by Linda Cook, student of Creative Writing Institute
What does this have to do with writing? Nothing. We’re taking a Christmas story break. Here’s a true, heartwarming story you don’t want to miss. Let us publish your story, fiction or nonfiction, as long as it relates to Christmas. Up to 1,000 words. Send to DeborahOwen@cwinst.com.
Hanging around the animal shelter parking lot on Christmas Eve was not how I had envisioned spending the afternoon. Pellets of hail bounced off the windows and hood. I had stopped and started the engine twice already, trying to stay warm. All I could think of was how much I had to do and there I sat, shivering, wasting time.
Ted was late. I propped my head back against the seat, tugged my jacket tighter, closed my eyes, and let my thoughts drift. It all started at Ryan’s sixth birthday party. I couldn’t help but smile to myself, remembering his excitement.
After tearing through birthday cards and gifts, he was anxious to get to the cake. I lit candles and everyone sang Happy Birthday. Ryan grinned, blue eyes full of sparkle and hope, and said, “Now I get to make my wish, right, Mom?”
“Absolutely,” I replied.
“You can’t tell what you wish for,” said his brother. “It won’t come true if you do.”
“Oh, I won’t tell.” Ryan whispered, shaking his blonde head in agreement.
He gave one mighty whoosh, snuffed all six candles, laughed and slapped high-fives with the group.
Later that evening, we tucked Ryan in for the night and listened as he ended his prayers with, “Thank you for my birthday, and don’t forget about my wish. Amen.”
Every night thereafter, he reminded God about his wish, but we were clueless. In late November, he brought his scrawled Santa letter home from school.
“Dear Santa. I know you and God are friends, but just in case He’s busy, please don’t forget to bring me a puppy for Christmas. I promise I’ll take good care of him. Love, Ryan.”
We offered dozens of alternative gift ideas, hoping something would spark his interest, but his response was, “God and Santa know what I want, and I’m being real good.” And he was.
He shoved toys into his toy chest and stuffed clothes into his closet. He volunteered for trash duty, and offered to set the table. It was inspiring to watch this energetic and life-loving boy battle distraction, trying so hard to be “real good.”
Ted knocked at the window, scrunched under his umbrella, and I jolted upright.
“Sorry I’m late. The meeting ran over and I couldn’t get away.”
“Maybe we should skip it,” I said. “I’m still not sold on this.”
“Don’t worry,” he said, giving me a shoulder bump. “We’re doing the right thing, helping out Santa and God. How can we disappoint Ryan? We can’t ignore prayers and letters to Santa. When a kid prays every night, his faith is strong, and somebody better be listening.”
I sighed and nodded. “I know. You’re right. Let’s go take a look.”
We huddled under the umbrella and ran for the shelter doors. A young lady glanced up as we entered the lobby.
“Merry Christmas,” she chimed.
“Merry Christmas to you, too.”
“How can I help you?
“Our son has been praying and writing to Santa asking for a puppy for Christmas and that’s all he wants, so… here we are.”
“That’s so cool. You’ve come to the right place. The dog kennels are down here.”
We followed her, yaps and barks getting louder by the second.
“Oh, my! I had no idea there would be so many,” I said, glancing up and down the rows.
“Yeah, it’s kinda sad. We always have lots of animals this time of year,” she said.
“I’ll know the right dog when I see it,” Ted said. “I saw it in my dream. It’s tan with black and grey stripes.”
I laughed. “You and your dreams.” But there he was, in the third kennel, curled up tight and tucked into a far corner of the metal cage. Tan with black and grey spots instead of stripes. Close enough. Ted hunkered down, unlocked the door, and reached to lift him. The pup wiggled, tail danced, and his entire body quivering in excitement. He yipped, pink tongue hanging, legs scrambling to climb closer to Ted’s neck.
“This is the one. Do you know what breed he is? He’s all head and legs. Look at those feet!” Ted said.
“Well, the card says Australian-German Shepherd mix. Expected to grow to about 35 pounds. He was the runt of an abandoned litter. This guy’s a friendly one. Should be great with kids.”
My fears dissolved as my heart melted and I took a turn cuddling him.
“Ryan will be thrilled with this squirming bundle. He’ll fit right in with two rambunctious boys,” I said dodging his tongue. We finished the paperwork and stocked up on doggie snacks. He would live at Mother’s house for the night.
Early Christmas morning, Santa made his puppy run. We stashed the pup in our kitchen. Warm and content, he snuggled into an old flannel blanket in his doggy box.
It wasn’t long before both boys were up and racing toward the Christmas tree. Toby spotted his sock and the Shogun warrior he wanted. He plopped on the floor, absorbed in his gifts.
Ryan crawled all around the tree, pushing packages here and there, and ignoring his stuffed stocking. He rocked back on his heels, eyes full, tears spilling down his cheeks, and whispered, “I guess I just wasn’t a good enough boy.”
At that very moment, small howls erupted from the kitchen. Ryan leaped to his feet and raced for the sound. He dived into the box, and it was love at first sight. They frolicked and tumbled. Soon both boys were rolling and giggling while the puppy pounced and licked. Gifts sat forgotten. We weren’t sure who was happiest: Ted and I, the boys, or the dog.
“See, Mom? I was right,” Ryan said as he nuzzled the pup against his cheek. “I told ya… Santa and God are friends.”
And that’s how Scooby joined our family. Though the pup grew to be 80 pounds, and he loved us all, there was never a question as to whose dog he was. Ryan and Scooby were best friends and loyal pals for thirteen years.
It seemed God and Santa knew just what they were doing.
Writing courses at Creative Writing Institute
Send your story to DeborahOwen@cwinst.com.