A Christmas Story, by Linda J Shaw
Enjoy, and have a safe and happy holiday
Once upon a time, there lived a breeder of German shepherd dogs. He and his wife lived in a tidy little house on a pretty little property, and he kept a neat little kennel in a glen not far from the house. In every kennel run but one there lived a champion. The breeder was retired, and spent nearly all his time with his dogs, grooming, playing with and just admiring them. They were beautiful dogs, darting about their runs, flashing black and gold. His wife sighed over his obsession, but was content that he was happy. Only once had one been brought into her tidy house, and had quickly been banished back to the kennel. They were not house dogs.
One day a woman came to see his dogs. Proudly, he stood before the run containing his prize beauty, a lithe, graceful bitch who zoomed about the perimeter of her run. She took no notice of the visitor. She was the culmination of his breeding program, he said, and was undefeated in the show ring. The visitor smiled, but moved on down the kennel. She stopped at the last run, where quietly sat a young, grey bitch, sturdy and curious, with a tiny notch in one ear. She was not one of the breeder’s dogs, but had belonged to a relative who had fallen ill. She would never be a champion, said the breeder. Her name was Sarah, and she needed a home. It was decided she was suitable, but the breeder refused payment. “She’s not really worth anything to me”, he said. “All I want is that she get a good home”. So the little bitch was loaded into the woman’s van. The breeder did not pet her goodbye.
A few days later the breeder took his prize beauty to a large show. Of course, she won. She always won. He gaited her back to the car, a cascade of blue and gold satin fluttering from her lead, turning admiring heads as they went. In the parking lot, they ran past a vehicle whose engine suddenly coughed, and she leaped aside, nearly breaking her lead. They made it to his car, and she curled up with relief in her crate.
The drive home that night was long and the breeder was happy but tired. He wondered where in the den he would find room for the trophy on the seat beside him. There were so many. It started to drizzle rain. He wished his wife had come, but she never came. His dogs did not interest her. He mulled over in his mind the pedigrees of several stud dogs, wondering which to select for his prize beauty. In his preoccupation, he did not see the stop sign that flashed past. Suddenly, there was only the glare of headlights. It was the last thing he ever saw.
In the hospital, his bones eventually knit, but his eyes were gone. He was told his prize beauty had been killed. At home, his wife tried to care for the dogs that remained, but it was hard for her. They would not heed her commands, and she found it difficult to cope with them. When her husband finally came home, he struggled on her arm to the kennel and fed and groomed each one. But time passed, and it became more difficult for him also. They could not be exercised, and often escaped. He became fearful of being knocked down by their frantic spinning and leaping. The decision was inevitably made, friends were called and advertisments placed, and the day came when the last dog was loaded into a van bound for another kennel. The breeder retired to his chair in his den, to spend his days brooding amongst trophies he couldn’t see.
The months passed and winter came. He sat listening to Christmas carols on the radio while his wife decorated the tree. One day she insisted that he rouse himself and helped him into his coat. “We’re going Christmas shopping”, she said firmly, and guided him out to the car. He sat slumped in his seat without speaking. The thought of glittering lights and colourful packages only deepened his gloom. After a while, he began to wonder at the length of the journey. He couldn’t recall downtown being so far. Finally he felt the car crunch its way into a driveway. His door opened to a rush of cold air, and a man’s hand grasped his. “Welcome to the Seeing Eye,” said the man. In an office, coffee was served, questions were asked, and it was explained to him why he was there. “I don’t know, I don’t know”, he muttered, and then he slowly ventured, “could I have a shepherd?”. “Well”, said the man, “that depends on what’s available, and what’s suitable for you”. There was a pause. “But we’ll see what we can do”.
Suddenly he heard the sound of a door opening, and the scrabbling of nails on the floor. A woman’s voice laughed “oh dear!”, and he heard a flurry of delighted squealing heading straight for him. A dog flew into his lap and a warm bath drenched his face. “Oh! Oh!”, he spluttered. “Are they all this friendly?” No one answered. His hands clutched the dog’s head, and he knew instantly that it was a shepherd, a large velvet bow tied to its collar. But then he froze, as his fingers reached a tiny notch in one ear. His arms slowly encircled the now quivering dog, and he buried his face in her fur. The only sound was her tail beating against his legs, and the small sqeak of a new leather harness. Sarah had found her new home.