The holiday season is a time of joy, laughter, and creating lasting memories with loved ones. For our family, one of the most cherished traditions is crafting funny Christmas cards that feature portraits of our pets, capturing the essence of the season with a touch of humor.
What began as a nice family portrait with our pets developed into a fun-filled tradition I look forward to and start planning months (sometimes a year) in advance. Each year, we brainstorm creative concepts, don festive attire, and gather our pets for a photo session that promises to bring smiles to the faces of our friends and family. More importantly, it has become a nostalgic nod to our dogs and horses throughout the years.
2013 was the year of the road trips. My then-fiance graduated from training in Quantico, VA and was stationed outside St. Louis, MO. With it came a road trip to South Carolina to pick up belongings in storage, a visit to Nashville, TN, and multiple trips back and forth to the midwest.
In the fall I moved from Washington, DC to San Diego, CA with my Bernese Mountain Dog Jake to start a life with my new husband. We had planned the journey to include stops at numerous national parks and couldn’t wait to road trip cross-country. The plan came to a screeching halt when the government shut down from lack of agreement over the budget, and with it the national parks closed their gates to visitors. We quickly scrambled to revise our route and decided to make the best of a plan turned upside down. The trip looked like a drunk monkey was driving, with off-the-path detours to Chicago for pizza and to visit my brother in Austin, TX before winding our way back through the southwest.
The day after we arrived in San Diego, we adopted Kimber the Mastiff, and our little family was born. That year our card celebrated our adventures from sea to shining sea with Merry Christmas from the Pope family.
In 2014 we added Saint Bernard Hannah to the pack and got our newly-formed family of five all dolled up for the holidays. At the time we wondered if we were crazy to add a third giant dog, and had no idea what the next few years would bring. Jake wore a bow tie, Kimber and Hannah wore fancy necklaces, and Adam and I donned cocktail attire while we sipped on wine in a field (as one typically does, right?). Having left the chance of a white Christmas on the East Coast for year-round sun in California, our card offered cheers to a wonderful Christmas, whether you’re dreaming of it in white or red!
Double the pleasure, double the fun, or so it seemed in dog numbers. In 2015 we added Great Danes Ellie and Hudson to the family. That year we had also rescued Saint Bernard Hank from the brink of starvation in Tijuana and fostered him for several months as he regained his health. Although he was adopted before Christmas, we still wanted to include him in our card. Since the year had basically gone to the dogs, our card spread the love of a hairy Christmas and a yappy new year.
In 2016 we hit the road again. We loaded five giant dogs in the back of the Suburban and journeyed to the land where EVERYTHING’S bigger – Dallas, Texas! Embracing our new identities, we donned big hair and a Texas ranch riding shirt as The Real Housedogs of Dallas.
Late 2017 we added Irish Wolfhound Fletcher to the pack. He arrived just in time to participate in the Christmas card nonsense as we cloaked each of the dogs in superhero capes in front of the Dallas skyline. The card was a nod to our friends who jokingly used to refer to us as Captain and Mrs. America. Let’s just say Adam thoroughly enjoyed his costume and this year’s theme.
Admittedly, I simply ran out of time and we didn’t send out a card in 2018. Why do I mention this? Because people went bananas and I started receiving messages asking if we were ok. It was then I realized just how much our friends and families anticipated our increasingly ridiculous Christmas card with our pets each year, which only stoked the fire.
With the addition of Fletcher, the columns were tied, and the obvious choice of theme for our 2019 Christmas card was a play on the Brady Bunch. We took headshots of each of the dogs, comically capturing each of their personalities. Eight blue “tv screens” later our perfectly blended family became sitcom stars for the year.
2020. The year of COVID. Like many we found ourselves locked inside binge-watching tv shows and spending time with our pets. We added pandemic pony Archer to the family and laughed hysterically at the show Schitt’s Creek. Drawing inspiration from their oversized family portrait and Haute Dog Pet Photography’s Vanity Fur portraits, we embraced the holidays whether we were celebrating together or 6 feet apart. This year’s portrait was more than just a funny Christmas card of our pets. This would be the last year our original pack – the 7 who started it all – would be photographed together. We printed this portrait as a 75″ canvas that hangs in our home. It makes me smile every single day.
It didn’t take too many trips to the barn to hang out with Archer before Adam decided he wanted in on this oversized dog love. Percheron cross Persephone/Sephie joined the family in August – she and Adam have been making heart eyes at each other ever since. In September 2021 we lost Hannah to osteosarcoma. She left a Saint Bernard sized hole in our hearts, and in October we rescued Violet. Dressed in matching pajamas, our card offered tidings of comfort and joy, but in reality that year was anything but. After the pain of losing Hannah, we had to return Violet to rescue just days before Christmas after all efforts to integrate her into the pack were unsuccessful and it became unsafe for all involved. I miss her immensely and I’m so grateful she was part of our Christmas card, if only once.
In August 2022 I lost my heart dog, Jake. Heading into the holidays without him was hard, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to send a Christmas card without him. The problem was that we hadn’t taken our photos for the year. In September, Puzzle puppy came home and the sheer joy she brought helped rebuild our hearts. Posed in a paisley dress and overalls with the rest of the family in front of the barn, I quietly placed Jake – complete with his angel wings – on top of the Christmas tree. I thought it would be something small so that I knew he was still there. I didn’t realize how many people would hone in on it. And so the “easter egg” began in our cards.
The amount of joy Puzzle brought our home was so great we turned around and added another Saint Bernard, Nora, in January. For a brief moment, we were back to a 6-pack of pups. But soon after we lost Kimber in April and Fletcher in September. Our intention was a pinup style card featuring the Haute Dog Pet Photography vintage Chevy truck, but it just didn’t speak to me as we started photographing. So we popped the hood and had Adam take a peek while I sat disappointed in the driver’s seat. The message aptly noted “better not pout,” and as we head into the new year we do so expecting great things ahead. This year’s easter egg is on the door of the truck, with Jake, Kimber, Hannah, and Fletcher’s names listed in the repair service logo.
If you’re inspired to start your own tradition of funny Christmas cards with portraits of your pets, here are a few tips to get you started:
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