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An Unexpected Christmas Gift

By Gay Published: December 18, 2009

What happens when you forget the Christmas presents for your pets?

You have been warned.

It gets closer and closer until the inevitable happens!--Christmas. I've bought most of the presents I am going to buy. We give only to children as buying for adults is difficult and the giftee might be wildly insulted by the present the gifter chose. For instance, you buy your Aunt Milly a soft, pretty blue sweater in a size XL, and she is highly indignant that it is an XL. "I'm not an XL!" she exclaims, and indeed, she is right. She is an XXL, but at the time you purchased it, you hadn't seen her for awhile.

Fortunately, you have the receipt without the price on it, and you give it her wordless. She can exchange it, stuff herself into it, or give it away. You did your job. Now, it's no longer your business.

But wait! It IS still your business! "I don't have time to go shopping," she sniffs. "I don't like going out in the cold and snow. You'll have to do it." You sigh, because you don't like doing that, either, and you have to do it after work, which means dinner will be late, your kids will be starving, and all because Aunt Milly has a misconstrued perception of herself.

"What size would you need, Aunt Milly?" you ask politely. "And what if they don't have it in blue?"

"That would be great," she sniffs again. "You KNOW my favorite color is purple!" You actually know no such thing. "And I obviously am a medium."

You nod, try to smile, and take the sweater. You got the thing on sale, it is sufficiently old-ladyish enough that you thought she would be pleased with a soft powder blue cardigan, with normal sleeves and buttons. You know what you are going to do: You are going to leave the sweater in the box, get credit for it (she will be miffed that you only spent twenty five bucks for it), and tell her that there were no mediums left! You don't even KNOW Aunt Milly that well! You think it is nice of you to even ask her for dinner, as she complains about everything and finished every sentence with an aggrieved, "Isn't that right, John?", her husband and your uncle, someway--you don't recollect what the relationship is, exactly. Step-aunt? Step-uncle? Not really a relative, just someone your Mom always had over?

So. We dispensed with gifts except for children, and little children at that. Little kids love blocks and trains and drums and transformers and all manner of plastic weaponry. The gross it is, the better the child will like it. If it's for a baby, well, anything soft and sweet is great for a soft and sweet little person. Teenagers get money. And since the year has been hard, only your own teenagers are thus surprised. Nieces and nephews are their own parents' responsibility. Your parents are happy to have a gift card to a very nice restaurant, a show, tickets to the movies. Spouses long ago agreed not to exchange gifts. After too many mistakes, you each privately decided you'd rather get your own. We are not really into the "it's the thought that counts" and "a gift is a little piece of yourself," and all that. If it's awful, you either run the risk of hurting your loved one's feelings, or you put up with it and hate it.

So, a few quick trips to the movie theatre, a few toy stores, and the bank, and bada-bing, bada-bang! Done!

Except that, well, there's Bonkers, your frenetic toy Schnauzer, looking at you wistfully. How could you have overlooked him? You couldn't, and that is why with a look of sheer astonishment and joy--"Wow! Is all this for ME?"--he piles into the wrappings, destroys them and leaves the shreds lying about and happily chomps on his flavored, huge knuckle bone. It's almost as big as he is, so it will take him awhile to work through that sucker. And there's more! A wonderful fleece doll, shaped like a postman, with a squeaker inside.

Bonkers puts down the bone long enough to run ecstatically through the house squeaking his toy, and as he stops to take a breath, he sees another one! In HIS pile! Marshall, your dignified cat, is interested in all the toys filled with catnip, to the point that after throwing them around and sniffing long enough, he is almost catatonic. He pays no attention to Bonkers, frantically ripping open his third package. It is! Yes, it IS a hard rubber ball, the kind he loves best, and dropping it at your feet, he urges you to throw it.

You do, and ecstatically, he chases it, but on his way to the ball, he sniffs out an unwrapped package and tears it open. A FRUITCAKE! No one knows who the heck bought a fruitcake, but it certainly wasn't for Bonkers and even he doesn't want it. He pushes it a bit, sniffs again, takes a nibble, curls his lip and leaves it in the middle of the floor. The papers that wrapped it have been turned to paper mush and you can't see a tag. Right then, you know why you love Bonkers so much. Someone made you a fruitcake, and he has rendered it inedible. No guilt. No lump in your stomach. It gets gathered with the rest of the papers and thrown into the garbage.

There are a few more pet toys, and you watch fondly as your four-legged kids are enraptured with the treasures placed before them. The turkey is nearly done, you've mashed the potatoes, and you are all about to sit down to eat. There is a scratching at the door. You start on your stuffing and gravy, but there it is again, a peculiar noise. Did you feed the squirrels? Check. Bird food loaded onto the bird feeder? Check. Yet, again the persistent scratch.

You go to the door, and there, with a bright red bow around her neck, is an adorable young dog, of indeterminate age and pedigree. There is a note attached to the collar.

"I don't know what my name is. You will have to tell me. I have had all my shots, but I will be ready to eat in an hour or so, unless one of you might like to feed me a piece of turkey along with Bonkers and Marshall. I am a female part Yellow Lab, a bit of Golden Retriever and a few other grandparents have contributed to my genealogy. I am three months old and a good girl. I don't pee in the house. I love other animals, kids and anyone who needs a puppy to pat. Can I spend Christmas with you? And New Year's and forever?"

How can you say no? You can't that's how, so she joins your household. Marshall is still satiated with catnip drugs, and Bonkers is overjoyed. A buddy! The children climb off their chairs and come meet the puppy. The older kids grin and pet her, and even Aunt Milly stops her griping.

The youngest grandchild speaks up tentatively. "Jingle?"

A bit more forcefully-- "Jingle! That's her name!"

Who brought this puppy? How did they know you would want to keep her, that you all would love her? Who knew? That was a terrible risk for someone to take--what if you felt about Jingle as Aunt Milly felt about her fuzzy blue too-large sweater?

You all sit around talking about this over the second piece of Buche de Noel and a steaming cup of coffee. The children--little ones and teens alike--are busy with the animals. They all seem to be forming fast friendships.

Still, it nags a little. You love the puppy, and she happens to be welcome, but then, didn't the person who brought her know that giving someone an animal without discussion and consultation is ver boten?

Dishes are cleared, the animals are fed, and everyone is resting contentedly on a sofa or overstuffed chair or even lying in front of the fireplace, dozing off. You are still fretting, so you throw on your coat and stuff your feet in someone's fleecy boots and go outside to have a look around.

There are puppy tracks, right there by the door and on the walkway leading to the porch. There are big boot prints alongside the puppy prints, just a wee bit behind, as if Jingle were hurrying ahead. The prints start nowhere, and they turn around by the porch and lead to the end of the walkway.

Wait! There are tracks of some kind in the snow. Look like runners. And what are THOSE marks, right ahead, paw prints, big paw prints, eight sets equidistant from one another that kind of skid off and then....disappear.

You grin a little to yourself, pulling your coat a bit tighter. You chide yourself, "Don't be foolish! You are far too old for this!" But, as you turn around to go back into the house , the moon shines brightly on the icy snow, so bright there is a reflection. You look up, quickly! Nothing there! But you could swear--you will swear--you saw something in the mirrored light.

You're grinning harder, but you're going to keep it to yourself. And you could swear you hear, you WILL swear you hear, a faint jingle and the remnants of laughter kept contained.

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