A Dog’s Will, or What I Wish for Christmas

A few year ago, just before Christmas, a longtime vet-clinic client sent me this card.

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I cried when I read this. Truth be told, I cry every time I read it. Heck, I’m crying now. But after some more sniffling and some time to think on it, I realized that there was cause for happiness it it as well. I knew that the family had taken the lessons of their previous dog, Boulder, to heart.

You remember Boulder, don’t you? He was all love with equal parts clown and nanny, the beloved Border Collie of a family that dressed him up for holidays, for beach outings, and had his own cake when he finished up his chemotherapy.

Unfortunately, cancer came back for Boulder, and this time the only thing Dr. Sasha and Dr. Chris could do was to help the family to let Boulder go. So you see, this family knows what it is like to lose a dog that was very loved.

And then I received this photo from them, which they used for this year’s Christmas card.

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Rowdy, Red, and the Collins Girls


“Oh look,” I said, “Rowdy is growing into his ears. But who is the other dog?”

“That’s Red,” he said. “He’s the red heeler that showed up at our house one day and decided that he wanted to live with us.” I could hear the smile in his voice as he wrote about his family, and it made me smile, too.

I knew that they had gotten a big-eared black-and-white pup named Rowdy as their family wasn’t the same without a dog. But I didn’t know about Red, making this one my favorite Christmas cards this year. To see that they had loved their dog so much that they were able to love again–and again–showed me that they had learned everything the could from the example Boulder had left with them.

Lessons of love are the most difficult to learn, I think. Animals give love unconditionally, freely, and without cause, and I think it is that that makes losing them so painful. We can never quite believe that we’re worthy of that kind of love, and to have it taken away after such a relatively short time makes us feel its loss keenly. But what better way to show that we have learned from love than being willing to love again?

This may seem a rather strange, maudlin piece of writing for when so much of the world is fixated on the frenzied nature of Christmas. But to my thinking, this is perhaps the best time for this type of reflection. And with that, peace, joy, and happiness to all at Christmas. May you be surrounded by those that you love. May you be love for those that are without. May you open the door and let love in. May you find someone, be they two-legged or four-footed, with hooves or with pads, that needs love and may you have the strength of heart give it to them. That is the true spirit of Christmas, to love and to love again.

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