Thereís nothing like having a real Christmas tree in your home ó just ask Oliver.
Our male basset hound has taken a liking to the tree.
This is our first Christmas with Penny and Oliver, and it is an adjustment for all of us.
While we hauled up tub after tub of decorations from the basement, the dogs were both curious and nervous about what was happening.
They would scurry around the house, approaching the tubs, but all the activity made them uneasy, and they would retreat.
They didnít like having their routine upset.
When we brought home the tree, the dogs were very curious, naturally, but eventually decided not only was it OK to be in the house, but they liked it ó a lot.
I started to notice a few extra needles on the floor, then the tips of branches, and then small branches were found lying on the floor.
Despite my admonitions, they persisted.
Finally, I actually caught Oliver chewing on a small branch and took it away.
Recently, he has started to leave the tree alone. Itís not like he and Penny donít have enough chew toys, but the tree probably tasted better.
Having a real Christmas tree has been a staple in our home for years.
When I was growing up, my family had a real tree for a number of years, and then when artificial trees became popular, we switched.
But I never forgot the smell of a real tree and that feeling of decorating a real tree.
I convinced my wife to switch to a real tree years ago, and we have made it a family tradition each year to go to a tree farm and pick out one.
Picking out a tree is a lot easier for us than putting it in the tree stand and making it stand up straight.
In the past, we have put up a tree, thinking we had it straight and true, only to see it start to lean a few days later.
There was one time I distinctly remember lying under the tree because it fell over on top of me.
This year, I thought Alek and I had it. The tree popped into the stand easily, and with a few quick turns of the bolts to tighten it, it was straight.
Then my wife started to decorate it, and down it started to come.
She yelled for help, and I went into the room to see her holding it up.
Again, I tightened it, placed it in the corner of the room, and now itís leaning backwards. At this point, Iím ready to call it good.
Despite all the troubles, Iím sure weíll be back at the tree lot next year.
However, life has started to get in the way.
This year, it was just my son and I making the trek to find the tree because my wife was working and my daughter had worked a long shift on Black Friday.
Soon, it will just be my wife and I, or just me.
Thatís what happen when your kids grow up.
Hopefully, Claire and Alek will someday continue our little tradition of picking out the family tree.
Then I can hear about their adventures of trying to get it to stand up straight or stopping pets from slowing eating it.
Patrick Murphy, of Humphrey, Neb., is a former assistant managing editor of The Telegram.