Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Weeks before the big day, The Dog Who Loved Christmas would track each present as it came in the house, watch coyly as it was wrapped, then memorize its hiding place and wait to be alone. He would unwrap it so it could easily be re-wrapped, two or three times if possible. When the presents were finally moved to high shelves or locked closets, The Dog Who Loved Christmas would take to opening whatever he could reach: eight-packs of toilet paper from the bathroom cupboard, boxes of corn flakes and raisin bran--often in the living room. When everything was finally moved out of his reach, he knew Christmas must be very, very near.

During those delicious last days, if the door opened and The Dog Who Loved Christmas was indoors, he would seize the opportunity to go out. If the door re-opened and he was outdoors, he would come in. Sometimes he would travel in the direction of the door-opener. Other times he would race from the opposite direction, always timing his speed and momentum to squeak cleanly past his doorman's knees.

If anybody tried to direct the animal's activities, a kinder soul was sure to warn: "Hey, leave him alone! You know how much that dog loves Christmas!"

The Dog Who Loved Christmas most loved his tree. It was always set up in the coolest room of the house, the very space the dog himself favoured for sleeping. It was clear the people in the house brought the tree inside as a special present for the dog. He would watch as it was decorated, sniff the unfamiliar indoor odor of pine, sprawl for hours on the floor, using the family as cushions. He liked it when they turned on the lights. Or turned them off. The Dog Who Loved Christmas would sleep under the tree and night and pretend he was camping. He made sure to sleep on the opposite side from where he marked the tree when no one was around. It was, after all, his tree and there was a certain pride of ownership. Sometimes people would stick their finger in the tree's pot. "Yep, it's still wet," they'd say. He was happy to help.

On the day the family decorated the biggest window in the house, The Dog Who Loved Christmas would hurry upstairs. Standing on his hind legs, he would press sweet, heart-shaped dog noses on the undecorated windows of the bedrooms and kitchen. Then he would slip outside to admire his work, with a sidetrip under the porch--the better to coat his paws with clay to decorate the rugs.

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