Fiction: A Dog Named Christmas
(Page 2 of 17)
His head hung, Todd kicked at the earth with his tennis shoes. I knew he was only moments away from tears.
I took a handkerchief from my front overall pocket and wiped the sweat from my brow. I knew there was no use putting him off.
“Come on,” I said as I made my way toward the barn where the telephone sat.
I dialed the number and tried hard to be patient. Todd’s life was hard; it seemed that every day I had to choose between trying to make life better for him or just accepting that there were things that I wasn’t big enough to change. And like the Christmas dog, the choices were not always easy. I learned to distrust both hope and fear.
While his mother was pregnant, Todd didn’t develop correctly. I could never pronounce the medical condition he was born with, but the doctor asked us to visualize a corridor starting in Todd’s head and traveling through his abdomen. Every organ that touched the corridor was affected. He’d had four operations on his heart and intestines by his eighth birthday.
The fact that Todd, whom we adopted, came to Mary Ann and me so late in our lives sometimes made parenting more difficult. He needed special care, and we were capable of providing it. We felt privileged to have him in our lives, but we didn’t always understand what a special gift he was.
When we accepted Todd into our family, we vowed never to let “I’m too old” or “I’m tired” get in the way of doing what needed to be done for him. I reminded myself of this vow as I dialed the phone.
“Hello, County Wide Shelter,” came a voice from the other end. “How may I help you?”
I wondered what kind of person spent his life working in an animal shelter. Or even more generally, what makes an animal lover? Do they love animals more because they love people less? I cleared my throat to bring my mind back to the task at hand.
“My son is interested in something he heard on the radio about a Christmas dog,” I told the woman from the shelter.
In a tone that sounded a little rehearsed, the woman offered an explanation.
“That would be our Adopt a Dog for Christmas program.”
“Yeah, that must be it,” I said. Then reluctantly, I added, “Tell me about it.”
I looked at Todd and saw that his eyes were beaming. Although it warmed my heart, I already suspected that he’d found a way to finagle yet another dog out of his father.
“You may know that we are a no-kill shelter,” the woman began. “Over the holidays, many of us like to do kind things for other people. Here at County Wide Shelter, we wanted to offer animal lovers an opportunity to extend that holiday spirit to an animal.
“You come by any time after December 22nd, pick out a dog and keep him until December 26th. You feed him and give him lots of attention, and then you bring him back. The dogs that aren’t adopted stay in a four-foot by four-foot steel cage. And at this time of year, I’m sorry to say, there just isn’t much time for our staff to do much more than give an occasional pat to the head.”
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