmas gift. Even though it was vacuum-sealed and in a decorative box, Tiger made off with the loot, hiding it in a coat closet near a furnace vent. Our whole house smelled like rotting salmon for months.
Ever been awakened by something crawling over your feet under the blankets on a cold winter night? Little John pulled out that classic holiday hello on my mom when I was in elementary school. The little rascal escaped his gerbil palace and waited in the warmth of an electric blanket for the perfect time to pounce.
Gonzo’s tenure as CHAOS agent was a gem.
Since I’ve usually worked on Christmas Day, I got into the habit of cooking the big meal and eating it while watching the pope’s midnight mass. During one of those years, he sneaked into the kitchen and came trotting past the TV wearing his reindeer uniform with the rest of the rib roast dangling from his mouth right after my wife and I sat down to eat.
During a year when I did get some time off during the holiday season, I decided to go visit my parents, who were hosting a family dinner. He disappeared for about an hour, only to show up at the back door in time to welcome the visitors. He was covered head to toe in cow poop. I had to give him a bath outside in 40-degree weather.
There was the year he knocked over the fully decorated tree during dinner. He just calmly walked over to it, circled to the back, gave it a nudge and walked off wearing his elf hat like nothing happened.
Sophie had a few years to learn some of Gonzo’s antics, but I have a feeling she won’t be quite as brazen in her first solo year as CHAOS agent.
I don’t expect Sophie to pop a squat next to the tree and “re-gift” a present like Gonzo did one year, but I’ll be wishing for peace on Earth and goodwill toward all with a roll of paper towels at the ready just in case.