Animals & Money: 12 fantastic (but cheap) last-minute gifts for dogs and dog people

The complicated, trendy gift guide is now a holiday staple. But us dog people are simple folk. And the animals we love are not swayed by the latest fashions.

Friends have tried to impress my dog Jolly with the latest dog bakery sort of treats. He scoffs at them. He leaves them in his bowl after his food. He doesn't want those desiccated red and green rawhides either. Or a sweater. Or squeeky toy that can be demolished in minutes. Well, actually Jolly does want that, but I don't.

So, here are a few simple gifts that will delight just about any dog or dog person in your life. Mostly, they're pretty cheap, too. If you're stopping by the house of someone with a dog and want to get something they will really appreciate, forget the wine or cookies. Try a present for their dog.FREEZE DRIED LIVER TREATS --These are known as doggie crack. Dogs will do anything for them. The most common brand is Pro-Treats in a white canister. Now there are many imitators and my dog hasn't found one that he doesn't like. (PRICE: under $10)
    A SOLID 20 MINUTES OF UNDIVIDED ATTENTION -- Ask yourself how much time a day you spend with your dog. Now think of how much of that time your attention is divided by the rest of your family, TV, getting things done. Look at the clock and spend 20 minutes just playing, belly-rubbing or otherwise paying attention to your dog with no distractions. If you're like me, you'll realize how short or unfocused your other playtimes have been. (PRICE: FREE)
      BIG BONE FROM THE BUTCHER--Sometimes it's free, sometimes it's a few dollars. There is a raging controversy in the dog world whether you should cook it (but risk bone splinters) or let them eat it raw (but risk bacteria). Either way you have to watch to see that the bone doesn't splinter or get gnarly. But your dog will love it. (PRICE: FREE-about $6)
        THE FURMINATOR --They are expensive--up to $60 -- but totally worth it. They take out clouds of undercoat hair. Every time someone brings one to the dog run, it's like watching an informercial. (PRICE: $35-$60)

        -- About the hardest part of having a dog is managing your schedule around their needs. So if you have a dog person in your life, offer to take their dog out once while they're working late or let the dog stay with you when they go away for the weekend. It's free for you and bascially priceless for them. (PRICE: FREE)

        --It is irresistable. When I worked at a kennel in college, there was a set of procedures in place in case homesick dogs refused to eat their dry food. First we'd add in a bit of canned food, then all canned food, then Mighty Dog and then the piece de resistence--liverwurst. No dog missed their parents so much they would refuse. It is a cure for separation anxiety when smeared inside toys like Kongs. It is an excellent pill concealer. (Remember, don't give them too much at once.) (PRICE: Less than $5)

        -Cats aren't the only ones who like to hunt a little red dot. My dog Jolly loves it, too. When I take the dot to the dog run, I sometimes get a whole pack of dogs chasing it. The only cautions: not all dogs pay attention to it, you can't shine it in their eyes and don't do it so much they get obsessed). As I've written before, if you're willing to spend more, the 5mw red or the green lasers are even better. (PRICE: $3-$10)

        --I know these gifts were all the rage like a decade ago. I know they can be really cheesy. But I don't care. If you get me something with my dog's picture on it, I'll love it. It shows that the giver knows how much Jolly means to me. (PRICE: under $25)

        Older dogs need help getting up the stairs and sometimes just around the house. It's so much easier on them and their parents with a dog harness.But there are few harnesses up to the task. Many dog owners just use their seatbelt harness. I've writen before about how much I like the Ruff Wear harness for senior dogs. Right now I'm trying out the Help Em Up Harness, which has a more sturdy handle and detachable backend harness. Or as my husband calls it, Jolly's "butt handle." Jolly is unsure about it but I think it's well-built, elegant solution.(PRICE: Regular Harness $10-$30, Ruff Wear $50, Help Em Up: $85)

        SQUIRRELS, DELIVERED -- Does your dog like to watch or chase squirrels outside? Then bring them to his window! If you feed wild birds, you are already probably already feeding wild squirrels anyway. Now just try to feed them someplace your dog can enjoy. At my apartment in the city, I put nuts on my window sill and fire escape. It's like squirrel TV for Jolly--and always an action adventure movie. At my mom's house in the suburbs, I put nuts on the back step or even smear peanut butter on the bottom of her sliding glass door. The beauty of peanut butter is they have to stay there to eat it--and will lick it off the glass inches from the dog. (PRICE: under $5)
          11. SPONSOR A DOG IN SHELTER -- Best Friends Animal Society is trying the technique that wildlife groups do to raise money. They have you sponsor an individual dog. (Or cat, horse, sheep, bird, you name it.) You get the animal's bio and their thanks. Blue-eyed Cactus here is a Katrina dog still hoping for a home. (Price: $25)

          12. HUMAN JUNK FOOD -- This is the most last minute one of them all. If you're on a way to a pet person's house and stop at a gas station you can pick up something a dog will like. Beef jerky is a great treat -- as long as it isn't spicy. And in a pinch and if this is someone you know well enough, pork rinds will do, too. Both Jolly and I would be excited if somebody brought him a piece of jerky. (PRICE: less than $5)
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