JINGLE BELLS, JINGLE BELLS, WOOF, WOOF, WOOF, WOOF …. Is my human mom’s way of singing that Christmas song. The carol doesn’t sound like that on her tapes or on the radio. Mom likes to play Christmas music when she bakes or decorates the tree.
It was my sixth or seventh year at the farm where I live with my human family. My mom decorates me too! I’m kind of into the holiday routine, and have learned to take the jingle bell that she attaches to my collar in stride. Soon after Thanksgiving I ring like the proverbial belled cat until the New Year. I try to humor Mom by woofing along with her rendition of Jingle Bells. It makes her happy, and I usually get a treat for my participation.
It began to snow the week before Santa’s expected arrival. The storm was so bad that the horses didn’t go out that day, and the barn cats didn’t budge from their warm spots in the hayloft. I took up my position as official cookie tester. Mom is a great cook, but always managed to break a few cookies, which she gave to me. She would ask me, “What do you think, Bud?” I would bark enthusiastically, and she would give me another taste.
Dad put on his snowsuit, snagged a handful of cookies and went out to clear the walks and drive. I tagged along. I love the snow. While dad was plowing the drive and a path back to the barn; I rolled in the snow and dove into the drifts. We had finished, and Dad was putting the tractor back in the garage attached to the horse barn when Patty pulled into the drive. We helped her bring in her luggage and gifts. I sniffed each one perhaps one of the wrapped packages was for me.
Both of my human parents were relieved that their daughter had made it safely; she’d traveled from a place called Virginia. The weather was getting worse. It was snowing harder, and the wind was blowing. The lights flickered a few times, so the lanterns and flashlights were collected. Dad went out to give the horses hay and water. He also went into the shed to check something called a generator. I visited with each of the horses, and then followed him out.
While he was working in the shed, I heard a strange rumble followed by a huge flash of light. I trotted up to the front of the house to check it out. Dad must have heard it too; he followed me up to the drive. I saw a hole in a tall drift near the road, I was on my way to investigate when a huge truck with flashing lights roared down the street pushing snow to the edge and into the driveways. Smack, Crack, down went the mailbox and news box. Dad used a few words that will probably move him to Santa’s naughty list. I barked a few nasty words of my own; that contraption nearly buried me!
While I was telling that snowplow a thing or two, I heard a faint call for help. I began to dig in the drift where the noise was coming from. Dad came over to see what I was doing. He helped me dig. We found a half frozen puppy! He was difficult to locate. The more he wiggled the deeper he went into the pile of snow, and the little guy was white as the snow.
I thought that I detected a movement, so I plunged my head into the expanded opening. The small snow tunnel began to collapse around my ears, as I desperately grabbed for a squirmy ball of fur. Not very gently, I hauled that pup out of the bank, and fell backward onto the cleared portion of the drive. Dad picked up the shivering refugee and carried him into the house.
The puppies cry for help brought back a cold winter night from long ago when I and the rest of my litter were tied in a burlap bag and tossed into a dumpster, but that is a tale for another time. Suffice to say that I have abandonment issues, and for years I have enjoyed being the only canine on the farm. I drive off stray dogs and cats that don’t belong here. All in all, I am not a very hospitable fellow. Maybe, it was the Christmas Spirit that made me save that puppy and share my home and family with him.
The fuss that my family made over little Chris had me rethinking my heroics. Mom and Dad decided that the puppy must belong to a neighbor. Chris was the name on the little gold tag attached to his red collar. He was only about two months of age, and sure did a lot of tail wagging. He also figured out the cookie begging routine in the blink of an eye. He also barked out Jingle Bells in a harmony that I was unable to accomplish. I sure hope that Mom and Dad had some luck locating his owners.
Day Two of the Chris invasion: Mom brought home some puppy chow and a set of red bowls. Patty got a doggie coat to fit Chris that looked a lot like the suit that Santa wore on many of the cards that Mom hung up every year. They even got him a red and white doggie bed. My eyes were beginning to take on a green cast. You bet, I was a bit envious of all the hoopla over our guest.
