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Barkin’ around the Christmas tree: Gifts for pups a popular holiday choice

Dogs don’t require much to fulfill their material needs — food, water, a comfy napping spot and regular outdoor excursions, and they’re good to go.

But the happy excitement of a pup about to receive a special treat or brand new toy is its own reward, and Christmas is the perfect time to treat a favorite canine companion or give a friend, neighbor or relative the gift of witnessing doggy ecstasy.

“One of the most interesting things that I’ve seen since I bought the store a couple years ago is the number of people who come in and buy a gift for the neighbor’s dog or the child’s dog or the friend’s dog or cat as opposed to buying something for the friend or the relative,” said Julie Moriarty, owner of the Smoky Mountain Dog Bakery in Waynesville.

It makes sense, she said.

“The dog or cat isn’t going to want to return the gift. I would much rather have something for my dogs than for me — I don’t need anything,” she said.

As far as what to get, the choices are many. Dog treats, of course, are always a favorite. Moriarty’s store offers a variety of handmade treats, including specially decorated goodies made to look like hot dogs, frogs, fire hydrants and more. For a longer-lasting goody, chews are another way to go.

“We have all sorts of odd chews like chicken feet and duck feet, cod skin, pig ears, sausages,” she said.

Some people want to get a gift that will last longer than a couple snaps of the jaw, however. Tough toys that are hard to chew up are quite popular, Moriarty said, with a number of variations that allow for treats to be secured inside, ensuring that the dog remains interested.

Other toys are designed more to get a laugh than to withstand heavy chewing. Moriarty carries a few that are shaped like lips or mustaches, with the idea that the dog will bite on a squeaky piece that extends behind the shape to make the dog look like it’s wearing a mustache or sporting giant lips.

Dogs aren’t exempt from fashion-conscious gifts, either. This time of year especially, lots of people are looking over the selection of dog coats.

“A lot of people come here from Florida and other places, and they get up here and the dog is freezing because they’re just not used to it,” Moriarty said.

Pets with outdoorsy humans can also be outfitted with raincoats, life vests and hiking packs, and smaller dogs can fit into fabric pet carriers that allow them to relax on their human’s chest while hiking.

Themed outfits can also elicit a smile — some pet owners take joy in dressing up their pets for Halloween, Christmas or just because, and Moriarty’s store keeps doggy “wedding gear” on hand, with versions made to look like a tux or a white dress. There are also specialty collars, including red and green ones made special for Christmas.

“My husband jokes that there’s not a thing in this store that anybody needs, which is probably true,” Moriarty said.

But there are definitely plenty of things that people — and their dogs — want, and the dogs that wander into the store, wagging their tails and pointing their noses into the corners they deem most interesting, have taught Moriarty what those things are.

“You learn a lot,” Moriarty said, “just from the dogs.”

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