Fiction: A Dog Named Christmas
A fiction story about a boy with disabilities who becomes involved with the local animal shelter’s Adopt-a-Dog-For-Christmas program, and through his hard work learns a valuable lesson.
A dog really is man’s best friend.
I spend a great deal of time looking back now, sifting through memories, pausing over important events in my life. Maybe it’s rare, but there’s no litany of disappointments for me. There are a lot of very good memories, and one defining moment – a holiday that seemed perfect.
I had four boys and one girl. All but one child had moved away. They always came home for Christmas and sometimes for dinners, or to borrow money or tools, or just to sit in the quiet of the back porch with their feet propped up on the rail. The youngest, Todd, was old enough to be on his own, but the immaturity that accompanied his disability kept him home with his mother, Mary Ann, and me.
Todd had a different way of thinking about things. You’d know from looking or talking with him briefly that he was different. He always had his hands in his pockets and never seemed certain which direction he was going. His clothing seldom added up to an outfit, and his hair was punctuated with cowlicks and curls.
Some days, Todd would sit near a herd of sheep for the entire day, just watching. Other days, he’d find a river and follow it upstream, searching for the place where the water began. He never found it, but that didn’t deter him from frequent journeys. Todd also loved to paint, so I never lacked for a fresh coat on the barn. He was not much of a talker, but he whistled from memory every tune he heard on the radio, which was his constant companion. But the one thing that defined Todd’s life more than any other was his relationship with animals. He held them, raised them, loved them and laughed with them.
One December day, Todd came running out to the barn carrying his radio and frantically trying to scribble down a phone number. He then handed me the wrinkled piece of paper.
“It’s for a Christmas dog,” he said.
“Todd, we don’t need another animal around here,” I said, “and most definitely not another dog.” I held up my hand, showing him four fingers, and said, “Four dogs is enough.”
Todd, of course, didn’t understand. He also didn’t understand that we were in the midst of an economic slump that was hitting farmers hard, including me. I was glad he didn’t understand that, but I was worried about keeping what I had, and the idea of an additional expense or responsibility made me shudder.
“It’s just for Christmas,” Todd said, in what came as close to an argumentative tone as he could muster.
I pushed the scrap of paper into my pocket, hoping he’d forget about it. But he continued with his innocent persistence, which wore on you, yet was endearing.
“When are you going to call?” he pleaded as I tried to walk away.
“After supper, Todd,” I said. “I have work to do now.”
“It’ll be too late by then,” he said, his voice quivering. “It will be closed, and all the dogs will be gone.”
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