Chris wasn’t in any danger of getting lost in the snow with his bright red coat and silly Santa hat. At least he had the dignity to refuse to wear the little black booties. He shadowed me everywhere; I mean, he was in jeopardy of getting watered when I went out to make yellow spots in the snow. I introduced him to each of my equine charges, and he wasn’t the least intimidated by their size. He licked each muzzle as it bent down to sniff and nuzzle him. The barn cats also treated him like one of them; they purred and rubbed against him. What the heck? This wasn’t normal doggie behavior.
Not a soul in the surrounding area had lost a Labrador puppy, and it became apparent that Chris would be with us for a while. He didn’t make use of his new bowls, but preferred to mooch from mine. He drug his little bed under the tree. There amid all the wrapped gifts he would take naps. Of course all my humans thought that presented a great photo op. What they didn’t know was that at night he snuggled up to me on the big quilt that Mom had put down for me. I sighed and consoled myself with the thought that Chris would perhaps go back to Virginia with Patty. She sure seemed to like him.
Day five arrived, and the sun warmed the air. Patty decided to take us on an outing that included a walk in a nearby park. We ended up at the pet store in town where we got our pictures taken with Santa. Chris whispered that the man in the red suit was only a stand in for the real Santa. I was about to ask him how he knew that tidbit when a big drooling dog interrupted.
“Hey little sissy dog. How do you know he isn’t the real Santa? It’s not like you know the guy.”
I took in his bowed legs, muscular build, and belligerent attitude, and hoped that Chris would just stay in the seat of the shopping cart where Patty had placed him as we left the Santa photo session. “Yes, Bruiser, I do know Santa.” That did it. The Bulldog got his back up over Chris’ claim.
“Bull farts! You don’t know Santa, and little liars go on the naughty list.” He sneezed, licked his drooling choppers, and growled at the little Santa clad puppy in the cart. “And how do you know my name?”
Chris cocked his head. “Would you believe that I am able to read your name tag?”
“No. I don’t believe you can read. You probably heard my human say my name.”
Chris wagged his tail and then wished Bruiser a Merry Christmas. I was grateful that it all ended peacefully, and I didn’t have to take on Bruiser to keep Chris from becoming his afternoon snack. I kept my questions to myself until we were safely away from any other eavesdroppers. “Okay, Chris, how did you know Bruiser’s name?”
“I know every dog’s name. Those who are in shelters, those that live on the streets, those who are abused, and those who are lucky to have good homes with people who love them. You have a lot to be thankful Buddy.”
“How can a little puppy, like you, know that?”
“It is my job, but I’m only an apprentice. My dad knows the name of every animal in the world.”
I got out of the car at home, made yellow puddles, and went to visit with Dad who was working in the barn. I ignored the puppy’s boast, and chalked it up to a youngster’s imagination, but how did he know the other dog’s name? I was there and Bruiser’s human never once spoke his name. I sidled up to Dad for a scratch between my ears and a reassuring pat.
Our human family had spaghetti and meatballs for dinner that evening. Mom always makes extra meatballs for me, and I was drooling almost as badly as the skeptical bulldog that we’d met that afternoon. Great! In addition to being a bottomless cookie pit, Chris was inhaling my meatballs. “I held on to my temper and only growled a little. Mom to the rescue; she gave me a few more meatballs from her plate. I guess the meatballs didn’t agree with his tummy. Chris started tooting from the back end and leaving a trail of foul smelling air behind him. I was hoping that he got over the results of his gluttony before we bedded down for the night.
December twenty-fourth started out like most days on the farm. We got up early and Chrisand I played in the new snow that had fallen overnight. The horses went out while Dad cleaned their stalls. I chased and barked at them as they bucked and played in the snow. Chris sat on the drive near the barn and watched me. “Come and play Chris!” I barked.
“Sorry, Buddy, but I have to keep a watch.”
I stopped my play, walked over to where he sat, and asked, “What are you watching for?”
“I’m keeping a lookout for my ride home.” I didn’t know what to say, and I didn’t want to crush his hopes that his previous human would come to claim him.
