I really don’t remember the year of my best Christmas ever, for such things as dates don’t mean anything to me. But I do remember that not only was it my best Christmas ever, it was my first real Christmas. Before that Christmas, I didn’t even know that such a wonderful day even existed. I had no idea that people celebrated the birth of the Christ Child with love, gifts, food and joy. Actually, I had no idea that people could even be nice at all.
You see, during my first few years on Earth I only knew that people, especially the “mean one” were not to be trusted. I lived in constant fear, fear of being kicked and yelled at, fear of being neglected and hungry. I swear I tried. I tried so hard to be good and to stay out of the way of the “mean one” but no matter how hard I tried, the yelling and kicking continued.
Then one day, the “mean one” took me for a ride in his truck. The ride was scary for I had never been in a truck before. We drove for a long time, going deeply into the country before we stopped. The “mean one” then took me out of the truck and we walked far into the woods. I was so excited at first by the trees, the birds, the rabbits, and the smells! Oh boy, I thought, finally something good was going to happen to me. Suddenly the “mean one” took some bailing twine out of his pocket, tied me to a tree and left me. I tried to bark, to tell him, “Come back, come back, I promise I will try harder to be good!” But he just walked away. As the “mean one” walked away, I realized he had abandoned me and in the worst way possible. I was truly scared, more than when he would yell at me and kick me. Now I had no where to run, no where to hide.
The truth is that I try not to remember my time in the woods tied to that tree, but I do know that I was very cold and hungry. Every night I prayed to have a family of my own, a family that had a warm dry house filled with love and kindness. I prayed so hard. I just knew there had to be nice people somewhere, people I could give my love to and that would love me in return. I prayed for a miracle.
The days went on and on, I do not know how many but I became very weak and so close to giving up. Then one day I heard a noise coming through the woods. It was a strange man who had dogs with him. I was so afraid, but the man was talking so nicely to his dogs. The dogs were happy and seemed healthy and well fed. I got so excited to see the happy dogs and the man, for this was my prayer. In my excitement, I let out a soft whimper. The man stopped when he saw me. Oh no, I thought. What if he is a “mean one” too?
The man told his dogs to be quiet. I was scared and trembling, and oh, how I tried to be quiet too, but another soft whimper escaped from me. The man came towards me. I was shaking so hard, even though he was speaking softly to me. He slowly reached his hand to me and tried to untie the bailing twine. By now, I was shaking so violently and the twine was so tight around my neck, he had quite a time, but he was patient and he kept telling me he was there to help me. Finally, he untied me and I was free. I couldn’t help myself but I ran away from him. I was so afraid that he might be a “mean one.” He called and called to me. I was out of his sight but I keep him in mine. Slowly he gathered up his dogs and walked away but he continued to call to me.
It took all the courage I had, but I followed the man through the woods and into a field and then towards a house. He went into the house with his dogs but soon came out alone with two bowls, one with water in it, they other with food. Since I would not come near him, he went back into the house. Maybe people can be good, I thought, maybe he is a “nice one.” I slowly drank the water and ate the food. The man came out of the house and sat down on a step. I slowly crept towards him. He sat very still. When I got close enough to him, he petted me, the first real petting of my life. He talked softly as he stroked my ears, inviting me into his house. He told me I could live with him, his dogs, and his wife forever.
A few weeks later, I had my first Christmas in his home. The other dogs that live with the “nice one” explained it all to me. For Christmas every year we have a tree in the house with lights and ornaments, we play with new dog toys found under the tree, and the man’s wife puts cookies out for Santa that we actually get to eat.
I never knew what Christmas was before I came to live with the “nice one”, but I definitely do now. As another Christmas approaches I lay half asleep on my dog bed, near the glow of a warm fire in the fireplace, and I look lovingly into the “nice ones” eyes. I glance around and I see the other dogs lying about with toys scattered around. We are all content with full bellies and love to share. Then I think back to my first real Christmas and I know that for me, Christmas is love, goodwill , kindness and believing that miracles can and do happen.
Paw Prints Left By You
You no longer greet me,
As I walk through the door.
You’re not there to make me smile,
To make me laugh anymore.
Life seems quiet without you,
You were far more than a pet.
You were family member, a friend,
A loving soul I’ll never forget.
It will take time to heal
For the silence to go away.
I still listen for you ,
And miss you every day.
You were such a great companion,
Constant, loyal and true.
My heart will always wear,
The paw prints left by you.
September 2003 — November 16, 2015