I’ll be home for Christmas—my first Christmas.
You see, I am barely a year old, at least that’s what the guy at the animal shelter said as my siblings and I were fostered out. We all went to separate families. It was hard to part with my brothers, but they are fine, got their own people to love them and bribe them with treats. Treats seem to really factor into new relationships, especially when you’re a puppy.
Did you know that a young dog’s bladder is her best asset? House training, as they call it, is that perfect time to “train” your people. Pee on the floor or even the bed, look confused, innocent (always cast a shadow of a doubt that maybe the cat did it), and they will cut you some slack, blame themselves for poor parenting and give you a treat every time you tinkle “appropriately.” Take a poop outside, on command, and you are the bomb and the treats keep coming. It is manipulation; but seriously, I had trouble adjusting at first. Being dumped then impounded makes a dog a bit skittish.
Our real mom took up with a half-breed, fell in love and got pregnant with us. All very romantic until her breeder (pimp/benefactor) realized her pups were mutts and kicked us out. We were left to fend for ourselves and just too young to run with the big dogs.
There were Pit Bulls that couldn’t make it in the ring anymore—punchy and scarred. A Chow and an old man left behind when their landlord evicted them; some German Shepherds, retired from guard duty, discarded and angry; and a lost Labrador with a bad hip and no micro chip. And there were the cats. Big jowled tomcats with mean eyes and tattered ears that sought the feral females; bought their starved affections for the night with bits of bloodied mice.
After all that, the dogcatcher didn’t seem too bad. “Oh please adopt us, please,” I’d whine and bark. And gave the look that spoke, “My brothers and I will be good if you just give us a home.” But this place was out in the boondocks, no fundraisers, no grants, and few happy endings. Yet somehow word got out that four rather adorable (if I say so myself) pups needed homes and quick.
Then in the nick of time, we were rescued and I mean with no time to spare—the whisper was: our time had run out. My brothers and I were lucky that day; many were not. I try not to think about it too much. But sometimes I see it in my people’s face as they cut me some slack when I screw up, chew an antique quilt or dig trenches throughout the lawn. I don’t do these things to be bad it’s just in my blood. Born to chew, live to dig! It’s My Thing.
Anyway, back to Christmas. My new mom is having writer’s block and some holiday column is due. I said, “Let me take a shot at it.” I don’t mean to brag, but I did edit the prison newsletter for a while (one week) before this bossy, know-it-all poodle took over. So, here I am gathering Yuletide tales and anticipating my own.
When I first came to this new home, it was only for a few days, maybe a couple of weeks. I was a foster child. My temporary foster siblings didn’t know that, and they kept telling me all about the good times ahead—like Christmas. Each had their favorite holiday rituals and moments.
Rosie the matriarch (and self-appointed gourmand) of the family would come out of her retirement to inspect all holiday cooking and then complain how it affected her “girlish figure” (and I thought cats were vain). Zack the cat, youngest of the household, would fancy himself to be head of security and inspect every gift-wrapped present. “One can never be too careful—shred or dread,” was his motto. Pepper, a rather prim feline, was known for swallowing those silver icicles and freaking-out when they later trailed from her behind. Zack called her Fancy Pants and would offer to yank the shimmering decorations out. Pepper would hiss and sit firmly on the floor every time the younger cat approached. And there was Sophia, the elegant Lab/Border Collie, who simply loved all the holiday commotion.
And they all agreed that the Christmas tree was the best part. Field stripping it of those glass bulbs and then watching Zack climb it, ride it and then take it down like a fallen gazelle.
Man oh man, Christmas was gonna be some fun. Already I was having a grand time and it wasn’t even Labor Day yet. Sophia, my sidekick, my new big sister, understood me. She too had been rescued. She knew about cages and what could happen behind that door at the end of a long hallway. We bonded as veterans who’d both seen action, and we were having fun like there was no tomorrow. But I had to remind myself that this was just a foster home and Christmas might never be shared with this family.
However, every day that passed back then in June gave me hope. Maybe my foster people were getting attached, I sure was. Hope turned to certainty during a trip to the pet store where they picked out a harness big enough for me to grow into (a good sign). And then, wow, they picked out a dog tag and had it inscribed with my very own name and their address—now my address, my home.
This will be my first Christmas, but actually it began in June, with a little heart shaped gold tag that says I am loved. Merry Christmas to all!
Please support your local animal rescue groups and adopt. For every pet that is purchased from a breeder or puppy mill there is another that never sees a Christmas. Every breed you desire can be found through various rescue groups. Our little dog, Scout, was rescued by Fairy Tails (neworleansfairytails.com) and we thank them with all our hearts.