A DOG FOR CHRISTMAS
Barbara J. Andrews, Publisher TheDogPlace.org December 2012
She came slowly awake, willing herself to stay asleep so she could continue the dream. She’d had this dream before and even though the dog differed sometimes, it was always warm, wiggly, with hair she loved to stroke, and it kissed her a lot.
Still clinging to thoughts of her dream-dog, her thoughts drifted to a movie mom had taken her to see. There was a huge Christmas tree covered in sparkling lights with tinsel dripping from every branch. She had “taken on” so much about that Christmas tree that daddy had come home with a little one and she and mom had spent an afternoon dressing it up.
That was lots of fun. She smiled, remembering mom saying as she bent to put pretty packages under the tree, “Santa’s elves made an early delivery.” She was nine years old and she knew her mother knew Santa Klaus wasn’t real.
But Christmas meant she could open the presents! She jumped from the bed, found her slippers, and rushed through her “morning routine” as mom called it, wondering if anyone would know she hadn’t brushed her teeth. Holding onto the banister, the awkward child raced down the stairs to the living room. Sure enough, mom and dad were sipping coffee in front of the fireplace. Well, it wasn’t a real fireplace like in that Christmas movie. Theirs had a little gas heater that daddy said was “good enough for Florida and a whole lot safer than wood.”
Brimming with excitement, she stood in front of the Christmas tree, bouncing up and down on her tippy toes. “Can we open presents now, I’m not at all hungry…” Her mother glanced at daddy and he nodded. She opened the biggest box first (of course!) and her spirits fell when it contained only a new bathrobe. The next brightly wrapped box held a book about horses, and the last one, only a golf ball!! Lips quivering, the little girl held her head down so they wouldn’t see the tears as she murmured “thank you for the presents.”
There was a moment of strained silence, then her mom said “Dave…” and daddy said “Okay kid, your present is on the back porch.”
She leapt to her feet and bolted through the house to the screened porch. At first she saw nothing, but then she heard a whimper. She froze. It sounded like a dog. Was she dreaming again? Then she felt something cold and wet touch the back of her knee. She gasped and still holding her breath, she turned around slowly, afraid to wake up.
“Daaaaddy” she cried, kneeling to touch the dog, afraid it would disappear like sometimes when she was dreaming. But this dog was real! As she reached out to stroke ears covered in silken fringe, the dog, wriggling on her butt, scooted closer. The little girl hugged it close and then, just like in her dreams, the dog kissed her cheek! “She’s real, she’s really real!” squealed the child and with face buried against the dog’s neck, she missed the look that passed between her parents.
“C’mon kid” she heard her daddy say, “let’s go inside where it’s warm. There are some rules and things we need to talk about.”
“Okay daddy, thank you so much, this is the best Christmas ever!” He laughed at the tall-for-her-age, skinny kid bouncing on her toes with barely contained excitement. “Yeah, I reckon it is.”
The rules were pretty simple. He emphasized that she was a hunting dog, a bird dog to be specific. “I know what that is!” she blurted out. “I read it in a book, some dogs find birds on land and some fetch them from lakes and stuff. That’s why they’re called retrievers!”
Daddy nodded, then explained that the dog couldn't come in the house. Okay. He said it was her job to feed and water the dog and keep her clean and clean up any mess made. Okay, the child nodded eagerly, that sounded like fun. Daddy then explained that dogs were not pets; that they had to earn their keep. “Sure daddy, I know that, I know she’ll be the best bird dog in the world!”
“Well, that’s what the lady told me but it’s up to us to train her. We’ll give her a week to get to know us and find her place and then we’ll take her out on New Year’s day.”
And that’s what they did. The little girl finally had the dog of her dreams. They named her Babe. The mother, who loved to cook the game birds they brought home, also loved the dog and taught the child how to take care of her new friend. The father was amazed at Babe’s prowess in the field. Ah, but that’s another story.
That Christmas turned a dream into reality for an only child who needed a friend to confide in, to play with, to snuggle with, and be loved by. Her parents loved her dearly but her father, true to his heritage, rarely showed emotion. Mother gave her lots of attention, reading poetry together and teaching her to draw but there was no one to share secrets with. Before Babe.
Psychologists would say that every child needs unconditional love and unquestioning support. They might even agree that dogs provide both, plus a depth of loyalty few humans can even understand, much less match. Most would say Christmas is about giving a gift of love.
Babe proved them right.