Christmas is coming. The next in a line of a thousand or two, each its own package of memories. Here's one of mine from the Christmas of '88...
I had a dog back then. Her name was Dixie. She was just a regular, medium-sized dog, but she was mine, and I loved her. She loved me too, if dogs can love.
She mostly lay on the side porch, which was right outside the screen door off the dining room. When I sat at the top of the porch steps she would sit beside me. I would put my arm around her and we would survey the back yard. We went on long walks together. When I took care of customers at the feed store in the barn she would run out ahead, and pester the cat. But mostly she lay on the porch, like a dog should do. She was a good, good dog.
One morning in December she disappeared. She was just gone.
She was not a wandering sort of dog. We lived down a long lane. There were no close neighbors. We were mystified.
We checked the road in front our house in case she had been hit.
We checked the interstate beyond that ran parallel with our road. No Dixie.
We checked the traps that Mr. Charles had set at various places along the creek.
Jeff and I went to the SPCA and examined the long lines of barking dogs in hard, cold cubicles. There were dogs of every description there. Every description except Dixie's. I gave her's to the lady at the desk and she said they would keep their eyes open for her and call me if she came in.
I knew no other options. The only thing we could figure, as unlikely as it seemed, was that maybe a feed customer had stolen her. But we had no way of knowing. And who would want someone elses' hybrid dog?
I was heart broken. She had become a habit with me. Now when I stepped out onto the porch to scratch her behind the ears, she wasn't there. I took my walks alone. I cried myself to sleep at night. Tears pooled in my eyes throughout the day. I worried about her. I hoped she was being taken care of....if she was anywhere at all.
The days passed, as days mercifully do...Christmas was approaching. The warmth of Christmas activities crowded out the sadness. On Christmas eve I fixed supper for us all, and we ate by candle light for fun. After supper my brothers and I betook ourselves upstairs to our rooms to wrap gifts. I opened my present from the Chief, who was then just the Chief-in-waiting....there was joy in life after all. There was.
Across the hall my brothers were having a robust round of craziness that spilled out onto the balcony outside my bedroom window, when suddenly Jeff came back in and hollered, "Dixie's out in the yard!"
I could not believe my ears. Dixie! I flew down the stairs and out the door and there she was! My dog! Coming across the lawn! She was limping and tired as if she had walked a long, long way, and she seemed a little scared and insecure, but otherwise she was fine. Oh, dear Dixie! She was back! It was more joy than I knew how to hold. More than I had dared to hope for. We gave her an enthusiastic welcome home party, and tended her every perceivable need, and then we left her to the silent night, to cuddle up on her porch in peace.
And I went and cuddled up in my bed.
And heaven and nature sang.