I could use a punching bag today, but the pugilistic type of boxing is not what the title refers to. It’s a UK tradition referring to how people box everything up and put it away the day after Christmas. I’m doing a little of that, but I’m also playing referee between my dog Chico and the world. I had taken him back to the kennel for Christmas. I was going to be gone most of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. He seemed happy enough to return to the world of concrete cages and barking dogs of all types. Annie and I settled into happy togetherness. I thought I would pick Chico up tomorrow.
But today, a day when I planned to relax, a woman called about Chico. She was very anxious to meet him and willing to drive an hour and half to the kennel if she could meet him today. Okay. Trying very hard to put it all into God’s hands, I drove up the frosty winding road to the kennel, parking just as she arrived. But oh, Chico. He came out like a speeding bullet, jumped all over me and almost pulled me off the hill. I got him to sit and lie down long enough for her to pet him and decide he was very cute. But they had him on a leash the width of a shoestring and that didn’t work. He needs a big-dog collar and big-dog leash. She tried to walk him and decided he was too much for her. Apologizing, she said no.
Since I was already there, I paid his bill and brought him home. If someone else calls, it will be easier if I have him with me.
When we arrived, he and Annie went into full fight mode, but they calmed down pretty quickly. However, Chico will not play with her, and as soon as I opened the door he flew over the fence. It was quite amazing. Such a graceful arc through air, up and over. If I leave the gate open, he checks in from time to time, but I can’t let Annie out now. Meanwhile, I had just started to type this when I heard my neighbor by the gate trying to call Chico, trying to bribe him into coming home. She doesn’t understand that he’s no longer the docile little puppy he used to be. At dark, I will corral him, but I can’t hold this animal that doesn’t want to stay here, and I can’t keep him if he endangers people and animals in his path. I’m giving it two weeks, then taking him to an animal shelter.
When the setting sun gilds the tops of the trees, I’ll lock him in for the night. He’ll go to sleep, blocky head on his massive paws. Both dogs will sleep in the laundry room with a portable heater going against the intense cold that has set in again. I’ll give them cookies, assure them I love them, and wish them “Boa noite” as I shut the door.
I pray that someone else, someone strong, someone with a fence and no cats, someone willing to give a bully dog a break, will call.
While Chico was gone, Christmas happened. This was my first one without any family and without Fred. The best parts happened during the hours I was playing music with the church choir onChristmas Eve and Christmas. I opened my gifts alone, so conscious of Fred’s empty chair. There weren’t many gifts until the last minute, but each one is a special blessing. I am so grateful for my friends and for the family members who remembered me from afar.
Instead of having Christmas dinner, I drove to Albany to visit Fred in the nursing home. It was a pretty ordinary day there. I doubt the residents knew it was Christmas. I read Fred’s Christmas cards to him and helped him open his gifts. Then we adjourned to the living room area for warm peanut butter cookies with sprinkles and a Christmas carol singalong with staff members. I dozed on Fred’s shoulder through part of a Christmas movie.
The same woman is still saying it’s time to go home. Loy is still hollaring “Hey!” Eugene stood up and his pants fell down, exposing his diapers and skinny white legs. And Fred and I parted with tears in our eyes.
Life has its ups and downs. In spite of everything that has happened this year, I’m hopeful for 2010. I hope you are, too.
Christmas is over. Hooray! Happy New Year!