Dad was returning to the house, and we tagged along with him. “Hey, Chris, why don’t we go try to talk Mom into giving us a cookie or two?”
He wagged his tale and his eyes twinkled with anticipation. “Christmas Cookies are my favorite treat in the world!”
Things began to take on a different spin after lunch. Dad secured the horses in their stalls, and gave them hay. Mom decorated a huge tray of cookies, wrapped them up, and put several containers of food into boxes that were loaded into the car.
Early that evening, my human family deserted us. Before they departed Mom filled our bowls, and Dad told me to guard the house.
Chris barked a goodbye, and Patty stopped to pet him. “Now you be a good puppy and listen to Buddy while we are gone.”
We ate a little out of our bowls—I should say my bowl. Chris still preferred to share my bowl than to eat out of his own. Next we wandered from room to room patrolling the house. It seemed that my family had left eons ago, and I missed them. I walked over to my quilt on the floor, then looked over my shoulder to the inviting couch. The sofa won out, and I curled up on the soft cushions near the fireplace. I suppose Chris was worried that I was doing something naughty.
“Buddy, should you be doing that on Christmas Eve? I mean Santa hasn’t arrived, yet. You don’t want to get bumped to the naught list, at the last minute.”
He sounded distressed. The kid sure took this Santa thing to heart. “It’s okay, Chris, I do this whenever I have to guard the house. I can see all three entries from here.” That little white fib seemed to placate him, and he sat there for hours gazing into the fireplace. He was still sitting there when our family returned.
Dad went out to give the horses their 10PM feed. We tagged along to decorate the snow. Chris kept stopping to scan the sky, the rooftops, and the drive. “Are you still looking for Santa?” I asked.
“I thought he would be here by now to take me home.” He sounded so disappointed.
“Well, perhaps Santa gave you a new home when you arrived here. This is a good place, and you can stay here with us—aah, with me.”
“Really? You would share your home and family with me? I had heard that you didn’t like interlopers.”
I was a bit embarrassed to have my scrooge like behavior pointed out to me by this youngster. I yawned closed my eyes and pretended to sleep. Chris was still staring into the fireplace when I dozed off.
Christmas morning I woke and stretched. That is when I realized that Chris wasn’t sleeping next to me. I checked his doggie bed under the tree. It was gone! I trotted over to my food bowls, and his little red bowls were nowhere to be seen. I ran down the hall checking on the sleeping humans. Everyone was accounted for. Patty was still here, so Chris didn’t go with her.
Everyone searched for Chris, after I roused the household. “Okay, Chris, quit fooling around and come out here. Hiding on Christmas morning is really naughty.” I barked, scolded, and pleaded with him.
Gift giving was put off until after chores and breakfast. Patty played Santa and handed out the gifts. Every one of us was worried about Chrisand we were kind of just going through the motions. I usually ripped open my gifts, but I just laid my head on the stack in front of me. Patty found it at the back of the tree-skirt, It was a package wrapped in red with white puppy sized paw prints on the paper. I opened the yummy smelling package. Inside were four gingerbread cookies that were shaped like puppies. There wasn’t a name on the package, but I knew it was for me from Chris. Then Pat found one more package under the tree, and she read the tag. “This last package is for Buddy from Santa Clause.”
Okay, little Chris believed in Santa, but I knew better. Every year there were always a few packages from Santa or Mrs. Clause, and they always had the sent of my human family on them. Pat handed me the package, it smelled strange, and I refused to open it. Mom took it from me. She opened the package and read the note inside.
Thank you all for taking care of Chris, and making him part of your family. He is a rambunctious puppy and fell from the sleigh while we were training some new reindeer. Buddy, the shiny new bell is to remind you of Chris and your new Christmas attitude.
Patty said what we were all thinking. “Wow! The nametag makes sense, at last. It said ‘Chris’ and underneath ‘return to S.C.’ No wonder we couldn’t find his owners; he belonged to Santa.”
I hope you liked my Christmas story.